Chapter XII. Little Delaware

Delaware was the first colony to be established on the river that
bears this name. It went through half a century of experiences
under the Dutch and Swedes from 1609 to 1664, and then eighteen
years under the English rule of the Duke of York, from whom it
passed into the hands of William Penn, the Quaker. The Dutch got
into it by an accident and were regarded by the English as
interlopers. And the Swedes who followed had no better title.

The whole North Atlantic seaboard was claimed by England by
virtue of the discoveries of the Cabots, father and son; but
nearly a hundred years elapsed before England took advantage of
this claim by starting the Virginia colony near the mouth of the
Chesapeake Bay in 1607. And nearly a quarter of a century more
elapsed before Englishmen settled on the shores of Massachusetts
Bay. Those were the two points most accessible to ships and most
favorable for settlement. The middle ground of the Delaware and
Hudson regions was not so easily entered and remained unoccupied.
The mouth of the Delaware was full of shoals and was always
difficult to navigate. The natural harbor at the mouth of the
Hudson was excellent, but the entrance to it was not at first

Into these two regions, however, the Dutch chanced just after the
English had effected the settlement of Jamestown in Virginia. The
Dutch had employed an Englishman named Henry Hudson and sent him
in 1609 in a small ship called the Half Moon to find a passage to
China and India by way of the Arctic Ocean. Turned back by the
ice in the Arctic, he sailed down the coast of North America, and
began exploring the middle ground from the Virginia settlement,
which he seems to have known about; and, working cautiously
northward along the coast and feeling his way with the lead line,
he soon entered Delaware Bay. But finding it very difficult of
navigation he departed and, proceeding in the same careful way up
along the coast of New Jersey, he finally entered the harbor of
New York and sailed up the Hudson far enough to satisfy himself
that it was not the desired course to China.

This exploration gave the Dutch their claim to the Delaware and
Hudson regions. But though it was worthless as against the
English right by discovery of the Cabots, the Dutch went ahead
with their settlement, established their headquarters and seat of
government on Manhattan Island, where New York stands today, and
exercised as much jurisdiction and control as they could on the

Their explorations of the Delaware, feeling their way up it with
small light draft vessels among its shoals and swift tides, their
travels on land--shooting wild turkeys on the site of the present
busy town of Chester--and their adventures with the Indians are
full of interest. The immense quantities of wild fowl and animal
and bird life along the shores astonished them; but what most
aroused their cupidity was the enormous supply of furs,
especially beaver and otter, that could be obtained from the
Indians. Furs became their great, in fact, their only interest in
the Delaware. They established forts, one near Cape Henlopen at
the mouth of the river, calling it Fort Oplandt, and another far
up the river on the Jersey side at the mouth of Timber Creek,
nearly opposite the present site of Philadelphia, and this they
called Fort Nassau. Fort Oplandt was destroyed by the Indians and
its people were massacred. Fort Nassau was probably occupied only
at intervals. These two posts were built mainly to assist the fur
trade, and any attempts at real settlement were slight and

Meantime about the year 1624 the Swedes heard of the wonderful
opportunities on the Delaware. The Swedish monarch, Gustavus
Adolphus, a man of broad ambitions and energetic mind, heard
about the Delaware from Willem Usselinx, a merchant of Antwerp
who had been actively interested in the formation of the Dutch
West India Company to trade in the Dutch possessions in America.
Having quarreled with the directors, Usselinx had withdrawn from
the Netherlands and now offered his services to Sweden. The
Swedish court, nobles, and people, all became enthusiastic about
the project which he elaborated for a great commercial company to
trade and colonize in Asia, Africa, and America.* But the plan
was dropped because, soon after 1630, Gustavus Adolphus led his
country to intervene on the side of the Protestants in the Thirty
Years' War in Germany, where he was killed three years later at
the battle of Lutzen. But the desire aroused by Usselinx for a
Swedish colonial empire was revived in the reign of his infant
daughter, Christina, by the celebrated Swedish Chancellor,

* See "Willem Usselinx," by J. F. Jameson in the "Papers of the
American Historical Association," vol. II.

An expedition, which actually reached the Delaware in 1638, was
sent out under another Dutch renegade, Peter Minuit, who had been
Governor of New Netherland and after being dismissed from office
was now leading this Swedish enterprise to occupy part of the
territory he had formerly governed for the Dutch. His two ships
sailed up the Delaware and with good judgment landed at the
present site of Wilmington. At that point a creek carrying a
depth of over fourteen feet for ten miles from its mouth flowed
into the Delaware. The Dutch had called this creek Minquas, after
the tribe of Indians; the Swedes named it the Christina after
their infant Queen; and in modern times it has been corrupted
into Christiana.

