The Jewish Settlement of Pomeroon
Upon the coast of the Guiana region are found the mouths of numerous rivers, which, owing to the thickness of the forests and the marshy nature of the coast, afforded the only means of entering and traversing the country. Every settlement made upon that coast was placed upon one of these rivers, and was, with its district, named after that river, as, for instance, Suriname; and Berbice, Demerara and Essequibo, the districts which together united to form the colony of British Guiana.
The colonies of Essequibo and Demerara were in Dutch times distinct from Berbice - that of Berbice was for a long period the chief settlement - and besides, the district of the Essequibo and its tributaries included the rivers and the districts of Pomeroon, Waini, and Barima on the west. Subsequently, Demerara became the leading settlement, and the seat of the colonial Government was moved to Georgetown (formerly Stabroek) in Demerara; Essequibo became the name of the county which included all the territory to the west of the Boerasirie Creek.
The territory more immediately under discussion which lies between the Orinoco and the Essequibo is traversed by numerous rivers of which the principal ones in the interior are the Rupununi, Mazaruni and Cuyuni (tributaries of the Essequibo), and on the coast, proceeding from east to west, are the Pomeroon, the Moruka, the Waini, the Barima and the Amakura, all of which flow into the Atlantic.
For a century after the discovery of the South American continent, the Spaniards made no settlements in Guiana.
In 1596 they settled at an Amerindian village which they named Santo Thome on the south bank of the Orinoco. This settlement was until 1723 the only possession of the Spaniards in Guiana.
In 1598, the Dutchman Cabeliau arrived on the coast of Guiana and, according to his account, proceeded up the Orinoco as far as Santo Thome. He described the Orinoco River and all the coast as far as the Maranon River (or Amazon River) as still unconquered, and stated that the Caribs were able to resist incursions by the Spaniards.
Cabeliau traded with the Spaniards in Santo Thome, and with the Amerindians in Orinoco, Barima and Amakura, but did not visit Essequibo because there was not much to be obtained there. He mentioned no Spaniards until he reached the Orinoco.
Cabeliau's voyage was very shortly after followed by the voyages of many other Dutchmen. By the truce of 1609, the Dutch were precluded from trading in places, towns, ports and havens held by the King of Spain; on the other hand, Spain recognised the right of the Dutch to trade in the countries of all other princes, potentates and peoples who were willing to trade with them, without any hindrance from the King of Spain, his officers, subjects or dependants; and by a secret Article, it was provided that this right should be understood to include the Indies.
By 1613, the Dutch were settled in various points upon the coast between the Orinoco and the Amazon. In that year the Spaniards surprised and destroyed one of their settlements upon the Corentyne River; and in an account in one of the letters announcing this achievement, it was stated: "It would be well to free our coasts of them entirely, for from the River of Maranon (Amazon) to the Orinoco, there are three or four more of their settlements, and their plantations are very considerable. They have possessed themselves of the mouths of these two rivers and are making themselves masters of the produce and possessions of the natives."
The parish priest and vicar of Trinidad in a letter of the 30 June 1614 stated that he had been informed for certain that from the river called Guayapoco as far as the Orinoco, a distance of 200 leagues, there were four Flemish settlements. In 1614, the Dutch besieged Trinidad in conjunction with the Caribs. Reinforcement ammunition were sent from Spain with a view to protecting that island which was in imminent danger.
Towards the end of that year a Dutchman named Claessen, who had founded a settlement on the Wiapoco, petitioned the States-General of the Netherlands to establish a new colony in the ports of the West Indies. In 1615, there was presented to the King of Spain a report with a map showing the places between the Amazon and the Island of Margarita, where it was believed that the Dutch intended to settle. From this report, it was brought to his knowledge that the Dutch had navigated the Orinoco as far as its junction with the Caroni River, and the Waipoco as far as its third fall; that they had spent large sums of money in colonial enterprises; and that the question of putting the commerce of Guiana directly under the control of the States-General was being urged upon the Dutch authorities.
In a description of Guiana made about 1669, Major John Scott stated that in 1616 the Dutch Captain, Groenewegel, dispatched a small fleet to Guiana, settled the Essequibo and built Fort Kykoveral "on a small island 30 leagues up the River Disseekeeb (Essequibo), which looked into two branches of that famous river"; and that he was the first to open up the interior of Guiana to trade and settlement, and living on friendly terms both with the natives and with the foreigners, especially English traders, in the West Indies.
In 1618, a second expedition of 500 men under Sir Walter Raleigh sailed up the Orinoco and destroyed the Spanish town of Santo Thome; he did not remain to hold it, though his incursion left the inhabitants practically defenceless.
