The Journey of De Bever

By 9 May 1661 De Bever was moored in the Texel Roads with her companion, the St Jan Baptist, awaiting the final preparations for sailing.  At this time, sandbanks prevented larger vessels entering the harbour of Amsterdam, so passengers and cargo were brought up by smaller ship. Fresh water was readily available from Texel and provisions could be brought by way of the ports of North Holland. 

Some passengers had probably sailed directly from Amsterdam while others may have sought lodging at Den Helder until the ships were ready. The migrants had been allocated to the two ships in roughly equal proportions of families and single people and were given a range of quarters of different quality depending on their means and status. Some were accommodated in the permanent cabins of the ship while others lived in areas normally used for cargo divided by temporary screens of wood and canvas to give a little privacy.  The single women were probably attached to families with children while the single men and older boys would sleep in a communal area. Life at sea was going to be difficult.

By May 12 the wind was favourable and the two ships set off to the northwest, intending to reach the Atlantic via the north coast of Scotland.

Passenger Lists

The passenger list for the 1661 voyage of De Bever is one of a number of "Passenger Lists" covering 1654 to 1664 which are drawn from the account books of the Dutch West India Company [NYCM Vol 14 Pages 83-123/Book KK]. These show the names of passengers who had arranged with the company to pay their fares after arrival in New Netherland. Many others who travelled are not listed because they were able to pay in advance. Each list carries the date on which the list was made up by the WIC account clerks in advance of the voyage. In most cases, the lists seem to have been made shortly before departure, but there are examples of lists dates substantially before sailing

The fare was 36 florins for an adult, 18 florins for children and infants travelled free.

Table 2 shows the list of passengers who had debit entries for the voyage of De Bever dated 9 May 1661.

Table 2
Huijgh Barentsen De Cleijn, wife and seven children, 21, 19, 17, 13, 12, 6, and 1 1/2
Pieter Marselis, from Beest, wife, four children, 13, 6, 4, and 2 years old, and two servants.
Aert Pietersen Buys, from Beest, wife and son.
Frans Jacobsen, from Beest, wife and two children, 3 and 1 1/2
Widow Geertje Cornelis, from Beest, and six children, 21, 19, 17, 15, 13, and 10
Widow Adriaentje Cornelis, from Beest, and daughter, 11
Goosen Jansen Van Noort, from Beest.
Hendrick Bries, from Beest.
Neeltjen Jans, from Beest.
Geertruyt Theunissen, from Beest.
Geertje Willems, from Amsterdam.
Aert Teunissen Middagh.
Jacob Bastiaensen, from Heycop.
Estiene Genejoy, from Rochelle, wife and three children, 7,3, and 1/2 years old.
Hendrickje Jochems.
Geertje Jochems.
Jan Lammertsen, from Bremen. (Credit entry in ledger says he paid the directors f36 on 11 Sept 1664)
Wouter Gysen, from Hilverson.
Gideon Jacobs. (Credit entry in Ledger shows he repaid the directors f36 on 12 Aug 1662)
The son of Evert Pietersen, Consoler of the sick. (Evert Pietersen himself was also on the voyage see below)

New York Colonial Manuscripts Vol 14 pages 83-123 (Book KK 43-45)

The entry for Geertje Cornelis and her six children shows that she was debited 252 guilders for cost of the passage (vracht). The entry reads - 'Geertje Cornelis widow of Beest debit for passage that she on the 9 May 1661 by the Bever has come here f36.  For 6 children of 21, 19, 17, 15, 13 and 10 years f216. [Total] f 252'.

Letters from the WIC Directors to Peter Stuyvesant

A letter of 2 May 1661 notifies Stuyvesant of the appointment of Evert Pietersen(NYCM Vol 14 p21), whose son appears on De Bever's passenger list. Another letter from Amsterdam dated 9 May 1661 (NYCM Vol 14 p 20) contains the commissioning instructions for Evert Pietersen.

Since then, nothing has happened here that is worthy of writing about, except that we, on Your Honours' recommendation and that of the magistrates of the city of New Amsterdam, have appointed the person of Mr Evert Pietersen to the position of Comforter of the Sick, Lay Reader & Schoolmaster at a salary of 36f per month plus 125f annually for his board, who has now embarked with the ship, 'The Gilded Beaver'. However, not with his wife because, according to him, she is prevented by her indisposition. [Lines 5-14]

This same letter provides further details of the voyage, the most significant part refers specifically to Huijgh Barents and the group from Beesd.

With these ships go over a reasonable number of[colonists] and other[passengers], and among these many good farmers who will be specially useful there, is found one Huijgh Barents de Kleijn of Beesd in Gelderland, baker, grocer and farmer who, by his enthusiasm, has brought from there about 36 souls with the expectation that more shall follow. We think it right not only to recommend Your Honours to accommodate and help all of them as much as possible, but would also like to see that Your Honours, when a suitable occasion arises, benefit the afsd. Huijgh Barents de Kleijn in some way or another, preferably at no cost to the Company, in order that he and his companions will write a favourable report so that more of their fellow-countrymen in Gelderland will travel there. [lines 55-61]

