Massasoit: A Story of the Indians of New England - Alma H. Burton

The Dutch and the French

Now, while the English were stretching out their boundary lines along the bays of New England, the Dutch, from Holland, were settling along the Hudson river to the west of them.

Strange to say, these two peoples did not agree so well in America, where there was plenty of room, as they had done in the crowded, little town of Leyden.

The Dutch claimed all the land on both sides of the Hudson river, because Henry Hudson had discovered that river while on a voyage for the West India Company.

The great navigator told the merchants that he had never seen anything half so beautiful as this river in America, and said that a fine fur trade might be carried on there.

Then Dutch ships sailed up the Hudson with powder, shot, hatchets and beads, to trade for the furs ofthe Indians. One blockhouse was built where Albany now stands, and called Fort Orange, and another was built on Manhattan Island, and called New Amsterdam.

Soon many ships brought thrifty burghers and their wives; and, in time, New Amsterdam grew into a quaint little city of wooden houses, with high gable ends of tiles, after the fashion of houses in Holland.

The island of Manhattan, where this little city stood, was guarded on the east by a whirlpool, which even the Indians feared to pass; and on the west stood the bristling guns of a fort.

To the north of the island, on both sides of the Hudson, the country was a paradise for hunters and trappers, abounding in deer, elk, beaver, and wild fowl.

To the west was Staten Island, and between the two islands lay the placid bay, where ships sailed in and out in busy quiet trade.

To the south of Manhattan, across an arm of the sea, lay Long Island. The Dutch settled the west end of this island, and were soon snapping their fingers at the English from Connecticut, who had settled the east end of it.

The soil of the whole region claimed by the Dutch was fine. There were forests of red and white oak, walnuts, chestnuts and hazel. Violets and roses filled the air with perfume, and herbs and roots abounded, which, the Indians said, would cure every known disease. Sand bars and shoals lured whales and seals during winter, and oysters and periwinkles abounded in all the coves of the coast.

At first the Dutch had trouble with the Indians, and many a stout burgher was scalped, but they soon bought up the lands, and built forts to defend them, and in time the Indians gave pledges of peace.

They explored all the country between Cape Henlopen and Cape Cod, and called it New Netherlands. Then they planted a trading station on the Connecticut river. So there these Dutch were, like a thorn in the side of the English. But their settlement on the Connecticut did not prosper. The Puritans made shrewder bargains than anyone would have believed such pious people could make.

They had the east end of Long Island and some of the best points along the Connecticut river, with the strong fort of Saybrook at its mouth.

At length, after many quarrels, a boundary line was agreed upon between the two nations, which divided Long Island, and passed north between Connecticut and New York.

How this ever happened without the use of muskets, no one seems to know.

Washington Irving declares that the Dutch did not like the smell of onions. So the Yankees planted their rows of onions a little farther west every year, and the Dutchmen retired with tears in their eyes!

But even after the division of the land, there was rivalry in the fur trade with the Indians.

The jolly Dutchmen dandled the papooses and made themselves so popular, that business was always brisk.

But the Dutch were not the only troublesome neighbors of the English. There stood the French, on the north, to take away trade.

Montreal and Quebec on the St. Lawrence river, and Port Royal in Nova Scotia, were flourishing posts for fisheries and furs.

At certain seasons of the year, the French sent their vessels along the coast of Maine to trade with the Tarratines, who had always been hostile to the English. Hundreds of Indian trappers carried their packs of furs over rivers and through fens, to the waiting French ships. They pitched their bark tents along the beautiful harbors of Maine; and, after the dances, songs and feasts were over, they returned home, laden with trinkets, hatchets and guns.

The English in the scattered settlements along the coasts of New Hampshire and Maine, were in constant fear of an attack from the French and their Indian allies, and soon placed themselves under the protection of Massachusetts.

But greater than the dangers from the Dutch or the French, was the danger from their own Indian allies.

They were always at war with one another, and so it was impossible to keep peace with them all. The Pequods were no more, but the Narragansetts, the Mohegans, and all the New England tribes, seemed ready at any time to break faith with the white men.

An Indian creeping through the outskirts of the forest at daybreak might be the signal for the coming of a whole band on the warpath; a gift passed from one chief to another was, perhaps, a compact for war.

And so there was great need for the feeble English settlements to form the United Colonies of New England, as a defense against their common foes.