Fort Orange Court Minutes, 1652–1660

In the spring of 1652, the ongoing dispute between New Netherland's director-general Petrus Stuyvesant and Rensselaerswijck's director Brant van Slichtenhorst came to a head when Van Slichtenhort commited his final act of insubordination--his refusal to post a company ordinance. Consequently, Johannes Dijckman--the commissary of Fort Orange--accompanied by eight soldiers, hauled down the patroon's flag, rang the bell, and proclaimed the establishment of the court of Fort Orange and village of Beverwijck. A new political entity had been created.

The newly created court was a court for the trial of civil and minor criminal cases, from which an appeal lay to the director general and council of New Netherland. The jurisdiction of the court comprised Fort Orange, the village of Beverwijck, Schenectady, Kinderhook, Claverack, Coxsackie, Catskill and, until May 16, 1661, when a court was established at the Esopus. Excluded from the jurisdiction was the colony of Rensselaerswijck, which maintained its own court, side by side with that of Fort Orange and the village of Beverwijck until 1665, when by order of Governor Richard Nicolls the two courts were consolidated.

The majority of the records document real estate transactions, such as conveyances of property from one individual to another, conditions of sale, conditions of auction, and surrenders of claims; records also include acknowledgments of debt, inventories of estates, warrants, powers of attorney, pledges of security, as well as some of the more common cases involving property disputes, acknowledgement of debts, slander and the use of abusive language. Such documents carried authentic signatures and could be submitted as legal instruments in court proceedings.

The records of the court, which under different names continued to exist until the erection of the mayor's court of the city of Albany in 1686, have for the greater part been carefully preserved. They consist of eight books of minutes, all written in the Dutch language, of which six, containing the minutes for 1652-56, 1658-59, 1668-73, 1675-84, 1676-80, and 1680-85, are kept in the Albany County Hall of Records, and the remaining two volumes, containing the minutes for 1657 and 1660, form part of volume 16 of the New York Colonial Manuscripts in the New York State Library. The four books in bold are included in the present volume. These records were translated by Charles Gehring and published in 1990 as Volume XVI, part two in the New Netherland Documents Series.

For more on the contents of this volume, see its introduction. For more on the arrangement and publication of the Dutch Colonial Manuscripts, see the compilation of the introductions to the New York Historical Manuscripts: Dutch / New Netherland Documents Series.

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

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