Sunset at Gowanus Bay

Sunset at Gowanus Bay
Sunset at Gowanus Bay, Henry Gritten, 1851

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York

The complete title of this series is Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York; Procured in Holland, England and France, by John Romeyn Brodhead, Esq., Agent, Under and by Virtue of an Act of the Legislature, Entitled "An Act to Appoint an Agent to Procure and Transcribe Documents in Europe Relative to the Colonial History of the State," Passed May 2, 1839, edited by E. B. O'Callaghan (Albany: Weed, Parsons and Company, Printers, 1853-1861). This is an eleven volume series, with ten volumes of records and an eleventh volume that serves as the index to the ten. Although the Dutch and French documents were translated by E. B. O'Callaghan, they are not included in his Calendar of Historical Manuscripts in the Office of the Secretary of State, Albany, N. Y. (since they were not found there we would not expect them to be)+.

There is a long introduction written by John Romeyn Brodhead beginning at page v. of volume one, which is worth reading so as to place these records in context. Of particular interest is the statement in the second paragraph informing us that records from the early administrations in New Netherland of Peter Minuit (1626-1632) and Wouter van Twiller (1633-1638) largely do not survive. So, knowledge of the happenings during the first fourteen years of settlement in New Netherland is very much limited. One glimpse into this early period is found at page xxxix of the Introduction. Here is a translation of a letter dated November 5, 1626, from P. Schagen, Deputy of the States-General to the Dutch Government. It tells of the arrival of a ship, the Arms of Amsterdam, from New Netherland, and provides some very brief insight into the situation on Manhattan Island.

All eleven volumes of this series have been made available in digital formats and can be found online through the Internet Archives website. I have created a page, "Links to Published Sources Available Online," where you will find convenient links to many of the published sources that have been featured in the posts of the past month or so. [This page is a PDF, feel free to download it]. Included here are the eleven volumes of this series, and of the continuation of the series which consists of volumes 12-15, edited by Berthold Fernow. They will be covered in a subsequent post. Meanwhile, in the first ten volumes there are three mentions of persons named Brouwer.

In Volume 1, (published 1856) at page 11, we find the first, and to my knowledge, only mention of the name, Pieter Clementssen Brouwer. He is found on a document titled, Grant of Exclusive Trade to New Netherland [From the Minute on a half sheet of paper, in the Royal Archives in the Hague; File: Loopende]. It is a petition from a list of men including, "Pieter Clementssen Brouwer, Jan Clementssen Kies, and Cornelis Volkertssen, Merchants of the City of Hoorn, owners of the Ship named the Fortuyn, whereof Cornelis Jacobssen May was skipper," petitioning the States General of the United Netherlands for an exclusive (although limited) right to access to lands in America between New France and Virginia, "between the fortieth and fort fifth degrees of Latitude, now named New Netherland..."* It is dated 11 October 1614. The exclusive right is allowed for four voyages and three years. Those who have made an effort to research the ancestry of Adam Brouwer, of Gowanus, L. I., have run across the name Pieter Clementssen Brouwer. Amateur genealogists (and here the description, genealogists, should be used loosely) from the early 20th century, arbitrarily and without evidence or reason, assigned Pieter Clementssen Brouwer as the father of Adam Brouwer. This incorrect assignment is apparently based solely upon the observation that the two (Pieter and Adam) had the same surname, Brouwer. No evidence, not even circumstantial evidence has been found to support this claim. All that is known of Pieter Clementssen Brouwer comes from this one document. In 1614 he was a merchant residing in Hoorn (in Noord-Holland, Netherlands) and that he was part owner of a ship called the Fortuyn, which had made a voyage to America under the skipper, Cornelis Jacobssen May. Adam Brouwer, on the other hand, was born in Cologne, Germany (see "New Insight into the Origins of Adam Brouwer").

In Volume 2 (1858), page 249, the name of Jan Brouwer is found on a petition, bearing the date 5 September 1664. This the time when the English took control of New Netherland from the Dutch. The petition is under the title, Remonstrance of the People of New Netherland to the Director-General and Council [From the Copy in the Royal Archives at the Hague; File, West Indie]. It is a petition signed by many of the male inhabitants of New Amsterdam, directed to Director-General Stuyvesant and his Council, describing the hopeless situation in attempting to defend New Amsterdam against an English invasion, and of the dire consequences should they even attempt a defense. They ask Stuyvesant and the Council to accept the "generous" terms of surrender offered by the English. As we all know, Stuyvesant complied with the request. By my count there are 94 men signing the petition. Among them is a Jan Brouwer. The signer may be one of two men named Jan Brouwer. The first is Jan Brouwer, of Flatlands, L. I., who may well have first lived on Manhattan Island prior to settling at Flatlands. He had four children baptized in the New Amsterdam Reformed Dutch Church between 1658 and 1665, including sons (both named Hendrick) on 14 November 1663 and 14 January 1665, ten months prior to and four months after the date of this petition. The second could be Jan Gerritsz Brouwer, who had a daughter Lucretia baptized at the New Amsterdam church on 2 April 1656, about seven and a half years prior to the date of this petition. We know that Jan Gerritsz Brouwer was back in Amsterdam on 17 November 1666 when he had a son baptized in the Reformed South Church of Amsterdam. But when he actually left New Amsterdam for (old) Amsterdam is not certain.

In Volume 9 (1855), covering documents in Paris, in a footnote on page 1019, is mention of "Jacob Brouwer, an Indian trader," who was "barbarously murdered at the falls on the Oswego River, in the spring of 1730, by an Onondaga Indian." The footnote cites "N. Y. Council Minutes, XVL, 28." The footnote is to a letter of 10 October 1730 from M. de Beauharnois to Count de Maurepas, which includes "intelligence respecting what passed at Orange, between the English and the Iroquois." Specifically there is reference to "the death of an English or Dutch man who had been killed at Chouaguen, last Spring." This Jacob Brouwer was a son of Hendrick Brouwer and Marritje Borsboom, and a grandson of Willem Brouwer and Lysbeth Drinkvelt.

*The 40th north latitude runs through Trenton, New Jersey, and the 45th north latitude runs through northern New York State just south of the boarder with Canada.

+Correction (Sept. 28, 2015) some documents are also found in O'Callaghan's Calendar, and do appear in other published volumes in the New York Historical Manuscripts Series.

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