THE DUTCH SETTLERS
THE DUTCH SETTLERS
PRECOLONIAL HISTORY OF THE MILLSTONE RIVER VALLEY
CULTURE OF THE VALLEY
Dutch Culture in the Millstone River Valley
Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Manhattan were the principal source of settlers to take up land in the Millstone Valley and turn it into well- tended farms yielding abundance for themselves and great quantities of wheat to feed the growing East Coast cities. These Jersey Dutch were actually a fusion of peoples who had been induced by the Dutch West India Company to settle at the mouth of the Hudson River where intermingling, intermarriage, and the strength of Dutch culture had prevailed to give Walloons, Flemings, French Huguenots, German Lutherans and Poles a common language, customs, and adherence to the Dutch Reformed Church.
When cheap land, low taxes, religious liberty, and self-government became available to them under the East Jersey Proprietors at the beginning of the 18th century, these were strong inducements to migrate across the Hudson River to farmland of their own. Politics and commerce beyond what immediately concerned them was of little interest. Their efforts and interest were directed to farm and family. These industrious, neat, and peaceful people made the valley a place of well-cultivated fields, flourishing orchards, and bright with flowers.
The Dutch brought with them a distinctive method of using heavy timbers for construction, and used it to build capacious barns with gently sloping roofs and big center doors. A few of them still survive. As prosperity grew, that framing technique was used for houses and big, handsome churches. The Dutch also brought with them a custom of slave holding, but rarely owned more than one or two slaves, who were kept as laborers on their farms.
Insular in their habits and strongly attached to their lands, the Dutch were slow to change their ways. The Dutch language continued to be spoken among them for almost one hundred years, and they remained a close-knit community into the 20th century.