They sailed about two and a half miles through its delta marshes
to some rocks which formed a natural wharf and which still stand
today at the foot of Sixth Street in Wilmington. This was the
Plymouth Rock of Delaware. Level land, marshes, and meadows lay
along the Christina, the remains of the delta which the stream
had formed in the past. On the edge of the delta or moorland,
rocky hills rose, forming the edge of the Piedmont, and out of
them from the north flowed a fine large stream, the Brandywine,
which fell into the Christina just before it entered the
Delaware. Here in the delta their engineer laid out a town,
called Christinaham, and a fort behind the rocks on which they
had landed. A cove in the Christina made a snug anchorage for
their ships, out of the way of the tide. They then bought from
the Indians all the land from Cape Henlopen to the Falls of the
Delaware at Trenton, calling it New Sweden and the Delaware New
Swedeland Stream. The people of Delaware have always regarded New
Sweden as the beginning of their State, and Peter Minuit, the
leader of this Swedish expedition, always stands first on the
published lists of their governors.

On their arrival in the river in the spring of 1638, the Swedes
found no evidences of permanent Dutch colonization. Neither Fort
Oplandt nor Fort Nassau was then occupied. They always maintained
that the Dutch had abandoned the river, and that it was therefore
open to the Swedes for occupation, especially after they had
purchased the Indian title. It was certainly true that the Dutch
efforts to plant colonies in that region had failed; and since
the last attempt by De Vries, six years had elapsed. On the other
hand, the Dutch contended that they had in that time put Fort
Nassau in repair, although they had not occupied it, and that
they kept a few persons living along the Jersey shore of the
river, possibly the remains of the Nassau colony, to watch all
who visited it. These people had immediately notified the Dutch
governor Kieft at New Amsterdam of the arrival of the Swedes, and
he promptly issued a protest against the intrusion. But his
protest was neither very strenuous nor was it followed up by
hostile action, for Sweden and Holland were on friendly terms.
Sweden, the great champion of Protestant Europe, had intervened
in the Thirty Years' War to save the Protestants of Germany. The
Dutch had just finished a similar desperate war of eighty years
for freedom from the papal despotism of Spain. Dutch and Swedes
had, therefore, every reason to be in sympathy with each other.
The Swedes, a plain, strong, industrious people, as William Penn
aptly called them, were soon, however, seriously interfering with
the Dutch fur trade and in the first year, it is said, collected
thirty thousand skins. If this is true, it is an indication of
the immense supply of furbearing animals, especially beaver,
available at that time. For the next twenty-five years Dutch and
Swedes quarreled and sometimes fought over their respective
claims. But it is significant of the difficulty of retaining a
hold on the Delaware region that the Swedish colonists on the
Christina after a year or two regarded themselves as a failure
and were on the point of abandoning their enterprise, when a
vessel, fortunately for them, arrived with cattle, agricultural
tools, and immigrants. It is significant also that the
immigrants, though in a Swedish vessel and under the Swedish
government, were Dutchmen. They formed a sort of separate Dutch
colony under Swedish rule and settled near St. George's and
Appoquinimink. Immigrants apparently were difficult to obtain
among the Swedes, who were not colonizers like the English.

At this very time, in fact, Englishmen, Puritans from
Connecticut, were slipping into the Delaware region under the
leadership of Nathaniel Turner and George Lamberton, and were
buying the land from the Indians. About sixty settled near Salem,
New Jersey, and some on the Schuylkill in Pennsylvania, close to
Fort Nassau--an outrageous piece of audacity, said the Dutch, and
an insult to their "High Mightinesses and the noble Directors of
the West India Company. " So the Schuylkill English were
accordingly driven out, and their houses were burned. The Swedes
afterwards expelled the English from Salem and from the Cohansey,
lower down the Bay. Later the English were allowed to return, but
they seem to have done little except trade for furs and beat off
hostile Indians.

The seat of the Swedish government was moved in 1643 from the
Christina to Tinicum, one of the islands of the Schuylkill delta,
with an excellent harbor in front of it which is now the home of
the yacht clubs of Philadelphia. Here they built a fort of logs,
called Fort Gothenborg, a chapel with a graveyard, and a mansion
house for the governor, and this remained the seat of Swedish
authority as long as they had any on the river. From here
Governor Printz, a portly irascible old soldier, said to have
weighed "upwards of 400 pounds and taken three drinks at every
meal," ruled the river. He built forts on the Schuylkill and
worried the Dutch out of the fur trade. He also built a fort
called Nya Elfsborg, afterward Elsinboro, on the Jersey side
below Salem. By means of this fort he was able to command the
entrance to the river and compelled every Dutch ship to strike
her colors and acknowledge the sovereignty of Sweden. Some he
prevented from going up the river at all; others he allowed to
pass on payment of toll or tribute. He gave orders to destroy
every trading house or fort which the Dutch had built on the
Schuylkill, and to tear down the coat of arms and insignia which
the Dutch had placed on a post on the site of Philadelphia. The
Swedes now also bought from the Indians and claimed the land on
the Jersey side from Cape May up to Raccoon Creek, opposite the
modern Chester.

