Today, the Huguenot-Walloon Silver Half Dollar coin remembers the courage of the March 30, 1624 as the Dutch settlers headed for Nieuw Nederland on the ship Nieuw Nederland.
In the early 1620s, a group of powerful merchants formed the West India Company with a twenty-four-year monopoly from the Dutch government on all trade with West Africa, the Caribbean, and the Americas.
The directors of the WIC, the Lords Nineteen, decided to start a permanent colony in the region where the New Netherland Company had held its charter.
In March 1624, the ship New Netherland left the Dutch Republic with thirty emigrant families aboard, mainly Walloon refugees from present-day Belgium. These colonists formed the nucleus of the future Dutch presence in the area.
In the book, Narratives of New Netherland, 1609-1664, Father Isaac Jogues described this new settlement in 1646:
New Holland, which the Dutch call in Latin Novum Belgium — in their own language, Nieuw Nederland, that is to say, New Low Countries — is situated between Virginia and New England.
The mouth of the river, which some people call Nassau, or the Great North River, to distinguish it from another which they call the South River, and which I think is called Maurice River on some maps that I have recently seen, is at 40 deg. 30 min.
The channel is deep, fit for the largest ships, which ascend to Manhattes Island, which is seven leagues in circuit, and on which there is a fort to serve as the commencement of a town to be built here, and to be called New Amsterdam.
This fort, which is at the point of the island, about five or six leagues from the [river’s] mouth, is called Fort Amsterdam; it has four regular bastions, mounted with several pieces of artillery. All these bastions and the curtains were, in 1643, but mounds, most of which had crumbled away, so that one entered the fort on all sides.
There were no ditches. For the garrison of the said fort, and another which they had built still further up against the incursions of the savages, their enemies, there were sixty soldiers.
They were beginning to face the gates and bastions with stone. Within the fort there was a pretty large stone church, the house of the Governor, whom they call Director General, quite neatly built of brick, the storehouses and barracks.
On the island of Manhate, and in its environs, there may well be four or five hundred men of different sects and nations: the Director General told me that there were men of eighteen different languages; they are scattered here and there on the river, above and below, as the beauty and convenience of the spot has invited each to settle: some mechanics however, who ply their trade, are ranged under the fort; all the others are exposed to the incursions of the natives, who in the year 1643, while I was there, actually killed some two score Hollanders, and burnt many houses and barns full of wheat.
The river, which is very straight, and runs due north and south, is at least a league broad before the fort.
Ships lie at anchor in a bay which forms the other side of the island, and can be defended by the fort.
Shortly before I arrived there, three large ships of 300 tons each had come to load wheat; two found cargoes, the third could not be loaded, because the savages had burnt a part of the grain.
These ships had come from the West Indies, where the West India Company usually keeps up seventeen ships of war.
No religion is publicly exercised but the Calvinist, and orders are to admit none but Calvinists, but this is not observed; for besides the Calvinists there are in the colony Catholics, English Puritans, Lutherans, Anabaptists, here called Mnistes, etc.
When any one comes to settle in the country, they lend him horses, cows, etc. ; they give him provisions, all which he returns as soon as he is at ease; and as to the land, after ten years he pays to the West India Company the tenth of the produce which he reaps.
This country is bounded on the New England side by a river which they call the Fresche River, which serves as a boundary between them and the English.
The English, however, come very near to them, choosing to hold lands under the Hollanders, who ask nothing, rather than depend on the English Milords, who exact rents, and would fain be absolute.
On the other side, southward, towards Virginia, its limits are the river which they call the South River, on which there is also a Dutch settlement, but the Swedes have one at its mouth extremely well supplied with cannons and men.
It is believed that these Swedes are maintained by some Amsterdam merchants, who are not satisfied that the West India Company should alone enjoy all the commerce of these parts.
It is near this river that a gold mine is reported to have been found.
It is about fifty years since the Hollanders came to these parts.
The fort was begun in the year 1615; they began to settle about twenty years ago, and there is already some little commerce with Virginia and New England.
The first comers found lands fit for use, deserted by the savages, who formerly had fields here.
Those who came later have cleared the woods, which are mostly oak. The soil is good. Deer hunting is abundant in the fall.
There are some houses built of stone; lime they make of oyster shells, great heaps of which are found here, made formerly by the savages, who subsist in part by that fishery.
The climate is very mild. Lying at 40° there are many European fruits, as apples, pears, cherries. I reached there in October, and found even then a considerable quantity of peaches.
Ascending the river to the 43d degree, you meet the second [Dutch] settlement, which the tide reaches but does not pass. Ships of a hundred and a hundred and twenty tons can come up to it.
There are two things in this settlement (which is called Renselaerswick, as if to say, settlement of Renselaers, who is a rich Amsterdam merchant) — first, a miserable little fort called Fort Orenge, built of logs, with four or five pieces of Breteuil cannon, and as many pedereros.
This has been reserved and is maintained by the West India Company.
This fort was formerly on an island in the river; it is now on the mainland, towards the Hiroquois, a little above the said island.
Secondly, a colony sent here by this Renselaers, who is the patron. This colony is composed of about a hundred persons, who reside in some twenty-five or thirty houses built along the river, as each found most convenient.
In the principal house lives the patron’s agent; the minister has his apart, in which service is performed.
There is also a kind of bailiff here, whom they call the seneschal, who administers justice.
All their houses are merely of boards and thatched, with no mason work except the chimneys.
The forest furnishing many large pines, they make boards by means of their mills, which they have here for the purpose.
They found some pieces of ground all ready, which the savages had formerly cleared, and in which they sow wheat and oats for beer, and for their horses, of which they have great numbers.
There is little land fit for tillage, being hemmed in by hills, which are poor soil.
This obliges them to separate, and they already occupy two or three leagues of country.
Trade is free to all ; this gives the Indians all things cheap, each of the Hollanders outbidding his neighbor, and being satisfied provided he can gain some little profit.
This settlement is not more than twenty leagues from the Agniehronons, who can be reached by land or water, as the river on which the Iroquois lie, falls into that which passes by the Dutch; but there are many low rapids, and a fall of a short half league, where the canoe must be carried.
The Huguenot-Walloon Silver Half Dollar Coin shows with an artistic view of New Amsterdam, circa 1778.