History From America's Most Famous Valleys
A Dutch Settler in Schenectady
By Louis E. Cuyler
Thanks to Mr. Cuyler who is sharing his family story with us.
Arendt Van (Corlear: Dutch Dialect) Curler came To the colony of New York in 1630 as an agent for his uncle Killian Van Renesselaer of Amsterdam Holland to be the overseer of a Patroonship of 200,000 acres of land in and around Albany, NY. He married Antonia Slaaghboom, the widow of Jonas Brouck, in 1643, and drowned in Lake Champlain in 1667.
It was while the overseer of this patroonship that one Albert Andriessen Bradt (Brott) came to work for Arendt as a partner in a sawmill with Pieter Cornelissen, a 43 year old millwright, Claes Janssen, a 33 year old house carpenter and Killian Van Rennesselaer the diamond and pearl merchant of Amsterdam, Holland.
Bradt was also a tobacco planter by trade. The area in which this patroonship covered was also called Renesselaerwyck. Much of this text is taken from a transcript written about Bradt by Peter R. Christoph and is not meant for resale.
Arendt the Overseer
The first settlers of the colony of Renesselaerwyck arrived in 1630. They found a wilderness in which they cleared land and built homes. Their only neighbors were the Mohicans just to the east, the Mohawks twenty miles to the west, and a few traders and West India Company officials at Fort Orange, which was inside (but not part) of the colony.
The exact bounds of Renesselaerwyck were uncertain, but its eventual borders were established from the Mohawk River in the North to a line twenty-four miles to the south, twenty-four miles east of the Hudson River, and twenty-four miles west.
The owner, founder, and guiding force of the settlement was Killian Van Renesselaer who at that time was director of the West India Company, His agents had purchased the land from the Mohicans, who had been driven east of the river by the Mohawks in 1628, following a major battle, and were therefore selling land that was as longer safe for them to occupy. The West India Company to governing body of the Dutch America granted van Renesselaer a patent to the land and the title of patroon.
(3/6/2000, added by Louis Cuyler) A grandmother was the sister of Killian Van Rennselear. Arendt Van Curler was born on the estate Corleaer in 1620, which is near the town of Nijkerk, in the Netherlands, and was the son of Hendrick Van Curler and Nellie Gerrits Van Curler. His grandmother was Grentjen Boldewyne, the sister of Killian Van Rennselaer. He was baptised on the 6th of February 1620. As a teen he attended the University of Hardiwick, learning the Hebrew and Latin language as well as studying higher math, among his other studies. Arendt van Curler left the Netherlands in the late fall of 1637 along with Peter Minuit, and sailed on the Kalmar Sleutel and arrived at New Amsterdam too late in the year to travel up the Hudson to Fort Orange; so he wintered in New Amsterdam until the spring of 1638 at which time he was able to travel to Beverwyk. It was during his stay in New Amsterdam that he met and became friends with Jonas Bronk (after whom the bourogh in N.Y. is named) and would some day marry his widow.
By 1634, only twenty-six farmers and artisans (Arendt Van Curler among them) had immigrated to the new colony, and non at all in the two years following. Despite the ongoing war with Spain, from which the Dutch had declared their independence in 1581, conditions were relatively stable in the Dutch Republic, international trade was bringing increasing wealth to the nation whose navies ruled the seas, and religious tolerance drew many emigrants from the rest of Europe to the Netherlands, so persons in the Dutch Republic were generally satisfied with their lot and had no desire to start fresh in the new world so Killian Van Renesselaer never saw his vast empire.
The fur trade provided many vexations to the West India Company in 1639 which had a monopoly that no one respected. Renesselaerwyck officials were active in the fur trade by orders from the Patroon, who claimed this right based on the charter of Freedoms and Exemptions Act and the right to trade was implied in the permission granted to the Patroon by New Netherlands's General Director, Wouter Van Twiller (who was Van Renesselaer's grand nephew) that he could pay debts in America with furs because of the lack of hard currency.
