Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

Voyages From Holland to American in the Seventeenth Century
by David P. De Vries, published in Holland in 1655 originally
A.D. 1632 to 1644.
Translated From The Dutch
For The New York Historical Society with Introduction and Notes,
By Henry C. Murphy.


AFTER I had been home from the Indies two months, met, at Amsterdam, Samuel Godyn, a merchant, who bid me welcome, as an old acquaintance, and asked me where I came from? I said from the East Indies. In what capacity? I told him as supercargo. He inquired whether it was my intention to remain home. I said, yes. He said he wished me to go as a commander to New-Netherland; he wanted to plant a colony there, and to employ me as subpatroon, as may be seen in the privileges granted by the Lords States, and allowed by the Council of Nineteen of the West India Company to all patroons. I gave him for answer that the business suited me well, but I must be a patroon, equal with the rest. He said that he was content that it should be so. So we five first began this patroonship; namely, Samuel Godyn, Gilliame Van Rensselaer, Bloemaert, Jan de Laet, and myself, David Pietersz. de Vries. But more were afterwards admitted into the company; namely, Mathys Van Ceulen, Nicolas Van Sittorigh, Harinck Koeck, and Heyndrick Hamel, who made a contract with the others, whereby we were all placed on the same footing. We at the same time equipped a ship with a yacht for the purpose of prosecuting the voyage, as well to carry on the whale fishery in that region, as to plant a colony for the cultivation of all sorts of grain, for which the country is very well adapted, and of tobacco. This ship with the yacht sailed from the Texel the 12th of December, with a number of people and a large stock of cattle, to settle our colony upon the South River, which lies in the thirty-eighth and a half degree, and to conduct the whale fishery there, as Godyn represented that there were many whales which kept before the bay, and the oil, at sixty guilders a hogshead, he thought would realize a good profit, and consequently that fine country be cultivated.

The 20th of same month, we understood that our yacht was taken the day but one before as it was running out the Texel, by the Dunkirkers, through the carelessness of the large ship, which had sailed after the yacht, in which there was a large cargo, intended for the coast of New France. The large ship proceeded on the voyage, having on board some people to land at the island of Tortugas in the West Indies, which island we had made a contract with sixty Frenchmen to hold for us as a colony under their High Mightinesses the Lords States and the West India Company.

ANNO 1631. In September our ship returned from New Netherland and the West Indies. They should have disembarked a lot of people on Tortugas, but they found that France had been killed by Spain. The ship conveyed the rest to the South River in New Netherland, and brought a sample of oil from a dead whale found on the shore. The Captain said that he had lived there too late in the year. This was a losing voyage to us; because this captain, Peter Heyes, of Edam, whom we had put in command, durst not sail by the way of the West Indies with only one ship of eighteen guns, where he must have made good the expense of this voyage. He was a person who was only accustomed to sail to Greenland, where he made the voyage in three or four months, and then came home.

ANNO 1632. The 12th of February we again entered into an agreement to equip a ship and yacht for the whale fishery, in which much profit had not been realized; because:we had had such a losing voyage, and no returns from the whale fishery, and saw no prospect of any. But Samuel Godyn encouraged us to make another attempt. He said the Greenland Company had two bad voyages with Willen Van Muyen, and afterwards became a thrifty company. It was therefore again resolved to undertake a voyage for the whale fishery, and that I myself should go as patroon, and as commander of the ship and yacht, and should endeavour to be there in December, in order to conduct the whale fishing during the winter, as the whales come in the winter and remain till March.

Before sailing out the Texel, we understood that our little fort * had been destroyed by the Indians, the people killed,-two and thirty men,-who were outside the fort working the land.

The 24th May, sailed out of the Texel with the ship and yacht, with a northeast wind.