At this period the Spaniards were definitely excluded from the coast to the eastward of the Orinoco. They probably frequented that area of coast for trading purposes at the close of the sixteenth century; but after the advent of the English in 1595 and the Dutch in 1598 and the succeeding years, it became more and more inaccessible to them. The English and the Dutch allied themselves with the Caribs against the Spaniards; and after the sacking of Santo Thome by Raleigh in 1618, the Arawaks, until then the friends of the Spaniards, also turned against them.
In consequence of these reverses, the settlement of Santo Thome was in 1619 on the point of being abandoned altogether, an event which was only prevented by the arrival of the new Governor with some small reinforcements. Representations were at once made as to the defenceless state of the settlement which had "nowhere to look for help on account of being so far distant from settled provinces, the nearest being Venezuela, distant 120 leagues". No discovery or settlement, it was urged, could be carried out until the city was placed in a state of defence.
In 1619, Geronimo de Grados was sent from Santo Thome to force the Arawaks to obedience, but meeting with six ships of the English and Dutch in the Essequibo, he was taken prisoner. This was the last of the early Spanish voyages to the east of the Orinoco. Those who made them did not appear to have explored the country or done more than visit the mouths of the rivers.
When the truce of 1609 between Spain and the Netherlands came to an end in 1621, the States-General (of the Netherlands) granted a charter to a Company to be called the West India Company, conferring a monopoly of twenty-four years of the trade with the countries of America and the West Indies. By this charter the Company was authorised to make, in the name and by the authority of the States-General, contracts, leagues and alliances with the princes and the natives of the lands within its sphere of action, to build fortresses and strongholds, to appoint governors, soldiers, and officers of justice, and generally to establish colonies under the sovereignty of the States-General. The general affairs of the Company at large was managed by an Assembly of Nineteen. There were separate Chambers for several provinces of the Netherlands under the control of Directors representing the shareholders in these provinces. These Chambers might, and frequently did, embark upon ventures of their own in which the Company had no pecuniary interest. The colonisation of Essequibo was carried out by the Chamber of Zeeland acting separately in this way.
At the date of the charter (of the Dutch West India Company) there was already a Dutch colony established in Essequibo. This was verified in a statement by the Zeeland Chamber, in a representation made by them in 1751 in support of a claim to exclusive trade with Essequibo, that the colony of the Essequibo had been already frequented by the Zealanders at the time of the granting of the charter in 1621. No doubt, within a few years after that date, an organised colony under the West India Company was in existence on that river. In the proceedings of the Zeeland Chamber on the 10 December 1626 it was resolved "to allow Jacob Canyn to come home from Isekepe, in accordance with his request, and to fill up his place with another". On the 17 December 1626, Johannes Beverlander was "taken into the service of the Company for three years, to lie in the river of Isekepe together with jan Adriaenss van der Goes". On the 22 April 1627, in granting to Abraham van Pere liberty to found a private colony and a fort in the Berbice River, the Zeeland Chamber expressly forbade his colonists "to come into the River Essequibo nor into any other rivers where the Company, whether of this or of other Chambers, has its colonists or folk".
The seat of Government was at Kykoveral. The first mention of this fort was made in the proceedings of the Zeeland Chamber of the 5 May 1644. But the Fort Essequibo was mentioned as early as 1637 in a letter to the West India Company by Jacques Ousiel, who was at that time the Public Advocate and Secretary of Tobago; and in the Spanish documents relating to the burning of Santo Thome in 1637, it was stated that the Dutch, having carried off the Blessed Sacrament from the church at that town, kept it guarded at their Fort at Macarouni (Mazaruni) or their Fort at Essequibo.
In 1628, assistants were engaged by the West India Company to work "on the Wild Coast" — a name by which the coast between the Essequibo and the Orinoco had become well known.
In 1629, the English and the Dutch, under the command of Adrian Jansz Pater, attacked and destroyed Santo Thome and afterwards fortified themselves in the branches and creeks of the Orinoco River.
In the sailing regulations first issued in 1632, and renewed in 1633, 1635 and 1637, the States-General specifically mentioned the Orinoco as the limit westward where uncharted vessels could sail without infringing the monopoly of the Company; and Spanish sources established evidence that in 1637 the Dutch were settled at the mouths of the Amakura, Essequibo and Berbice, from where in that year they again attacked and burned Santo Thome and raided Trinidad. In 1638 it was reported to the King of Spain that the Dutch were seeking favourable sites for the foundation of new settlements; that they had access to all ports of the mainland; and that they traded with the Amerindians of the Orinoco, while they were in close alliance with the Caribs.
