{www.fulkerson.org} Cornelis Van Tienhoven Updated 25 January 1997


CORNELIS VAN TIENHOVEN


He was just a "boo! hiss!" kind of guy


  The VIGNE's had three daughters when they arrived in New Netherlands in 1624.   The youngest, RACHEL, was just 16 when she had the misfortune to marry CORNELIS VAN TIENHOVEN.   The event was succinctly characterized by the receipt it produced:

"Cornelis van Tienhoven .  .  .   in my capacity as husband and guardian of Ragel Vienje, .  .  .   acknowledge that I am fully satisfied and paid by Jan Jansen Damen the sum of once three hundred Carolus guilders to which the aforesaid Ragel Vienjee .  .  .   was entitled by way of inheritance from her father Gulyn Vienjee, according to the contract made between her mother Adriaenje Cuveljeers and Jan Damen."

BAR NONE

  VAN TIENHOVEN arrived in New Amsterdam in 1633 as a Company accountant, working for Director Wooter VAN TWILLER until the latter's removal in 1638.   With the arrival of Director Willem KIEFT he was promoted to the title of Secretary and in many instances served as the Director's "right hand man. " After Kieft's removal in 1647, Van Tienhoven continued as the Secretary to Peter STUYVESANT.   In 1651 he was promoted to "receiver general" of the Company's revenues and domains (New Netherland then included the area from Albany to Delaware) and in the following year Stuyvesant made him Schout-Fiscaal (sheriff and attorney general) of New Amsterdam.  

  Cornelis and his young family lived on a "plantation" at Smits Vly [Smith's Flat] on the East River shore, north of Wall Street.   His land was on the northern edge of his in-laws' bouwerie, extending west from Broadway to the East River, and north from Maiden Lane to about Fulton Street.   His address was about 227-229 Pearl Street, near where it intersects Maiden Lane.   The current New York City street called Pine Street, in the Wall Street financial district, was known as Tienhoven Street during the 1600s.  

  At first glance, it would seem that Cornelis was a propertied, well-established pillar of the community.   And he was considered to be intelligent, subtle and sharp-witted.   The population of New Amsterdam knew him better, though, as a "thickset" man with a "red and bloated" face who was "given to lying, promising everyone. " One wrote, "the whole country cries out against him bitterly as a villain, murderer and traitor. " He was, in fact, the most atrocious character in the history of Manhattan, bar none.  


THE SCOUNDREL

  Cornelis was known as a womanizer.   He dressed as an Indian "with a little covering" and chased after the many "light women" of New Amsterdam.   In 1649, long after he married and began a family, he took a lengthy trip back to Holland to offer his explanation why the colony was not progressing. While there, he "became engaged" to a young lady.   The unsuspecting girl accompanied him on his travels in Holland and on the two-month voyage back to America, expecting to marry him at the end of the journey.   When their ship, the Waterhont , tied up at New Amsterdam, he suddenly became a family man again.   Such was his influence among the corrupt officials in the colony that no one would listen to the poor girl's tale of betrayal.  

A "TREACHEROUS AND CRUEL DISPOSITION"

  In the spring of 1640, some parties of Raritan Indians attacked a Company trading boat near Staten Island and stolen a canoe.   They were also accused of stealing some swine.   [The pigs were actually stolen by some sailors who blamed the Indians for the theft.  ] In mid-July, Director Kieft sent Van Tienhoven on an expedition (with 50 soldiers and 20 sailors) to confront the Raritans.   Their orders were to force a peace, or, failing that, to take prisoners and destroy the Raritans' corn crop.   On his arrival at their village, they refused Van Tienhoven's demand for restitution of the alleged losses.  

  Van Tienhoven then turned to his troops, told them that he would not be responsible if they violated his orders, and began to walk away.   He hadn't gone far when the soldiers acted on his hint and suddenly attacked the Raritans by surprise, killed a few and captured several others.   One captive, the chief's brother, was tortured "in his private parts with a split piece of wood. " Within six weeks the Raritans responded with an attack on Staten Island colonists, killing four and burning a house and some tobacco sheds.   Kieft responded by contacting several other tribes and letting them know he would pay a large bounty in wampum for every head of a Raritan they brought to him.   The Raritans made peace with the Dutch before the year was out.  

