Exploring Albany's inglorious past and dubious future

Jed’s Historical Fragments #252: adulterers and The Whale of 1647

Extraordinary Session, July 24, 1682.

Philipp Schuyler complains of misbehavior by Indians. Conference with the chiefs about it and payment by them of all damages.

Cornet Pr. Schuyler ordered to arrest a negro, who has killed the children of his master, Jacob Caspersen, and severely wounded Hans Dreper.

August 3, 1682.

Abraham Staets and Gerrit Ryersen report that the orchard of Albert Andriessen Bratt (supra, p. 277) is capable of producing 150 schepels of apples yearly.

The negro of Jacob Caspersen has been found dead; his body to be hanged up.

Extraordinary Session, August 14, 1682.

On the complaint of Antho. Lespinard, Isaak Caspersen is put under bonds to keep the peace.

William Teller, Jan Becker, Pr. Ph. Schuyler, Isaak Verplank, Luykas the baker, Aernout Cornelissen (Viele) and Constable Albert Ryknran appointed assessors of a tax of 1,100 beavers (8,800fl or $3,520) and sworn in.

Seats on the first bench in the new gallery of the church allotted.

Order for collecting the money to pay Marcelis Jansen for keeping the rattlewatch.

Captain Schuyler is paid damages by the Indian, who has wounded his negro.

September 5, 1682.

Jurian Teunissen (Tappen) vs. Barent Ackerstaff, debt.

Harmen Rutigers vs. Jurian Teunissen (Tappen), transfer of houses bought.

Jacob Flodder (Gardinier) vs. Carsten Frederiksen (van Iveren), debt since 1663, continued.

John Gilbert vs. Claes Willemsen, return of a horse, continued.

William Pietersen wan Sleyk vs. Jan Cornelissen Vyselaer (Gow), transfer of land bought at auction; jury trial.

Andries Jacobsen Gardenier vs. Geertruy Vosburgh, damage to a pig.

Geertruy Hieronimus vs. Jan Juriansen Becker, damages for having been accidentally shot by defendant’s son, continued.

Richard Pretty vs. Teunis van der Poel, debt, continued.

Teunis van der Poel vs. Richard Pretty, debt, continued.

Sheriff Richard Pretty vs. Dirk Albertsen Bratt, disobedience to orders by keeping fire in his house after it had been condemned.

Request of Andries Teller for permission to take his goods, sold to Jan Conell and not paid, out of the estate, deferred until the return of Gabriel Thomson, one of the administrators.

Order directing inhabitants of Kinderhook to repair the road leading past Greenbush, and fence in their burial place.

Order relating to the bridge over Stoenehoex kil (supra, p. 292).

Extraordinary Session, September 19, 1682.

Captain Phil. Schuyler, Adriaen Gerritsen, Johannes Wendell and Lawrence van Alen nominated for magistrates; Johannes Provoost and Peter Winne elected delegates to the Court of Assizes; the credentials of the latter (English).

October 3, 1682.

Geertruy Hieronknus vs. Jan Becker (supra. p. 310); jury trial.

Pr. Meussen (Vrooman) vs. Ida Barents, pay for boards taken without authority.

Same vs. Pr. Schuyler, pay for boards taken without authority.

R. Livingston, as attorney for Pr. Schuyler, vs. Jacob Claessen, breach of contract.

Jacob Claussen vs. Andries and Hend. Jacobsen Gardenier, debt.

Ludovicus Cobes vs. Teunis van der Poel, pay for services.

Lawrence van Alle, Jan Tyssen. Jacob and Isaac Vosburgh vs. Andries Jacobsen Gardenier, trespass.

Jacob and Isaac Vosburgh and Lawrence van Ale vs. Jan Tyssen, division of property held in common at Kinderhook, continued.

Carsten Frederiksen (van Iveren) vs. Jacob Janssen Flodder (Gardinier), debt.

Jacob Janssen Flodder vs. Carsten Frederiksen (van Iveren), debt.

William Pietersen van Sleyk asks for execution of sentence vs. Jan Gow (supra, p. 310).

November 7, 1682.