Nine years later, the charter of the Company was further renewed for a period of twenty-five years from the 1 January 1647.
The Treaty of Munster (signed on the 30 January 1648) by which the independence of the Netherlands was finally recognised, provided that the navigation and trade to the East and West Indies should be maintained pursuant to and in conformity with the charters granted in that behalf; and all potentates, nations and peoples were to be included in the Treaty with whom the States-General and the East and West India Companies, within the limits of their charters, were in friendship and alliance. The King of Spain and the States-General were respectively to remain in possession and enjoyment of such lordships, towns, castles, fortresses, commerce and country in the East and West Indies and Brazil and on the coasts of Africa, Asia and America as they then respectively held and possessed. In this description were specifically included the places which the Portuguese had taken from the States-General since the year 1641, as well as all places which the States-General should thereafter come to conquer and possess, without infraction of the Treaty.
With reference to the mention of places taken by the Portuguese from the Dutch since 1641, it should be remembered that in that year the Portuguese had severed themselves from the Crown of Spain, and were, at the date of the Treaty of Munster, regarded by the King of Spain as rebels. The object of this provision was that the Dutch should be at liberty to recapture from the Portuguese all places which the latter had acquired at their expense during the Portuguese rebellion.
On the 10 August 1648, the States-General again issued trading regulations more specific than any which had been previously published. By these regulations, uncharted vessels were forbidden to trade on the Wild Coast, and the mouth of the Orinoco was again made the point at which the liberty to sail and trade, granted to vessels other than those belonging to the chartered Company, was to commence — that is to say, the whole of the coast between the Orinoco and the Amazon was treated as belonging to the West India Company.
In 1656, the Dutch were driven from Brazil by the Portuguese, and the effect of this was that they concentrated their efforts upon Guiana. On the 24 December 1657, a contract was entered into between the Zeeland Chamber and the West India Company and the three Dutch towns of Middelburg, Flushing and Vere, by which these three towns undertook to plant colonies on the Wild Coast under the supervision of the States-General and the Company. A Commissary was appointed to act under Aert Adriaensen, the Governor already in Essequibo, and in February 1658 colonists sailed for Guiana.
It was provided in the contract containing the terms of the partnership of the three cities in this venture, that a slave ship should be sent to bring slaves from Africa, as the supply of slave labour was found to be essential for the working of the colony.
The Dutch authorities around 1656 tried to attract the Jews in all possible ways for the colonisation of the Wild Coast. In the very middle of the century, repatriated Jews had again visited Zeeland and had contributed to new prosperity of the Jewish municipalities, like Middelburg. In 1654 at least, the Jewish population there seemed to have increased considerably.
The Administrators of the Chamber of Zeeland, considering that the Wild Coast could produce as much as the "renowned regions of Brasil", providing they were sufficiently populated, took various measures to promote colonisation. The Sefardic Jews have shown great interest in the colonisation and have promptly accepted the proffered opportunities. Both, the initial failure of the English project and the positive share of the Dutch Jews in the colonisation of the West Indies, have ultimately established the constitutional position of the Jews in the Netherlands. On November 15th. 1654 the aforementioned statute of the West-Indian Company followed, in which to the Hebrew Nation in Guyane was granted "Freedom of conscience, also free exercise of religion, traditions and ceremonies according to the doctrine of her ancestors without interference." There is a direct connection between the share of the Jews in the Dutch imperialism and their liberties in the Netherlands.
The story of Jeosua Nunes Netto and Joseph Pereira
A Portuguese account of journeys, dispatched from the beach of Pauroma on the Wild Coast by Jeosua Nunes Netto and Joseph Pereira, in which they put down in writing their travel experiences and their first impressions of the country dated September 15th. 1658. These pamphlets were naturally intended to propagate colonisation, emanating from the favourable living conditions in connection with the climate and environments. As such, this paper has more than incidental value. It composes a document which can be called typical for the first period of the Sefardic colonisation of America. A dramatic piece of Jewish history, impulsively recorded, is painted before our eyes. On the 12th. of May they left Middelburg on board the "Concordia", known to us already from literature under the Dutch name "d' Eendracht".
"April 1658. There appeared Adrien van Bullestrate de Jong and represents that he is ready to hire out his ship, called "the Eendracht", skipper Leendert Stratman, 126 feet long, 25 3/4 feet broad, 11 3/4 feet hold, 5 1/2 feet deck, mounted with 20 pieces and manned with a crew of 20, to go from here to Essequibo. Whereupon, deliberation having been had, an agreement was finally made as follows, to wit : that he for himself shall lade therein 1.000 planks, 600 half hogsheads and 100 cellars, etc. etc. On this occasion Paulo Jacomo Pinto request - that each of the emigrating passengers shall not only be allowed to take along a chest and a hogshead but also 2.000 planks and all that may be necessary for the construction of a number of houses, mills or what may be necessary for the cultivation of the land together with some provisions for their support, all of which is accorded to him and consented to".