A MONSTROUS FOOL

  In February 1643 two bands of Algonquin Indians fled from attacks by their enemy the Mohawks and, starving and homeless, sought refuge near New Amsterdam.   Director Kieft decided their helpless condition provided an opportunity to kill some more savages.   Van Tienhoven approached his father-in-law Jan Jansen DAMEN and brother-in-law Abraham VER PLANCK, both members of the City Council.   Over a hearty dinner and a lot of liquor, he coaxed them into signing a petition to attack the Indians.   Van Tienhoven then led 80 soldiers across the Hudson at night to Hoboken, where they massacred a camp of sleeping Indians.   The killing continued through the next day, even of survivors who struggled out into the open to beg for food or warmth.   One witness who was opposed to the attack wrote:

Infants were snatched from their mothers breasts, and cut to pieces in sight of the parents, and the pieces thrown into the fire and into the water; other sucklings were bound to wooden boards, and cut and stuck or bored through, and miserably massacred, so that a heart of stone would have been softened.   Some were thrown in the river, and when the fathers and mothers endeavoured to rescue them, the soldiers would not let them come ashore again, but caused both young and old to be drowned.  .  .  Some came to our people on the farms with their hands cut off; others had their legs hacked off and some were holding their entrails in their arms.  

  Within a few weeks 11 surrounding tribes joined in retaliation against the colonists.   Farms in Brooklyn were burned.   Most of Manhattan was burned and looted as well.   The colonists, numbering only about 500, huddled in their dilapidated Fort Amsterdam at the tip of Manhattan until the Indians left.   A truce was signed in April, but that lasted only five months.   Most of the tribes felt New Amsterdam's reparations [in wampum] for the massacred Indians were not sufficient to even the score.   In September, 1,500 Indian warriors from seven tribes attacked and sezed most of Manhattan and Long Island.   The colonists were forced to remain in the shelter of their fort for several months.   The Dutch ended the immediate threat to Manhattan several months later, with the help of English mercenaries, in the same bloodthirsty manner in which the war had started.   They attacked a village near Stamford, killing 20 Indians, then moved on to a Canarsie village where they killed 120.   Near Greenwich they attacked and burned a big village at night, killing more than 500 Indians, most of them by fire.   More than two years passed before peace was restored.   The war was a terrible setback for the New Amsterdam and Long Island colonies.   Manhattan's population dwindled to 250, less than it was in 1630.   Director Kieft was recalled to Holland, but his ship struck a reef near the English coast and he never reached home.  

finally imPEACHed

  Van Tienhoven could not give up the role of instigator.   In September 1655, Director Peter Stuvesant was on a visit to the Dutch colony in Delaware, so Van Tienhoven used the occasion to begin yet another calamitous war with the Indians.   The Indians apparently also knew Stuyvesant was out of town.   Members of the Esopus, Hackensack and Mohican tribes in 64 canoes stopped at Manhattan on their way to settle some old scores with the Canarsie tribes on Long Island.   They landed to get food, some planning on buying it and others on taking it.   A number of them began to raid the colonists' orchards.   The war began when Hendrick VAN DYCK shot an Indian woman who was taking some peaches from his garden.   It became known as "The Peach War. "

  Hundreds of Indians swarmed throughout the city on the next day, harassing the citizens and trespassing in their homes.   One found and wounded Van Dyck with an arrow.   In the evening a band of Indians were gathered at the shore.   Van Tienhoven led a contingent of armed citizens to their location and called out, "Murder the savages who kill the Dutch. " Shots rang out and the Indians fled in their canoes, but not before returning the fire and killing several of their attackers.   The Indians did not go far.   Across the river at Staten Island they spent the night putting fire to houses and farms.   Over the next three days Indians swept through the Dutch settlements along the East River and the Hudson, driving the Dutch from their homes and farms.  

  Stuyvesant returned to New Amsterdam at the end of September, to find almost the entire population of New Netherlands in and around Fort Amsterdam.   Forty colonists had been killed and a hundred more were prisoners in Indian camps.   Hundreds of houses and farms were reduced to ashes and ruins.   By the end of October, the Indians released 70 of their prisoners in return for powder and lead.   It was two years before they finished extorting Stuyvesant for the return of the remaining 30.  

  Back in Holland, the Company's directors received evidence that Van Tienhoven had committed a series of improper actions in his former role as Secretary.   The "Peach War" was the last straw.   Peter Stuyvesant tried to defend him, saying the war was not Van Tienhoven's fault.   The company responded by ordering Stuyvesant to remove Van Tienhoven and not to defend him, "as we are confident that the charges are true.   Whoever considers his last transactions with the savages, will find that with clouded brains filled with liquor, he was a prime cause of this dreadful massacre. " By June 1656 he had been dismissed from office.  

DROWNED?

  Van Tienhoven's hat and cane were found floating in the river on November 18, 1656.   He was presumed drowned, but there was reason to be suspicious that this was a planned disappearance.   The "drowning" occurred while he was pending an appearance before a court of inquiry.  



(Good reading: A Sweet and Alien Land, by Henri and Barbara Van Der Zee, Viking Press, New York, 1978.   Ask for it at your local library.  )