History Files


The Americas

North American Colonial Settlements




Dutch Colonies in the Americas
AD 1614 - 1664

Dutch interest in the Americas began in 1602, when the Dutch government issued a charter to the Dutch East India Company to discover a new route to the Indies, as well as to exploit any unclaimed territory they came across. The first steps towards achieving this were taken in 1609, when English explorer, Henry Hudson, claimed parts of modern day Canada and the United States as part of his quest to find the north-west passage, and sailed up the river which is named after him. In 1614, Adriaen Block led an expedition into the lower Hudson, with Block Island being named after him. Upon his return, he was the first person to use the name 'New Netherlands' on a map of the Americas, laying claim on the territory between the English colony of Virginia and the French Quebec colony. The Dutch government granted him exclusive trading rights and the earliest trading missions were set up in the new colony.

(Additional information by Mick Baker, and also from Indian Tribes of the New England Frontier (Osprey No 428 Men-at-Arms Series), Michael Johnson, Everyday Life of the North American Indian, Jon Manchip White, 1979, from The Encyclopaedia of North American Indian Tribes, Bill Yenne, 1986, from The Native Tribes of North America - A Concise Encyclopaedia, Michael Johnson, 1993, from the Atlas of Indians of North America, Gilbert Legay, 1995, and from External Links: First Nations: Issues of Consequence, Lee Sultzman, and Legends of America.)


The English explorer, Henry Hudson arrives in Mahican territory in September 1609 where he encounters Mahican villages just below Albany (a little south of the line of modern Vermont's southern border). The Mahican are not only friendly but eager to trade. Hudson exhausts his trade goods and returns to the Netherlands with a cargo of valuable furs which immediately attracts Dutch merchants to the area.

1610 - 1614

The first Dutch fur traders arrive on the Hudson River (named after Henry Hudson) to trade with the Mahican. Besides exposing them to European epidemics, the fur trade destabilises the region and, rather than prosperity, it brings to the Mahican death and destruction.

At first, the Dutch traders come only in the summer, load up their ships with fur, and then sail back to Europe. By 1613 the fur trade on the Hudson River has grown so lucrative that it becomes organised, and the United Netherlands Company, a consortium of thirteen Dutch merchants, is granted a four-year charter by the staten generaal. It is decided to establish a permanent trading post, but the Dutch first have to arrange a truce to end the fighting which has erupted between the Mahican and Mohawk.

1614 - 1618

Once the Mahican-Mohawk truce has been put in place, the Dutch build Fort Nassau on Castle Island in 1614, just south of modern Albany. This is mainly intended for fur trading, and initially with the Delaware on the lower Delaware River and Delaware Bay. Also in 1614, the Dutch found a commercial trading post on the eastern coast of North America and name it New Amsterdam (it had originally been named Nouvelle-Angoulême by Giovanni da Verrazzano, when he had reached the region for France in 1524, in the first tenuous steps towards establishing New France).

Just opposite a Mahican village, Fort Nassau is not easy for the Mohawk to visit, but it is also inconvenient for the Dutch. Prone to flooding, it is abandoned at the outbreak of another Mahican-Mohawk war in 1617. The Dutch traders are inclined to favour the Mahican in these conflicts, but they have also ingratiated themselves with the Mohawk by arming them against the Munsee and Susquehannock during 1615. This gives the Dutch enough influence to allow them to negotiate another truce between the Mohawk and Mahican in 1618. A new Fort Nassau is built on higher ground near its former location.

1621 - 1623

The Dutch West India Company is founded to deal with trade monopolies in the Americas and West Africa. In 1623 it establishes the Province of New Netherland, and settlers begin to arrive from the Netherlands, the Spanish Netherlands (modern Belgium) and areas of Germany. In 1624, the first director-general is appointed by the West India Company to govern the colony; an explorer and fur trader who has been instrumental in building up the colony.

1624 - 1625

Cornelis Jacobszoon

First director-general appointed in May.

1624 - 1630

Handicapped by their inland location, the Iroquois still have to contend with the powerful Mahican confederacy in order to trade with New Amsterdam, and it takes four years of war between 1624-1628 before the Mohawk emerge as the pre-eminent trading partner of the Dutch in the Hudson Valley.