"Thursday, September 19th. 1658. There appeared Moses Netto and requests for some of his nation to send several tons of beer to Nova Zeelandia, provided the freight charge and some excise be paid. With him also appeared the individual, called William Sonneman, making the same request. Whereupon, after consultation, it was resolved to answer them that we must first see whether all our goods can be laden in said ship and, if so we shall try to accommodate them".
The "Concordia" was not the only ship. To Nova Zeelandia, the place formerly named Essequibo, the "Joannis" had already left on the 2nd. of February of that same year "followed by 5 other ships", but only the story of the happenings of the "Concordia" is now known.
The beginning of the journey was very difficult. The ship - as we already know - is very crowded. At first the wind is unfavourable. Not before the end of the first month did conditions improve and more headway was made. A peculiar light is thrown on the character of the Jewish group of colonists by the account of the meeting held on board the ship, on which occasion the Jews like the French and the Flemings (Dutch) were represented by two of them : David Vaz and Elissa Abbas. The subject in discussion, a change of the course in connection with the water-supply demonstrates at the same time the hazards of a sea voyage in those days. What strikes us is the skill of the Jews, who were not incorrectly called by captain Stratman: "Men of experience".
On the 7th. of August, the eve of Tisabeab a heavy rain poured down at about ten o'clock at night. It seems as if heaven itself intervenes in the life of the pioneers. "Dju Gado tranga" - the God of the Jews is a mighty God - the Bushnegroes say until this day in their Negro-English when - according to the old superstition - in the middle of the hot dry season the rain falls every year on Jom Hakkipurim in Surinam.
With sheets the Jewish pioneers on the deck are catching water "On this day, the eve of Tisabeab 10 o'clock at night it rained heavily and with the aid of sheets we gathered much water, which we saved until the next evening, the end of the fast. We thought it better to gather the water but not to drink of it, just like the supreme one had shown to Moses the Promised Land but had pointed out to him that he should not enter it".
On the 24th. of August the anchor was dropped in the mouth of the Pauroma, all the French and Dutch passengers were disembarked with their trunks, beds and hand-luggage; the Jews, however, refused to disembark because it is Sabbath. The captain wants the Jews to take their place in the third boat, but : "We refused because it was Sabbath and we told him that the boat would have to wait until night when we would board it. Stubbornly he persisted, but with no avail, as we told him that the only way he could make us go on board the boat was by force. He went into a rage and ordered the carpenter to disassemble the stove and that we should not get any food until the two other boats had returned, as he actually did on Sunday".
About the already established settlements of the Jews in this territory the Copia mentions people who live there and were settled there already for a year. We also hear about passengers and crew "who arrived on the previous boat from Middelburg", and we further notice the presence of colonists from Martinica and Castello de Arguim, while the extent of the entire settlement is estimated at more than 120 families.
Francis, Lord Willoughby, a royalist exile, who in 1647 by lease obtained the disposal of the Earl of Carlisle's proprietary rights on the Caribbean Islands, came to Barbados in 1650 and had the coast of Guyana discovered in the very same year. In the second half of 1651 at the initiative of' Willoughby, an expedition left under the command of Major Anthony Rowse for Surinam, to establish a colony there. The colonists met there a lonely colonist Jacob Enoch who had already lived there for two years with his family and had not experienced any hostilities from the natives. Rowse, a man of experience and tact, started by assigning the sites of the plantations and by building a fort. Willoughby continued showing interest in the colony of Surinam of which he was the acknowledged founder, notwithstanding the fact that the anti-royalist forces gained influence in the West-Indies in the years after 1650. Especially after the forced passing of Barbados into the hands of Cromwell (1652). Willoughby found it advisable in those years to become reconciled with the Commonwealth from motives of opportunism.
We already knew that the royalistic tendencies in the West-Indies were of a permanent nature, but this is moreover apparent from our Copia, from which we learn :
"That same day an English ship, sailing under the Dutch flag, came alongside. There were three noble-men and one hornblower on board who came from Serenan (Surinam) where they had established peace with our settlement. The Governor had also granted them permission to trade, after agreeing with his principals in Zeeland. These gentlemen said that they were Royalists, and since it was poor trading in England wanted - to try it this way. After we had given them our opinion about the confederation, they left immediately. May God grant that the decision reached by the Gentlemen in Zeeland be beneficiary for the Commonwealth".
