Jasper Danckaerts on Albany*

The Journal of Jasper Danckaerts, 1679-80 chronicles the mission of two Labadist ministers to America. they visited the Albany area in the spring of 1680. The excerpts printed below shed light on early Albany and its people. The excerpts are incomplete and very much in-progress!

very much IN PROGRESS

[196] [ April 19, 1680 ] . . . We left New York about three o'clock in the afternoon with a southernly wind, in company with about twenty passengers of all kinds, young and old, who made great noise and bustle in a boat not so large as a common ferry-boat in Holland; and as these people live in the interior of the country somewhat nearer the Indians, they are more wild and untamed,

. . . [201] [ 25th, Thursday ] We had thought of riding a little further on, and so back to Albany; but my comrade was too sick, and had the chills and fever again. The weather, too, was windy and rainy. We concluded therefore to postpone it till the following day; and in the meantime I accompanied to the before mentioned Adam's. While we were there, a certain Indian woman, or half-breed, that is, from a European and an [202] Indian woman, came with a little boy, her child, who was dumb, or whose tongue had grown fast. It was about four years old; she had heard we were there, and came to ask whether we knew of any advice for her child, or whether we could not do a little something to cure it. We informed her we were not doctors or surgeons, but we gave her our opinion, just as we thought. Sanders told me aside that she was a Christian, that is, had left the Indians, and had been taught by the Christians and baptized; that she had made profession of the reformed religion, and was not of the unjust. Not contenting myself with this account, and observing something in her that pleased me, I asked her to relate to me herself how it had gone with her from the first of her coming Christendom, both outwardly and inwardly. Looking at me she said, "How glad am I that I am so fortunate; that God should permit me to behold such Christians, whom I have so long desired to see, and to whom I may speak from the bottom of my heart without fear; and that there are such Christians in the world. How often have I asked myself, are there no other Christians than those amongst whom we live, who are so godless and lead worse lives than the Indians, and yet have such a pure and holy religion? Now I see God thinks of us, and has sent you from the other end of the world to speak to us." She had heard me give reasons to the others , and address them generally, before I made this request of her. I answered, that all who professed the Christian religion did not live as that religion required, that such were false professors, and not Christians, bearing the name only, but denying the truth. She had said all this with a tender and affectionate heart, and with many tears, but tears which you felt proceeded from the heart, and from love towards God. I was surprised to find so far in the woods, and among Indians - but why say among Indians? among Christians ten times worse than Indians - a person who should address me with such affection and love of God; but I answered and comforted her. She then related to me from the beginning her case, that is, how she had embraced Christianity. She was born of a Christian father and an Indian   [203]   mother of the Mohawk tribes. Her mother remained in the country, and lived among the Mohawks, and she lived with her, the same as Indians live together. Her mother would never listen to anything about the Christians, or it was against her heart, from an inward, unfounded hate. She lived then with her mother and brothers and sisters; but sometimes she went with her mother among the Christians to trade and make purchases, or the Christians came among them, and thus it was that some Christians took a fancy to the girl, discovering in her more resemblance to the Christians than the Indians, but understand, more like the Dutch, and that she was not so wild as the other children. They therefore wished to take the girl and bring her up, which the mother would not hear to, and as this request was made repeatedly, she said she would rather kill her.

very much IN PROGRESS

They gave her the name of Eltie or Illetie. She lived a long time with a woman, with whom we conversed afterwards, who [204] taught her to read and write and do various handiwork, in which she advanced so greatly that everybody was astonished. She had especially a great desire to learn to read, and applied herself to that end day and night, and asked others, who were near her, to the vexation and annoyance of the other maids who lived with her, who could sometimes with difficulty keep her back. But that did not restrain her; she felt such an eagerness and desire to learn that she could not be withheld, particularly when she began to understand the Dutch language, and what was expressed in the New Testament, where her whole heart was. In a short time, therefore, she understood more about it than the other girls with whom she conversed, and who had first instructed her, and, particularly, was sensible in her heart of its truth. She had lived with different people, and had very much improved; she spoke of it with heart-felt delight. Finally, she made her profession, and was baptized. Since that time, she said, the love she felt in her heart had not diminished, but had increased, and she sighed to live near Christians, who were good and faithful, and lived up to their religion.

very much IN PROGRESS

She has a nephew, a full-blooded Mohawk, named Wouter. The Lord has also touched him, through her instrumentality. Wouter speaks no Dutch, or very little. He has abandoned all the Indians, and his Indian friends and relations, and lives with his uncle, the brother of Illetie. He has betaken himself entirely to the Christians and dresses like them. . .

very much IN PROGRESS


30th, Tuesday. We were ready to leave early, but it wan well on towards noon, when with a head wind, but a strong current down, we tacked over to Kinderhoeck, lying on the east shore sixteen miles below Albany.

Before we quit Albany, we must say a word about the place. It was formerly named the Fuyck by the Hollanders, who first settled there, on account of two rows of houses standing there, opposite to each other, which being wide enough apart in the beginning, finally ran quite together like a fuyck, and therefore, they gave it this name, which, although the place is built up, it still bears with many, especially the Dutch and Indians living about there. It is nearly square, and lies against [217] the hill, with several good streets, on which there may be about eighty or ninety house. Fort Orange, constructed by the Dutch, lies below on the bank of the river, and is set off with palisades, filled in with earth on the inside. It is now abandoned by the English, who have built a similar one behind the town, high up on the declivity of the hill, from whence it can command the place. From the other side of this fort the inhabitants have brought a spring or fountain of water, under the fort, and under ground into the town, where they now have in several places always fountains of clear, fresh, cool water. The town is surrounded by palisades, and has several gates corresponding with the streets. It has a Dutch Reformed and a Lutheran church. The Lutheran minister lives up here in the winter, and down in New York in the summer. There is not English church or place of meeting, to my knowledge.

As this is the principal trading-post with the Indians, and as also they alone have the privilege of trading, which is only granted to certain merchants there, as a special benefit, who know what each one must pay therefor, there are houses or lodges erected on both sides of the town, where the Indians, who come from the far interior to trade, live during the time they are there. This time of trading with the Indians is at its height in the months of June and July, and also in August, when it falls off; because it is then the best time to make their journeys there and back, as well as because the Hollanders then have more time outside their farm duties.

We came to anchor at Kinderhook, in order to take in some grain, which the female trader before mentioned had there to be carried down the river.


From Journal of Jasper Danckaerts, 1679-80, edited by Bartlett B. James and J. Franklin Jameson, was published by Barnes & Noble in 1911. The "original" manuscript was found in an "old book-store" in Amsterdam by Henry C. Murphy of the Long Island Historical Society in 1864. Murphy translated the document and it was first published by the society in 1867. It has been reprinted several times since. Page references in brackets. The original punctuation and spellings are variable and have been retained. However, some paragraphing has been supplied!


Transformed by SB

Home | Site Index | Navigation | Email | New York State Museum

first posted: 11/10/02