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The Delaware Finns

E. A. Louhi

Chapter I.  The Finnish emigration to Sweden, from where their path led to the American shores.
Chapter II.  Motives and inducements that led Sweden to establish a colony on the Delaware River.
Chapter III.  A colony established on the Delaware River.
Chapter IV.  The second expedition. The Dutch withdraw from the company. Dutch colonists coming to the Delaware.
Chapter V.  The third expedition. Finnish colonists brought to the Delaware River.
Chapter VI.  The fourth and the fifth expeditions. More Finnish colonists brought to America.
Chapter VII.  The sixth, seventh and eighth expeditions. The Finns beseeching the queen to be permitted to go to America.
Chapter VIII.  The ninth and tenth expeditions. The Finns flocking to get passage for America.
Chapter IX.  The Delaware settlements under the Swedish administration.
Chapter X.  The Delaware colony conquered by the Dutch.
Chapter XI.  New expeditions of Finns arriving at the Delaware River.
Chapter XII.  The first period of the Finnish settlements under the Dutch rule.
Chapter XIII.  England replacing Holland as the ruler of the South River.
Chapter XIV.  The first period of the Finnish settlement under the English rule.
Chapter XV.  The second period of the Finnish settlements under the Dutch rule.
Chapter XVI.  The second period of the Finnish settlements under the English rule.
Chapter XVII.  The third period of the Finnish settlements under the English rule.
Chapter XVIII.  The last stages of the Finnish settlements on the Delaware.

Chapter X. The Delaware Colony Conquered by the Dutch.

The Dutch had always claimed the Delaware valley as their territory and they actually were the first ones who explored the river and attempted settlements there. In spring of 1616, Cornelius Hendricksen from Holland was exploring the country about the Delaware Bay. He ascended the river and made the first map of the Delaware. In 1620, Cornelius Mey of Hoorn sailed up the river and after him the mouth of the Delaware was called New Port May by the Dutch. When the Dutch West India Company was organized in 1621, it was invested with the monopoly to trade in the territories in America claimed by Holland. And in the same year a ship was sent by the company's permission from Holland to trade at the "South River," as the Dutch called the Delaware as distinguished from the "North River," the Hudson. Besides the Dutch, the English and French also carried on beaver trade at the river at this time. Captain Mey was again sent to the Delaware in 1623 with orders to build a fort there to acertain Dutch occupation, and a dominant position on the Big Timber Creek at Gloucester Point, (as these places are called today), on the east side of the river was selected by him as the place for block-house which he called Fort Nassau. Four couples and eight seamen were left by him to settle there. In a few years however the fort was deserted. In 1629, Samuel Godyn, an officer of the Dutch West India Company applied for privilege from his company to found a colony on the South River. Godyn was later joined by Samuel Blommaert, the founder of New Sweden Company, who also was a member of the Dutch company. They bought from the Indians land on the south side of the Delaware Bay, extending northward about thirty miles from Cape Henlopen to the mouth of the Delaware River, and inland about two miles. The patent for the territory was signed at New Amsterdam by Governor Peter Minuit on July 16, 1630, the Indians appearing to ratify the purchase. At the end of the same year Godyn, Blommaert and their associates sent two vessels for expedition to their acquired territory. One of the ships became captured by the pirates, but the other vessel, the Walvis, commanded by Captain Peter Heyes, with provisions and cattle and twenty-eight colonists arrived in the Delaware in April 1631. Heyes landed on the creek near present Lewes, which he called Hoornkill or Hoorn Creek and planted a colony on the bank of the creek, calling it Swanendael (Valley of Swans). A little fort called the Oplandt was built where the colonists lived in security against the attacks of the Indians. In the summer the colonists had their lands seeded and covered with a fine crop, their cows had calved and five more colonists had arrived, when the commander of the colony fell in trouble with the Indians. An Indian chieftain had stolen from a boundary mark a piece of tin stamped with the coat of arms of Holland and had made pipes out of it, for which he was shot. In revenge, the Indians attacked the colonists when they were working in the field and slaughtered all the people and animals, except one man Theunis Willemsen managed to escape. When the second expedition for Swanendael left from Holland, under command of Captain De Vries, the faith of the colony was known. And on their arrival to Hoornkill on December 6, 1632, they found the ground strewed with the bones of the murdered settlers and their fort burned. De Vries remained in the river about three months, trading with the Indians. He visited also Fort Nassau in January 1633, which he found occupied by the Indians. During the summer of 1633 the fort was again taken possession of by the Dutch traders, who also built a blockhouse on the Schuylkill in that summer. In 1635, some fifteen or sixteen Englishmen from Virginia took possession of Fort Nassau, which they had found deserted, but a Dutch bark soon recaptured the fort and the Englishmen were sent back to Virginia. The Dutch hereafter kept the fort garrisoned permanently in order to keep the English away. Difficulties had arisen between the Dutch West India Company and the patrons of the Swanendael Company about trade at the Delaware, the matter was in the court in Amsterdam and the West India Company bought the rights of the patrons in February 1635.

