Willem Verhulst became the second director of the New Netherland colony early in 1625. He replaced Cornelius Jacobsen Mey, who had been the director of the colony since the arrival of the first immigrants during the previous year, in 1624. Verhulst sailed from Holland, in January 1625, on a ship named the “Orange Tree”. The Dutch translation of orange tree is oranje boom, and the name of the ship therefore probably carried the Dutch name, “Oranje Boom”. Interestingly, also on board the ship was Peter Minuit, who was to become the successor of Verhulst, in the following year, 1626.
Verhulst had specific instructions from the directors of the Dutch West India Company [DWI] to move the settlers, who had landed the previous year on what is now Governor’s Island, to the much larger island of Manhattan. But since the DWI did not own Manhattan, Verhulst was given specific instructions to purchase Manhattan Island from the Indians, and so make the settlers’ occupation of the lands a legitimate act. The instructions, specified by the Dutch States General, included a specific directive not to force the Indians to give up their land, but to convince the Indians to sell the lands, and to pay the Indians in whatever form of payment that would satisfy them. One of the forms of payment was beads, but other items the Indians could use, and the settlers had available, would also be satisfactory. These directives apparently formed the basis of the transaction, the purchase of Manhattan from the Indians, by Peter Minuit in 1626. Since the Dutch had been trading for beaver pelts with the Indians for several years, there was general knowledge about what the Indians valued as a commodity for barter.
Verhulst apparently was able to occupy the southern tip of Manhattan, even before the purchase was made. In the same year Verhulst arrived, additional immigrants also arrived together with horses, cattle, goats, pigs and sheep. So the settlers were in good shape to start developing a farming community.
Verhulst was director of the colony for only about a year. In September 1626, he was sent back home to Holland on a ship named the “Arms of Amsterdam”, probably identified by its Dutch name, “Het Wapen van Amsterdam”. He was dismissed, apparently for mismanagement. However, there is no record what he mismanaged or where his mismanagement occurred. It seems more likely that since Peter Minuit was already on the scene in the new colony, the DWI management had already decided that Minuit would make a better director than Verhulst.
On the arrival of “Het Wapen van Amsterdam” in Amsterdam, the returnees, including Verhulst, were interviewed extensively by representatives of the DWI directorship. One of the items of information that was divulged was the apparent fact that Minuit had already purchased Manhattan from the Indians. It was also reported that the new colony in New Amsterdam was a bustling community with a saw mill and a windmill. And the planned fort for the defense of the community had already been laid out.
Such is the story of Willem Verhulst. He went down in history as the second director of New Amsterdam, and implicitly New Netherland. But he was apparently considered a failure as a director, and his directorship only lasted a little over a year.
Beads and Manhattan, www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/41/415.html
Director General of New Netherland, Wikipedia
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