|Thomas Willett biographical notes (7)|
Thomas Willett was well adapted to trade with the Dutch of New Amsterdam. He had grown up in Leyden, Holland, and knew the language. He must have been well educated, and most likely attended a Dutch institution. He also had four years of experience in managing the fur trading outposts at Kennebec and Penoscot in what now is Maine.
“His first appearance in New Amsterdam was evidently in 1640, when he witnessed the purchase of 1600 pounds of tobacco by Director General Kieft; Willett seems to have had his confidence, as he later had that of Petrus Stuyvesant. In 1642, he bought an interest in a fifty-ton bark and started his career as a ship-owner. From that time until his death in 1674, he constantly appears in the New Netherlands and New York records, although retaining his interests in the Plymouth Colony and for a time holding public offices there” (Smith, page 44).
The Dutch were marvelous traders and ship owners. Their ships regularly traded up and down the coast and often were in the Cheaspeake [sic] Bay. Many of the Dutch citizens settled in English colonies, notably on the Eastern Shore in the colony of Virginia. Many of these Dutch were in reality the sons of Englishmen who had followed the Puritan exodus to the continent in the early 1600s. However, after one or two decades in Holland, the English had become so alike [sic] the Dutch that often they had to apply for English citizenship in the new world. And, the Dutch were suspicious of the English, particularly the English settlements in Long Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. This is where Willett, born in England, raised in Holland, was at his best, as an intermediator between the Dutch and the English.
“We find the record of Captain Thomas Willett, specially in his trade with New Amsterdam and the English towns. He acquired a remarkable degree the confidence of the Dutch, and also the Indians, as well as the English. When Governor Stuyvesant first arrived in New Amsterdam, in 1647, to succeed Governor Kieft, a spirit of intercolonial courtesy induced Governor Bradford, of Plymouth to write to Stuyvesant, under the date of April 3d, 1647, congratulating him on his safe arrival, and in the letter commending to the Dutch Governor, Thomas Willett and William Paddie as men who [sic] he could trust. Stuyvesant ac- [p. 7] cepted the recommendation, finding it in accord with the sentiment of New Amsterdam; and soon after appointed Captain Willett to represent the Dutch in a boundary commission between New Netherlands and Hartford. The English settlers were already in a large majority on Long Island, and had made settlement under the Dutch in what is now the town of Westchester, in Westchester County, as early as 1642, and the colonial government at Hartford was asserting territorial jurisdiction as far as the Hudson River.
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Updated Mar 2014
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