A Dutch Village on the American Frontier, 1652-1664

By Janny Venema

Subjects: New York/regional, History, American History
Paperback : 9780791460801, 528 pages, September 2003
Hardcover : 9780791460795, 528 pages, October 2003

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Table of contents





Problem defined
Historiography and definition
Method and sources


I: Constructing a village: material planning


Van Slichtenhorst, Rensselaerswijck, and the Indians
Planning a center for Rensselaerswijck
Development of Beverwijck
Constructions of general interest to the community


II: Beverwijck: Creating an orderly village


Beverwijck's society
Stabilizing factors in a new society: The state
Stabilizing factors in a new society: The church
A new environment: Contacts with Indians


III: The Van Rensselaers as commercial entrepreneurs


Trade in the upper Hudson
The Van Rensselaers and the trade
Place in the community; Life style


IV: Successful burghers


Dirck Jansz Croon
Pieter Hartgers
Volckert Jansz
Philip Pietersz Schuyler
Sander Leendertsz Glen


V: Busy workers


Blacksmiths and gunstock makers
Tavern keepers


VI: Strategies of survival


Living conditions
Poverty: definition and size
Organization of poor relief in Beverwijck
The poor in the community


Unpublished primary sources
List of maps and illustrations
Personal Name index
Geographical index
Curriculum Vitae

Paints a detailed picture of everyday life in an early American community.


Winner of the 2004 Annual Archives Award for Excellence in Research Using the Holdings of the New York State Archives presented by the Board of Regents and the New State York Archives

Beverwijck explores the rich history and Dutch heritage of one of North America's oldest cities—Albany, New York. Drawing on documents translated from the colonial Dutch as well as maps, architectural drawings, and English-language sources, Janny Venema paints a lively picture of everyday life in colonial America.

In 1652, Petrus Stuyvesant, director general of New Netherland, established a court at Fort Orange, on the west side of New York State's upper Hudson River. The area within three thousand feet of the fort became the village of Beverwijck. From the time of its establishment until 1664, when the English conquered New Netherland and changed the name of the settlement to Albany, Beverwijck underwent rapid development as newly wealthy traders, craftsmen, and other workers built houses, roads, bridges, and a school, as well as a number of inns. A well-organized system of poor relief also helped less wealthy settlers survive in the harsh colonial conditions. Venema's careful research shows that although Beverwijck resembled villages in the Dutch Republic in many ways, it quickly took on features of the new, "American" society that was already coming into being.

Janny Venema is a Project Associate at the New Netherland Project, which is responsible for translating the official records of the Dutch colony and promoting awareness of the Dutch role in American history.


"Janny Venema has written an exemplary work that sets a high standard for future research into the communities of New Netherland. As further Dutch records become available, it is to be hoped that other scholars will follow her impressive example and apply her thorough methodologies to many other areas of New Netherland." — The Weathercock

"…[Venema is] expertly qualified to write a well-researched and appropriately contextualized study of Beverwijck … [it] is a strong addition to New Netherland studies and will remain the most authoritative study of a Dutch community in seventeenth-century North America for considerable time." — H-Net Reviews (H-Low-Countries)

"…[Venema] has provided a service to those who work in New Netherland history by uncovering such vast amounts of significant and overlooked data, and by making a significant contribution to the continual revision of New Netherland history." — H-Net Reviews (H-Atlantic)

"As a native of Nijeveen, Netherlands, and a recent Albany resident, Venema brings unique talents to unearthing the story of early Albany … Beverwijck is highly recommended for people interested in Albany and New York history. It is also a valuable reference for people interested in the history of the American frontier, colonial women, entrepreneurs, religion and social policy." — Schenectady Sunday Gazette

"Beverwijck is a welcome addition to the growing body of literature, based largely on Dutch-language sources, about seventeenth-century New Netherland. Venema has amassed an impressive array of information and presented it in a logical and usable form … [This text] will undoubtedly find a place on many scholars' and libraries' shelves … as the preeminent reference work on the Dutch community of Beverwijck on the upper Hudson." — Itinerario

"A sweeping, groundbreaking book on the city's earliest history." — Albany Times Union