May this unadorned account speak further for itself. With its detailed data and its own naive spirit, which give us such a striking view of the life, of the first Jewish generations in America. May it be allowed to us to represent here the dramatic finale in its entirety, in order to link the past and the future in a meaningful way on the day of glorious remembrance.
"We shall send some copies of this summary, amplified by more observations to be taken, all according to the truth and nothing but the truth. We shall thank God that He has delivered us from the hell of snow, and has brought us in peace to this beautiful country, where after many, many years we will lay our bodies to rest, and when the time is there we shall gather them for our Fatherland. Amen".
The voyage to Pauroma (Pomeroon) and the "Wild Coast" by Jeosua Nunez Netto and Joseph Pereira 15th September 1658.
On May 12th. we set out from Middelburg on board the "Concordia", seen off by the gentlemen of the Company, under the command of captain Hendrik Stratman, to whose care the good passage and wellbeing of all the passengers and the Jews in particular were entrusted. Weighing anchor, we went under sail 12 o'clock at noon and sailed with the aim to reach Flushing, where we dropped anchor, the same being done by two raiders who had also departed from Middelburg to try their luck.
On the 13th. of the same month, we hoisted sail since the wind was favourable. The following day we entered the Channel, the Jews and the other passengers being far from comfortable as the boat was very crowded. And thus we sailed forty miles before we arrived at the entrance of the Channel, where we were overtaken for three days by a heavy head-wind which forced us to call at Cappa in order to avoid being thrown on the cliffs of Cape Finisterre by the strong current or be forced to call at Valmuyen (Vulmouth ) in case the headwind would last longer.
After three days, however, a favourable wind started blowing which kept on for a considerable time and served us well.
On the 31st. of the same month we had, according to the mates, already covered more than hundred miles, and at 3 o'clock in the morning we were not far from the coast of Barbary, where we anchored in the stillness of dawn.
The mates could not make out which country it was, but as we could ascertain later on, it was Cabo Branco.
At ten o'clock that morning a stiff breeze set in, called by us the "Blessing Wind", and we continued smoothly on our course. On June 2nd. we sighted Fort Ventura and Lancarote on the windward side of the Canary Islands situated between these islands and Barbary, and on the same day we sailed past them and continued on our way driven on by the "Blessing Wind". The 7th. of that month the Captain called a meeting, attended by two Frenchmen, two Dutchmen and two Jews, none of them qualified in the art of navigation and announced that he wanted to call at the island of Sao Vicente which is near Gabo Verde. For that purpose, a small craft which was carried by the ship, would be made ready to fetch water, which was needed and he instructed each of them to inform their countrymen of this decision and to that purpose the course was accordingly set the detour being not more than 70 miles to reach the above mentioned islands.
The Jews representing us were David Vaz and Elissa Abbas, which latter, after informing us of the proposal, was instructed by us after due consideration to inform the Captain in our name that before having called a meeting, he should have checked up on the watersupply, together with the stewards and the passengers, as he should have taken in a watersupply sufficient for three months while we had only sailed for 25 days now, that the wind was favourable and although we admitted the shortage, we did not agree to calling at the port since obviously the purpose of this call was only to bring the long boat in condition for trading at Cristoval and the Martinicas Islands.
Together with Elissa Abbas we delivered this message, to which the Captain, being an experienced seaman, replied that he had not looked into the matter as this had been impossible for him and that we acted as people of experience. In reply to this we told him that he should investigate and if he should not find the watersupply adequate, he should replenish same (which could be done in three days), and then continue the journey lest we should not lose the good weather which we were having. Because the rainy season starts early in July on these coasts it was very probable that we might be becalmed and that the longboat could be rigged better at Ezequibe. Whereupon he answered that if the longboat was not rigged, no water could be hauled and that he had already taken his decision in consultation with persons on board who were in favour of his suggestion.
Seeing now that there was no other way out to escape the hardships we might suffer, we objected no more and continued our journey until the 9th. of said month when we sighted the island of Sao Vicente which we approached by a circuitous route as the mates, who were no pilots, mistook the cape of the island for the island of Santo Antao, which lies before Sao Vicente. The next day, however, they discovered their error and again headed for the island where we dropped anchor close to shore. There we saw anchored an English ship of approximately 50 tons, a raider, which we were told was on her way to New England. There were also a few other ships buying up slaughtered, flayed and very lean goats and also some live ones which latter they caught by running them down by dogs, and these they resold cheaply. Since the goats looked very poor we did not want to eat them and were afraid that they could die and go to waste.
