A Tour of New Netherland



As Adriaen Block sailed up Long Island Sound in 1614, he was struck by the appearance on the mainland of two jutting hills-really massive rocks-guarding an excellent harbor. When he made his map of the region, he named this area Rodenbergh, or Red Hills, after these natural landmarks. The river that empied into the harbor he also named the Rodenbergh. While a scattering of Dutch traders frequented the area in subsequent years, English settlers came in much greater numbers: in 1638, Puritan minister John Davenport led 500 English pioneers into the harbor to establish a town. By 1639, the situation was clear, and the Dutch explorer David de Vries vividly outlined it in his journal on a visit to the area:

"The 4th of June I started north in a yacht to the Fresh River, where the West India Company have a small fort called the House of Hope, and towards evening came to anchor in Oyster Bay.... The 6th had good weather at break of day, and got under sail, and towards evening arrived at the Roode-berghs, which is a fine haven. Found that the English had there begun to build a town on the mainland, where there were about three hundred houses and a fine church built."

The English chose to call their settlement Quinnipiac, then, in 1640, changed the name to New Haven, after a town in East Sussex. New Haven rapidly developed into a colony in its own right, alongside the New England colonies of Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, and Connecticut. In a report to the Netherlands in 1650, the Dutch colonists in New Netherland complained that because the West India Company had failed to send settlers, this rich country, which lay within the Dutch claim, was rapidly falling to the English:

"The number of villages established by the English...within the limits of the Netherlanders is about thirty.... Among all these, Roden-Berch, or New Haven, is the first. It has a governor, contains about three hundred and forty families, and is counted as a province or one of the members of New England, of which there are four in all."

But while the English advance was inexorable, recent evidence suggests a more extensive Dutch presence in the Connecticut area than was previously thought. A 1630s English map (detail, below) shows a Dutch settlement called Roduins (Red Dunes) just east of the mouth of the Housatonic River; a recent archaeological dig on the site revealed the outlines of a Dutch fort as well as extensive material remains.

  • The English did away with the name Rodenbergh River, renaming it the Housatonic. Along with the Connecticut River, the Housatonic has played a major role in shaping Connecticut's history, and in recent times has fallen prey to pollution.

  • New Haven's greatest claim to fame is Yale University. Take a virtual tour of the campus.

  • Yale's Peabody Museum is one of the finest natural history museums.

About the New Netherland Institute

For over three decades, 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. More


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