When Peter Minuit with his expedition in 1638 arrived to the Delaware River under the Swedish flag, the Dutch commissary at Fort Nassau, Jan Jansen, was visiting in New Amsterdam, but the assistant commissary, Peter Mey, protested against Minuit's landing at the river and sent a report about it to Governor Kieft at Manhattan. The governor then ordered commissary Jansen to return to his post and in due form to protest against Minuit's occupancies. Minuit however claimed that the Swedish queen had as much rights on the Delaware as the Dutch and went on with the building of his fort and trading with the Indians. Governor Kieft then protested himself in a letter of May 6, 1638, against the landing and settling of Minuit, reminding that the whole South River of New Netherland had been many years in their possession.

The things however went on without a serious event for the one reason that the English had similar claims on the Delaware River district. But in 1652, Governor Stuyvesant of New Netherland by order of the Dutch West India Company, built a fort in the site of present town of New Castle, which he called Fort Casimir, without paying attention to the protests of the Swedish Governor Printz, who had order from his government to keep the Dutch out of the Delaware. This,fort was manned by nine Dutch soldiers, who happened to be out of ammunition when Johan Rising arrived to the Swedish colony in the spring of 1654. Rising forced the Dutch garrison to vacate the fort and occupied it with the Swedish forces and changed the name to Trefaldighets Fort or Fort Trinity, as it was occupied on the Trinity Sunday. Governor Stuyvesant had been informed about the arrival of the Swedish ship Orn on the Delaware and a messenger was sent by him across the country with a letter addressed to the Swedish commander, in which he congratulated the newcomers for their arrival and offered his friendship. However when he heard of the capture of Fort Casimir, he became furious and made up his mind to retaliate when an opportunity presented itself. The directors of the Dutch West India Company in Holland did not either take kindly the capture of their fort, and on November 6, 1654, Stuyvesant was commanded to prepare for driving away the Swedes entirely from the Delaware River. At the end of May 1655, a warship the Waag was sent from Amsterdam with 200 men on board to New Netherland, arriving to New Amsterdam on August 3. Immediately preparations for an expedition to the Delaware were begun and a proclamation was issued, appointing the fifteenth of August a day of prayer and fasting to invoke God's blessing on the expedition. Volunteers were called and towards the end of August all preparations were ready. On Sunday, August 26, a fleet consisting of two warships and five armed merchant vessels set sail for the expedition of conquest, having 317 soldiers on board.

While Stuyvesant was preparing in New Amsterdam for the conquest of Delaware, the Finnish Field Marshal Arvid Wittenberg had reduced Great Poland under the obedience of the Swedish king and on the very day that Governor Stuyvesant left for his expedition, the victorious armies conducted the Swedish king Charles X. into Warsaw the capital of Poland.

The Indians having informed the Delaware people about the approaching danger, two men were sent to Staten Island as spies and they returned confirming the report. The forts were then repaired and preparations were made for defense. The powder supply that they had and most of the soldiers were placed to Fort Trinity and Sven Schute the commander of the Fort had orders not to allow the Dutch fleet pass that point. On August 31, the Dutch ships sailed up the river but Schute seeing the hopelessness of the situation, withheld orders to fire. Stuyvesant then demanded the surrender of the fort and as the garrison was mutinous, refusing to fight, the fort capitulated on September 1, without a shot being fired. The soldiers were taken as prisoners to New Amsterdam and the officers were held in the fort. The name of the fort was changed again to Fort Casimir.

Governor Rising was thereafter persuading Stuyvesant to be satisfied with what he had, but Stuyvesant declared that he had come to occupy the whole Delaware River and would not return before he had accomplished his object. Colonists were now collected from Upland, Finland and Tinicum regions to defend Fort Christina, but there was powder only enough for one round. On September 5, the fort was completely surrounded by Dutch forces, building batteries, on which twenty cannon were placed. Governor Stuyvesant now demanded the surrender of the fort and the entire river after which all the Swedes had to leave the river or take the oath of allegiance to the Dutch masters. Negotiations between the Dutch and Swedish commanders were begun and finally the articles of capitulation were drafted and signed by the two governors on September 15, 1655. In the sixth article of the capitulation it is said that "to those Swedish officers and freemen who are not able to depart from the colony with the governor and his party, the time of one year and six weeks is allowed in which to sell their land and goods, provided they do not take the oath of allegiance for the period that they remain." In the seventh article it is said that: "If any of the Swedes or Finns are not disposed to go away, Governor Rising may take measures to admonish them to do so; and if they are so persuaded, they shall not be forcibly detained." The tenth article says: "Governor Rising has full freedom to make himself acquainted with the conduct of commandant Schute and that of his officers and soldiers in regard to the surrender of Fort Trinity."

