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Chapter 3

  • Having in the trifling digression which concluded the last chapter discharge_he filial duty which the city of New York owed to Communipaw, as being th_other settlement; and having given a faithful picture of it as it stands a_resent, I return with a soothing sentiment of self-approbation to dwell upo_ts early history. The crew of the Goede Vrouw being soon reinforced by fres_mportations from Holland, the settlement went jollily on increasing i_agnitude and prosperity. The neighboring Indians in a short time becam_ccustomed to the uncouth sound of the Dutch language, and an intercours_radually took place between them and the new comers. The Indians were muc_iven to long talks, and the Dutch to long silence; in this particular,
  • therefore, they accommodated each other completely. The chiefs would make lon_peeches about the big bull, the wabash, and the Great Spirit, to which th_thers would listen very attentively, smoke their pipes, and grunt yah, myn-
  • her; whereat the poor savages were wondrously delighted. They instructed th_ew settlers in the best art of curing and smoking tobacco, while the latte_n return, made them drunk with true Hollands, and then taught them the art o_aking bargains.
  • A brisk trade for furs was soon opened. The Dutch traders were scrupulousl_onest in their dealings, and purchased by weight, establishing it as a_nvariable table of avoirdupois that the hand of a Dutchman weighed one pound,
  • and his foot two pounds. It is true the simple Indians were often puzzled b_he great disproportion between bulk and weight, for let them place a bundl_f furs never so large in one scale, and a Dutchman put his hand or foot i_he other, the bundle was sure to kick the beam; never was a package of fur_nown to weigh more than two pounds in the market of Communipaw!
  • This is a singular fact; but I have it direct from my great-great-grandfather,
  • who had risen to considerable importance in the colony, being promoted to th_ffice of weigh-master, on account of the uncommon heaviness of his foot.
  • The Dutch possessions in this part of the globe began now to assume a ver_hriving appearance, and were comprehended under the general title of Nieu_ederlandts, on account, as the sage Vander Donck observes, of their grea_esemblance to the Dutch Netherlands, which indeed was truly remarkable,
  • excepting that the former was rugged and mountainous, and the latter level an_arshy. About this time the tranquillity of the Dutch colonists was doomed t_uffer a temporary interruption. In 1614, Captain Sir Samuel Argal, sailin_nder a commission from Dale, Governor of Virginia, visited the Dutc_ettlements on Hudson River, and demanded their submission to the Englis_rown and Virginian dominion. To this arrogant demand, as they were in n_ondition to resist it, they submitted for the time, like discreet an_easonable men.
  • It does not appear that the valiant Argal molested the settlement o_ommunipaw; on the contrary, I am told that when his vessel first hove i_ight, the worthy burghers were seized with such a panic that they fell t_moking their pipes with astonishing vehemence; insomuch that they quickl_aised a cloud, which, combining with the surrounding woods and marshes,
  • completely enveloped and concealed their beloved village, and overhung th_air regions of Pavonia—so that the terrible Captain Argal passed on, totall_nsuspicious that a sturdy little Dutch settlement lay snugly couched in th_ud, under cover of all this pestilent vapor. In commemoration of thi_ortunate escape, the worthy inhabitants have continued to smoke almos_ithout intermission unto this very day, which is said to be the cause of th_emarkable fog which often hangs over Communipaw of a clear afternoon.
  • Upon the departure of the enemy our magnanimous ancestors took full six month_o recover their wind, having been exceedingly discomposed by th_onsternation and hurry of affairs. They then called a council of safety t_moke over the state of the provinces. At this council presided one Oloffe Va_ortlandt, who had originally been one of a set of peripatetic philosopher_ho passed much of their time sunning themselves on the side of the grea_anal of Amsterdam in Holland; enjoying, like Diogenes, a free an_nencumbered estate in sunshine. His name Kortlandt (Shortland or Lackland)
  • was supposed, like that of the illustrious Jean Sansterre, to indicate that h_ad no land; but he insisted, on the contrary, that he had great lande_states somewhere in Terra Incognita; and he had come out to the new world t_ook after them.
  • Like all land speculators, he was much given to dreaming. Never did anythin_xtraordinary happen at Communipaw but he declared that he had previousl_reamt it, being one of those infallible prophets who predict events afte_hey have come to pass. This supernatural gift was as highly valued among th_urghers of Pavonia as among the enlightened nations of antiquity. The wis_lysses was more indebted to his sleeping than his waking moments for his mos_ubtle achievements, and seldom undertook any great exploit without firs_oundly sleeping upon it; and the same may be said of Oloffe Van Kortlandt,
  • who was thence aptly denominated Oloffe the Dreamer.
  • As yet his dreams and speculations had turned to little personal profit; an_e was as much a lackland as ever. Still he carried a high head in th_ommunity: if his sugar-loaf hat was rather the worse for wear, he set it of_ith a taller cock's tail; if his shirt was none of the cleanest, he puffed i_ut the more at the bosom; and if the tail of it peeped out of a hole in hi_reeches, it at least proved that it really had a tail and was not a mer_uffle.
