Arent van Curler & the Flatts

History, Archaeology & Art Illuminate a Life on the Hudson

Dutch Settlement along the Upper Hudson during the 1640s.

The Flatts farm (#1) lay on the west side of the Hudson well north of Fort Orange (#3) and other Dutch settlements.  Van Curler chose a perfect location to intercept Mohawk traders coming down the Mohawk River from the west and Algonquian traders bringing furs from the north.

Map by Booth Simpson in Before Albany: An Archaeology of Native-Dutch Relations in the Capital Region, 1600-1664.

Starting to Build


“I shall request of your honor … to be preferred over all others with reference to the said Flatt, and I shall then … contract for it with your Honor and willingly share the expenses.  I am certain that there is no other farm in the colony that will prove less expensive to keep up than this, or that will sooner repay the outlay.”

- Arent van Curler to Kiliaen van Rensselaer, June 16, 1643 

Arent did not wait for the patroon’s blessing to develop the Flatts. He built a house 30 feet long for carpenters and farmhands. His men planted oats on a dozen morgens of land. By the next autumn he hoped for as much grain as the best farm in the Colonie. Stallions grazed in the pastures.

At Arent’s instructions, a trader named Jean Labatie wintered on the Flatts in 1642-1643. Lying on the west side of the river four miles north of Fort Orange, the location was the perfect place to leapfrog the competition and intercept the Mohawks bringing furs from the west and Algonquian trappers traveling downriver from the north.

Arent purchased “a very tidy bark,” with new sails and well equipped with anchors and rigging. He sent the boat to the South River* where up to 800 beaver pelts were waiting for the sewant and other trade goods she carried.

“The work is only begun,” Arent wrote the patroon. He was building a farmhouse that would be 120 feet long by 28 wide. One-third would be used for the dwelling and floored above and below. A cellar would run 20 feet for the full width of the house. A half-jutting chamber would house servants. The barn, bouwhuys to the Dutch, would occupy the remaining two-thirds, with box stalls for the stallions plus a horse and cow stable and all the appurtenances thereto.

And if his Honor would grant permission for a visit to Holland, Arent intended to ask for a lease with a view to settle on the farm. He would soon marry. He and the widow of Jonas Bronck hoped to keep residence in the Colonie for a good many years to come.

*The Delaware River of today.

Read Related Documents in Translation:
Letter from Arent van Curler to Kiliaen van Rensselaer, June 16, 1643 


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