Transcription of the Dutch/English Document
Peter Stuyvesant in Behalf of the High and Mighty Lords the States General of the United Netherlands and the Honorable Gentlemen the Directors of the Privileged West India Company. Director General of New Netherlands, Curacao, Nairobi, Aruba and their Dependencies together with the honorable Gentlemen of the Council Witness and Declare that we on the Day of the Date underwritten have given and granted to Peter Ebel one Plantation situate on the South River of New Netherland at Fort Casmier bounded on the North by Jan Eckhoff and to the Southward by said Fort is large four Morgen with express Conditions &c. Done Amsterdam in New Netherland the 30th February Anno 1657.
During the early 17th century the nation called The Netherlands (the Dutch) was a powerful, seafaring nation. Like other European nations, the Dutch wanted to take economic advantage of the new land in America. To carry out this move, the Dutch established several trading posts in America. In 1624, New Amsterdam was established on the southern tip of Manhattan Island at the present site of New York City. Named after the largest city in the Netherlands, New Amsterdam became the capital for all the Dutch colonies in America. Eventually, the British captured New Amsterdam and renamed it New York.
Following the establishment of New Amsterdam, the Dutch began building other trading posts along the east coast of America. In 1631 the Dutch created a trading post in Delaware near Cape Henlopen. The new settlement was located north of the present town of Lewes along the Lewes Creek. Because of the many swans in the area, the new settlement was named Zwaanendael, meaning "Valley of the Swans." The trading post was established for several reasons. The Dutch wanted to buy animal furs in order to resell them in Europe for clothing items, particularly hats and coats. Secondly, they wanted to take advantage of the large number of whales found in the Delaware Bay. Whale oil was used to fuel lanterns.
Approximately thirty men were involved in the settlement of Zwaanendael. There were no women among the first group of settlers. After constructing a fort for protection, the men planted crops and began hunting for whales in the Delaware Bay, They also befriended the local Indians. The Native Americans and the Dutch began to trade goods. While the Indians provided the Dutch with furs from such animals as fox, beaver, and bear, the Dutch offered iron pots, guns, metal tools, and woven cloth as items for trade. These items were unavailable to the Native Americans before the Dutch came to the area.
Although the relationship between the Indians and the Dutch seemed to be one of friendliness and coexistence, one seemingly minor incident led to tragic consequences for the new settlers. One day, a Native American stole a metal Coat of Arms that the Dutch had posted on a pole. The Coat of Arms was a symbol of the Dutch presence in America. Although the Dutch held this symbol in high regard, the Indian wanted it because the Coat of Arms was made of metal. With the Coat of Arms missing, the Dutch became angry and told the Native Americans that the person who took it should be punished. This reaction by the Dutch led some of the Indians to kill the guilty man and bring his head to the Dutch.
The men of Zwaanendael were shocked and saddened by what they perceived as an overreaction by the Native Americans. In addition, many of the Indians thought the punishment was too severe. Holding the Dutch responsible for the man's death, a group of Native Americans decided to attack and destroy the settlement. While the new settlers were tending their crops in the nearby fields, the Indians attacked and killed the Dutch and burned the fort to the ground.
In the following year, the authorities in the Netherlands appointed David Pietersen De Vries to be the new leader of the colony. Upon sailing from Holland to Zwaanendael, De Vries was shocked to find the fort destroyed and the first settlers massacred. Although De Vries hoped to start the colony again, the Dutch authorities decided the settlement had not produced enough whale oil to give the venture a second chance. It would be almost thirty years before the Dutch established another settlement in the Lewes area.
Although this is a Dutch deed from 1657, this document is actually part of a collection called the Duke of York Record (Series Number 0000.04). This collection of land grants includes Dutch and English records. This document describes a piece of land near the present day site of the town of New Castle. The fort mentioned in the document, Fort Casimir, was built by the Dutch in early 1650s. An outgrowth of the fort was the establishment of a nearby town called New Amstel. When the English eventually took over Delaware they renamed it New Castle.