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New Sweden, founding of

The following narrative of the founding of New Sweden is from the History of New Sweden by the Rev. Israel Acrelius (q. v.), who was provost over the Swedish congregations in America, and pastor of the church in Christiania in 1749-56. A translation of the work with valuable notes, by the Rev. William M. Reynolds, was published in the Memoirs of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in 1874.

After that the magnanimous Genoese, Christopher Columbus, had, at the expense of Ferdinand, King of Spain, in the year 1492, discovered the Western Hemisphere, and the illustrious Florentine, Americus Vespucius, sent out by King Emanuel of Portugal, in the year 1502, to make a further exploration of its coasts, had had the good fortune to give the country his name, the European powers have, from time to time, sought to promote their several interests there. Our Swedes and Goths were the less backward in such expeditions, as they had always been the first therein. They had already, in the year 996 after the birth of Christ, visited America, had named it Vinland the Good, and also Skraellinga Land, and had called its inhabitants “the Skraellings of Vinland.” It is therefore evident that the Northmen had visited some part of North America before the Spaniards and Portuguese went to South America. But the question is, What would have been thought about Vinland if no later discoveries had been made, and what they thought about it before the time of Columbus?

Every region in America was discovered in its own separate time. Virginia was discovered in the year 1497 by Sebastian Cabot, a Portuguese, who was then the captain of an English ship. Its coasts were afterwards visited by those brave knights, Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh, the latter of whom called the land Virginia, after Queen Elizabeth of England, who lived unmarried. Under this name was included all the country stretching from Cape Florida to the St. Lawrence River, which was formerly called Florida, when separate names were not yet given to its coasts. That was done about the year 1584. Captain De la Ware, under the command of the English Admiral James Chartiers,1 was the first who discovered the bay in which the Indian river Poutaxat debouched, and gave his name, Delaware, to both the river and the bay, in the year 1600. These countries were repeatedly visited by the English: first by those sent out by Sir Walter Raleigh from Bristol, in the year 1603, and afterwards by Sir G. Popham and Captain James Davis, but little more was accomplished than that they learned to know the people, erected some small places and forts, which, however, were soon destroyed by the savages. In the year 1606 a body [408] of emigrants was sent to the northern regions, by two companies, called the London and the Bristol Companies. The former settled southward on the Chesapeake Bay; the latter, on the Kennebeck, or Sagadahoc, River. Each had its territorial rights secured by a patent. In the year 1620 a dispute arose between them about the fisheries at Cape Cod, when a new patent was given. The Bristol Company, which received an accession of some persons of rank and distinction, changed its name to that of the Plymouth Council, and obtained a right to all the lands lying above the 40th degree up to the 48th degree of north latitude, which was three degrees farther north than the former grant, and included the greater part of Acadia, or New Scotland, and also

King Gustaf Adolph.

extended westward from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean: all this was included in New England. The rest remained under Virginia.

About the same time the Hollanders undertook to steal into these American harbors. They took a fancy to the shores of the bay called by the Indians Menahados, and the river Mohaan.2 Henry Hudson, an Englishman in the service of the Holland East India Company, had first discovered those places, and called the bay after his own name, Hudson's Bay. This East India Company, in the year 1608, sold its right to the country, which it based upon its priority of discovery, to some Hollanders. These obtained from the States-General of Holland an exclusive privilege (privilegiumn exclusivum) to the country, and took the name of “The West India Company of Amsterdam.” In the year 1610 they began to traffic with the Indians, and in the year 1613 built a trading-post (magasin) at the place now called Albany, and in the following year placed some cannon there. Samuel Argall, the governor of Virginia, drove them out in 1618; but King James I. gave them permission to remain, that their ships might obtain water there in their voyages to Brazil. From that time until 1623, when the West India Company obtained its charter, their trade with the Indians was conducted almost entirely on shipboard, and they made no attempts to build any house or fortress until 1629. Now, whether that was done with or without the permission of England, the town of New Amsterdam was built and fortified, as also the place Aurania, Orange, now called Albany, having since had three general-governors, one after the other. But that was not yet enough. They wished to extend their power to the river Delaware also, and erected on its shores two or three small forts, which were, however, soon after destroyed by the natives of the country. It now came in order for Sweden also to take part in this enterprise. William Usselinx, a Hollander, born at Antwerp in Brabant, presented himself to King Gustaf Adolph, and laid before him a [409] proposition for a trading company, to be established in Sweden, and to extend its operations to Asia, Africa, and Magellan's Land (Terra Magellanica), with the assurance that this would be a great source of revenue to the kingdom. Full power was given him to carry out this important project; and thereupon a contract of trade was drawn up, to which the company was to agree and subscribe it. Usselinx published explanations of this contract, wherein he also particularly directed attention to the country on the Delaware, its fertility, convenience, and all its imaginable resources. To strengthen the matter, a charter (octroy) was secured to the company, and especially to Usselinx, who was to receive a royalty of one thousandth upon all articles bought or sold by the company.

