Monday, February 15, 2010

Harlem in the Old Times (3)

The settlement of the northern end of Manhattan island was begun in earnest when, on March 4, 1668, there was entered in the big Dutch books the following minute: "The Director-General and Council in New-Netherland give notice that they have resolved, with a view to promote agriculture and the security of this island, with the animals pasturing upon it, and also with the intention to increase the amusement of this City, Amsterdam, in New Netherland, to form a new village, or hamlet, at the northern end of this island, in the vicinity of the lands of Jochem Pietersen, deceased; and in order, also, that agriculture may be further encouraged, the intended village is favored with the following privileges:

"First__The inhabitants of such village shall be granted, in fee, 18, 20, to 29 morgens [of 2 acres each] of plow-land, and 6 to 8 morgens of the meadow for pasture, and shall also have exemption from paying tithes during 15 years following the 1st of May next, provided they pay within three years, either at once or by installments, 8 guilders [$3.20] for each morgen of arable land, which shall be for the benefit of the representatives of said Jochem Pietersen or his creditors, said party having, in former days, been expelled from said lands and suffered thereon great losses."

The Director-General and the Council, in the second place, promise to assist and protect the inhabitants of the new village in every way possible, and to furnish them with "12 or 15 soldiers, when necessary, at the expense of the Government, except for their board and lodging." The Director-General and Council "shall favor the village, as soon as it shall be increased to 20 or 25 families, with a subaltern Bench of Justices." And they promise that, as soon as this number of families have settled there, they will "make every effort to supply them with a good, pious, and orthodox minister, on account of whose support the Director-General and Council will pay half the salary and the other half must be satisfied by the inhabitants." They will employ negroes to assist the inhabitants to make a good wagon-road to New Amsterdam, and they "will not undertake the establishment of any other village or concentration, nor permit others to do so, until the aforesaid village shall have arrived in esse;" they will "establish a ferry in the vicinity of the village, with the accommodation of a good scow, to ferry cattle and horses over the river; and further, they will favor the said village with a cattle and horse fair." Persons desiring to settle in the new village must leave their names as soon as possible at the Secretary's office, and shall afterward, without delay, put "an able-bodied and well-armed person on the spot selected or purchased."

This project succeeded, and the village was named New Harlem. Efforts were soon afterward made to establish other villages in the neighborhood, but they were looked upon unfavorably by the Government, and for some years New Harlem had the field entirely to itself. In 1663, the Schepens of the Village of New Harlem presented a petition to the Director-General and Council of New Harlem, setting forth that some of the inhabitants would find great difficulty in paying immediately the $1.60 an acre, and asking that they be released from this obligation, the payment of tithes to begin at the expiration of 10 years instead of 15. This request was not granted, but the purchasers were afterward released from their obligation to pay for the land in consideration of the payment of tithes beginning at the expiration of eight years.

To be continued: Harlem in the Old Times (4)

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