Fort Christina was evacuated the same day as the capitulation was signed, the volunteers were thereafter held as prisoners on the Timber Island near the fort and the officers in their own quarters in the fort. Half an hour after the Swedish forces had left the fort, Governor Stuyvesant with his officers and council appeared in Fort Christina, shook hands with the Swedish officers and offered to hand over the fort to the Swedes on the conditions that the Dutch be allowed to dwell undisturbed in possession of the land below Christina River and that the past troubles be forgotten and forgiven. The Swedes were to remain in possession of all the land north of the fort along the Delaware, the country being large enough for both of them.

Governor Rising was greatly surprised at this kind of proposition. A descendant of Vikings, whose traditions were to take theirs by force, could not apprehend benefits derived of mutual understanding. His answer to the Dutch governor was that the proposition seemed somewhat strange to him, but requested Stuyvesant to present the offer in writing, and a reply would be given as soon as the Swedish council had considered the matter. The matter was taken up on the following day and the unanimous opinion of the Swedish council was, that Stuyvesant's proposition was unacceptable, whereupon the Dutch governor was notified to that effect. Arrangements were therefore made by the Dutch to carry out the articles of surrender, and preparations were started for the departure of the Swedes for New Amsterdam. As nearly all the freemen were Finns, only few of the actual, colonists desired to go back to Sweden. Those Swedes who were obliged to remain to sell their property were given a letter of excuse or permission by Rising. Several of these are found today in the royal archives at Stockholm, one reads as follows:

"His Royal Majesty, my Most Gracious King's most humble and faithful servant and Director of New Sweden:

"Hereby witnesseth, that inasmuch as the upright and intelligent Nils Matsson, freeman, of Herring Island, in the troubles of these times here in New Sweden, wherein we Swedes have been unexpectedly involved by the hostility of the Hollanders, cannot remove from this country so hastily, but on account of his property must remain here until more convenient season, and therefore desires a testimonial from me which I cannot justly withhold from him; I therefore herewith testify that during the whole period of my residence in this country, he has conducted himself as an honorable and faithful subject of the Crown, and willingly assisted in the repairs and building of the fort, as well as in other service of the Crown, and now lately in the war for the defense of the country voluntarily went down to Fort Trinity, but was taken prisoner on the way and conveyed on shipboard where, during the space of three weeks, he encountered much contumely and reproach. (Meanwhile the enemy robbing his house and stripping his wife of everything at their home.) Through all this he conducted himself as a good subject ought to do. The truth of all this I confirm with my own hand and seal.

"Done at Fort Christina, September 24, 1655.

Johan Rising."

On September 24, a court martial was held by Rising on the Timber Island, at which examinations were made into the conduct of Commander Schute, who was blamed for not giving orders to fire on the Dutch ships as they passed Fort Trinity. The commander was accused by Rising of disobeying orders and other grave charges were made against him, namely, that he had persuaded two Swedes to stay in the colony. During the examination it was brought out that a great part of the soldiers were mutinous and refused to fight. In the circumstances Schute did not think of going to Sweden to be court martialed, but remained in the colony with the Finns.

The baggage of the Swedes were now loaded on the Dutch ships and on the first day of October the vessels set sail for New Amsterdam, where they arrived nine days later. The Swedes were held on board the warship Waag and Rising was sending bitter notes to Stuyvesant about the occupation of the Delaware River and on matters connected with it. He requested in all justice that the troops should not be influenced to remain in New Amsterdam, but according to the capitulation they should go with him in the same ship. The Finnish soldiers of the garrison of Fort Trinity were accused in court martial on the Timber Island on September 24, for refusing to fight the Dutch. Stuyvesant persuaded them to stay in New Amsterdam and naturally they did so. Finally there were thirty-seven people left in Rising's party, who were placed on board three vessels and on October 23, they left for the old country.

Publication: E. A. Louhi: The Delaware Finns or The First Permanent Settlements in Pennsylvania, Delaware, West New Jersey, and Eastern Part of Maryland. New York, The Humanity Press Publishers. 1925, 331 pages.

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