Adriaen Van Der Donck and the Wiequaeskecks

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    • #2407

      I found a document relating to our area’s history that I think is really interesting.  But first a little background.

      In 1655, the area’s first European settlement (located in modern day Van Cortlandt Park) was attacked by a large force of Native American fighters.  It was the homesite of Adriaen Van der Donck, his wife Mary, and several other colonists that Van der Donck brought to the area to help develop the land.  It is widely believed that Van der Donck was killed in the attack.  Other colonists from the settlement were taken captive and held for ransom.  The raid was one of many attacks in the region that took place during the Peach War (or 2nd Munsee-Dutch War).

      The document I found was translated from the original Dutch by Charles Gehring of the New Netherland Institute.  It seems to be from January of 1656 and refers to the attacks of the Peach War.  The word “Wiequaeskeck” refers to the Native Americans that hailed from today’s Westchester and The Bronx.

      The first thing that struck me about the document is the fact that Van der Donck employed a local Wiequaeskeck man, a “good friend” no less, to take care of his cows.  It suggests that there was a period of peaceful cooperation between the colonists in our area and the local native people.  Van der Donck had an uncommon understanding of New Netherland’s native population, having lived among them while working upstate.  He wrote extensively about their languages, traditions, customs, and traditions.

      Van der Donck wrote:

      “We are . . . beholden to the Natives in the highest, who not only yielded this rich and fertile country, and for a trifle in property ceded it to us . . . It is now our great shame, and fortunate would we be, had we duly acknowledged this good deed, and in return for what the Natives have shared with us, had endeavored to share with them the eternal good, for as much as it is in us.  It is to be feared that on the last day they will rise up against us for this injustice.”

      This attempt to see things from the perspective of the Natives was uncommon.   It is quite ironic that he would end up the victim of a attack by Native Americans.  It is likely that the attackers were not local Wiequaeskecks, with whom Van der Donck had a relationship, but rather Susquehannocks, who would not have distinguished Van der Donck from any other Dutch colonist.

      As for the document, it is interesting to read the Wiequaeskeck man’s response to the questions about the Dutch captives and relations with the Dutch colony:

    • #2408
      Thomas Casey

      Very interesting find.  I maybe wrong, but I believe that it was generally stated thāt Van DER Donck died at sea.  This document makes it clear that it was during an attack.

    • #2409
      Thomas Casey

      One other theory is that he died of natural causes and therefore it was not news worthy and not reported.  It is apparent that his wife did not keep a diary or letters .

    • #2410
      Peter Ostrander

      Its not documented where Adriaen vander Donck (AVD) died but generally thought he was killed by Indians on his farm by natives from further up north. The local Indians having moved south to the city and those from upstate did not know vander donck. Its likely his wife was in their New Amsterdam house. If she was on the farm she too would have been killed or captured. We do know she soon remarried and sold the Patroon lands.  Nick and I attended a book lecture few years ago in which the author of a new book on AVD stated he was killed at his farm house along with 2 mill workers. His farm home was located approx 50 ft south of todays Van Cortlandt mansion front door.  My personal theory is that he was buried where the Kingsbridge Burial ground is located.  The site being a burial site continued to be used as one by the Tippetts and Berian families who followed AVD aS owners of the lands and later used by the community. For those not familiar with vander Donck should know he was the first lawyer in New Netherlands and a foe of Pieter Stuyvesant . Two books of interest are 1) AVD own 1655 book on this area ‘A Description of New netherland’ and 2)Russell Shorto’s great book. ‘ Island in the Center of the World’  about AVD and New Netherlands.


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