ARENT VAN CURLER & THE FLATTS

History, Archaeology & Art Illuminate a Life on the Hudson

Letter from Arent van Curler to Kiliaen van Rensselaer, June 16, 1643

Van Curler signed this last page of his letter to the patroon with a flourish.  The letter was partially burned during the 1911 fire at the New York State Capitol.  Out of about 15 of Van Curler's letters in existence, only this one survived the blaze.  E. B. O'Callaghan had previously translated it.  A. J. F. van Laer revised the translation after the fire.

Introduction


“No man who had ever been in the colony, it may be safely said, had done it as good service as he.” 

- Mrs. Schuyler Van Rensselaer 

We have no portrait of the man.

We have his signature. As an important official of the colony of Rensselaerswijck and later Beverwijck and Schenectady, he scrawled it many times across the yellowed vellum on which the Dutch recorded the business of New Netherland. His name appears even more frequently as his dealings were vast.  It lived on long beyond him for whenever the Mohawks met the English governors, they invoked his name as a sign of their respect.

He left us a letter to his patron. He was 23 years old when he wrote it. He tells of his plans for the next decade of his life, and he hints at his dreams beyond.

We dig more of his remains from the ground. Not his bones, they are long turned to dust. But the roof over his head, the hearth around which he huddled with his wife on cold nights, the tools with which he farmed his land, they lay buried, waiting for archaeologists to discover them.

From these pieces we paint a portrait of his life on the Hudson.

His name is Arent van Curler. His farm was the Flatts.

 

Signature on Van Curler's Letter to the Patroon

 

Exhibit Credits:
Scripted and produced by Bill Greer, an NNI trustee and author of The Mevrouw Who Saved Manhattan, A Novel of New Amsterdam.

Based on James K. Bradley's  Before Albany: An Archaeology of Native-Dutch Relations in the Capital Region, 1600-1664. Albany: New York State Museum Bulletin 509, 2007, and "Visualizing Arent van Curler," de Halve Maen, Spring, 2005.  Dr. Bradley is the founder and president of ArchLink, an independent company linking archaeology with education and preservation.

Excavations of the Flatts by Paul Huey, retired archaeologist with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and Bobby Brustle.

Special thanks to James Bradley for permission to draw from his published works, to Paul Huey and to Crailo State Historic Site for artifact images and to Len Tantillo for contributing artwork.


About the New Netherland Institute

For a quarter century NNI has helped cast light on America's Dutch roots. In 2010, it partnered with the New York State Office of Cultural Education to establish the New Netherland Research Center, with matching funds from the State of the Netherlands. NNI is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. More

The New Netherland Research Center

Housed in the New York State Library, the NNRC offers students, educators, scholars and researchers a vast collection of early documents and reference works on America's Dutch era. Directed by Dr. Charles Gehring. More

 

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