Captain Philipp Schuyler attaches property of Jan de Lavall. as administrator of his father, in hands of Mr. Cregier; Aernout Cornelissen Viele and Sybrant van Schayck, his bondsmen.

Myndert Frederik (van Iveren) vs. Cornelis Michielsen, debt.

Jan Gow vs. William van Sleyk to take the land as sold; jury trial (six jurors).

Johannes Appel vs. Claes Ripsen (van Dam) and Claes Jacobsen Rotterdam, breach of contract.

Jacob Phoenix vs. his wife, Niesie Yabrants, adultery with Cornelis Michielsen, the baker; jury trial, Thomas Craven, Jan Bronk. Dominie Schaets, Abraham van Tricht, Gerrit van Ness, Yabrant Ellis, Niesle’s father, witnesses.

Cornelis Michielsen to be arrested.

Melgert Abrahamsen and Claes Petten report on the division of property at Kinderhook (supra, p. 318).

Extraordinary Session, November 8, 1682.

Major Abraham Staes complains that Cornelis Michielsen has called him a perjured scoundrel, and asks that Jacob Fenix and Tom Craven be examined on the charge; done.

Myndert Frederiksen (van Iveren) attaches the property of Cornelis Michieisen.

Niesie Isebrants confesses her guilt and asks for pardon.

Proclamation calling for the return of Niesie Isebrants and Cornelis Michielsen, escaped from jail.
Klinkenbergh, November 15, 1682.

Return of Sheriff Pretty. that he has attached the property of Cornelis Michielsen.

Albany, November 22 1682.

Order, directing the Fireguardians with the constables to inspect all places where hay or other inflammable material may be stored.

December 5, 1683.

Wynant Gerritsen (van der Poe!) vs. Jan Buys. breach of contract; continued.

Peter Schuyler, as deacon, complains of the bad behavior of old Claes Janssen, the carpenter, who gets drunk every day; he is placed under guardianship of Harmen Gansvoort and Wourter Albertsen.

Myndert Frederiksen (van Iveren) proves his claim on Klinkenbergh, Cornelis Michielsen’s farm.

Jan Roeloffsen, alias de Goyer, regrets having ill-used his wife, Baefie Pieters, and promises a better life.

Fireguardians and constables report who should move his hay, etc. (supra, p. 336): order thereon.

A horse attached by the sheriff for having caused the death of Hend. Rooseboom’s child. to be returned to its owner. Hendrik van Ness.

Sheriff Pretty reports on his unsuccessful trip to Klinkenbergh to arrest Cornelis Michielsen, who refused to come and ran into the woods.

Sheriff Pretty directed to impanel a coroner’s jury on the child of French couple, lately came from Canada and living at the house of Mr. Wilson; verdict, natural death.

Extraordinary Session, December 19, 1682.

Yearly letter to be written to inform Capt. Brockholes, that the 14 Mohawks, who went to Maryland, have been very well treated by Lord Baltimore at the house of Col. Coursey, but that 9 of them have died on the return journey, whom their comrades suspect to have been poisoned by Maryland Indians.

Deep snow.

Dominie Bernardus Arentsen, minister of the Lutheran congregation, complains of having been insulted while discharging his duties. by Manus Borgersen; Evert Luykassen, one of his elders, Harmen Gansevoort, witnesses. Manus Borgersen asks for forgiveness.

An Early Fish Story.

Aside from the “great fire,” described recently, perhaps the most exciting piece of news in the old Albany during the years 1681-2 was the announcement made in December, 1681, that “a great fish or whale is stranded near Catskil.” An “extraordinary session’’ of the magistrates’ court was at once called to consider the matter, and the court minutes show that “Constable R. Sanders and three horsemen are sent there to take possession of it.” It was only natural that this report should cause great excitement among the ancient burghers, for in a community which depended solely upon “tallow dips” for illumination, the prospects of a glut in the whale oil market was welcome

