That tract of land formerly called the New Netherlands

These fragments come from a description of New York from 1670.

That Tract of Land formerly called The New Netherlands, doth Contain all that Land which lieth in the North-parts of America, betwixt New-England and Mary-Land in Virginia, the length of which Northward into the Countrey, as it hath not been fully discovered, so it is not certainly known. The bredth of it is about two hundred miles: The principal Rivers within this Tract, are Hudsons River, Raritan-River, and Delewerhay-River. The chief Islands are the Manahatans-Island, Long-Island, and Staten-Island.

And first to begin with the Manahatans Island, so called by the Indians, it lieth within land betwixt the degrees of 41. and 42. of North-latitude, and is about 14 miles long, and two broad. It is bounded with Long-Island on the South, with Staten-Island on the West, on the North with the Main Land: And with Conecticut Colony on the East-side of it. Only a part of the Main Land belonging to the New-York Colony, where several Towns and Villages are setled, being about thirty miles in bredth, doth intercept the Manahatans Island, and the Colony of Conecticut before mentioned.

For about ten miles from New-York is a place called Hell-Gate, which being a narrow passage, there runneth a violent stream both upon flood and ebb, and in the middle lieth some Islands of Rocks, which the Current sets so violently upon, that it threatens present shipwrack; and upon the Flood is a large Whirlpool, which continually sends forth a hideous roaring, enough to affright any stranger from passing further. It is a place of great defence against any enemy coming in that way, which a small Fortification would absolutely prevent, and necessitate them to come in at the West end of Long-Island by Sandy Hook where Nutten-Island doth force them within Command of the Fort at New York, which is one of the best Pieces of Defence in the North parts of America.

New York is built most of Brick and Stone, and covered with red and black Tile, and the Land being high, it gives at a distance a pleasing Aspect to the spectators. The Inhabitants consist most of English and Dutch, and have a considerable Trade with the Indians, for Beavers, Otter, Raccoon skins, and other Furrs, as also Bear, Deer, and Elke skins. They are supplied with Venison and Fowl in the Winter, and Fish in the Summer by the Indians, which they buy at an easie rate.  Having the Countrey round about them, they are continually furnished with all such provisions as is needful for the life of man, not only by the English and Dutch within their own, but likewise by the Adjacent Colonies.

The Commodities sent from thence is Furs and Skins before-mentioned. Likewise Tobacco, made within the Colony, as good as is usually made in Mary-land: Also Horses, Beef, Pork, Oyl, Pease, Wheat, and the like.

Long-Island, the West-end of which lies Southward of New-York, runs Eastward above one hundred miles, and is in some places eight, in some twelve, in some fourteen miles broad; it is inhabited from one end to the other. On the West end is four or five Dutch Towns, the rest being all English to the number of twelve, besides Villages and Farm houses. The Island is most of it of a very good soyle, and very natural for all sorts of English Grain; which they sowe and have very good increase of, besides all other Fruits and Herbs common in England, as also Tobacco, Hemp, Flax, Pumpkins, Melons, &c.

The Fruits natural to the Island, are Mulberries, Posimons, Grapes great and small, Huckelberries, Cramberries, Plums of several sorts, Rosberries and Strawberries, of which last is such abundance in June, that the Fields and Woods are died red: Which the Countrey-people perceiving, instantly arm themselves with bottles of Wine, Cream, and Sugar, and in stead of a Coat of Male, every one takes a Female upon his Horse behind him, and so rushing violently into the fields, never leave till they have disrob’d them of their red colours, and turned them into the old habit.

The greatest part of the Island is very full of Timber, as Oaks white and red, Walnut-trees, Chesnut-trees, which yield store of Mast for Swine, and are often therewith sufficiently fatted with Oat-Corn: as also Maples, Cedars, Saxifrage, Beach, Birch, Holly, Hazel, with many sorts more.

The Herbs which the Countrey naturally afford, are Purslain, white Orage, Egrimony, Violets, Penniroyal, Alicampane, besides Saxaparilla very common, with many more. Yea, in May you shall see the Woods and Fields so curiously bedecke with Roses, and an innumerable multitude of delightful Flowers, not only pleasing the eye, but smell, that you may behold Nature contending with Art, and striving to equal, if not excel many Gardens in England: nay, did we know the vertue of all those Plants and Herbs growing there (which time may more discover) many are of opinion, and the Natives do affirm, that there is no disease common to the Countrey, but may be cured without Materials from other Nations.

There is several Navigable Rivers and Bays, which puts into the North-side of Long-Island, but upon the South-side which joyns to the Sea, it is so fortified with bars of sands and sholes, that it is a sufficient defence against any enemy, yet the South-side is not without Brooks and Riverets, which empty themselves into the Sea. Neither do the Brooks and Riverets premised, give way to the Frost in Winter, or draught in Summer, but keep their course throughout the year.  These Rivers are very well furnished with Fish, as Bosse, Sheepsheads, Place, Pearch, Trouts, Eels, Turtles, and divers others.

The Island is plentifully stored with all sorts of English Cattel. Horses, Hogs, Sheep, Goats, &c. no place in the North of America better, which they can both raise and maintain, by reason of the large and spacious Medow, or Marches wherewith it is furnished, the Island likewise producing excellent English grass, the seed of which was brought out of England, which they sometime mow twice a year.

For wilde Beasts there is Deer, Bear, Wolves, Foxes, Racoons, Otters, Musquashes and Skunks. Wild Fowl there is great store of, as Turkies, Heath-Hens, Quailes, Partridges, Pidgeons, Cranes, Geese of several sorts, Brants, Ducks, Widgeon, Teal, and divers others: There is also the red Bird, with divers sorts of singing birds, whose chirping notes salute the ears of Travellers with an harmonious discord, and in every pond and brook green silken Frogs, who warbling forth their untun’d tunes strive to bear a part in this musick.

Upon the South-side of Long-Island in the Winter, lie store of Whales and Crampasses, which the inhabitants begin with small boats to make a trade Catching to their no small benefit. Also an innumerable multitude of Seals, which make an excellent oyle; they lie all the Winter upon some broken Marshes and Beaches, or bars of sand before-mentioned, and might be easily got were there some skilful men would undertake it.

To say something of the Indians, there is now but few upon the Island, and those few no ways hurtful but rather serviceable to the English. Since the English first setling of those parts; for since my time, where there were fix towns, they are reduced to two small Villages, and it hath been generally observed, that where the English come to settle, a Divine Hand makes way for them, by removing or cutting off the Indians, either by Wars one with the other, or by some raging mortal Disease. They live principally by Hunting, Fowling, and Fishing: their Wives being the Husbandmen to till the Land, and plant their corn.

Now to conclude, its possible some may say, what needs a Relation of a place of so long standing as New York hath been? In answer to which I have said something before, as to satisfie the desires of many that never had any Relation of it.  Secondly, though it hath been long setled, yet but lately reduced to his Majesties obedience, and by that means but new or unknown to the English; Else certainly those great number of Furs, that have been lately transported from thence into Holland had never past the hands of our English Furriers: Thirdly, never any Relation before was published to my knowledge, and the place being capable of entertaining so great a number of inhabitants, where they may with Gods blessing, and their own industry, live as happily as any people in the world. A true Relation was necessary, not only for the encouragement of many that have a desire to remove themselves, but for the satisfaction of others that would make a trade thither.

© 2009-2012 All Rights Reserved

Comments are closed.

All original content on these pages is fingerprinted and certified by Digiprove
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers:

© Shakespeare's England 2009-2014