Men Who Found America - F. W. Hutchinson

The Englishman Who Sailed For The Dutch

This is the story of the man who started New York, the greatest city in all America. It all happened three hundred years ago, at a time when Sir Walter Raleigh was still in prison, and when the Little Red Princess of the Forest, way down in Virginia, was saving the life of Captain John Smith. And this is the way it happened:

In a little English village there lived a boy named Henry Hudson. This boy, like so many other English lads, loved the sea, and he always wanted to be a sailor. There were many games that Henry could play, but he was never really happy except when he was out on the ocean sailing his boat, and learning how to keep it safe in the wind and storm. He used to watch the rough fishermen as they steered their boats and cared for their sails in the rough weather, and soon there was nothing about a boat that the young Henry did not know just as well as a man.

Well, while Henry was still a boy, he went to sea to learn more about the great ocean. He did not run away secretly, but he went to the captain of a vessel and told him that he would work as a sailor for a few years without any pay, so that he could learn all about boats. The captain looked the young Henry over from head to foot, and he thought to himself, "Here is a fine, strong lad. He will make a good sailor." So he said to Henry, "You stay with me until you are twenty-one, and I will teach you everything about a ship and make a good sailor out of you."

So Henry Hudson stayed with the captain, and every day he learned more about the ways of the sea and how to handle a boat. He studied in books, too, and soon knew all about the seas of the world, and all the countries that any white man had ever visited. He was now a captain of a ship himself, and everybody was glad to sail on his boat, because they knew that Henry Hudson was a brave sailor, and was not afraid even in the roughest sea.

In those days there were great companies who sent out ships to all parts of the world to trade with the different nations. In England there was a company of this kind, called the Muscovy Company. Now, this company heard about the wise captain, Henry Hudson, and they wanted him to sail a ship for them and find out new countries, and sell English goods to the strange people he met in the new lands; so Hudson made several voyages for them. He sailed far north, and every day the weather got colder and colder; for, as everybody knows, if you go south it gets warmer, and if you go north it gets colder. Well, after a while it got so cold that the sailors almost froze. The ropes of the ships and even the sails were covered with ice, and in the sea the sailors saw great floating mountains of frozen snow. Now, these mountains are called icebergs, and they are very beautiful, especially when the sun shines upon them, and the white snow glistens, and the clear ice turns a wonderful shade of green.

But the icebergs, although very beautiful, are also very dangerous. They float around in the sea, and if they strike a ship, then that ship is broken to pieces the way a nut is crushed in a nut-cracker. So every day the voyage in the north became more dangerous, and some of Hudson's men wanted to go home; but their captain would not return. "I will not go back," he said, "until I have done what I was sent to do," and he kept on his voyage. So when Henry Hudson reached England, he had sailed further north than any man had sailed in all the world up to that time.

Now, when the people of Europe heard of how Hudson had sailed further north than anybody in all the world, they all wanted him to sail their ships. Holland, at this time, was a country of sailors, and here, too, was a company like the Muscovy Company, only it was called the Dutch East India Company. Well, the men who owned this company were always looking for brave captains; so, when they heard of Henry Hudson, they sent for him and said, "We are all Dutchmen and you are an Englishman; but, as you are a brave and a wise sailor, we want you to sail our ships for us." And they gave him money, and sent him off in a ship called the Half Moon, with twenty sailors, some of them Englishmen and some Dutchmen; and thus it was that the bold Englishman, Henry Hudson, sailed for the Dutch.

Again Hudson sailed towards the north, but this time it was colder even than before, and the sea was so full of ice that his sailors grew afraid, even more afraid than his first sailors had been. You see the ice was really very, very  dangerous. If a boat got shut in the ice, you could not move it, no matter how hard you tried; and if it got caught between two great icebergs, it was squeezed until its masts and sides were broken to pieces. So I am not surprised that the sailors grew frightened, for I should have been frightened if I were there, and I think you would have been frightened too. And they were  frightened. They said they would throw Hudson overboard unless he steered south; so Hudson had to tell the pilot to turn the boat, and he sailed south along the coast of America.

Henry Hudson


Now, I have told you before how in those days all sailors believed in a short cut between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean; so it is not strange that Hudson believed in this short cut, too, and wanted to find it. Besides, Captain Smith, who was a friend of Hudson, had told him that there was such a short cut. The name that was given to this short cut was the Northwest Passage, although nobody had ever seen it, and, in truth, there wasn't any to see. Well, as Hudson was sailing along the coast, he came to a great stream, which he thought must be the great Northwest Passage that all brave sailors were in search of; so he turned his boat and sailed up the river, which was really the Hudson River, the river that flows through the State of New York, and does not go anywhere near the Pacific Ocean. The water was clear and fresh, and the longer Hudson sailed, the shallower it became, until, after he had gone about a hundred miles, his boat could go no further, so he had to turn around once more and sail back. His men landed on the beautiful green banks of the river and rested from their hard journey.

