History of Holland > New Amsterdam history (New York) > Walter van Twiller second of the Dutch govenors in New Amsterdam

Walter van Twiller second of the Dutch govenors in New Amsterdam

Now this Walter Van Twiller was a relative of Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, one of the patroons. You will see why the "West Indische Compagnie's" (Dutch West India Company's) choice of him for a Governor was not by any means a wise choice. For he was soon doing exactly what Peter Minuit had done. The only difference was that Governor Van Twiller favored Van Rensselaer more than he did the other patroons.

Van Twiller was a stout, round-bodied man, with a face much the shape of a full moon. He was a sharp trader, having made two voyages to the Hudson River in the interest of Van Rensselaer, but he knew nothing of governing a colony.

The ship that brought the new Governor to the Island of Manhattan, had also on board 100 soldiers, and these were the first soldiers ever sent to the island. There was also on the ship Everardus Bogardus, the first minister of the colony, as well as Adam Rolandsen, the first school-master. This school-master had a hard time of it in the new country, for not being able to make a living by his teaching, he was forced to do all kinds of other work. He even took in washing for a time!

By this time slaves were being brought to the colony from Africa. They did the household work, while the colonists cultivated the fields These slaves did most of the work on a new wooden church which was set up just outside the fort, for the new minister.

Governor Van Twiller began improving the colony by having three windmills built, to take the place of the horse-mill. But he had them placed in such a position that the building in the fort cut off the wind from their sails, and the mills were almost useless.

The Governor did not neglect his own comfort, for within Fort Amsterdam he built for himself a fine house of brick - finer than any in the little settlement - and on one of the bouweries nearest the fort, he erected a summer-house. On another bouwerie he laid out a tobacco plantation, and had slaves paid by the Company to look after it.

When Van Twiller had been Governor 3 years, he gave to one of the colonists a farm on the western side of the city along the Hudson River. The colonist died the year after the farm was given him, leaving his widow, Annetje Jans, to care for the property.

Years after, when Queen Anne ruled in England, and the English had come into possession of New Netherland, she gave the Annetje Jans farm to Trinity Church. That was almost two centuries ago. What was once a farm is now a great business section, crossed and recrossed by streets. Trinity Church has held it through all the years, and holds it still.

Close upon the time when the Jans farm was given away by Governor Van Twiller, a sailor of note, who had visited almost every country in the world, founded a colony on Staten Island. This sailor was Captain David Pietersen De Vries. Staten Island attracted him because of its beauty. After the colony was well started, De Vries travelled between New Netherland and the Netherlands, and he will be met with again in this story.

Although Governor Van Twiller did not do much for the colonists, he was very careful to look after his own affairs. He bought from the Indians, for some goods of small value, the little spot now called Governor's Island; which was then known as Nut Island, because of the many nut-trees that grew there. There is little doubt but that Governor's Island was once a part of Long Island. It is separated from it now by a deep arm of water called Buttermilk Channel. The channel was so narrow and so shallow in Van Twiller's time that the cattle could wade across it. It was given its name more than a hundred years ago, from boats which drew very little water, and were the only craft able to get through the channel, and which took buttermilk from Long Island to the markets of New York.

Van Twiller bought the islands now known as Randall's and Ward's Islands, and these, with some others, made him the richest landholder in the colony. On his islands he raised cattle, and on his farm tobacco.

Many of the colonists did not take kindly to Governor Van Twiller's methods, and among them was Van Dincklagen, the schout-fiscal. He told the Governor that it was very evident that he was putting forth every effort to enrich himself at the expense of everybody else, just as Peter Minuit had done. The Governor became very angry. He told the schout-fiscal not to expect any more salary, that it would be stopped from that minute. This did not worry the schout-fiscal much, as he had not been paid his salary in three years! But Van Twiller did not stop there. He sent the schout-fiscal as a prisoner to the Netherlands, which was a foolish thing for him to do. For the prisoner pleaded his own cause to such good effect that before the end of the year 1637, Van Twiller was recalled to Holland, after he had governed New Netherland for four years, very much to his own interest, and very much against the interest of the "West Indische Compagnie" (Dutch West India Company) and everybody else.