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The 17th Century - A Period Of Growth And Change

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Background - Dutch and Swedes Period

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By 1614 the region, known as New Netherland, came under the control of The United New Netherland Company. In 1621 a group of Dutch merchants, incorporated as the West Indian Company, were given a monopoly for trade in the New World and West Africa. By 1624 New Netherland was officially established by the Dutch.

While the English were settling colonies to the north (Massachusetts Bay Colony and Plymouth) and to the south (Virginia and Maryland), the Dutch were settling the Middle Atlantic region.

In 1630 Peter Minuit of New Netherland made the first grant of land on the west side of the Delaware River or Bay to a company of patroons who were to control all of the land between Cape Henlopen and Bombay Hook. The following year the Dutch established Zwaanendael (Swanendael or Lewes) with a small group of men who hoped to make money from fishing, farming, and trading. However, Indians destroyed the colony within a year. establish whale or fish oil enterprises. Because of various hardships and setbacks, the first successful Dutch attempt to establish a colony in the Lewes area did not take place until 1659.

By the end of the 1630s another European nation, Sweden, began to send settlers to the region. In 1637 the New Sweden Company was chartered with mostly Dutch investors. Dutch and Swedish settlers established Fort Christina (present site of Wilmington) in 1638, hoping to find wealth through fur trading with the Indians and selling tobacco in Europe. By 1641 the Swedes gained complete control of the New Sweden Company. Land was granted and by 1647 New Sweden was a colony of 183 men, women, and children. (Document 4)

In 1651 Peter Stuyvesant moved the main Dutch settlement on the Delaware to the site of present day New Castle and called his settlement Fort Casimir. Two years later Johan Rising replaced Johan Printz as governor of New Sweden. (Document 5) Rising took control of Fort Casimir only to lose it the following year, together with Fort Christina, to the Dutch. Although the Dutch retained control of the colony until it was taken by the English, many Swedes elected to remain there with other Europeans such as the Finns, Germans, English, French, Scots, and other Scandinavians. (Document 6 and 28)The colonists were primarily farmers, traders, craftsmen, and artisans.