We went on shore of said island, which is a desert and very dry and has no running water save that of the Casimbas, and because it was very quiet there the longboat was rigged and we filled 50 barrels with water.
Anchored in the bay, we stayed 13 days at the island although the sea was rather rough by the strong winds descending from the mountains down into the bay. The bay is famous for it's capacity to harbour 200 warships at a time.
On the 23rd. of June we left the island of Sao Vicente, the weather being very good and the wind favourable which lasted till the end of the month. However, we were in grave danger of going down, because the rigged longboat being attached by two cables to the stern was towed by us, slowing down our speed, since the ship was a poor sailor.
On the first day of the Conjunction (the first day after the New Moon.) we were becalmed, which lasted for eight days and was followed up from time to time by a gust of wind, and we sailed into a latitude of 4 degree. 40" on the 24th. of July. On the 25th. we observed an enormous foam-line in front of us, which was recognised by some of the pilots as the gulfstream of the Amazonriver being weighed down by the power of the sea.
Thus we sailed in south-western direction till 12 o'clock at noon of the 27th. of said month and the mates were astonished that they saw neither land or change in the water, which discouraged the passengers. The cause of this delay was the longboat which slowed us down.
On said day and hour until the 29th. of July 12 o'clock at noon, while sailing from West to West south-west, the sun's altitude was taken and we had made leeway till 6% degree. For ten days we already had received from four to ten units of rationed water, and we could truthfully state that there were more days of four than ten units; however, it is worth quoting that on the days of four units we received an additional two units of French wine and half a unit of liquor, which was distributed on the insistence of the passengers, sailors and soldiers. Since the distribution of the six units of water, no fire was made and no cooking was being done anymore.
When the mates had noticed the error caused by their wrong navigation, they had the course changed to south-south-west till August 7th., which brought us to a latitude of 2 degree after we had discarded the longboat which had caused us so much trouble, the latter sailing away under her own canvas with a crew of four sailors.
On this day, the event of Tisabeab, 10 o'clock at night, it rained heavily and with the aid of sheets we gathered much water, which we saved until the next evening, the end of the fast. We thought it better to gather the water but not to drink of it, just like the Supreme Being had shown to Moses the Promised Land but had pointed out to him that he should not enter it.
On the 8th. of the month, the day of Tisabeab, which we spent in lamentations because of the riches and good, things we had lost by the sins of our ancestors, we were consoled by the Lord of Creation and saw a change in the water from blue into green, a sign that we were close to land.
On the 9th. of the month we gauged 83 fathoms of water which made us happy since we were constantly afraid of a catastrophe due to the uncertainty of the pilots in establishing, the right course. Although we and some Frenchmen, also navigators, had noticed this, nothing had been said and we had refrained from speaking about navigation because everybody wanted to try his hand at being a mate, even the women had their say. After sounding had taken place, everybody rejoiced.
On the 10th. land was sighted, at a latitude of 4 degree 56". Low land, very peaceful because of the forest, and we sailed in approximately 6 fathoms of water, while all of us were in a festive mood. In this manner we sailed along the coast until the 13th. and on this day the first mate, accompanied by sailors and soldiers who were armed with guns, went ashore in the longboat to explore the land and the mouth of the river which are all very wide here on this coast. They met a boat with some 40 Indians, armed with bows and arrows, and talked to them while they sent our companions to the weatherside and the natives asked if they were Dutchmen. They confirmed this, but the Indians did not want to believe them or trust them, stating that if they were Dutch, why they did not carry a flag (it was stupid of them not to have taken one along), and that they must either be French or English. At last, by means of sign-language they made us understand that the river was the Corantijn, and that downwards there was the Berbice river, and still further down the Esequibo. On the 14th. the first mate returned aboard ship and told us all this.
After taking the same, safety measures, the first mate went back ashore on the 15th., while the ship sailed along the coast. He recognised by means of certain marks in the course of the river and by the map, that it was a river with a wide mouth, the Berbice river; he came back to inform us of this and at the same time brought along six barrels of water. Until this day we had not eaten cooked food and only four units of water were distributed daily. Immediately we received full rations and cooking was started. We went downwards along the coast until night and dropped anchor, while the mate continuously sailed along the coastline, exploring same.
On the 18th of the month, one of the passengers (a Commander in the service of the owners of the ship who had gone to Guine to get the Negroes, for those we had on board were delivered by their masters, and he had gone to Esequibo to wait for the ship and return with it, and he knew this coast well) went along with the mate, to explore the river where we had dropped anchor, and informed us that it was the Demerara river, three miles past the Esequibo river.