So it was that the Hudson River was found by Henry Hudson, and the great city of New York was founded by Dutchmen. You see, though Henry Hudson was born in England, he sailed for the Dutch, and that gave the Dutch the right to all the land he found. Well, they liked this river, these home-loving Dutchmen, and they liked, too, its beautiful harbor, so they sent out from Holland ships with people to build houses and forts and trading stores for the Indians. Here they also gave the Indians hatchets and knives and little glass beads of many colors, and got from the red men soft, beautiful furs; and soon there was a little village here, which the Dutch called New Amsterdam, after their own city of Amsterdam in Holland. For over fifty years they held this little city, and then the English came and took it from them, and called it New York. And this is its name to-day, the name of the greatest city in all America, the city built upon the land which Henry Hudson found.

Let us return to Henry Hudson. He soon saw that this beautiful stream was nothing but a river, and not a short cut to the Pacific at all. He was sorry, of course; but anyway, he did a great deal. He got many furs from the Indians and made them all his friends. You see the Indians liked Hudson because he was good to them. He did not treat them cruelly as the Spaniards had done, and he did not try to rob them, or murder them, or make slaves of them; and the Indians never forgot this kindness, and from that time on they were friendly to all the Dutch who came to that part of the country.

At first the Indians did not know what to say or do to Hudson and the white men. Like the other Indians of our stories, they had never seen a ship or a white man before. Some of them thought that the ship was a great fish or an animal, and still others believed that it was a strange, new house that floated on the water. As for Hudson, they thought he was the Manitou, or Great Spirit, who was the god of the Indians, and they worshipped him in a very queer way. Gathering in a great circle, they danced around him all their queer Indian dances, because, being a great spirit, they thought that their dancing would please him.

Then Henry Hudson gave the Indians axes and shoes and stockings, but the red men did not know what to do with the gifts. They thought the heads of the axes and the shoes must be ornaments to be worn about the neck, and the stockings they used to put tobacco in and they hung them at their belts. Now, I think that shoes and stockings were very foolish gifts to make to the Indians, because everybody knows that they always wear moccasins; but the axes were a very sensible  present. The Indians were pleased with these axes. They cut down trees and chopped wood for their fires, much more easily than before, when they had used their big hunting knives.

Well, the Indians certainly did like Hudson and Hudson liked the Indians; so one day the chief invited him in to dinner. It would not have been polite to refuse this invitation. You see, Hudson could not say that he had a "previous engagement," which is the way some people have of making excuses when they do not want to go anywhere. Anyway, Hudson really wanted to go. When he came to the wigwam, he found the chief seated on a mat on the ground. Hudson looked around for a chair; but, as there was none, he sat down on a mat too, and waited for what would come next. Then the food was served. It was in two big wooden bowls and of only one kind—a sort of stew, made up of pigeons and dog  cooked together. Now, a dog isn't a very  good thing to eat, at least we don't think it is; but the Indians thought this a very fine feast. Well, Hudson was polite, and he had such a good time at the dinner that the Indians were sorry when he sailed away.

I think that Henry Hudson wanted to come back again to the friendly Indians; but when he reached Europe, the English kept his vessel and made him stay in England. Hudson wanted to sail again for the Dutch, but his own people said, "No; you must sail for us. You must not find new lands for any country but England."

So the next year the brave Hudson sailed once more, and this time he sailed on an English ship. He took with him his own son, a young lad, and a man named Henry Green, and also a good many sailors. You will hear of this Henry Green again before this story is ended.

Far north Hudson steered the little vessel, and soon he came to a great bay which no white man had ever seen before, and which was afterwards called Hudson's Bay, because Hudson found it. Here it was very cold indeed, and every day it grew colder. The ice froze around the vessel, and for eight months the little ship could not move an inch. Food got scarce, and then, as always happens, the men were afraid of starving and longed to get home. As soon as the ice began to melt even a little, they begged Hudson to go back to England. "Do not stay in this cold land," they said, "where we shall surely freeze and starve to death." But Hudson would not do this. He believed that at last he was in the Northwest Passage, and would soon find the Pacific Ocean. "Be brave," he said, "for this ship shall not return to England until I find out about this bay." Perhaps these words of Hudson would have kept the men quiet if it had not been for the wicked Henry Green. Hudson had always been friendly to Green, but this wicked man was not grateful. Night and day he talked to the men until he got them to turn against their good captain. And they did  turn against him in this way.

Hand and foot both Henry Hudson and his son were tied so tight that they could not get loose, and then, with seven sick men, they were put in a little boat and turned adrift in the great sea, while the wicked Henry Green and the other men sailed home to England. When they reached home, I am glad to say, these wicked men were all punished. They were put in prison, and a ship was sent to Hudson Bay to look for the brave Henry Hudson; but he was not found, and to this day no one knows what became of the little boat and of good Captain Hudson.

So I suppose that, left alone without food, he died there in the great, frozen sea. But who knows? There were many simple Dutch people who lived near New York, in the Catskill Mountains, who never believed that Hudson was dead. Whenever it thundered in the hills, these old men used to say, "Henry Hudson and his men are playing ninepins in the mountains."