A Tour of New Netherland

Hudson River


One of the West India Company's schemes for settling the wilderness of its New Netherland province was via "patroonships." A patroon was akin to a plantation owner; through the plan, wealthy men in the Netherlands would be given huge tracts of land in the province in exchange for their promise to send at least fifty colonists to settle it. The patroonship system didn't work out very well; only one such colony lasted long, and it was besieged with problems from the start.

One of the shortlived patroonships resulted in the first permanent settlement in what is today New Jersey. In 1630, Michiel Reyniersz Pauw, who was one of the directors of the West India Company, registered his intention to start a patroonship in the new province. The patroons were allowed to choose their own land, and Pauw chose well, selecting an excellent tract straddling the North River (i.e., the Hudson River) just across from Manhattan. Manhattan had recently been chosen as the capital of the province, and Pauw felt he would benefit from this proximity. It was also rich farmland, and within a short time his hired workers had an abundance of crops.

The land was part of the territory of the Lenni Lenape Indians, a.k.a. the Delaware Indians. It was the policy of the West India Company to purchase lands from the Indians in accordance with Dutch law, and on November 22, 1630, Pauw bought the land from the Lenni Lenape.

Pauw named his colony Pavonia, the latinized form of his name, which meant peacock. From the start, he had difficulty finding settlers for it (this was the Golden Age in the Netherlands, a period of unparalleled prosperity, and few people wanted to risk the uncertainties of taming a wilderness). And the man Pauw hired as director of Pavonia, Cornelis Van Vorst, caused a certain amount of trouble. In a fight, he killed a man with a sword. On another occasion, while he was showing off his cannon to a drinking party that included Wouter Van Twiller, the director-general of the province, a spark from the cannon flew onto the thatched roof of his house, burning it to the ground.

Pauw was soon forced to give up his estate, and sold it back to the West India Company. But he was right in believing that the land's proximity to Manhattan would eventually bring money and people. What had been Pavonia grew in later years into the cities of Hoboken and Jersey City: gritty, boisterous towns that benefitted from their location just across the water from one of the world's great cities.

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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