Duffel is a course woolen cloth with a thick nap, used in the Indian trade. The value of a beaver pelt varied greatly at this time: Arendt Van Curler would shortly establish the price at f9, later lowered to f8. Beaver pelts were a medium of exchange throughout New Netherlands. Killan Van Renesselaer was open to suggestions from his colonist about how to turn a profit so approved of Albert Bradt entering a new sideline in 1640 by sending him a new fishing net to be used by Bradt and Michael Jansen and Sander Ludersz, ever and advocate of Sander Lundersz, ever an advocate of orderly commerce, Van Renesselaer suggested a week later to Arendt Van Curler (the commis or overseer after Jacob Plonck's departure in 1638) that fisherman, fowlers and game hunters be appointed so that all settlers could purchase such food without having to go after it themselves.
In June 1640, Van Renesselaer sent a letter to Bradt informing him that he had sold three cases of Bradt's tobacco and one of Arendt Van Curlers, but Bradt's was so high priced that it had taken Van Renesselaer some time to sell it and then at considerable loss so he told Bradt to liquidate his accounts with Arendt Van Curler, whether by error due to insufficient schooling or a bit of book juggling (Van Renesselaer suspected the latter) he never had Van Curler investigate these prices.
It is obvious why Van Renesselaer wanted Bradt to consult with Van Curler; it is less obvious why he did not. However in letter after letter between Killian Van renesselaer and Arendt Van Curler, instances are mentioned where Bradt neglected to consult with Van Curler, Probably Bradt did not care to open his books to Van Curler who would have been looking for uncredited profits due to the Patroon, besides which Bradt showed the traditional Norwegian antipathy toward anyone in a position of authority.
No history relating to New Netherlands is complete without an examination of Arendt Van Curler's career. Almost from his arrival in Renesselaerwyck in 1630 at the age of eighteen, he was a figure of major importance. Starting as assistant bookkeeper, he was promoted by Van Renesselaer (his mother's brother) to secretary and bookkeeper in 1640, commis in 1642, and commis general in 1643 by which time his duties included collecting tithes and rents, clothing supplies to the colonists, breeding farm animals, acquiring furs, dealing with free traders, shipping furs and tobacco to Van Renesselaer, and grain to Virginia, and serving as supercargo on the colony's ship and chief juridical and administrative officer of the colony. As early as 1639 he was dealing with the Indians being asked by Van Renesselaer in a letter of that year to present gifts of blankets to the leading Mohawk and Mohican sachems. Arendt early learned the language of the Mohawks, thereafter serving as interpreter at Conferences between Dutch and Indians throughout New Netherlands. Arendt accomplished all this before the age of twenty-five, which the Dutch reckoned as the age of majority, so perhaps Bradt resented a minor being placed in a position of authority over him.
Van Renesselaer wrote to Arendt that he noted "that Bradt has bought a heifer for f200 which is much too high" because he purchased it in Holland and had to ship it from there taking a chance of it dying at sea. Van Renesselaer preferred his colonist to purchase animals from America whenever possible. In 1640 he complained to Van Curler, "how obedient therefore is Bradt when he writes that he does not want a good from you. He will find himself in trouble if he keeps that course." It would cost Van Renesselaer less to have Albert buy his supplies from Van Curler than from the West India Company or anyone else. In 1640 Arendt hired another Dutchman a Pieter Jacobs Van Rijnsburg to work for a month on his house.
Peace was good for a settlement dependent upon fur for economic survival, and the local officials, especially Arendt Van Curler who worked hard to cultivate the friendship of the Indians. Gifts were given to various nearby nations, and the community maintained an official position of neutrality during intertribal conflict, whenever an individual, whether Dutch of Indians was mistreated by person from another culture, Fort Orange and Renesselaerwyck officials would meet with the Sachems of the tribe to decide together upon reparations.
In 1642 the Mohawks held two Jesuit priests captive, novice Rene Goupel was tortured and slain, while Father Isaac Jaques was tortured but his life was spared. Renesselearwyck learned of the capture and sent a party to ransom them.