The 26th of the same month, at night, we ran aground through the carelessness of the pilots, to whom I gave particular directions, before I went to bed, to throw the load frequently, and keep the Vierman, which was a large ship, and drew full three feet more water than we did, upon our lee; but they not following their orders, we grounded upon the large shoal before Dunkirk We fired a shot, so that our companion came to anchor. My yacht came under my lee; but we could not bear the expense of its returning. Our crew took the boat, and in that, and two wood sloops, left the ship. But I was not willing, and kept both of the pilots by me, who dared not leave me for shame, seeing that I remained aboard with eight or nine raw hands, whom I then, learned to be the best of the crew. Those men who had appeared fierce as lions, were the first to escape in the boat.

All of us pushing and pulling we got into four fathoms water,. where I let the anchor fall, and set to pumping. At the same time, the day broke, when we saw the boat and two sloops tossing about; but. when they saw the ship, they carne on board again, and told us that had the night continued two hours longer, they would have rowed into Dunkirk. We weighed anchor again and sailed for the coast of England, and, on the 28th, ran into Portsmouth, and hauled the ship into the king's dock, where we repaired her.

The 10th of July, we sailed from Portsmouth to Cowes in the Isle of Wight.

The 12th of the same month, the ship New Netherland, of the West India Company, arrived here, a large ship, which was built in New Netherland, and which was bound to the West Indies, whither I had good company.

The 1st of August, with a good north-east wind, weighed anchor, and made sail with my ship and yacht, and the ship New Netherland.

* On the South River.

The 2d, passed Land's End, and laid our course for the Canary Islands.

The 13th, we saw Madeira on our larboard, and at the same time a Turk came towards us, but as soon as he observed that we were stout ships, he hauled off from us, and we sailed for him. The evening growing dark, I fired a shot for my yacht to come by me. When night came on, we pursued our course, but the New Netherland followed the Turk by night, which seemed to us folly, because we had not got near him by day. We then separated from the New Netherland.

The 14th, towards evening, we saw the Isle of Palms on our lee, and set our course from thence to Barbadoes.

The 4th of September, we came in sight of Barbadoes, and the next day, towards evening, arrived at the Island of St. Vincent. The -Indians put out with their canoes and came on board of us. I observed the great astonishment of this people. Their canoes or boats getting full of water, they sprang overboard, and with great dexterity lifted up both ends with their shoulders in the water, emptied out the water, and then clambered in again; when many of our people, in such circumstances, would have drowned, as the boat was full of water, and they had no other aid than their bodies and the sea. While here, we had fifteen good supplies of yams, pine-apples, and various other West India fruits. We anchored in the Great Channel in 23 fathoms.

On the 5th, arrived here also the ship New Netherland, which was separated from us at Madeira.

On the 8th, we weighed anchor, and passed by the islands of Martinique, Dominica, Guadaloupe, Montserrat, Redonde, and Nevis, arrived the 20th* before St. Christopher, where we found some English ships, and obtained a supply of water.

The 11th, weighed anchor, in order to sail to St. Martin. Half-way between St. Martin and St. Christopher,we met a French ship with a large sloop in company; he screamed at us, as if he sought to commit some hostility towards us, but I kept my course, heeding him not. I let the prince's flag fly aloft, and the red flag behind. When he saw this, he turned about and ran a good distance on my lee. Towards evening, we arrived at the roadstead of St. Martin,

* Evidently a misprint for the 10th.

and let our anchor fall. We found before the fort, three flyboats under Dirck Femmesz. of Hoom, two from Waterland, and the third an Englishman.