  • The worthy Van Kortlandt, in the council in question, urged the policy o_merging from the swamps of Communipaw and seeking some more eligible site fo_he seat of empire. Such, he said, was the advice of the good St. Nicholas,
  • who had appeared to him in a dream the night before, and whom he had known b_is broad hat, his long pipe, and the resemblance which he bore to the figur_n the bow of the Goede Vrouw.
  • Many have thought this dream was a mere invention of Oloffe Van Kortlandt,
  • who, it is said, had ever regarded Communipaw with an evil eye, because he ha_rrived there after all the land had been shared out, and who was anxious t_hange the seat of empire to some new place, where he might be present at th_istribution of "town lots." But we must not give heed to such insinuations,
  • which are too apt to be advanced against those worthy gentlemen engaged i_aying out towns and in other land speculations.
  • This perilous enterprise was to be conducted by Oloffe himself, who chose a_ieutenants, or coadjutors, Mynheers Abraham Harden Broeck, Jacobus Van Zandt,
  • and Winant Ten Broeck—three indubitably great men, but of whose history,
  • although I have made diligent inquiry, I can learn but little previous t_heir leaving Holland. Nor need this occasion much surprise; for adventurers,
  • like prophets, though they make great noise abroad, have seldom much celebrit_n their own countries; but this much is certain that the overflowings an_ffscourings of a country are invariably composed of the richest parts of th_oil. And here I cannot help remarking how convenient it would be to many o_ur great men and great families of doubtful origin, could they have th_rivilege of the heroes of yore, who, whenever their origin was involved i_bscurity, modestly announced themselves descended from a god, and who neve_isited a foreign country but what they told some cock-and-bull stories abou_heir being kings and princes at home. This venal trespass on the truth,
  • though it has been occasionally played off by some pseudo marquis, baronet,
  • and other illustrious foreigner, in our land of good-natured credulity, ha_een completely discountenanced in this sceptical, matter-of-fact age; and _ven question whether any tender virgin, who was accidentally an_naccountably enriched with a bantling, would save her character at parlo_iresides and evening tea-parties by ascribing the phenomenon to a swan, _hower of gold, or a river god.
  • Had I the benefit of mythology and classic fable above alluded to, I shoul_ave furnished the first of the trio with a pedigree equal to that of th_roudest hero of antiquity. His name, Van Zandt—that is to say, from th_irt—gave reasons to suppose that, like Triptolemus, Themis, the Cyclops, an_he Titans, he had sprung from Dame Terra or the Earth! This supposition i_trongly corroborated by his size, for it is well known that all the progen_f Mother Earth were of a gigantic stature; and Van Zandt, we are told, was _all, raw-boned man, above six feet high, with an astonishingly hard head. No_s this origin of the illustrious Van Zandt a whit more improbable o_epugnant to belief than what is related and universally admitted of certai_f our greatest, or rather richest, men, who we are told with the utmos_ravity did originally spring from a dunghill!
  • Of the second of the trio but faint accounts have reached to this time, whic_ention that he was a sturdy, obstinate, worrying, bustling little man; and,
  • from being usually equipped in an old pair of buckskins, was familiarly dubbe_arden Broeck, or Tough Breeches.
  • Ten Broeck completed this junto of adventurers. It is a singular but ludicrou_act, which, were I not scrupulous in recording the whole truth, I shoul_lmost be tempted to pass over in silence, as incompatible with the gravit_nd dignity of history, that this worthy gentleman should likewise have bee_icknamed from what in modern times is considered the most ignoble part of th_ress. But, in truth, the small-clothes seems to have been a very dignifie_arment in the eyes of our venerated ancestors, in all probability from it_overing that part of the body which has been pronounced "the seat of honor."
  • The name of Ten Broeck, or, as it was sometimes spelt, Tin Broeck, has bee_ndifferently translated into Ten Breeches and Tin Breeches. The most elegan_nd ingenious writers on the subject declare in favor of Tin, or rather Thin,
  • Breeches; whence they infer that the original bearer of it was a poor bu_erry rogue, whose galligaskins were none of the soundest, and who,
  • peradventure, may have been the author of that truly philosophical stanza:——
  • "Then why should we quarrel for riches,Or any such glittering toys?A ligh_eart and thin pair of breechesWill go through the world, my brave boys!"Th_igh Dutch commentators, however, declare in favor of the other reading, an_ffirm that the worthy in question was a burly, bulbous man, who, in shee_stentation of his venerable progenitors, was the first to introduce into th_ettlement the ancient Dutch fashion of ten pair of breeches.
  • Such was the trio of coadjutors chosen by Oloffe the Dreamer to accompany hi_n this voyage into unknown realms; as to the names of his crews they have no_een handed down by history.
  • Having, as I before observed, passed much of his life in the open air, amon_he peripatetic philosophers of Amsterdam, Oloffe had become familiar with th_spect of the heavens, and could as accurately determine when a storm wa_rewing or a squall rising as a dutiful husband can foresee, from the brow o_is spouse, when a tempest is gathering about his ears. Having pitched upon _ime for his voyage, when the skies appeared propitious, he exhorted all hi_rews to take a good night's rest, wind up their family affairs, and mak_heir wills; precautions taken by our forefathers, even in after times whe_hey became more adventurous, and voyaged to Haverstraw, or Kaatskill, o_roodt Esopus, or any other far country, beyond the great waters of the Tappe_ee.