Included in the group was Arent Van Curler, Jean Labatie, and Jacob Jansen. Their efforts were unsuccessful, but the ground work was laid for negotiations in the following year for the first treaty between the Dutch and Mohawks, with Arendt playing a prominent role.
Father Jaques escaped from the Mohawks in 1643, and boarded a waiting Dutch ship which carried him to Fort Orange. In 1641 Killian Van Renesselaer sent Adrian van der Donck as Schout (a court official who enforced laws and prosecutes offenders) and Anthony de Hooges as Arendts assistant bookkeeper of the four principal administrative positions, three were occupied by persons who had not yet reached their majority (25).
The 1643 crop of tobacco brought 4,214 pounds but a net worth of f1790:19 to which the West India Company claimed f629:15. Van Rensselaer wrote to Arendt "I do not want to pay them so much and if until Albert Bradt compensates me what he owes me I must deduct the f629:15 from his profit."
Van Renesselaer had another complaint against Bradt, and his irritation is clear in a letter to Arendt. "I do not know what privilege Bradt has received that his cows are not mentioned in his inventory. Have his animals included or make him leave the colony and pay me for pasturing and hay during the past year." Van Curlers reply was that Bradt had no intention of including the cows in his inventory and will not give any of them to Van Renesselaer, although he bought them while still under the contract with your honor in connection with the mill company. The dispute was never settled and in the first week of October, 1643, Killian Van Renesselaer died and was buried in the Ovde Kerck (old church) in Amsterdam.
Arendt the Peacemaker
While Renesselaerwyck was enjoying its benefits of peaceful trade, with the neighboring Mohawks, the Huron nation was suffering from constant raids inflicted by the warriors of the Iroquois Confederacy, Renesselaerwyck maintained its neutrality during the continuing conflict between these two trading empires. However, the Mohawks did have a supply of guns and powder through the fur trade with the Dutch.
In 1644 Arendt Van Curler once again journeyed into Mohawk territory to effect the release of a Jesuit. This time he was successful, ransoming Father Joseph Bressani. It was one of his last acts for the Netherlands. To help settle the estate of Killian Van Renesselaer, Arendt and his wife Antonia Slaaghboom, widow of Jonas Brouck whom he married in 1643 accompanied him on this trip, he also wanted to visit he father Hendrick Van Curler.
In 1647 Arendt and Antonia or Anna as she was sometimes called returned to Renesselearwyck to become a private citizen, farmer and fur trader, though he was soon selected to represent the commonality on the court and he was often called upon as an interpreter at official conferences. His reputation as an authority on Indian affairs was known to Pieter Stuyvesant (Director General of the New Netherlands) who summoned Arendt to advise him on the situation in New Netherlands. In 1650 officials at Fort Orange began hearing rumors that the Mohawks were planning to attack the fort. While the settlers at Renesselaerwyck wondered what to do and discussed the matter, official of the fort informed them that it matter little to those in the Fort how it went, whether it was war or peace.
The Director and Court Officials of Renesselaerwyck decided it mattered to them, and so commissioned Arendt and four others to go into Mohawk territory to renew their alliance and bond of friendship. Brave men they must have been who set forth on that expedition. Fortunately for them and for the colony, they succeeded in their mission, giving presents to the Mohawks and conveying messages pledging friendship. This was the closest the Dutch and Mohawks ever came to war, for both sides had everything to lose and nothing to gain. It was about this time he fathered a son who was named Bonnoni who later married Elizabeth Vanderpoel who was the widow of Sybrant Van Schaick on 6-4-1686. She died in 1750 and Bennoni lived until 1704.
They in turn had a son whom they named Arendt, after Bennoni's father, he was born 4-19-1696 and died 3-1-1795. But his grandfather never had the privilege to see his namesake. The rest of this lineage is found in the Van Curler (Cuyler family lineage). In 1659 a neighboring community called Wiltwyck in the Esopus had several settlers killed by Esopus Indians. Arendt Van Curler and Jerimias Van Renesselaer went to the Mohawk castle a Caughnawaga (near present day Fonda) to renew the treaty of 1643.
