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Chronology of Fort Orange, Berwyck, Albany and Related Places

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Date: 1540 to 1686
Location: Albany, New Yorkmap
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Chronology of Fort Orange, Beverwijck, Albany and Related Places Revision 5, 1 Mar 2019, Jim Moore

The intent of these notes is to provide a compact chronology of the evolution of the City of Albany up to the point when it was chartered as such. Particular emphasis is placed upon the names appropriate at the various times. Brief mention is made of other related places.

Much of this material comes from generally authoritative sources, Gehring and Reynolds. A few items of more general knowledge are taken from Wikipedia.

A useful map can be found at [Gehring, p. xiv]

1540: French established a fortified trading post, a stone "castle," on an island near current Albany, but there was no enduring settlement. [Reynolds, p. v]

19 September 1609: Henry Hudson, working for the Dutch East India Company, explored the Hudson River (then called the "North River") as far north as modern Albany. [Reynolds, p. xxvii, 10-12]

The confluence of the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers provided a good place for a trading post. The two rivers provided transport to the west and to the north. [Gehring, p. xvi]

1614-1615: The New Netherland Company constructed Fort Nassau on the site of the French "castle" on Castle Island (now part of the port of Albany) in the Hudson River. The fort was 58 feet square. Ice floes and flooding caused severe damage and the fort was abandoned in 1618. [Gehring, pp. xvi-xvii; Reynolds, pp. xxvii, 17-18]

3 June 1621: Dutch West India Company (DWIC) was chartered for a period of 24 years. [Gehring, p. xv; Reynolds, pp. xxvii, 19]

The original Dutch claim extended from the Delaware Bay to the mouth of the Connecticut River. Trading posts were established on the Delaware, Hudson, and Connecticut Rivers to trade furs for manufactured goods. The trading posts were supposed to send their furs to a central location, Governor's Island at first, for shipment to Holland. [Gehring, p. xv]

May 1624: Walloon refugees were transported to the trading posts to farm in support of the fur traders. The situation with the native was a problem; within two years, all support personnel were moved to Manhattan, leaving traders and soldiers behind. [Gehring, p. xv; Reynolds, p. xxvii] (See annexes for the fate of these outposts.)

[I believe this to be significant. In considering the earliest of settlers, if he had a Walloon (French) name, he was probably a farmer; if he had a Dutch name, he was probably a trader or a soldier.--JWM]

May 1624: The DWIC brought 18 Walloon families to the area of the abandoned Fort Nassau and they built their shelter and Fort Orange on the west bank of the river. [Gehring, p. xvii; Reynolds, pp. v, 20]

The Hudson Valley to the north was controlled by the Mahikander (Mahican) Indians. To the west of Fort Orange were the Maquas (Mohawk) Indians. The Fort was on Mahican land but the Mohawk controlled the trade routes to the west and an alliance with them might have been sensible. [Gehring, p. xvii] But ...

1626: Daniel Van Criekenbeeck, commander of Fort Orange, took 6 soldiers and joined a Mahican war party for an attack on the Mohawks. Criekenbeeck and four soldiers were killed in a Mohawk ambush. [Gehring, p. xvii] Peter Minuet, the director, evacuated the settlers, leaving behind only a garrison to protect the traders. [Gehring, p. xviii]

by 1629: The Mohawks had pushed the Mahicans to the east and controlled the area around Fort Orange. The Dutch repaired relationships with the Mohawks, who effectively controlled the fur trade. [Gehring, p. xviii]

In the DWIC, there was debate over the respective merits of trading versus colonization. [Gehring, p. xviii]

1629: The "Freedoms and Exemptions" concession allowed a "patroon" to negotiate with the Indians for a tract of land on which he must settle 50 colonists within four years at his expense. In return he was granted hereditary title to the land as well as rights of government. [Gehring, p. xviii]

1 June 1630: The manor of Rensselaerwijck was founded. Kilian van Rensselaer had sent Bastian Jansz Krol to New Netherlands with instructions to purchase as much land around Fort Orange as the Indians were willing to sell. Additional land purchases were made as time passed. Eventually its extent was 24 miles north/south along the river, extending 24 miles from each back of the river, encompassing the modern counties of Albany, Rensselaer and a large part of Columbia counties. [Gehring, p. xix; Reynolds, p. 25] (Kilian never came to the New World; Jan Baptiste was the first of the family to come, becoming Director of the Manor on 8 May 1652. [Reynolds, pp. xxvii, 28])

