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New York Vanderfords

Michael Paul Vanderford, the first Vanderford to settle in America, was the founder of the Vanderford, Vandervoort and a branch of the Vandeveer families. While in New York Michael went by his Dutch name Michiel Pauluszen (Michael son of Paul). Around 1650 he added Van der Voort to his name. Michael first appears in the written record when he married Maria Rapalje on December 18, 1640. Her parents, George Rapalje and Catalina Trico, were among the very first settlers of New York.

Landing of the Walloons at Albany (from The History of the City of New York).

George and Catalina sailed with a group of French and Walloon Protestants of Leyden from Amsterdam, Holland aboard the ship Unity in March of 1624. The Unity and the New Netherland carried from fifty to sixty families, the first colonists of the present States of New York and New Jersey. The New Netherland took its settlers to Fort Nassau on the Delaware River, in what is now the State of New Jersey. The disposition of those on the Unity was described by Catalina, on October 17, 1688:

Catelyn Trico aged about 83 years born in Paris doth Testify and Declare that in ye year 1623 she came into this Country wth a Ship called ye Unity whereof was Cammander Arien Jorise belonging to ye West India Company being ye first Ship yt came here for ye sd Company; as soon as they came to Mannatans now called N: York they sent Two families & six men to harford River & Two families & 8 men to Delaware River and 8 men they left att N: Yorke to take Possession and ye Rest of ye Passengers went wth ye Ship up as farr as Albany which they then Called fort Orangie ... there were about 18 families aboard who settled themselves att Albany & made a small fort ... ye sd Deponent lived in Albany three years all which time ye sd Indians were all as quiet as Lambs & came & Traded with all ye freedom Imaginable, in ye year 1626 ye Deponent came from Albany & settled at N: Yorke where she lived afterwards for many years and then came to Long Island where she now lives.1

These colonists were seeking opportunity and their fortunes in the New World, rather than religious or political freedom. There were two types of colonists: those employed by the Dutch West India Company, and "other free persons" like the Walloons. "Free" was a relative term; they were still subject to the complete authority of the Company. The Company paid their passage and assigned lands for cultivation. After six years the colonist had the right of permanent tenure, unless the Company needed the land. The colonists were encouraged to engage in the fur trade, provided all sales were to the Company.

In 1626, Manhattan was selected as the official Company site in New Netherland and all Albany families were ordered to move there. The Albany settlers needed more land, but none was available, the local Indians being unwilling to part with any more of their agricultural land. While in Albany the Rapalje's first child, Sarah, was born. Sarah Rapalje is considered to be the first white, female, child born in New York, and the first child of either sex who stayed in New York to become a settler. She was married at age 14, bore 15 children by two different husbands, and lived until age 60. Maria, the Rapalje's second daughter, was born on Manhattan on March 11, 1627. She was married at age 13, bore Michael Paul 9 children, and lived past the age of 60.

Exactly when Michael Paul Vanderford came to New York is undocumented, but it was no doubt some years prior to 1640, when he and Maria Rapalje were married. Considering the shortage of single women, George Rapalje would have had plenty of offers for the hand of his young daughter Maria, and would have selected someone established and a "good match." It is probable that Michael had been employed by the Dutch West India Company in some trade capacity, leaving the Company prior to marrying Maria. This is difficult to verify, however, as all of the early documents and archives relating to the Dutch occupation of New Netherland were sold at auction as scrap sometime around 1820, and were never seen again.

Settlers in Manhattan had a difficult existence. The land was less fertile than at Albany, the clearing and tilling was hard work and there were not enough cattle or horses to help with the labor. The shortage of livestock also meant a shortage of manure for fertilizer. The farmers could raise enough for their families, but there was very little extra to sell. The currency of the town and province consisted of beaver skins and wampum. The settlers did, however, conduct a thriving smuggling trade in furs.

On June 16, 1637, George Rapalje purchased a piece of land called "Rinnegackonck" from two local Indians, identified as Kakapetteyno and Pewichaas, for "a lot of merchandise." This land was located on Long Island in what is now Brooklyn. Six years later the Company granted George the piece of land he had already bought from the Indians. Soon after Michael and Maria were married, Michael contracted to purchase land close to George Rapalje but did not complete the transaction, due to the Indian uprisings.

