History, Archaeology & Art Illuminate a Life on the Hudson

Tools of the Farm

A. Mathook
B. Horseshoe & post
C. Pitchfork
D. Iron Snaffle Bit
E. Hoe
F. Hammer Head

The Best Farm


“A farm called de Vlackte, used by arent Colaer, being the best farm.”

- Description of the Flatts farm from "Memorandum of farms
in the colony," 1651

During the summer of 1651, a Captain Slijter temporarily assumed management of Rensselaerswijck during the absence of Director Brant Slichtenhorst, who had accompanied Arent on his return from the Netherlands.  It was Slijter who judged the Flatts the best farm in the Colonie. At 44 morgens including islands Arent bought from the Mahicans, it was one of the largest. A gray mare named the Patroon headed a list of ten horses. Others included Hans, Snout and Smelt. Two bulls ruled a herd of eighteen cattle.

The excavations at the Flatts unearthed remains of this thriving farm. Farmers anywhere would use the small hoe and pitchfork. The mathook is distinctly Dutch.  Arent's harvesters used it with a sith sharpened by several small whetstones found. With mathooks in their left hands, the men would grasp the grain stalks together.  Bracing the crooked handles of the siths against wrist and forearm, they would slice through and deftly drop the grain to the ground for binding into sheaves.

Horseshoes, bits and wagon hardware evoke stallions, mares and colts running across the Flatts pastures, showing off the farm's prosperous horse-breeding business. A surprise is a depression containing a large iron stake with two horseshoes and an iron ring laying in the sand around it.  Evidence of pitching horsehoes?  Seventeenth-century Dutch had little tradition of the sport as a pastime. It is generally considered of English origin, a variation of quoits with antecedents possibly to the Romans and Greeks. Perhaps Van Curler picked it up on a trip to Virginia in his "very tidy bark," or to Barbados, where he delivered horses.

In a yellow-bricked courtyard containing a cistern, the members of the household would have washed and prepared the food. The spot might have also served as the dairy.

Carpenters framed the farm's buildings with chisels later found by archaeologists and pounded timber together with claw hammers. The air must have rung as smiths worked metal with cross peen hammers, files and pincers, producing nails, chain and other hardware buried at the site.

Read Related Documents in Translation:

Memorandum of Farms, June 16, 1651
Inventory of Animals, 1651

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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