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1644: Dutch Spies Aboard New Sweden Ships

Page history last edited by Liz Johnson 6 years, 8 months ago

1644: Dutch Spies Aboard New Sweden Ships

By Cor Snabel


In May 1644 the Dutch West Indies Company (the WIC) learned that two Swedish ships, the Kalmar Nyckel and the Fama, were at Texel coming from New Sweden, which the WIC still considered to be a part of New Netherland. The two ships probably needed supplies and fresh water to continue their journey to Sweden, or were in need of shelter due to bad weather. The directors of the WIC sent two dock workers as undercover observers to investigate the cargo, who were hired to work on the Fama.

If the cargo contained any products like beaver skins (which they had) the WIC would confiscate the ships and cargo, as had happened to the Kalmar Nyckel in 1638 on her first voyage back from New Sweden.

According to a sworn statement the dock workers later made before a notary in Amsterdam*, they had been aboard the Fama for eight days when they came to Enkhuizen, a harbor town along the Zuiderzee in West-Friesland. During those eight days the steersman of the Fama, Jacob Coenraetsz from Rotterdam, had unloaded two barrels of tobacco and brought those ashore, despite the protests of the two dock workers. These protests must have blown their cover, because one evening they saw the steersman and captain of the Fama go aboard the Kalmar Nyckel, and when they returned the dock workers were summoned and informed they must leave the ship. But they were not put ashore there in Enkhuizen. Instead they were put ashore at Edam, a small village miles away from the nearest  WIC office. So before they could report their findings to the WIC, the New Sweden ships would be long gone.

Jacob Coenraetsz, the Fama's steersman, was a Dutchman who knew exactly where to put these WIC spies ashore. The village Edam is about 20 kilometers south of Hoorn, the closest city with a WIC office or representative. In those days there were hardly any decent roads and there were many streams to cross, so by the time they could find bridges it could take them all day to walk to Hoorn. If they walked south in the direction of Amsterdam instead, their problems would be even worse, as the terrain was mainly wetlands and streams. And when they finally arrived near Amsterdam, all they could do was wave at it, because without a boat they could never cross the river IJ that separated them from the city.


 * Stadsarchief Amsterdam notarial acten: notary Henrick Schaef – 1290 p.16, dated 21 Nov. 1644


© Cor Snabel - 24 September, 2017

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