Walloon Settlers in New York

The Belgians, first settlers in New York and in the middle states : with a review of the events which led to their immigration. A claim based on Dutch and British official reports, and on statements by authoritative Dutch and American historians and geographers.  Henry G. Bayer.  Originally published New York NY:  Devin-Adair Co., 1925.  Reprinted Bowie MD:  Heritage Books, Inc., 1987.  The “Official reports” include extracts made in 1841 by John R. Brodhead who was commissioned by the state of New York to acquire materials from the archives of Europe that illustrated the history of colonial New York.  He spent 4 years and returned with 80 volumes of document copies from the archives of Netherlands, France, and England.  Documents from the Netherlands filled 16 volumes.  Much of this material was published in the series Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York:  Vols. 1-10, Documents procured in Holland, England, and France, by John Romeyn Brodhead, agent, of the Legislature, Act passed 2 May 1839.  Vols. 1-2, Holland documents. 1856-58. Vols. 3-8, London documents. 1853- 57.  Vols. 9-10, Paris documents. 1855-58.  Vol. 11, General Index, prepared by E.B. O’Callaghan. 1861.

The whole number of persons who formed the original company of Walloons was 227 men, women, and children.  The petition submitted in 1621 British Ambassador Sir Dudley Carleton asked for permission to settle in Virginia as a group all in the same settlement where they could speak their language and worship together.  Virginia in the midst of the Indian wars could not accommodate so large a group and provide security.  So they declined.

The Round Robin petition signed by 56 men, most of them heads of households, was attached to the application of Jesse deForest.  This petition is preserved in the British Public Record Office, State Papers, Colonial, Vol. 1, No. 54.  A facsimile with English translation is found in Bayer’s work, pp. 140-42.  The petition was written in the round so that government officials would not be able to identify the leader of the group for punishment.

Thirty Walloon families sailed on the Nieuw Nederland in 1623, reaching New York in May. This ship was chartered by the Dutch West India Company. However, these families did not all stay in New York–they were dispersed through the eastern colonies:

  1. New York–Manhattan, Albany, Long Island, and Staten Island.  Eight families stayed at Fort Amsterdam, now lower Manhattan under the authority of the West India Company.  Others located in the Hudson Valley at Esopus, Wallkill, Kingston, Hurley, and New Paltz.
  2. New Jersey–Four couples who had married at sea and eight men formed a settlement on the South River (now the Delaware River) near the present town of Gloucester, where they built Fort Nassau.
  3. Connecticut–Two families and 6 men where they built Fort Good Hope on the present day location of Hartford City.
  4. Rhode Island

Belgians in the United States:  A Guide to Information Sources.  MA Thesis, Kent State University, 1990.  Kristine S.J. Smets.  Belgium is divided into three ethnic areas–northern provinces West Flanders, Antwerp, Limburg, and the northern part of Brabant.  These are the Flemish who speak Dutch, similar to the Dutch of the Netherlands.  Eastern counties who speak German.  And the southern section called Wallonia  where the French-speaking Walloons come from.  Very good and extensive bibliographies.

See also John Peters, “Volunteers for the Wilderness:  The Walloon Petitioners of 1621 and the voyage in the Nieu Nederlandt to the Hudson River in 1624,”  Proceedings of the Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland 24 (No. 5, 1987):  421-33.  [Note the differences in date and spelling.]

For some years there was also a controversy as to the origins of these early Protestant settlers.  And they were often mixed with the French Huguenots who settled close by in other French-speaking settlements.  Actually the definition of a Huguenot was a Protestant residing in a French-speaking area.  The difference in origins is significant to locate the records that chronicle these Walloon ancestors.  Your favorite New York genealogist, Arlene Eakle    http://arleneeakle.com

 

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