The Dutch Settlements at Minisink

This map project on the Roads and Trails of Colonial America started  by questioning what routes the immigrant ancestors used during their southern and western migrations. The assumption was that our earliest immigrant ancestors were limited to the waterways which accessed the coast and an occasional Indian path. And for the most part, that was true, However, further research proves that the Native population used trails and routes extensively to travel and trade throughout the hinterland and even to the coast. The challenge was for our early ancestors to identify the many routes and survive the journey.

From Kingston to Port Jervis NY:
-Starting on Esopus Creek at the Wiltwyck DRC Church in Kingston NY, the road rises up to a gap west of the Shawangunk Mountains
-Passing through Hurley, Marbletown, Stone Ridge, Accord, Kerhonkson, Wawarsing, Napanoch, Ellenville, and Phillipsport (vic. Summitville NY)
-Then the road descends through Wurtsboro, West Brookville, Cuddebackville, and Port Clinton before arriving at the confluence of Neversink Creek and the Delaware River at what is now Port Jervis NY and the Machackemeck (Deer Park) DRC Church.

From Port Jervis NY to the Pahaquarry Mines and Smithfield TWP PA:
-Starting at Port Jervis NY the road follows the east bank of the Delaware River, crossing into New Jersey
-Passing through Montague and the Minisink DRC Church
-Past Dingmans Ferry which provides access to Wayne (now Pike) Co PA
-Past the Walpack DRC Church before ascending Walpack Hill to Flatbrookville
-Then southwest along the Delaware to the Pahaquarry Mines
-West across the ford/ ferry to Smithfield TWP Bucks (now Monroe) Co PA and the Smithfield DRC Church.

(After 1740) From Smithfield TWP, Bucks (now Monroe) Co PA to Philadelphia PA down the Bethlehem Pike.

a. The Dutch Culture of Esopus Creek, New York

Research Note: Esopus is a creek on the west bank of the Hudson River. The settlement of Esopus grew up along the creek, south of its confluence with the Hudson, where a narrow ridge of the Marlboro Mountains separates the Esopus from the larger Rondout Kill.

Also located on Esopus Creek, Wiltwyck was the stockade erected in 1658/59 around a small square of buildings at the original settlement of Esopus. The stockade was necessitated by increased tensions with the local Esopus Indians. And, settlers outside the stockade were coerced to move inside its walls for safety. On 6/7/1663. the Esopus Indians stealthfully infiltrated the stockade before attacking the inhabitants. [Battle of Wiltwyck]

In 1664 the Dutch colonies in North America were captured by a fleet sent by the Duke of York and were renamed New York. By 1667, Esopus/ Wiltwyck came under English administrative control. But, this was not very popular with the folks at Esopus. And, the English renamed the settlement Kingston.

Our Dutch ancestors sailed from the Dutch Republic and the cities of the Hanseatic League to New Amsterdam and Dutch America for many reasons. And once here, they went about their lives, continuing Dutch culture and the Dutch language in America. However, an English fleet sent by the Duke of York seized New Amsterdam and all of Dutch America in 1664. And, most inhabitants began their transformation into good English citizens, shedding Dutch culture and adopting the English language. But, not all.

Consider the inhabitants of Esopus/ Kingston in Ulster Co NY. Our folks in Kingston lived on the same lands warranted by the Dutch colony. They attended the same Dutch Reformed Church whose services were in the Dutch language. And, few intermarried with their new English countrymen. Despite becoming the subjects of a different nation whose citizens spoke a different language, our folks continued their lives relatively unchanged. But, for how long?

Because our Dutch families are found in later generations in the Pennsylvania Colony, one could assume that our folks from Kingston migrated west along with their new English countrymen, melting into English colonial society, becoming more like the English over time. This eventually happened but not for a long, long time.

From evidence found in the records, it appears that our Dutch ancestors migrated out of their ethnic Dutch settlement at Esopus/ Kingston NY to the wild frontier of the Delaware Valley. And, this would have been consistent with later westward migrations by the same families in subsequent generations. But, appearances can be deceiving. In truth, these families simply migrated to the outer fringe of their original community, continuing to be connected to their original Dutch settlement and culture. In effect, these families didn't become Anglicized until 100 years after the English captured New Amsterdam.

b. Migrating to Minisink: the Old Mine Road

There are many references to Minisink and the Delaware Water Gap from before contact with the Colony of Pennsylvania c. 1729:

The "Minisink country" consists of the valley of the Neversink, west of the Shawangunk Mountains, and the Delaware valley, as far as the Delaware Water Gap. The first settlements of which authentic knowledge can be ascertained were made about 1690. . .

    "Minisink Valley Dutch Reformed Church Records," Collections of the New York Genealogical Society vol 5, 1913, p. iii.

All of the early settlements made in the valley of the Minisink were by persons residing on the Hudson, in and about Esopus and New Paltz, and they were almost exclusively of low Dutch or Holland origin, and found their way into this valley by the old Mine road. . .

    "Smithfield Township," History of Wayne, Pike and Monroe Counties, Pennsylvania, 1886, p. 1050.

When our Dutch families of Esopus/ Kingston and Ulster Co NY began their westward migration, they simply had to walk south on the Old Mine Road:

Historians disagree on how and when the the Old Mine Road was built. Many postulated that the road was commissioned by the Dutch Colonial Government (prior to 1664) to access mines on the east side of the Delaware at Pahaquarry TWP in what is now Warren Co NJ across from Smithfield TWP in what is now Monroe Co PA.