The ‘‘ouders’” of the place remembered distinctly the stranding of a whale on “Cahoos” island thirty-four years before during a freshet in the river, when all of the Dutch families were plentifully supplied with the coveted oil for years. The magistrates of Albany lost no time in sending the constable to take possession of the whale. In a case of this kind speed was an important factor, for the reason that if the magistrates at Kingston should hear of the occurrence, the whale might be surreptitiously towed down the river far enough to come within the jurisdiction of Esopus. Hence “Constable R. Sanders and three horsemen” started post haste for Catskill. It may be imagined that their return was looked for with anxiety. But, alas! for human calculations! They found no whale. Some old Dutchman, who appreciated a joke, had spread the rumor that a whale had stranded at Catskill. Whether the magistrates expressed their disgust in a formal way is unknown, but a marginal note in the old book of records contains just four words: “Information was a lie.” The scribe was apparently too disgusted to give the particulars, and the name of the perpetrator of this first practical joke in Albany’s history is lost.

The Whale of 1647.

The winter of 1646-7 In the colony of Rensselaerwyck was remarkably long and severe, the river having closed on the 24th of November, and remained frozen for four months. A very high freshet resulted in the spring of 1647, which destroyed a number of horses in their stables; nearly carried away the fort, which was located on what is now steamboat square, and inflicted considerable other damage in the colony. “A certain fish of considerable size, snow white in color, round in the body, and blowing water out of its head,” made at the same time his appearance, stemming the impetuous flood. What it portended, “God the Lord only knew.” All the inhabitants were lost in wonder, for “at the same instant that this fish appeared to us, we had the first thunder and lightning this year.” In those days of superstition every event out of the ordinary was invariably credited to supernatural agencies. The public astonishment had scarcely subsided, when still another monster of the deep, estimated at forty feet in length, was seen, of a brown color, having fins on his back, and ejecting water, after the manner of the first strange visitor, high in the air. Some seafaring people, “who had been to Greenland,” now pronounced the monster a whale. Intelligence was shortly after received that it had grounded on an island at the mouth of the Mohawk, and the people, whose superstitious fears did not always stand in the way of turning an honest penny, made haste to secure the prize, which was forthwith subjected to the process of roasting, in order to extract its oil. Though large quantities were obtained, yet so great was the mass of blubber, the river was covered with grease for three weeks afterward and the oil market was completely glutted. As the fish decayed the stench was perceptibly offensive “for two (Dutch) miles to leeward.” The whale, which had first ascended the river, stranded on his return to sea, on an island some forty miles from the mouth of the river, near which four others grounded the same year.

Tale of the Whale.

About forty years ago [note: remember, this column is from 1905], Benjamin M. Mall, Esq., celebrated the stranding of the whale of 1647 in verse, which was printed in “Our Young Follies,” a magazine published by Ticknor & Fields, Boston. The verses are as follows:

When Peter the Headstrong, of stubbornest will,
Was sent out from Holland, commissioned to fill
In New Netherlands province a governor’s chair,
The people all knew by his obstinate air,
By the stamp of his foot and the wag of his head,
That he meant to be minded in all that he said;
And that naught but the soberest, solemnest fun
Would ever find vent from this son of a gun.
Descended from captains, he too in the fight
Had led on to glory, but never for flight.
And in reaching the former by acting, not talking,
Had lost an extremity needed in walking.
By closely observing, his people soon learned
To compass his movements, wherever he turned
For the index that showed what old Peter intended
Was not in his face, but the limb that was mended.
So they watched with sly glances the silver-clad peg
That served as a mate to his natural leg,
And whenever, in argument, down came the stump,
And smote on the floor with a resonant thump,
Not a tongue further wagged, but, with looks mild and meek,
The Dutchmen all listened for Peter to speak.
Still they liked the old hard-headed, obstinate soldier,
For than he none e’er lived who was kinder or bolder,
And during his reign all his subjects rich gat,
While their faces grew broad and their bellies waxed fat.

One morn, at Manhattan, this governor great
Sat weighing in council grave matters of state,
When a stout-bodied Dutchman bounced into the room.
On whose face were depicted the terrors of doom.
“Your highness,” he said, having got back his breath,
“I have seen, God preserve us! a portent of death.
Just now in the river that flows by our town
Appeared a great monster, whose color was brown;
My glass, as I raised it, was wanting in strength
To disclose to my vision his terrible length;
And then through his nostrils the water he threw
So high, that it fell not in rain but in dew;
And so swift did he rush ‘gainst the stream pouring down,
That he banked up the waters and flooded the town;
But he’s gone up the river, and much do I fear
That tidings of woe we directly shall hear.”