Van Rensselaer's intent was to create a village on the east side of the Hudson River, opposite Fort Orange, but development went slowly, and various factors combined to favor development on the west side, around Fort Orange. [Gehring, p. xx]

1639-1640: Fur trade was opened to all, but the DWIC collected fees and maintained a monopoly on shipping. [Gehring, p. xxi; Reynolds, pp. 29-30]

October 1643: Kilian Van Rensselaer died. [Gehring, p. xxi]

1648: The new director of Rensselaerwijck, Brant van Slichtenhorst, arrived at Fort Orange and immediately began clashing with the DWIC director, Petrus Stuyvesant. Slichtenhorst began to grant building lots north of Fort Orange. [Gehring, p. xxi] Stuyvesant forbade him to construct anything within cannon range (about 3000 feet) of the fort. Stuyvesant was also disturbed that Slichtenhorst had refused to provide assistance or resources in performing repairs to the fort. Each of the individuals considered his authority to be supreme. In particular, Slichtenhorst believed the patroon's authority to extend over the fort. [Gehring, p. xxii]

1648-1651: Matters remained unsettled while Stuyvesant did trans-Atlantic consultation with the company in Holland. Slichtenhorst proceeded with his plans to build a town known as Bijeenwoningh or Fuyck. [Gehring, p. xxiii] "Fuyck" is really an informal description rather than a proper name. The word is the name of a fishing net that narrows at the end, and, in this case, described two converging rows of houses. [Reynolds, pp. 79-80]

1651-1652: Stuyvesant summoned Slichtenhorst to New Amsterdam and imprisoned him. But, Slichtenhorst escaped and returned to Rennselaerwijck. The situation devolved into acts of petty violence. [Gehring, p. xxv]

1 April 1652: Stuyvesant proclaimed the company's jurisdiction around the fort, arrested Slichtenhorst, and took down the patroon's flag. The residents of Fuyck within 3000 feet of the fort were required to swear allegiance to the DWIC, absolving them of any duties to the patroon. [Gehring, p. xxv; Reynolds, p. 46]

10 April 1652: The Court of Fort Orange and Village of Beverwijck was established with jurisdiction over Fort Orange, Beverwijck, Schenectady, Kinderhook, Claverack, Coxsackie, Catskill and Esopus. Excluded was the huge surrounding Rennselaerwijck, which had its own court. [Gehring, p. xxvi] Reynolds spells the village name as "Beverswyck." [Reynolds, pp. xxvii, 46]

2 June 1656: The cornerstone of the Dutch Reformed Church building is laid. [Reynolds, p. 30]

27 July 1661: Settlement at Schenectady begins with the purchase of land from the Mohawk. [Reynolds, p. 56]

1661: A separate court was established at Esopus, roughly the area of current Ulster county and perhaps parts of current Sullivan county. [Gehring, p. xxvi]

24 September 1664: Fort Orange surrendered to the English fleet commanded by Col. Richard Nicholls. Nicholls renamed it as Fort Albany. The surrounding area was renamed Albany. [Reynolds, pp. xxvii, 66]

1665: The new English governor Nicolls ordered the Fort Orange court and the Rensselaerwyck court to be combined. [Gehring, p. xxvi]

November 1666: Governor Nicolls explicitly rejected the claim of Jeremias Van Rensselaer that the town of Albany was to be governed as a part of Rensselaerwyck. [Reynolds, p. 69]

1 September 1670: Governor Lovelace granted a patent to Robert Sanders for Tascamcatick, now called Lansingburg. [Reynolds, p. 70]

22 June 1672: Philip Schuyler purchased from the Van Rensselaer family a tract of land on the north side of the Rensselaerwyck Manor. The land becomes known as "The Flatts" or "Schuyler Flatts." [Reynolds, pp. 71-72ff]

5 August 1673: Fort Albany surrendered to a Dutch fleet. [Reynolds, pp. xxvii, 72]

1 September 1673: Albany was renamed as Willemstadt and Fort Albany as Fort Nassau. [Reynolds, pp. xxvii, 72] In the following few weeks, the Dutch government appointed officials of Rensselaerwyck. [Reynolds, p. 72]

19 February 1674: The Treaty of Westminster returned the recently re-captured lands to English control. [Reynolds, pp. xxvii, 73]

6 November 1674: Hendrik Van Rensselaer, the grand-son of Killiaen, inherited the huge Claverack patent along with a small portion of Rensselaerwyck. [Reynolds, p. 73]