The 11th of September, as I lay before the fort with my yacht, the above-named master of the fly-boats came on board, and inquired if I had not met a French ship. I said, " Yes, sir." And whether he had. not attacked me? I said, "No." Had we been a small ship, he perhaps would have done so: for he had sworn to payoff the first Hollander whom he should meet, because they had shot and killed two men out of his vessel, which. was not creditable to them. He told me that this French ship had come into the harbour some days ago, and that the captain was a Knight of Malta, and the vessel a royal yacht of the King of France, in search of Spaniards. When he was taken ashore by the commander of the fort, he inquired whether there was anyone who could speak French. The captain of the soldiers understanding French, he requested that the captain might go with him to interpret what should be said. So the captain went from the fort with this Knight in his skiff to the fly-boats. Having reached them, the Knight desired that they should send him a barrel of tar, and used good language. He had long sailed in the West Indies; but they gave him a rude answer,-that they did not wish to have him in their ships-if the captain of the fort wished to come on board their ships he might, but he must depart with the boat. The Knight stood perplexed at such an answer, when he had met them with every courtesy. At length he said to the captain, his interpreter, that they would return to the fort, (as) he wished to make his complaints to the commander-in-chief. Coming to the commander, he exhibited his royal commission, and inquired of the commander whether he had not as much right to go in the roadstead where these fly-boats were, as they ?-that they were friends ;-that all the ports and harbors in France were open to us. The commander said, "Yes." Then the Frenchman weighed anchor, and wished to come to anchor by them in order to careen his ship a little, as the water was shallow there. When they saw the Frenchman had weighed his anchor, they hauled one behind the other, and began to fire upon him, and shot two of his men; when the Frenchman again let his anchor fall, went to the fort and complained of the hostilities which these brutes had committed against him, and desired that the commander, with his officers, should take notice thereof; and made his protest. But he was lost on his return voyage, with his ship, people and all, which has caused great comfort to these shipmasters, as he would otherwise have made sport enough for them; but the quarrel was thereby terminated. This we learned afterwards.

The 12th of September, I let the ship have room, but the capture of a whale brought me to anchor. In New Netherland and in Patria, this would have been a valuable prize. This day the ship New Netherland arrived here, which I had left lying at St. Vincent to refresh. With her also arrived the ship Gelderia, together with a ship of the Company, and also two vessels from Hoorn, Cornelis Jansz. Niels, master. The master of the Company's ship, the Falcon, was Gerrit Jansz.

The 27th of this month, we had our cargo of salt, as much as we wanted, and made ourselves again ready to sail to Nevis, to take in wood and water, because they were both better there than at St. Christopher, and there is also a fine sandy bay for the boats to land. The captains of the vessels, who had committed the hostilities against the Frenchman, inquired of me whether they might sail with me to Nevis, in order to provide themselves with wood and water, so as to sail directly for Holland, as they were afraid of the Frenchman, who had called out to them that he wished to meet them when they went to take in water; and they did not mount more than six or eight guns. I gave them for answer, that I was willing that they should sail with me, because they were our citizens, though I would not prevent any hostility of the Frenchman happening to them, and that my ship was to be defended as well as theirs. If they wished, however, to sail with me, they could.

The 29th, weighed anchor with my yacht to get under sail, but they remained. By evening I arrived before the Island of Nevis. I went ashore to the governor, an Englishman, named Littleton. He requested me to take aboard some captive Portuguese, and to put them, on my way to St. Christophel's, on board an English ship called Captain Stone's; which I could not refuse him, if I had them only three or four hours in the ship. Martin Thysz., from Zealand, had put these Portuguese ashore here.

The 1st of November, took my leave of the governor of Nevis, and weighed anchor. At noon, came to the great roadstead where the English were. There was a governor, named Sir Warner. Here I immediately got rid of the Portuguese prisoners, gave them over to the Englishman, who wished to sail in company with me to St. Martin.

The 2d, weighed anchor, with my yacht and the Englishman, of London, who, had the Portuguese- prisoners, whom he was to carry to Porto Rico. He left his barge behind, to follow him with some goods to St. Martin. We arrived in the evening at the anchorage before St. Martin, where we found the whole fleet therest.iIl which we had left there. I asked the captains of the fly-boats why they had not followed me when I weighed an9hor. They answered that they thanked me for the offer which I had made them, but they had determined to remain by each other, and expected that they would be ready together, and the Gelderland would go with them.