It is significant that this passage begins with the words 'in these ships' confirming that De Bever did not make the trip alone. The other vessel to make the journey with De Bever was the St. Jan Baptist, whose passenger list is also dated 9 May 1661 and who arrived in New Amsterdam a week after De Bever, possibly due to the death of one of its passengers. There are other examples of ships making the voyage together (e.g. Trouw, Arent and Hoop in January 1661, Rooseboom and Arent in March 1663 and Trouw, Bever and Gekruijste Hart in January 1664)

The placing of Evert Pietersen and Huijgh Barents De Kleijn aboard De Bever in letters written on 2 May and 9 May is consistent with the 9 May 1661 making up of the passenger debit list,

Journal of the 1661 Voyage

The Transcript and translation of the original document, 'Journael Behouden opt'schip den Gulden Bever en t'schip den Gulden Otter'  which is held by the New York Historical Society; Ref MSS.Ships.Journals.1600/Ships Collection Box 1 Folder #34.  The Journal contains descriptions of four voyages based on notes kept by an unknown author, probably an employee of the Dutch West India Company.

First Voyage : The Vergulde Otter Oct 10 - Dec 4 1660 New Amsterdam to Texel, in company with the Eyckenboom

Second Voyage : The Vergulde Bever May 9 -Jul 29 1661 Texel to New Amsterdam, at first in company with the St Jan Baptist

Third Voyage : The Hoop Sept 8 - Oct 26 1662 New Amsterdam to Texel, in company with the Trouw joined later by the Wapen van Stuyvesant

Fourth Voyage : The Rooseboom Mar 30 - June 3 1663 Texel to New Amsterdam

The section of the journal dealing with the voyage of De Bever can be divided into seven stages

1. Preparations for sailing 9 May to 11 May

The journal writer travels from Amsterdam to Texel with an overnight stay at Den Helder. The final accounts for the journey and a letter to Pieter Stuyvesant from the Directors of the West India Company bear a date of 9 May, indicating that he was carrying the last administrative paperwork for the voyage.

De Bever and the St Jan Baptist were both at Texel by this time, passengers, provisions and goods having been brought up by smaller boat.

The writer mentions that '99 souls' are on board 'De Bever'.  Probably around 30 crew, about 20 fare-paying passengers and 51 who owe the WIC for the cost of the journey.

2. Texel to Buchan Ness : 12 May to 19 May.
The ships set out on 12 May, with a favourable wind, intending to sail around the northern coast of Scotland.  The Netherlands were at war with Portugal at this time so this northern route was probably safer than that through the English Channel.  The crew were unaware that a truce was to be signed on August 6th.

The route to the Orkneys would have been very familiar to Dutch navigators as it was a regular route for the East India Trade, fishing and whaling.  Dutch escort ships ships patrolled the waters east of the Orkneys to ensure safe passage into the North Sea.  In times of war with England, the route through the Channel would have been more hazardous.  

This part of the journey was uneventful and they were in sight of Buchan Ness, near Peterhead, by the morning of 19 May.  Distance travelled about 400 miles (approx 60 miles per day)

3. Caught in a storm in the Moray Firth :  19 May to 21 May

In the evening of the 19 May, the wind changed to NE and the ships found that they were too close to the coast to clear the Orkneys.  During the night the weather worsened and they were forced further westward into the Moray Firth until the wind changed on the night of the 21 May and they were able to sail eastwards away from the coast.  At some point, the two ships lost contact and completed the journey independently.

4. Searching for the St Jan Baptist 22 May to 28 May

On the morning of the 22 May, De Bever encountered three escort vessels, waiting for ships returning from the East Indies and spent several days searching for her companion in the waters SE of the Orkneys before abandoning the search and heading NW between Orkney and Fair Isle in dark and foggy weather. At noon on the 28 May, they reached the most northerly point of the journey, some 30 miles west of Shetland and then took a WSW/SW course which would take them to the west of Ireland.

5. Shetland to Azores :28 May to 12 June

Favourable winds enabled De Bever to cover around 1800 miles in a 15 day period, an average of about 120 miles per day. 

The weather was mixed with some good days and rain and the occasional squall on others.  On the 12 June they were in sight of the small island of Corvo, the most north-westerly member of the Azores and a much-used and distinctive navigational marker. 

6. Azores to Bermuda : 13 June to 16 July

After an early setback, De Bever set a course for Bermuda, some 2100 miles away, a route pioneered by Sir Samuel Argall in 1609.  This was much shorter than the traditional southern route via the Caribbean and avoided possible contact with hostile ships. However, the winds were much less reliable and De Bever spent several days in light winds and calm, accompanied by ‘unbearable’ heat. 

Their course took them westwards along the 30 degree north latitude, finally sighting the island of Bermuda on 16 July. Distance travelled 2100 miles (approx 63 miles per day)

7. Bermuda to Manhattan : 17 July to 29 July

The final part of the journey was straightforward, covering the 760 miles from Bermuda to Sandy Hook, NJ around 10 days, and sighting the American coast at Barnegat on the 27 July. However, after leaving Sandy Hook, De Bever ran aground on the West Bank, some 10 miles short of Manhattan.  A distress signal was fired and smaller boats were dispatched from Nieuw Amsterdam to take off the passengers and some of the cargo.  De Bever was refloated the following day and reached Manhattan to a salute from the guns of the fort.

The whole trip had taken 78 days and had covered a distance of around 5600 miles