In 1640 Director-General Kieft tried to collect tribute in corn or services from the Indians. The Indians did not cooperate, and soldiers were dispatched. The final result was a period of Indian wars from 1641 to 1645, during which time the settlers were forced to abandon their farms and flee to the protection of the fort. Cattle were killed, houses destroyed, women and children taken captive and men tomahawked, including George Rapalje's son Jacob. Roger Williams who happened to be in New Amsterdam during the uprising described the scene:

Before we weighed anchor, mine eyes saw the flames at their towns, and the flights and hurries of men, women and children, and the present removal of all that could for Holland.2

On October 24, 1643 a council of citizens sent an appeal to the West India Company:

The fort is defenceless and entirely out of order and resembles ... rather a molehill than a fort against an enemy ... [the Indians] threaten to attack the fort with all their force, which now consists of about 1500 men ... all the outside places are mostly in their power ... the freemen (exclusive of the English) are about 200 strong, who must protect by force their families now skulking in straw huts outside the fort ... most of the houses have been fired and destroyed.3

The palisade along what is now Wall Street (from The Memorial History of the City of New York).The fort was not large enough to shelter all the inhabitants or protect their houses, so in 1653 it was decided to construct a palisade, or wall, along the upper limit of the town of New Amsterdam. On April 20th, it was resolved that "the citizens without exception" should begin "immediately digging a ditch from the East river to the North [Hudson] river, 4 to 5 feet deep and 11 to 12 feet wide at the top sloping in a little towards the bottom" and that carpenters should "be urged to prepare jointly the stakes and rails..."4 The labor for this task was provided by all "Burghers, Merchants, Mechanics, or crews of ships, sloops in harbor or to come," working in four three-day shifts. The palisades, completed early in July, protected the southern tip of Manhattan Island, running from the Hudson to the East River. It was a line of solid planks, tapered at the top and set close together, held together by cross timbers, with an earthen ramp behind. The road next to this wall became Wall Street, the financial center of New York. Michael used his sloop to deliver 14 loads of lumber to be used in the construction of the palisades. In September, his wife, Maria, had to go to court to demand payment from the City. Michael was awarded 10 guilders for each load.

The selection of town lots in Manhatten was somewhat haphazard. Each settler, in an attempt to get as close to the fort as possible, simply "squatted" wherever he chose. After a period of six years the settler was granted a patent (deed) for his house and garden. On January 21, 1647 Michael was granted Lot 2 of Block N Castello Plan, on which was built a large stone brewery. He later obtained part of Lot 7, and built the house in which his family lived, now 49 Stone Street. George Rapalje's family lived on Lot 5 of Block G, right next to the wall of the fort.

Later, Peter Stuyvestant took steps to organize the town. He hired surveyors to define the property lines and required that anyone intending to build submit plans for approval by the surveyors.

In 1655 there was another Indian uprising when a farmer killed a squaw for taking peaches from his orchard. At that time, Stuyvestant had taken every able-bodied soldier from the fort on an expedition against the Swedes on the Delaware River. Two thousand Indians gathered on the Hudson River and over 700 landed on Manhattan. The Indians killed 100 people, took 150 captives and left 300 people without homes or belongings.

In 1657 Stuyvestant raised considerable monies to rebuild the city's defenses by introducing the title of "burgher." Michael became one of the 204 small burghers, at a cost of 25 florins. There were also 20 "great burghers," who held positions in the government, Company or military, and paid 50 florins. Being a burgher gave you the right to engage in trade and hold office.

By the end of the 1650s, New Amsterdam had been marred by two major Indian uprisings, rising taxes and the confused and conflicting economic policy of the Dutch West India Company. Stringent laws were instituted against the sale of intoxicants except at specific times. An excise tax was placed on wines and liquors to raise money to complete the Church. Tavern-keepers were required to take out a license and pay six guilders each quarter. A 1% tax was levied on the value of houses and lots and a 5% tax on the rents from houses. These taxes and restrictions made life more difficult for someone like Michael who was running a tavern and inn, renting houses and letting rooms.

In contrast to the Dutch, the British, with the development of an agricultural economy, were doing well, expanding rapidly and bringing in many new settlers. The British colonists from Massachusetts and Virginia were settling on Long Island, the Connecticut River and Westchester County on land once considered to be Dutch.

At this time Maryland offered land for settlement, and Michael decided to move. In 1658 and 1659 he sold most of his holdings in New Amsterdam and in 1660 his entire family sailed for the eastern shore of Maryland. Four years later, Peter Stuyvestant surrendered New Amsterdam to the British.

Paul and John, two of Michael's sons, returned to New York under their Dutch family name "Vandervoort," continuing the Vandervoort line in New York.

First page of the Register of Marriages. Michael Paul Vanderford and Maria Rapalje are the last enry on this page. Translation: Michael, son of Paul, bachelor from Dermont in Flanders and Maria Rapalje, maiden from New Netherland. Courtesy The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society.

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