The powerful King, whose zeal for the honor of God was not less ardent than for the welfare of his subjects, availed himself of this opportunity to extend the doctrines of Christ among the heathen, as well as to establish his own power in other parts of the world. To this end, he sent forth letters patent, dated at Stockholm on the 2d of July, 1626, wherein all, both high and low, were invited to contribute something to the company, according to their means. The work was completed in the Diet of the following year, 1627, when the estates of the realm gave their assent, and confirmed the measure. Those who took part in this company were: His Majesty's mother, the Queen Dowager Christina, the Prince John Casimir, the Royal Council, the most distinguished of the nobility, the highest officers of the army, the bishops and other clergymen, together with the burgomasters and aldermen of the cities, as well as a large number of the people generally. The time fixed for paying in the subscriptions was the 1st of May of the following year (1628). For the management and working of the plan there were appointed an admiral, vice-admiral, chapman, underchapman, assistants, and commissaries; also a body of soldiers duly officered.

But when these arrangements were now in full progress, and duly provided for, the German war and the King's death occurred, which caused this important work to be laid aside. The trading company was dissolved, its subscriptions nullified. and the whole project seemed about to die with the King. But, just as it appeared to be at its end, it received new life. Another Hollander, by the name of Peter Menewe, sometimes called Menuet, made his appearance in Sweden. He had been in the service of Holland in America, where he became involved in difficulties with the officers of their West India Company, in consequence of which he was recalled home and dismissed from their service. But he was not discouraged by this, and went over to Sweden, where he renewed the representations which Usselinx had formerly made in regard to the excellence of the country and the advantages that Sweden might derive from it.

Queen Christina, who succeeded her royal father in the government, was glad to have the project thus renewed. The royal chancellor, Count Axel Oxenstierna, understood well how to put it in operation. He took the West India Trading Company into his own hands, as its president, and encouraged other noblemen to take shares in it. King Charles I. of England had already, in the year 1634, upon representations made to him by John Oxenstierna, at that time Swedish ambassador in London, renounced, in favor of the Swedes, all claims and pretensions of the English to that country, growing out of their rights as its first discoverers. Hence everything seemed to be settled upon a firm foundation, and all earnestness was employed in the prosecution of the plans for a colony.

As a good beginning, the first colony was sent off;3 and Peter Menewe was placed over it, as being best acquainted in those regions. They set sail from Gotheborg, in a ship-of-war called the Key of Calmar, followed by a smaller vessel bearing the name of the Bird Griffin, both laden with people, provisions, ammunition, and merchandise, suitable for traffic and gifts to the Indians. The ships successfully reached their place of destination. The high expectations which our emigrants had of that new land were well met by the first views which they had of it. They made their first landing on the bay or entrance to the river Poutaxat, [410] which they called the river of New Sweden; and the place where they landed they called Paradise Point.4

A purchase of land was immediately made from the Indians; and it was determined that all the land on the western side of the river, from the point called Cape Inlopen or Hinlopen, up to the fall called Santickan, and all the country inland, as much as was ceded, should belong to the Swedish crown forever. Posts were driven into the ground as landmarks, which were still seen in their places sixty years afterwards. A deed was drawn up for the land thus purchased. This was written in Dutch, because no Swede was yet able to interpret the language of the heathen. The Indians subscribed their hands and marks. The writing was sent home to Sweden to be preserved in the royal archives. Mans Kling was the surveyor. He laid out the land and made a map of the whole river, with its tributaries, islands, and points, which is still to be found in the royal archives in Sweden. Their clergymen was Reorus Torkillus of East Gothland.

The first abode of the newly arrived emigrants was at a place called by the Indians Hopokahacking. There, in the year 1638, Peter Menuet built a fortress which he named Fort Christina, after the reigning Queen of Sweden. The place, situated upon the west side of the river, was probably chosen so as to be out of the way of the Hollanders, who claimed the eastern side—a measure of prudence, until the arrival of a greater force from Sweden. The fort was built upon an eligible site, not far from the mouth of the creek, so as to secure them in the navigable water of the Maniquas, which was afterwards called Christina Kihl, or creek.

The country was wild and uninhabited by the Hollanders. They had two or three forts on the river—Fort Nassau, where Gloucester now stands, and another at Horekihl, down on the bay. But both of these were entirely destroyed by the Americans, and their occupants driven away. The following extract from the History of the New Netherlands, which Adrian van der Donck published in the year 1655, with the license and privilege as well of the States-General as of the West India Company, will serve as proof of what we have said.

