A Tour of New Netherland

Long Island

View of Brooklyn, 1879 by Currier & Ives (1879)

Breuckelen (Brooklyn)


In 1636, about twelve years after Dutch settlers began to establish the community of New Amsterdam at the southern tip of Manhattan Island, a handful of pioneers among them spread across the East River to set up plantations on the western-most edge of Long Island. In 1646, the first Dutch community on the island was incorporated. It was called Breuckelen, after a town in the Netherlands. The first settlers placed their farms along the Indian trail that ran from the river southward. When regular ferry service began in 1642 to bring residents back and forth across the East River, it docked at the property of Cornelis Dircksen Hooglandt, who became the first ferryman. In a later period, the road from the ferry was named Fulton Street, in honor of the steamboat inventor Robert Fulton.

The earliest mention of the name Breuckelen in the records of the colony of New Netherland is a contract dated 1646, which begins: "Gerrit Douman, sergeant, and Jan Tonissen, schout of Breuckelen, have this day agreed and contracted in manner as follows, to wit: Jan Tonissen promises to cut at Breuckelen, or wherever he can best do so, the following timber and to properly hew and deliver the same out of the woods near the ferryman on the strand…"

The village of Breuckelen is not synonymous with the borough of Brooklyn today, but was one of six towns settled under Dutch rule within the area of the borough. The others were Amersfoort, New Utrecht, Boswyck, Midwout and Gravesend. Breuckelen was located directly across the East River from New Amsterdam, on the southern tip of Manhattan, at what is now Brooklyn Heights. It was only in the nineteenth century that the then rapidly expanding city of Brooklyn annexed the neighboring areas of Bushwick, Gravesend, Flatbush, New Utrecht, Williamsburg and New Lots, becoming the third largest city in the nation by 1860. Then Brooklyn itself was incorporated into New York City in 1898. Thus, the infamously patchwork street pattern of Brooklyn, with its seemingly chaotic thicket of neighborhoods, is a direct result of the area having started life as six separate Dutch towns.



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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