The Susquehannock, however, have an easier time against the numerous - but peaceful and disorganised - Delaware tribes who trade with the Dutch along the lower Delaware. Attacking them in 1626, by 1630 the Susquehannock force many of them either south into Delaware or across the river into New Jersey. The Dutch accept the outcome, but when they begin to trade with the Susquehannock, they are pleased to discover that the Susquehannock (skilled hunters and trappers) have more (and better) furs than the Delaware.

1625 - 1626

Willem Verhulst

1626 - 1632

Peter Minuit

Later founder of New Sweden (1638).


Dutch director-general Peter Minuit purchases Manhattan Island from the Lenape natives, and the construction of Fort New Amsterdam begins. In the same year, a second fort with the name Nassau is constructed on the River Delaware (in modern New Jersey).

Fort New Amsterdam
Fort New Amsterdam began construction in 1626. Within seventy years it was renamed New York by the British


With the way having been cleared by the construction of the fort, Dutch settlers move into the Appalachian Mountains in what later becomes the US states of Pennsylvania and Delaware.

1632 - 1633

Sebastiaen Jansen Krol

1633 - 1638

Wouter van Twiller

Lost the Connecticut territory.

1633 - 1636

The British Colonies territory of Connecticut is founded in Dutch-owned lands, effectively removing them from Dutch control. Within three years, English settlers in Newtown (now Cambridge Massachusetts) on the north bank of the Little River and they quickly out-compete their Dutch neighbours in terms of trading.


The Swedish colony of New Sweden is formed to the south-west of New Amsterdam, on territory previously claimed by the Dutch. Led by former Dutch director-general Peter Minuit, they settle land on the lower Delaware (claimed by the Dutch) and build Fort Christina. The land is claimed to have been purchased from the local Delaware and Susquehannock, although they counter the claim with accusations of land theft.

1638 - 1647

Willem Kieft

1643 - 1645

At a time when basic picket fences denote plots and residences for New Amsterdam, Kieft's attempts to tax and then drive out the native Americans leads to 'Kieft's War'. The losses on both sides are extremely large, and Kieft is dismissed and summoned back home to answer for his part in the war. The ship carrying him sinks off the English coastline.

During this period the English of Maryland have ceased trading with the Susquehannock thanks to continued disagreements about territorial holdings, but in 1645 the Susquehannock end their hostilities with Maryland and sign a treaty that cedes their claims in Maryland between the Choptank and Patuxent rivers. The Susquehannock hardly notice the brief interruption of trade with the English because the settlers of New Sweden have more than made up the difference. The Susquehannock are also able to continue to trade with New Netherland by using the portages between the Susquehanna, Delaware, and Hudson rivers to New Amsterdam.

1647 - 1664

Petrus Stuyvesant


FeaturePeter Stuyvesant uses African slaves and other workers to build a stronger timber and earth palisade along what later becomes Wall Street. The palisade is designed to keep out native Americans and settlers in the British Colonies of New England.


New Sweden's main settlement at Fort Christina is captured in retaliation for a brief Swedish occupation of one of the Dutch forts, ending the Swedish colony and absorbing the area into New Amsterdam.


By now many settlers are entering the colony from England and Protestant areas of France, only too eager to escape persecution from Louis XIV. Louis DuBois arrives in New Netherland with one such a group of French Huguenots, and they initially settle in Wiltwyck and Nieuw Dorp.

1664 - 1667

As the Iroquois-Susquehannock War rumbles on, the English attack and capture New Netherland, including New Amsterdam, renaming it the 'Province of New York' after the duke of York (later James II) within the British Colonies. By this stage it includes territory belonging to the modern US states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont. The capture of New Netherland leads to the Second Anglo-Dutch War the following year, which ends with the Netherlands agreeing to the English ownership of the colony in exchange for Suriname.

1673 - 1674

The region is seized by the Dutch during the Third Anglo-Dutch war, but is returned as part of the Treaty of Westminster in 1674.

1673 - 1674

Anthony Colve

Governor (Sep-Feb) during Dutch occupation.


Louis DuBois and his associates purchase 40,000 acres of land from the Esopus natives and found the DuBois colony in which they build a village called New Paltz (now in New York State). The area is still wild enough for the colony to be self-governing for some time, but eventually all the former Dutch lands are drawn under direct English governance within the British Colonies.