10-11 November 1674: The new English Governor Andros Willemstadt reappointed most of the Willemstadt officials but reverted the name to Albany. Fort Nassau surrendered and its name was reverted to Fort Albany. [Reynolds, pp. xxv, 74]

1674: Following political skirmishing, the DWIC eventually decided that the disputed land belonged to Rensselaerwijck, but the owners were referred to the King of England for restitution, because the recent Treaty of Westphalia had given the colony to England. [Gehring, p. xxv]

February-June 1676: A new fortification, "Fort Frederick" was built to protect Albany from the possibility of Indian attack during King Philip's War. It had various names until it was removed in 1784. [Reynolds, p. 76ff] (Note that, unlike "Fort Orange", this fort's name characterizes only the fortification, rather than the surrounding area.)

7 June 1678: Governor Andros granted a patent for Rennselaerwyck (but not including Fort Albany nor the surrounding land) recognizing the right of the patroon to assess fees of the tenants. [Reynolds, p. 78]

12 July 1683: Robert Livingston purchased from the Mohegan Indians 3800 acres which became the site of Hudson and Claverack. He received a patent from Gov. Dongan on 4 November. Additional purchases follow. [Reynolds, pp. 81, 84]

1 November 1683: Governor Dongan created Albany County, with its extent "to containe the Towns of Albany, the Collony Rensselaerwyck, Schonecteda, and all the villages, neighborhoods, and Christian Planta├žons on the east side of Hudson River from Roelef's Creek, and on the west side from Sawyer's Creek (Saugerties) to the Sarraghtoga." The decree was confirmed eight years later, but omitted the Town of Albany as well as making other minor changes. ["Albany County, New York," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albany_County,_New_York, citing Howell and Tenney] Eleven other counties subdivided the remainder of the Province of New York. [Reynolds, p. 83] Of course, the current Albany County is much smaller than the original.

6 February 1694: King Charles II died and the Duke of York and Albany became King James II, causing the Province to become a royal holding. [Reynolds, p. 83]

22 July 1686: Gov. Dongan chartered the City of Albany. The Van Rensselaer family was required to abandon any claims to the city. [Reynolds, pp. v, xxv, xxvii, 84-87]

The subsequent evolution of Albany County is described in the section "Timeline of Boundary Changes," in ["Albany County, New York," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albany_County,_New_York].


Annex: The Connecticut Trading Post

1650: The post at the mouth of the Connecticut River eventually moved upstream to Fort Goede Hoop (current Hartford). Because it became surrounded by English settlement, it became increasingly English and was ceded to the Province of Connecticut in 1650. [Gehring, p. xvi]

Annex: The Delaware Trading Post

ca. 1626: The Delaware outpost was on Burlington Island in the Delaware River (then called the "South River"). It was abandoned when the Walloons were moved to Manhattan. A new outpost was constructed as Fort Nassau (near current Gloucester, NJ). [Gehring, p. xvi]

1638: Sweden established trading posts on the western bank, preventing furs from reaching Fort Nassau. [Gehring, p. xvi]

1651: Peter Stuyvesant dismantled Fort Nassau and built Fort Casimir, south of the Swedish posts, on the west bank of the river. [Gehring, p. xvi]

ca.1654: The Swedes captured Fort Casimir. [Gehring, p. xvi]

1655: Stuyvesant conquered New Sweden. Fort Casimir was later renamed Fort Amstel. [Gehring, p. xvi]


Gehring, Charles T., "Introduction" to Fort Orange Court Minutes, 1652-1660, Vol XVI, part two, New Netherland Documents Series (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, n.d.), https://www.newnetherlandinstitute.org/files/5414/0284/1848/Fort_Orange_Court_Minutes_1652-1660.pdf.

Reynolds, Cuyler, compiler. Chronicles: A History of the City Arranged Chronologically, from the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time; Illustrated with Many Historical Pictures of Rarity and Reproductions of the Robert C. Pruyn Collection of the Mayors of Albany, Owned by the Albany Institute and Historical and Art Society, Albany, N.Y.: J. B. Lyon Company, printers, 1906.

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The "Memory" on this page could be posted into the page text instead.

The Cuyler Reynolds book cited is no longer available at HathiTrust. It is at several other online locations. New citation:

posted by Ellen Smith
Both suggestions have been implemented.
posted by Jim Moore

Categories: Albany, New York