A Tour of New Netherland

Delaware 

A 17th century depiction of the Delaware River flanked by forts

Delaware River


Today we know it as the Delaware River, which forms the boundary between the states of Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. To the Dutch it was the South River, since it was the main highway through the southern part of New Netherland (by the same logic, they called the Hudson River the North River). It was a vital part of the colony, which would leave a fascinating collection of legacies in American history and culture. The cities of Wilmington, Trenton and Newark started life as trading centers in this era. The state of Delaware owes its existence to the short-lived Dutch settlement of Swaanendael.

In 1638, this area also became the site of yet another European venture when a Swedish expedition sailed into Delaware Bay and established the short-lived colony of New Sweden at present-day Wilmington (the area of Wilmington waterfront where the ship docked is still called Swedes' Landing). In its seventeen years, New Sweden expanded as far north as present-day Trenton, New Jersey. However, the Dutch of New Netherland were not going to stand for an incursion into their territory, and in 1655 Peter Stuyvesant himself led a military expedition to the Swedish fort on the Delaware, overwhelming the troops there, and bringing New Sweden to an end - just as, nine years later, an English military flotilla would sail to Manhattan and force Stuyvesant to give up New Netherland

The so-called South River area of New Netherland has made unique and important contributions to American history. While early New England and Virginia remained largely English enclaves, this region was, along with Manhattan Island, one of the few centers of multiculturalism in the early American colonies, a mixture of Dutch, English, Swedes, Finns, Germans and others. These early settlers of the Delaware Valley would, over the next two hundred years, fan out in one of the great cultural migrations of American history, throughout Appalachia, into the Deep South and the Midwest. The Finnish settlers who took part in this migration would bring with them one of their distinctive cultural features, which would become an icon of Americana: the log cabin.


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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