On the 19th. of the month the Commander of the soldiers went with the longboat to Esequibo to inquire about the whereabouts of our settlement. Five o'clock in the afternoon of that same day a sail was sighted which approached and a ship dropped anchor alongside us. The next day the Commander and someone who did the buying, came on board and informed us that this was the frigate which had collected the Negroes and that they had 300 Ardas (a special Negro tribe ) on board who were good people. It was a relief to see that everything went so punctually.
On the 22nd. of the month the Commander and the former Governor of the settlement, returned by a big boat and they informed us that the settlement lay on the Pauroma river. The people who lived there had been there for one year already, together with those who had arrived from Middelburg by the previous boat, also some people from the island of Martinica and from Castello de Arguim. Altogether more than 120 dwellings. In 'his boat he had lots of sugar-cane, lemons, oranges as large as small melons, bananas and other fruit, which were handed out among the passengers and our Captain gave a party in honour of the Governor.
The next day, the 23rd. the Governor paid us a visit in the saloon where we stayed and we merrily toasted him, while we offered him our services and paid him homage. All this, after he had scrutinised us and received recommendations regarding our persons from the Captain, who was our friend. Between some jokes (explained to us by the Captain), the Governor (who was a fat man) said to Ieosua Nunez Netto, that he must be of good faith, that all necessities of life were abundant, the country fertile and that his own corpulence which he had acquired in this country was proof enough for this, with this he bade us farewell. On that day our ship and the one with the Negroes, as well as the barge, went under sail and the next day we dropped anchor at the mouth of the river in one and two third fathoms of water. The mouth of the river is 9 to 10 feet deep and from there as far as the fort, which lies 12 miles inland, the depth is 11 feet. The mouth of the river is 4 miles wide and scattered over forty miles upstream people live. Concerning the country and its climate I will give an account of which I have been able to observe from the boat. This, because I stayed on board till after our luggage was discharged.
That day, it was Sabath, all the French and Dutch passengers together with their chests, beds and luggage were disembarked in three big boats, one from the ship and two from Esequibo and Pauroma. Also the soldiers, the Commander and the Governor left. After the two boats had left, the Captain wanted all the Jews together with some Flemings to disembark in the other boat, which we refused to do, because it was Sabath, and told him that the boat would have to wait until night when we would board it. He stubbornly persisted but with no avail, as we told him that the only way he could make us go on board the boat was by force. He went into a rage and ordered the carpenter to dismantle the cooking stove and that we should not get any food until the two other boats had returned, as he actually did on Sunday.
Monday we requested him to supply our rations which usually were stored in the hold and he let us cook, but did not give us any biscuits as there were none on board.
On the following Wednesday, the 28th, all the Jews with some hand-baggage were disembarked in the big longboat and in another small ship's boat, but we stayed on board to have our luggage unloaded, which happened very slowly as the boats took five days going and coming.
The 7th. of September a ship, sailing under the Dutch flag, joined us. She was one of the two raiders which had left Middelburg together with us, coming from the coast of Brazil, where they had captured a corvette which was en route to the Cape coming from her home-country. They also raided a ship coming from Rio en route to the island of Terceira which is close to Tamaracá. This ship had 600 chests on board and the passengers escaped to the shore in a longboat. Three men who had stayed on board, the Captain, the first mate and a Spaniard, saved the ship from falling into the hands of the pirates by grounding her, where she went down immediately, no salvage whatsoever being possible.
When this raider left Middelburg she sailed under the name of "S. Catherina", but later the pirate Matheos Quart changed the name into "Flanders". An English ship coming from Angola was also raided by them in the vicinity of the Cape. They carried 850 Negroes, a Governor, two Captains and his Secretary, also a lot of riches in silver and ivory. Because said ship had fired at them, they captured it. We inquired after the name of the Governor, which they did not know. The Governor had been shot. A Portuguese ship with twenty loads of cargo was seized too. The raider left the ship at the mouth of the Esequibo and went up the river in longboats to find out if the Governor or the colonists wanted to buy Negroes.
On the 12th. of that month, the Pirate-Captain boarded the ship he had captured in Brazil with 250 Negroes from Angola on board. Aiming to sail up river, he first visited us as the Governor did not want to pay a good price.
That same day an English ship, sailing under the Dutch flag, came alongside. Aboard were three noblemen and one hornblower who came from Serenan (Surinam) where they had made peace with our settlement. They wished to trade here as well as in Serenan, which was allowed them by our Governor, after his having first obtained the approval of his principals in Zeeland. These gentlemen from Serenan said that they were Royalists, and since it was poor trading in England, they wanted to try it this way. After we had expressed our opinion about the Confederation, they left immediately. May God grant that the decision made by the Gentlemen in Zeeland be beneficial for the common good.
