Monday, February 15, 2010

Harlem in the Old Times (2)

About a year after the burning of Pietersen Kuyter's house, however, Jan Evertsen Bout, and Claes Jansen Backer made a declaration that, from conversation and association with the Indians, they knew that "it was well and generally known by the savages that the Dutch burned the house."

But Kuyter seemed to have an affection for the Harlem Flats, and he was not to be driven out of his "Happy Valley" home so easily. After peace was established with the Indians, about five years later, he desired to reinstate himself upon his property. His purse was seriously flattened by his previous misfortunes, and this time he was not able to erect the necessary buildings without pecuniary assistance. He called upon his friends to help him, but that they did not go into the work purely from motives of friendship is shown by the agreement made before the work was begun, as follows:

"This day, the 23d of September, 1651, an amicable agreement was made between Mr. Jochem Pietersen Kuyter, a free merchant, on the one side, and the Hon. Petrus Stuyvesant, Director-General of New Netherland, Curacoa, and its dependencies: Lucas Rodenberg, Governor of Curacoa, and Cornelius De Potter, free merchant, of the other side, concerning a piece of land lying on Manhattan Island and belonging to said Jochem Pietersen Kuyter, named Zegendaal, (Happy Vale,) or by the Indians called Schorrakyn, bounded on the south by land of William Beekman, Lieutenant of the Citizens' Company, at this place, and upon the border of the Herr Johannes La Montagne's lot, so on the first rock stretching northward into the Great Kill, (Harlem River,) having to the west, toward the North River, a meadow of three or four morgens. (six or eight acres.) The aforesaid land contains about 200 morgens, [400 acres,] but is not precisely known, and yet remains to be ascertained with more accuracy on the following conditions, viz.:

"That said Kuyter shall cede, transport, and convey to the said Stuyvesant, Rodenberg, and De Potter the first three-fourths parts of said land, being one-fourth part for each; while he, said Kuyter, retains one-fourth part for him-self, and to his own behoof, upon condition that said Kuyter shall receive from the afore-said gentlemen, the sum of 1,000 Carolus guilders, [equivalent to $400.] of which sum each of said gentlemen is to pay a third part, with this understanding, that the said money is to be employed, at once, in the cultivation of the said land. The said land to remain undivided, until it is agreed, by a majority of those interested, to make separation of the shares.

"During which said time, Jochem Pietersen Kuyter is to remain the cultivator and superintendent of all the land, to the greatest profit and best advantage of all interested, among whom he is to distribute the profits, in equal shares, whether such profits come from grain, stock or otherwise. It being understood, however, that the wife of Jochem Pietersen Kuyter may keep for her family some hens and ducks. The said Kuyter shall receive for his services, as cultivator, 150 guilders, that is to say, each of the three partners shall pay 50 guilders."

The agreement continued that "to make a good beginning, with God's assistance," a decent house should be built immediately at the expense of the partners, to be occupied by Kuyter and his family. But Kuyter's second venture in Harlem was more disastrous than his first, for, in 1654, he was murdered by the Indians in the house that was thus built, and the "Happy Valley" was immediately deserted by his family, and the property went to waste. Four years later, however, a more extended and more successful effort was made to establish a settlement in Harlem.

To be continued: Harlem in the Old Times (3)

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