The best place to trade with the Indians for furs was the
Schuylkill River, which flowed into the Delaware at a point where
Philadelphia was afterwards built. There were at that time Indian
villages where West Philadelphia now stands. The headwaters of
streams flowing into the Schuylkill were only a short distance
from the headwaters of streams flowing into the Susquehanna, so
that the valley of the Schuylkill formed the natural highway into
the interior of Pennsylvania. The route to the Ohio River
followed the Schuylkill for some thirty or forty miles, turned up
one of its tributaries to its source, then crossed the watershed
to the head of a stream flowing into the Susquehanna, thence to
the Juniata, at the head of which the trail led over a short
divide to the head of the Conemaugh, which flowed into the
Allegheny, and the Allegheny into the Ohio. Some of the Swedes
and Dutch appear to have followed this route with the Indians as
early as 1646.

The Ohio and Allegheny region was inhabited by the Black Minquas,
so called from their custom of wearing a black badge on their
breast. The Ohio, indeed, was first called the Black Minquas
River. As the country nearer the Delaware was gradually denuded
of beaver, these Black Minquas became the great source of supply
and carried the furs, over the route described, to the
Schuylkill. The White Minquas lived further east, round
Chesapeake and Delaware bays, and, though spoken of as belonging
by language to the great Iroquois or Six Nation stock, were
themselves conquered and pretty much exterminated by the Six
Nations. The Black Minquas, believed to be the same as the Eries
of the Jesuit Relations, were also practically exterminated by
the Six Nations.*

* Myers, "Narratives of Early Pennsylvania", pp. 103-104.

The furs brought down the Schuylkill were deposited at certain
rocks two or three miles above its mouth at Bartram's Gardens,
now one of the city parks of Philadelphia. On these rocks, then
an island in the Schuylkill, the Swedes built a fort which
completely commanded the river and cut the Dutch off from the fur
trade. They built another fort on the other side of Bartram's
Gardens along the meadow near what is now Gibson's Point; and
Governor Printz had a great mill a couple of miles away on Cobb's
Creek, where the old Blue Bell tavern has long stood. These two
forts protected the mill and the Indian villages in West

One would like to revisit the Delaware of those days and see all
its wild life and game, its islands and shoals, its virgin
forests as they had grown up since the glacial age, untouched by
the civilization of the white man. There were then more islands
in the river, the water was clearer, and there were pretty pebble
and sandy beaches now overlaid by mud brought down from vast
regions of the valley no longer protected by forests from the
wash of the rains. On a wooded island below Salem, long since cut
away by the tides, the pirate Blackhead and his crew are said to
have passed a winter. The waters of the river spread out wide at
every high tide over marshes and meadows, turning them twice a
day for a few hours into lakes, grown up in summer with red and
yellow flowers and the graceful wild oats, or reeds, tasseled
like Indian corn.

At Christinaham, in the delta of the Christina and the
Brandywine, the tide flowed far inland to the rocks on which
Minuit's Swedish expedition landed, leaving one dry spot called
Cherry Island, a name still borne by a shoal in the river. Fort
Christina, on the edge of the overflowed meadow, with the rocky
promontory of hills behind it, its church and houses, and a wide
prospect across the delta and river, was a fair spot in the old
days. The Indians came down the Christina in their canoes or
overland, bringing their packs of beaver, otter, and deer skins,
their tobacco, corn, and venison to exchange for the cloth,
blankets, tools, and gaudy trinkets that pleased them. It must
often have been a scene of strange life and coloring, and it is
difficult today to imagine it all occurring close to the spot
where the Pennsylvania railroad station now stands in Wilmington.

When doughty Peter Stuyvesant became Governor of New Netherland,
he determined to assert Dutch authority once more on the South
River, as the Delaware was called in distinction from the Hudson.
As the Swedes now controlled it by their three forts, not a Dutch
ship could reach Fort Nassau without being held up at Fort
Elfsborg or at Fort Christina or at the fort at Tinicum. It was a
humiliating situation for the haughty spirit of the Dutch
governor. To open the river to Dutch commerce again, Stuyvesant
marched overland in 1651 through the wilderness, with one hundred
and twenty men and, abandoning Fort Nassau, built a new fort on a
fine promontory which then extended far out into the river below
Christina. Today the place is known as New Castle; the Dutch
commonly referred to it as Sandhoeck or Sand Point; the English
called it Grape Vine Point. Stuyvesant named it Fort Casimir.