“The place is called Hore-kihl, but why so called we know not. But this is certain: that some years back, before the English and the Swedes came hither, it was taken up and settled as a colony by Hollanders, the arms of the States being at the same time set up in brass. These arms having been pulled down by the villany of the Indians, the commissary there resident demanded that the head of the traitor should be delivered to him. The Indians, unable to escape in any other way, brought him the head, which was accepted as a sufficient atonement of their offence. But some time afterwards, when we were at work in the fields, and unsuspicious of danger, the Indians came as friends, surrounded the Hollanders with overwhelming numbers, fell upon them, and completely exterminated them. Thus was the colony destroyed, though sealed with blood, and dearly enough purchased.”

Notwithstanding all this, the Hollanders believed that they had the best right to the Delaware River; yea, a better right than the Indians themselves. It was their object to secure at least all the land lying between said river and their city of New Amsterdam, where was their stronghold, and which country they once called “The New Netherlands.” But, as their forces were still too weak, they always kept one or another of their people upon the east side of the river to watch those who might visit the country. As soon, therefore, as Menuet landed with his Swedish company, notice of the fact was given to the Director-General of the Hollanders in New Amsterdam. He waited for some time, until he could ascertain Menuet's purpose; but, when it appeared that he was erecting a fortress for the Swedes, he sent him the following protest:

Thursday, May 6, 1638.
I, William Kieft, Director-General of the New Netherlands, residing upon the island of Manhattan, in the Fort Amsterdam, under the government belonging to the High and Mighty States-General of the United Netherlands, and the West India [411] Company, chartered by the Council Chamber in Amsterdam, make known to you, Peter Menuet, who style yourself Cornmander in the service of her Royal Majesty, the Queen of Sweden, that the whole South River of the New Netherlands, both above and below, hath already, for many years, been our property, occupied by our forts, and sealed with our blood, which was also done when you were in service in the New Netherlands, and you are, therefore, well aware of this. But whereas you have now come among our forts to build a fortress to our injury and damage, which we shall never permit; as we are also assured that her Royal Majesty of Sweden has never given you authority to build forts upon our rivers and coasts, nor to settle people on the land, nor to traffic in peltries, nor to undertake anything to our injury: We do, therefore, protest against all the disorder and injury, and all the evil consequences of bloodshed, uproar, and wrong which our Trading Company may thus suffer: And that we shall protect our rights in such manner as we may find most advisable.

Then follows the usual conclusion.

In his History of the New Netherlands, already cited, Adrian van der Donck likewise relates how protest was made against the building of Fort Christina; but there, also, he gives evidence of the weakness of the Hollanders in the river, on the first arrival of the Swedes, and that their strength consisted almost entirely in great words.

“On the river,” he says, “lies, first, Maniqua's Kihl, where the Swedes have built Fort Christina, where the largest ships can load and unload at the shore. There is another place on the river called Schulkihl, which is also navigable. That, also, was formerly under the control of the Hollanders, but is now mostly under the government of the Swedes. In that river (Delaware) there are various islands and other places, formerly belonging to the Hollanders, whose name they still bear, which sufficiently shows that the river belongs to the Hollanders, and not to the Swedes. Their very commencement will convict them. Before the year 1638, one Minnewits, who had formerly acted as director for the Trading Company at Manhatans, came into the river in the ship Key of Calmar, and the yacht called the Bird Griffin. He gave out to the Hollander, Mr. Van der Nederhorst, the agent of the West India Company in the South River, that he was on a voyage to the West India Islands, and that he was staying there to take in wood and water. Whereupon said Hollander allowed him to go free. But, some time after, some of our people going thither found him still there, and he had planted a garden, and the plants were growing in it. In astonishment we asked the reasons for such procedure, and if he intended to stay there. To which he answered evasively, alleging various excuses for his conduct. The third time they found them settled and building a fort. Then we saw their purpose. As soon as he was informed of it, Director Kieft protested against it, but in vain.”

Thus Peter Menuet made a good beginning for the settlement of the Swedish colony in America. He guarded his little fort for over three years, and the Hollanders neither attempted nor were able to overthrow it. After some years of faithful service he died at Christina. In his place followed Peter Hollendare, a native Swede, who did not remain at the head of its affairs more than a year and a half. He returned home to Sweden, and was a major at Skepsholm, in Stockholm, in the year 1655.

