In 1609, Henry Hudson, an English explorer working for the Dutch East India Company, sailed to North America in search of the Northwest Passage. Hudson and the Dutch, like many others, wanted to find a water route through North America to quickly bypass the continent in favor of the wealthy markets of Asia. Hudson sailed up the river that now bears his name believing it to be the Northwest Passage. The Hudson River is not navigable beyond present day Albany, and Hudson turned back.
While not finding the Northwest Passage, Hudson’s explorations led to the Dutch building a colony in North America. After a number of starts and stops, the Dutch finally created a network of forts and trading outposts with the numerous Indian tribes along the Hudson River Valley. In 1626, the Dutch created New Amsterdam on Manhattan Island as the capital of their colony New Netherland. New Amsterdam had one of the world’s greatest natural harbors, was in the middle of the eastern seaboard between the Northeast and the South, and provided access to the interior of the continent especially after the creation of the Erie Canal.
Because of its success as a trading center and since it lay between New England and Virginia, the English coveted New Amsterdam. In 1664, four English ships sailed into New Amsterdam and demanded the surrender of New Netherland. The Dutch settlers dissatisfied with the lack of protection and participation provided by their mother country agreed to become law abiding English subjects, and the English promised to leave the colonists to life and business as usual. King Charles II of England renamed New Netherland in honor of his brother the Duke of York, the future King James II, and in 1665 the colony became New York and New Amsterdam became New York City.
Editors Note: Travis Childs is a history instructor at Cameron University in Lawton, Okla. He is a graduate of Midway High School and lives in Bluegrove. He is currently president of the Clay County Historical Society.