Then Peter called out, “Bring to me my state pipe
And a pound of tobacco; I don’t like the stripe
Of the tale which you tell, and must presently think;
For if at such pranks we should knowingly wink,
The Yanghees from Hartford perhaps will come next
With a Puritan parson, all sermon and text,
Bringing onions and rum to Manhattan’s fair isle,
And all sorts of notions our maids to beguile.”
For two hours and a quarter he silently smoked,
Till his councillors doughty were more than half choked;
Then, rising, in dignity calm and serene,
While his face through the smoke shot a rubicund gleam,
To the floor of the chamber he brought down his peg
And steadied himself on his flesh-and-blood leg;
Then looking around, with an air grand and grim,
Said aloud in firm tones, “Let the animal swim!”

So the animal swam ‘gainst the wind and the tide,
Caring not if the river were narrow or wide,
Rushing on like the tempest, and marking his path
With the terrible waves of his foam-breathing wrath.
As he passed by Fort Orange the gunner awoke:
“The Yanghees from Hartford!” was all that he spoke,
Then opened the gates, and, with breeches in hand
And pipe in his mouth, rendered up his command..
But soon ’mid the islands off Rensselaerswyck’s shore
The animal floundered and snorted and tore.
Stuck fast in a quicksand, unable to go,
He blew out his life in a chorus of woe,
While the Donderberg mountains reechoed his pain,
And rolled out their thunder o’er valley and plain.

As spring floods subsided, the yeomanry came
To see the great monster without any name;
Among them a skipper, renowned on the sea,
With a knowledge of fishes like Barnum, P. T.
This skipper climbed up on the animal’s back,
Then wandered about on a varying tack,
Pulled away at his flippers, examined his tail,
And said to the Dutchmen, “This here is a whale.”
As when in years later, obedient to fate,
The rocks flowed with oil in a neighboring state.
And hundreds forsook their homes, firesides and friends
For the spot where the stream of petroleum wends,
So now from the hillsides, the plains, and the town
The people all came where the animal brown
Lay dead on the quicksand, with hatchets and saws,
And axes and cleavers, and meat-hooks and claws,
Determined to turn to their own private use
What before they had thought was a public abuse,
Prepared in great kettles his blubber to boil,
And try the great whale into barrels of oil.

At the end of a month from the time they began.
The oil ceased to flow, which so freely had ran.
Of the whale naught remained but his carcass and spine,
On which crows came to breakfast and oft stayed to dine.
An account which was kept showed the end of this toil
To be seventy-nine barrels five pipkins of oil.
Then light was increased, and spread through the land
Springing forth from the whale lying dead on the strand;
And down to this day in some houses they show
The oil which kind Providence once did bestow;
For the vessels in which it was placed, like the cruise
Of the widow. ne’er lessened, though ever in use;
And the good vrouws felt certain that oil would abound
If the vessels that held it were kept clean and sound.

But the ghost of the whale lingers still round the spot
Where they tried out his blubber tn caldron and pot.
And in spring. when the ice in the river goes down,
And rushes in torrents past Albany town,
When the water submerges the docks and the street,
And boats take the highway intended for feet,
Then often dread blows break the silence of night,
And the children start up with a terrible fright,
And mammas in their night caps look ghastly with fear,
As the sound from the river falls full on the ear.
Well the old burghers know that the wandering shade
Of the monster is roving and will not be laid.
And though ages have passed since he gave his last groan,
And no vestige remains of his vertebrate bone,
Still the noise of those blows, as it breaks on the sense,
Makes the breathing come hard, and the muscles grow tense;
For then in mid-river the ghost of the whale
Is flapping in madness his horrible tail.

3 Responses to “Jed’s Historical Fragments #252: adulterers and The Whale of 1647”

    • alcue

      You’re welcome to link to my blog, but I barely have enough energy to feed it, save alone spreading it around. Nice site, btw.


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