The second emigration took place under Lieut.-Col. John Printz, who went out with the appointment of governor of New Sweden. He had a grant of four hundred rix dollars for his travelling expenses, and one thousand two hundred dollars silver as his annual salary. The company was invested with the exclusive privilege of importing tobacco into Sweden, although that article was even then regarded as unnecessary and injurious, although indispensable since the establishment of the bad habit of its use. Upon the same occasion was also sent out Magister John Campanius Holm, who was called by their excellencies the Royal Council and Admiral Claes Flemming, to become the government chaplain, and watch over the Swedish congregation.

The ship on which they sailed was called the Fama. It went from Stockholm to Gotheborg, and there took in its freight. Along with this went two other ships-of- [412]

Old Swedish Church.

the-line the Swan and the Charitas, laden with people, and other necessaries. Under Governor Printz, ships came to the colony in three distinct voyages. The first ship was the Black Cat, with ammunition, and merchandise for the Indians. Next, the ship Swan, on a second voyage, with emigrants, in the year 1647. Afterwards, two other ships, called the Key and The Lamp. During these times the clergymen, Mr. Lawrence Charles Lockenius and Mr. Israel Holgh, were sent out to the colony.

The voyage to New Sweden was at that time quite long. The watery way to the West was not well discovered, and, therefore, for fear of the sand-banks off Newfoundland, they kept their course to the east and south as far as to what were then called the Brazates.5 The ships which went under the command of Governor Printz sailed along the coast of Portugal, and down the coast of Africa, until they found the eastern passage, then directly over to America, leaving the Canaries6 high up to the north. They landed at Antigua, then continued their voyage northward, past Virginia and Maryland, to Cape Henlopen. Yet, in view of the astonishingly long route which they took, the voyage was quick enough in six months time—from Stockholm on Aug. 16, 1642, to the new fort of Christina, in New Sweden, on Feb. 15, 1643.

The Swedes who emigrated to America belonged partly to a trading company, provided with a charter, who, for their services, according to their condition or agreement, were to receive pay and monthly wages; a part of them also went at their own impulse to try their fortune. For these it was free to settle and live in the country as long as they pleased or to leave it, and they were therefore, by way of distinction from the others, called freemen. At first, also, malefactors and vicious people were sent over, who were used as slaves to labor upon the fortifications. They were kept in chains and not allowed to have intercourse with the other settlers; moreover, a separate place of abode was assigned to them. The neighboring people and country were [413] dissatisfied that such wretches should come into the colony. It was also, in fact, very objectionable in regard to the heathen, who might be greatly offended by it. Whence it happened that, when such persons came over in Governor Printz's time, it was not permitted that one of them should set foot upon the shore, but they had all to be carried back again, whereupon a great part of them died during the voyage or perished in some other way. Afterwards it was forbidden at home in Sweden, under a penalty, to take for the American voyage any persons of bad fame; nor was there ever any lack of good people for the colony.

Governor Printz was now in a position to put the government upon a safe footing to maintain the rights of the Swedes, and to put down the attempts of the Hollanders. They had lately, before his arrival, patched their little Fort Nassau. On this account he selected the island of Tenackong as his residence, which is sometimes also called Tutaeaenung and Tenicko, about 3 Swedish miles from Fort Christina. The convenient situation of the place suggested its selection, as also the location of Fort Nassau,7 which lay some miles over against it, to which he could thus command the passage by water. The new fort, which was erected and provided with considerable armament, was called New Gotheborg. His place of residence, which he adorned with orchards, gardens, a pleasure-house, etc., he named Printz Hall. A handsome wooden church was also built at the same place, which Magister Campanius consecrated, on the last great prayer-day which was celebrated in New Sweden, on Sept. 4, 1646. Upon that place, also, all the most prominent freemen had their residences and plantations.

New York

1 Acrelius has been led into this singular mistake by Campanius, whom he here follows. Cartier (not Chartiers) was a French subject, and discovered the St. Lawrence in 1534. Lord (not “captain” ) De la Ware was appointed governor of Virginia in 1610, and arrived at Jamestown on June 10 of the same year. He probably entered the Delaware on his way to Virginia. The reader will notice various inaccuracies in these early pages.

2 Evidently, the Mohawk, although we do not anywhere else find that river so called. The connection would indicate the Hudson River, but that is never so designated, but was called by the natives the Cohatatea or Oiogue.

3 In August, 1637.

4 In the neighborhood of what is now Lewes, Del.

5 The Azores?

6 If they sailed due west to Antigua, they must have gone down south to the latitude of the Cape de Verde Islands.

7 Fort Nassau was built near the mouth of Timber Creek, below Gloucester Point, N. J. It is said to have been built by Cornelius Mey, in 1623; but when visited by De Vries, ten years afterwards (Jan. 5, 1633), it was in the possession of the Indians, among whom he was afraid to land. We have no evidence that the fort was reoccupied by the Dutch before the establishment of the Swedish colony in 1638.

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