The tables were now turned: the Dutch could retaliate upon
Swedish shipping. But the Swedes were not so easily to be
dispossessed. Three years later a new Swedish governor named
Rising arrived in the river with a number of immigrants and
soldiers. He sailed straight up to Fort Casimir, took it by
surprise, and ejected the Dutch garrison of about a dozen men. As
the successful coup occurred on Trinity Sunday, the Swedes
renamed the place Fort Trinity.

The whole population--Dutch and Swede, but in 1654 mostly
Swede--numbered only 368 persons. Before the arrival of Rising
there had been only seventy. It seems a very small number about
which to be writing history; but small as it was their "High
Mightinesses," as the government of the United Netherlands was
called, were determined to avenge on even so small a number the
insult of the capture of Fort Casimir.

Drums, it is said, were beaten every day in Holland to call for
recruits to go to America. Gunners, carpenters, and powder were
collected. A ship of war was sent from Holland, accompanied by
two other vessels whose names alone, Great Christopher and King
Solomon, should have been sufficient to scare all the Swedes. At
New Amsterdam, Stuyvesant labored night and day to fit out the
expedition. A French privateer which happened to be in the harbor
was hired. Several other vessels, in all seven ships, and six or
seven hundred men, with a chaplain called Megapolensis, composed
this mighty armament gathered together to drive out the handful
of poor hardworking Swedes. A day of fasting and prayer was held
and the Almighty was implored to bless this mighty expedition
which, He was assured, was undertaken for "the glory of His
name." It was the absurdity of such contrasts as this running all
through the annals of the Dutch in America that inspired
Washington Irving to write his infinitely humorous "History of
New York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch
Dynasty," by "Diedrich Knickerbocker." It is difficult for an
Anglo-Saxon to take the Dutch in America seriously. What can you
do with a people whose imagination allowed them to give such
names to their ships as Weigh Scales, Spotted Cow, and The Pear
Tree? So Irving described the taking of Fort Casimir in mock
heroic manner. He describes the marshaling of the Dutch hosts of
New York by families, the Van Grolls of Anthony's Nose, the
Brinkerhoffs, the Van Kortlandts, the Van Bunschotens of Nyack
and Kakiat, the fighting men of Wallabout, the Van Pelts, the Say
Dams, the Van Dams, and all the warriors of Hellgate "clad in
their thunder-and-lightning gaberdines," and lastly the standard
bearers and bodyguards of Peter Stuyvesant, bearing the great
beaver of the Manhattan.

"And now commenced the horrid din, the desperate struggle, the
maddening ferocity, the frantic desperation, the confusion and
self-abandonment of war. Dutchman and Swede commingled, tugged,
panted, and blowed. The heavens were darkened with a tempest of
missives. Bang! went the guns; whack! went the broadswords;
thump! went the cudgels; crash! went the musket-stocks; blows,
kicks, cuffs, scratches, black eyes and bloody noses swelling the
horrors of the scene! Thick, thwack, cut and hack,
helter-skelter, higgledy-piggledy, hurly-burly, heads-over-heels,
rough-and-tumble! Dunder and blixum! swore the Dutchmen; splitter
and splutter! cried the Swedes. Storm the works! shouted
Hardkoppig Peter. Fire the mine! roared stout
Rising--Tantarar-ra-ra! twanged the trumpet of Antony Van
Corlear;--until all voice and sound became
unintelligible,--grunts of pain, yells of fury, and shouts of
triumph mingling in one hideous clamor. The earth shook as if
struck with a paralytic stroke; trees shrunk aghast, and withered
at the sight; rocks burrowed in the ground like rabbits; and even
Christina creek turned from its course, and ran up a hill in
breathless terror!"

As a matter of fact, the fort surrendered without a fight on
September 1, 1655. It was thereupon christened New Amstel,
afterwards New Castle, and was for a long time the most important
town on the Delaware. This achievement put the Dutch in complete
authority over the Swedes on both sides of the river. The Swedes,
however, were content, abandoned politics, secluded themselves on
their farms, and left politics to the Dutch. Trade, too, they
left to the Dutch, who, in their effort to monopolize it, almost
killed it. This conquest by their High Mightinesses also ended
the attempts of the New Englanders, particularly the people of
New Haven, to get a foothold in the neighborhood of Salem, New
Jersey, for which they had been struggling for years. They had
dreams of a great lake far to northward full of beaver to which
the Delaware would lead them. Their efforts to establish
themselves survived in one or two names of places near Salem, as,
for example, New England Creek, and New England Channel, which
down almost into our own time was found on charts marking one of
the minor channels of the bay along the Jersey shore. They
continued coming to the river in ships to trade in spite of
restrictions by the Dutch; and some of them in later years, as
has been pointed out, secured a foothold on the Cohansey and in
the Cape May region, where their descendants are still to be