The 4th, the Englishman expecting his boat from St. Christophers, knew not what it meant that it staid so long, as it should have followed us at noon. This Englishman wished much to sail with me to the latitude of Porto Rico, which I must pass.

The 5th of this month, took my leave at the fort of our governor and the captains, and weighed anchor with my yacht also; having a fair sail set, I could not wait longer for the Englishman's boat. We understood afterwards that this boat was placed in great distress; that it was driven to the leeward by a strong wind, and being in want of provisions and water, the men cast lots whom they should first kill for the others to eat for food; having at length felled one, they fed themselves therewith, till they finally reached the island of Saba, where they subsisted on what they found there, and were afterwards recovered in great distress, but he who was killed was eaten up for their subsistence.

The 14th, in the thirty-second degree of latitude, the Bermudas to the east of us, encountered a severe storm from the north-west; the water turned round as if it were an hurricane; it blew so, that standing on either side we could not understand each other. I feared when I saw the yacht, that it would be stranded, so dreadful was it to see so small a yacht, of ten lasts, save itself from such a storm. This storm continued until the 18th, but towards the last the wind veered entirely west.

The 1st of December, threw the lead, in the thirty-ninth degree of latitude, in fifty-seven fathoms, sandy bottom; found out afterwards that we were then fourteen or fifteen miles* from the shore. This is a fiat coast. Wind westerly.

The 2d, threw the lead in fourteen fathoms, sandy bottom, and smelt the land, which gave a sweet perfume,+ as the wind came from the north-west, which blew off land, and caused these sweet odours. This comes from the Indians setting fire, at this time of year, to the woods and thickets, in order to hunt; and the land is full of sweet-smelling herbs, as sassafras, which has a sweet smell. When .he wind blows out of the north-west, and the smoke too is driven to sea, it happens that the land is smelt before it is seen. The land can be seen when in from thirteen to fourteen fathoms. Sand-hills are seen from the thirty-fourth to the fortieth degree, and the hills rise up full of pine-trees, which would serve as masts for ships.

The 3d of the same month, saw the mouth of the South bay, or South river, and anchoyed on sandy ground at fourteen fathoms; because it blew hard from the north-west, which is from the shore, and. as we could not, in consequence of the hard wind, sail in the bay, we remained at anchor.

The 5th, the wind south-west, we weighed anchor, and Bailed into the South bay, and lay, with our yacht, in four fathoms water, and saw immediately a whale Bear the ship. Thought this would be royal work-the whales so numerous -and the land so tine for cultivation.

The 6th, we went with the boat into the river, wen manned, in order to see if we could speak with any Indians, but coming by our house,++ which was destroyed, found it well beset with palisades in place of breastworks, but it was almost burnt up. Found lying here and there the skulls and bones of our people, and the heads of the horses and cows which they had brought with them, but perceiving no Indians, the business being undone, came on board the boat, and let the gunner fire a shot in order to see if we could find any trace of them the next day.

* Forty-two or forty-five English miles. In this translation the miles are according to the Dutch standard; one Dutch being equal to three English miles.
+ Kalm speaks of the same smell at about the same place
. ++ The fort before spoken of.

The 7th, in the morning, we thought we saw some smoke near our destroyed house ;-we landed on the opposite side. On this side the river, before the beach, there is something of a sand-hill. Coming to the beach, looked over the river near the house where we had been the day before, and where we thought in the morning we had seen signs of smoke, but saw nothing. As I had a cousin of mine with me from Rotterdam, named Heyndrick de Liefde, and as a large gull was flying over our heads, I told him to shoot at it once, as he had a fowling-piece with him, and he being a good shot on the wing, brought it down. With it came a shout from two or three Indians, who were lying in the weeds on the other side of the river by the destroyed house. We called to them to come over to us. They answered that we must come into the river with our boat. We promised to do so in the morning, as the water was then low, and that we would then talk with them, and we went back to the boat. Going aboard, we resolved to sail in the river with the yacht, as otherwise in an open boat we might be in danger of their annoyance.


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