A Tour of New Netherland

Long Island

Maspeth/ Middleburgh/Hastings/Newtown

The European settlement of what is today the borough of Queens did not begin auspiciously. Its leader was an English firebrand minister named Francis Doughty, whose preaching--in particular his belief that the descendants of Abraham were entitled to Baptism--became too radical for the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay colony. When Doughty showed up on the streets of New Amsterdam, director-general Willem Kieft, who was searching desperately for settlers, offered him the chance to start an English town on Long Island, under Dutch protection. Kieft promised Doughty that he would also be free to preach his chosen gospel. In 1642 Doughty brought several families to his new community, called Maspeth.

Kieft was rather generous, granting a "certain parcel of land situate on Long Island...containing...six thousand six hundred and sixty-six Dutch acres or thereabouts, comprehended within four right lines..."-more or less the entire western half of the borough of Queens. But the newcomers had just begun their settlement in earnest when an Indian attack leveled the place in 1643. The survivors limped back to Manhattan, and Rev. Doughty established himself for a time as minister to the English residents of New Amsterdam. Thus ended the original community of Maspeth.

Nine years later, however, another group of English who had moved south from New England tried again on the same land. This time they named the place Middleburgh. With the English takeover of the province of New Netherland in 1664, the name was changed to Hastings. Apparently, however, the residents had long called the place Newtown, as if to make a clear distinction from the earlier, abortive settlement, and so the community was called well into the nineteenth century. If you are looking for Newtown today, however, you won't find it, beyond such references as Newtown Avenue and Newtown Creek (the East River tributary that forms the boundary between the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens). Confusingly enough, however, Maspeth later resurfaced as a name for part of the area within Rev. Doughty's original patent. In 1725, a Judge Sackett built his house in Maspeth, and by the time of the Revolution Maspeth was an industrial center.

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


Subscribe Now

Subscribe to NNI's  e-Marcurius and DAG to receive information about New Netherland-related events, activities, conferences, and research. 


Support NNI

By supporting NNI you help increase awareness of the 17th century Dutch colony of New Netherland and its legacy in America.