Dutch and Swedes Arrive

Early Settlement of Pennsylvania

The Indians of Pennsylvania — [Four] hundred years ago the region now known as Pennsylvania had never felt the tread of a [European person's] foot. White settlers had come to other parts of the country, but here dwelt only the [Native Americans], those natives of the land whom we call Indians. Chief among these were those known as Delawares, from the river on which they dwelt, but who called themselves the Lenni- Lenapes. The tribe of the Delawares was divided into three sections, or sub-tribes, the Minsi, or Minisink, the Unami, and the Unalachtigo, which had respectively for totems the wolf, the turtle, and the turkey. The Unami, or Turtle, section dwelt on the site of Philadelphia. Other tribes, separate from the Delawares, were the Susquehannocks, the Nanticokes, and the Eries, who lived farther west.

The Peaceful Delawares — The [European] settlers of Pennsylvania had most to do with the Delawares, who, by good fortune, were a peaceful people. They had been conquered by the warlike Iroquois of New York and forced by them to keep peace with all the tribes. Instead of making war they were to till the soil as women did, and to them was given the care of "the great belt of peace." At a later date another tribe, called the Shawnees, came to Pennsylvania, a few of them at first, but eventually there were many of them in the province. Such were the native tribes found by William Penn and his Quaker friends when they crossed the ocean to America.

Visitors before the Quakers — The Quakers were not the first [Europeans] to reach Pennsvlvania. Others were there before them. When we speak of how this province was settled we are apt to think first of William Penn, but long before he came many settlers had reached this locality. The history of these early settlers must be told before we speak of Penn. There were Swedes, Dutch, and English, about each of whom there is something to tell. The first man to sail up the Delaware was a Dutch captain named Hendrickson, who in 1616 went up this fine river as far as the mouth of the Schuylkill.

He was much pleased with what he saw there, for he had found a beautiful land, with a great forest full of deer, turkeys and partridges, and with vines clambering up the trees. There was also a Captain Mey, from whom Cape May got its name, who in 1623 sailed up the river and built a fort at a point four miles below the site of Philadelphia. This he named Fort Nassau. In 1630 a small party of Dutch settled near the lower end of Delaware. But a foolish quarrel soon put an end to their settlement.

They had painted the arms of Holland on a piece of tin and hung it up on a tree. An Indian took it down to make a tobacco pipe, and for this he was killed, either by the Dutch or by the members of his tribe in consequence of the angry protests of the settlers, to whom the act of the ignorant native, who knew nothing about the arms of Holland, seemed an insult to their country. The death of the Indian was quickly avenged by his friends, who attacked the settlement and killed every person in it. Thus ended in crime and blood the first settlement on the Delaware [River].

The Coming of the Swedes — It was not long before new settlers came. In 1637 two small vessels set sail from Sweden [arriving in 1638], loaded with Swedes and Finns, who sought a new home on the banks of the South River—as the Dutch called the Delaware. They were led by Peter Minuit, a Dutchman, who knew the country well, for he had been governor of the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam. He bought from the Indians all the land on the west shore of the Delaware as far up as the mouth of the Schuylkill, built a fort where Wilmington now stands, and named it Fort Christina, in honor of the Queen of Sweden.

A new governor, named Hollender, came in 1641, and bought from the Indians a large tract of land along the river, and in 1643 there came a third governor, named Johan Printz, who built himself a fine mansion and a strong fort on Tinicum Island, a few miles below Philadelphia, and lived there in much style. The Swedes called their colony New Sweden and claimed all the land on the west side of the Delaware from Cape Henlopen to Trenton Falls. They also claimed the east side from Cape May to Mantua Creek, nearly opposite Chester. They traded for furs with the Indians, planted wheat, rye, and tobacco, and built forts for defense.

The End of New Sweden — Bv 1650 the Swedes had a thriving settlement. Much land was cleared and planted, they had plenty of fruit, grain, and cattle, and built a mill on Cobb's Creek, which was kept busy grinding their grain. But the Dutch of New Amsterdam had been first on the ground, had built forts and bought land from the Indians, and though they had not settled the country they did not like to see the wav the Swedish Colony was growing. So they collected a little fleet with an army of about six hundred men and in August, 1655, set sail for the [Delaware] River. This was not a very large army, but the Swedes, not being strong enough to fight, gave up to the Dutch without firing a shot or striking a blow. They were left on their farms under the rule of Holland and the colony of New Sweden came to an end.

Relics of New Sweden — The settlements of the Swedes lay along the west side of the river from New Castle, in Delaware, to the site of Philadelphia. They had built a church on Tinicum Island in 1646, and a church was built about 1669 at Wicaco in what is now southern Philadelphia. This was rebuilt in later years, and still stands, known as the Gloria Dei, or Old Swedes Church. They had a small town at Upland—now Chester—and here their first courts were held, the first jury sat, and the first highway was built.

The English Claim — New changes were soon to come, for the English also claimed this region. In 1664 an English fleet appeared before New Amsterdam, the Dutch settlement on Manhattan Island, took it without firing a gun, and named it New York. Then they sent two ships to the Delaware and took the settlement there also, but not until some Dutch soldiers had been killed and wounded. This was the first bloodshed in all the quarrels of the [Europeans] in that region. The Swedes were quite willing to come under English rule, and so were the Dutch, for they were well treated by their new masters, their farms left in their hands, and all their officers left in their posts. There were not many of them, probably only a few hundred in all, and they were widely scattered along the river. New Castle was the centre of government and Upland the place of next importance. Philadelphia was still only a region of farms.

— History Of Pennsylvania by Charles Morris (1913)

 

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