Pieter Stuyvesant gathered one hundred militia and forty volunteers to support the Wiltwyck settlers and the next year declared war on the River Indians. He waged a punishing campaign, and eventually the Indians agreed to meet him to discuss a peace treaty. He got the treaty he sought with the assistance of several advisors, Arendt Van Curler in particular.
Since 1624 the Mohawks had trapped beaver in the Schenectady Flats, along the Mohawk just beyond the Patroon's domain, but by 1661 there were no longer any beaver to be found. In the latter years a group led by Arendt Van Curler purchased the flats from the Mohawks and laid plans for the founding of Schenectady (but known long thereafter to Indians and Canadians as "Corlear", which again is Curler in the Holland dialect). King Charles II of England by the fact that a large prosperous Dutch Colony lay between the northern and southern English colonies in North American. Therefore, he granted the colony to his brother James, if he could take it from the Dutch.
So in 1664 English warships sailed into the harbor at New Amsterdam and the surrender of the town was demanded. The citizens gazed at the ships' cannon pointed at their homes, rejected Pieter Stuyvesant's demand that they prepare to resist, and surrendered peaceably. The communities were then renamed and became New York, after James the Duke of York and Beverwyck became Albany, but the Dutch ignored the Englishman in the government houses.
A select band of settlers from the communities throughout the colony met to discuss the situation. The English were not aware of this meeting,f or the topic of discussion was insurrection. Jeremias Van Renesselaer and Arendt Van Curler were there for Albany, Resesselaerwyck and Schenectady, and Van Rensselaer was elected chairman of the clandestine meeting. The Dutch decided to arm themselves and with the help of the Iroquois would attack the British fromt he wilderness, but at the last moment decided not to attack because the shedding of blood was against their beliefs.
Governor Richard Nicolls had his conference with the Iroquois. For advice and for interpreters he depended upon the services of men like Arendt Van Curler. A treaty of peace was arranged between the English and the Iroquois because the Dutch willed it.
In 1666 there were two attempts by Canada to relieve the pressure that the Mohawks held on fur trading routes. The first was an ill-planned winter expedition that ended when the French army ran out of food deep in Mohawk territory, the illusive foe always just beyond reach. The Dutch took pity on the starving soldiers, and Arendt Van Curler carried rations to them with the admonition that the French stay out of English territory. The second expedition succeeded in reaching the Mohawk river and burned their castles, which had been abandoned upon the approach of the troops.
The Indians were stunned by the ease with which the French had been able to invade their territory and destroy their villages, but their forces remained intact and the French expedition could be called only a partial victory. However, they did have the desired effect of forcing the Mohawks to sue for peace. Canada would not send troops through Mohawk country again until the attack on Schenectady in 1690 during King Williams war.
In 1667 France declared war on England, the French in Canada tried to protect their flank by seeking a treaty with the Iroquois, four of the nations signed but the Mohawk started their own war against Canada.
Montreal invited Arendt Van Curler, friend of the Mohawks, to visit. He accepted the offer and leaving the infant community of Schenectady in 1669 started by canoe up Lake Champlain, accompanied by Marion La Fontaine, a Canadian he had recently rescued from the Mohawks. Out on the lake the canoe capsized and Arendt Van Curler drowned, and so passed a truly remarkable man from history. His influence continued far beyond his own time, for the peace he helped arrange between the English and the Mohawks was never broken.
In 1675 Governor Andros went to the third castle of the Mohawks, bringing gifts and a willingness to renew the treaties of the Dutch and English, the Indians were impressed and granted him the title of "Corlear". The title was granted to each governor of New York until at least 1693. Thus, did the Mohawk preserve the memory of their friend Arendt Van Curler.
Arendt Van Curler's lineage has continued on for hundreds of years since his death. His descendants fought in the Revolution for Independence, through the Civil War on down through WWi and WWII through Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and still the Van Curler (Cuyler) legacy lives on.
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