This is what we know:

In about 1729, the Pennsylvania Colony found out that their northern territories along the Delaware River were inhabited by White Europeans; as "that settlement was formed a long time before it was know to the Government in Philadelphia." (Minisink, p. i.) Effectively, the English Colony of Pennsylvania and, to no surprise, the English Colony of New Jersey had no idea what the English Colony of New York was doing along the Delaware River. 

The Pennsylvania Colony's Government's reaction was a blanket cancellation of any land warrant not issued from Philadelphia. But, many of our Dutch ancestors had warrants whose roots predated William Penn's Pennsylvania Charter from 1681.

So in 1730, the Pennsylvania Colony sent a team of surveyors including Nicholas Scull and James Lukens, his assistant, north beyond Easton in what was then Bucks Co PA to "investigate the facts." After struggling up through the Delaware Water Gap, the team burst out of the wilderness and came upon plowed fields and roads and villages. Thoroughly amazed, the team sought out the inhabitants.

Unable to speak with the local inhabitants, the team used their Indian guides to translate for them in order to speak with the White people they encountered. Imagine a conversation translated from English to the Indian tongue and then to Dutch and then back.

In an exceptionally well documented interview from the 1730 survey, Samuel DePuis of Smithfield Township related that the Old Mine Road had been there from before his time. Samuel, who had no knowledge of the Delaware River below the Delaware Water Gap or the route to Philadelphia, stated that, in Winter when the river was frozen, he took the road, starting across the Delaware at the mines, going north for about 100 miles to Esopus Creek at Kingston NY where he traded his goods. And in truth, that's how the original settlers reached the Minisink country, inhabiting its environs for forty years before the government in Philadelphia knew they were there.

Research Note: Studying antique maps, I did not find a road from East Jersey near Hackensack past the Blue Mountains to the Delaware until 1822. However, I did find a road from Perth Amboy to Easton on the Delaware by 1756. Although East and West Jersey were united politically by 1702, there would never be a united New Jersey until the connecting roads were constructed.

Our ethnic Dutch ancestors from New York are found along both sides of the Delaware Valley in New Jersey and Pennsylvania:

1. The Daniel DeVoor family of Hackensack, Bergen Co NJ migrated by 3/1723 to Ulster Co NY. Then migrated before 9/1724 to vic. Paulins Kill, Hunterdon (now Sussex) Co NJ.
2. The Hendrick Joachem Schoonmaker family of Rochester, Ulster Co NY migrated 1732 to Smithfield TWP, Bucks (now Monroe) Co PA.
3. Joseph Hendricksen Hains of Ulster Co NY migrated c. 1732 in the company of the Schoonmaker family to Smithfield TWP, Bucks (now Monroe) Co PA.

Having arrived in the Minisink country, our folks did what settlers do: they built homes, tended farms, and raised children. And, their Dutch religion was an important part of their lives.

c. The Dutch Reformed Church at Minisink

From the 1660s through the 1730s and 1740s, the Dutch Reformed Church at Kingston was the only church which supported the many settlers inhabiting the Minisink country for a distance of 100 miles. Eventually, there would be new churches. And in turn, each of the four churches would in one way or another be known as the Church at Minisink. So, let us de-conflict the many names for the four Churches:

1. The Mahackemeck Church was organized in 1743 and was located at Port Jervis, Orange Co  NY.
2. The Minisink Church was organized in 1737 and was located at Montague, Sussex Co NJ.
3. The Walpack Church was organized in 1741 and was located north of Flatbrookville, Sussex Co  NJ.
4. The Smithfield Church aka the Old Log Church was built in 1725, organized in 1737, and was located north of 'Shawnee on Delaware,' Bucks (now Monroe) Co PA. The Old Log Church fell to disrepair, and the congregation migrated to the Old Stone Church, eventually converting to the Presbyterian faith.

And as previously stated, our Dutch ancestors kept their Dutch culture and Dutch language for 100 years after the English conquest of the Dutch Colony in America. So, when was the change? Absorption by English culture can be fixed to the 1819 date where services in the Dutch Reformed Church at Walpack were conducted in English. Sorry for the underestimation. The actual timeframe was 155 years.

d. Tax Assessment List for the County of Ulster, 1716/17

The Freeholders Inhabitants Resident and Sojourners in the County of Ulster theire Reale and Psonall Estates are rated and assessed by the assessor (on theire Oaths) Chosen for the same and that on the 23d day of January in the third yeare of his Majesties Reigne Anno Dom 1716/7 viz+. . . 
Corporation of Kingston
Egbert Shoonmaker 240 
Geertruy Schoonmaker 220 
House of Nicolaes Anthony 5 

Town of Hurley
Hartman Heyn 5 

Towne of Marbletown
Nicolas Du puis 210

Town of Rochester
Jochem Schoonmaker 290 
Gerrit Decker 100
Cornelis Schoonmaker 35 
Frederik Schoonmaker 20 
Jan Gerritsen Decker Jun. 5 
Cornelis Du puis 10 
Town of New Palles 
Hendrick Jachemse Schoonmaker 15 

Precinct of Shawangonck 
Jacob Gerritsen Decker :40 

Neighbourhood of Wagachkemeck 
Thomas Swartwout :105 

Precinct of Highlands 
Jacob Weber 15 

Other
Jacob Decker
Nicolas Dupuis

Caveat

This site is provided for reference only. Except where specifically cited, information contained is conjecture and should not be considered as fact.
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