As far as I have been able to observe, the country is covered with not too dense forest and some Indian villages upstream. The Indians are very gentle and peace-loving, and on such good terms with the Governor that he has asked the Gentlemen in Zeeland not to send anymore soldiers. The soldiers who had arrived in this ship were put off duty. There was a Jew in a boat with Indians, and I spoke to one who could speak Spanish rather well. In a word, the country is as I had always dreamed it to be. There were no snakes and no mosquitoes, few or no ants, the plantations were excellent and the most fertile they had discovered up till now, on which all plants could be cultivated. Those who had been here for a year already had a plantation, which provided their food. They had selected some tobacco and sent same to Middelburg by the previous boat on which our people had arrived. They really had a better journey because it only lasted seven weeks and four days. Only they had not had beer to drink.
The sons-in-law of Jacob Gabai and David Torres bought a plantation from someone who had first arrived here, on which there were 6000 cassava-plants and other crops, as well as buildings, for three Negroes and fifty guilders in cash, thus providing for their food and safeguarding their lives. The cassava I have seen is excellent and many bunches of bananas are bigger than a man's size. The tobacco is of the same variety as that of the Orinoco; a lot of pimento, potatoes and yams and many other vegetables. Now they will start working the plantations on a larger scale with the Negroes and plant to make the grounds ready; this looks very promising also with regard to the trading we intend to practise here. With an abundance of time we think that especially those who have some ready money, will have plenty of opportunities and that they will prosper with the Help from Above.
A lot of sugar-cane is being planted here, which is renowned as they tell us. There are many wild pigs, which the Indians kill and sell for one knife, also a lot of wild fowl. There are only few ordinary chickens and all are of a different breed. The white men and the Indians make a drink which is very refreshing and stronger than beer, but one has to be careful not to drink too much of it, because it will soon make one drunk.
The whole country is very healthy and one can dress or undress under any condition without danger of becoming ill. People here die normally of old age because the breeze is refreshing and perceiving all this we trust the Supreme Being.
We shall forward some copies of this summary, completed by more observations we shall be able to make later on, a according to truth and without any exaggeration truthfully recording our findings and on the strength of this good news we shall thank God that He has delivered us from the hell of snow and has brought us in peace to this beautiful country, where after many, many years we shall lay our bodies to rest, till when the time has come we shall gather them for our Fatherland.
A m e n.
In August 1658 news was received in the Netherlands of the safe arrival of the colonists. A new settlement was at once made on the Pomeroon River upon which the town of New Middelburg was founded, with a fort a few miles higher up, to which the name Nova Zeelandia was given. The earliest mention of New Middelburg was made in a report of the proceedings of the Committee of the three cities on the 2 January 1659. At that meeting a letter from the Commandeur, dated at New Middelburg, the 15 September 1658, was read. In the same year, 1658, the city of Amsterdam proposed to colonise a part of the Wild Coast. The Zeeland Chamber protested, claiming the exclusive right to the entire Wild Coast.
The settlement of New Middelburg on the Pomeroon soon became very prosperous. Byam, the Governor of the then English colony in Suriname, writing in 1669, stated that "Bowroom and Maraco, alias New Zeeland", was "a most flourishing colony..., the greatest of all they (the Dutch) ever had in America". He added that the English, after having temporarily made themselves masters in 1665 of "all the great Province of New Zeeland and Desseceub", were in turn obliged to surrender to a Dutch relieving force from Berbice and were forced to give back 1,200 slaves whom they had taken.
In 1665, the English had captured the colony, storming the Dutch fort of Moruka. The extent and importance of the settlement was such that possessions of it was regarded as carrying with it the country right up to the Orinoco. Major Scott, the Commander of the English forces reported in his Description of Guayana:
This year the English could boast of the possession of all that part of Guiana abutting on the Atlantic Ocean from Cayan on the south-east to Oronoque on the north-west (except a small colony on the River Berbishees), which is no less than 600 English miles.
In 1666, the colony was recaptured by the Dutch; but the settlement on the Pomeroon remained neglected for some time. Essequibo, however, continued to be prosperous. On the 26 August 1669, it was reported to the Zeeland Chamber that a ship had arrived "with 50,000 or 60,000 pounds of sugar, and 20,000 pounds of letter-wood which had been made and cut in Essequibo by the Company's Negroes".
In 1674, a new chartered Company was formed with the same rights and limits of those possessed by the former Dutch Company. Pomeroon and Essequibo were specifically mentioned in the grant. Under this new charter the Central Council consisted of ten instead of nineteen members.