Manhattan Island
Originally New Amsterdam


In 1625, a group of Dutch colonists began building a fort and laying out a town on Manhattan Island. They named their settlement New Amsterdam. In 1626, Peter Minuit, the Dutch governor (or director-general), bought Manhattan from the Indians for goods worth 60 Dutch guilders, or about $24. During the next few years, Wiltwyck (now Kingston), Rensselaerswyck (now Rensselaer), Breuckelen (now Brooklyn), Schenectady, and other settlements were established in New Netherland by Dutch colonists.

In 1629, the Dutch West India Company set up the patroon (landowner) system to speed the settlement of New Netherland. Members of the company were given huge tracts of land, which they could keep if they colonized the land with settlers. Only one patroonship lasted into the 1700's, that of Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, an Amsterdam diamond merchant. His land covered much of present-day Albany, Columbia, and Rensselaer counties. Van Rensselaer began the practice of leasing his land to tenant farmers. The tenant system in New York lasted until the mid-1800's. A series of tenant revolts forced it to end.


[This letter is the source for the story about the purchase of Manhattan Island from the Indians for $24.00]

Translation of the Peter Schaghen Letter

Rcvd. 7 November 1626

High and Mighty Lords,

Yesterday the ship the Arms of Amsterdam arrived here. It sailed from New Netherland out of the River Mauritius on the 23d of September. They report that our people are in good spirit and live in peace. The women also have borne some children there. They have purchased the Island Manhattes from the Indians for the value of 60 guilders. It is 11,000 morgens in size [about 22,000 acres]. They had all their grain sowed by the middle of May, and reaped by the middle of August They sent samples of these summer grains: wheat, rye, barley, oats, buckwheat, canary seed, beans and flax. The cargo of the aforesaid ship is:

7246 Beaver skins
178½ Otter skins
675 Otter skins
48 Mink skins
36 Lynx skins
33 Minks
34 Weasel skins
Many oak timbers and nut wood.
Herewith, High and Mighty Lords, be commended to the mercy of the Almighty,

Your High and Mightinesses' obedient,
P. Schaghen

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