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David Pietersen de Vries, Merchant Mariner, Dutch Patroon

Page history last edited by Liz Johnson 10 years, 10 months ago


David Pieterszen de Vries

Merchant Mariner, Dutch Patroon

1593 -ca 1662


David Pieterszen de Vries of Hoorn, West-Friesland, Noord-Holland was a talented, accomplished, well-travelled and experienced merchant, ship's Master and Patroon. He was born at La Rochelle, France in 1593, married the daughter of an alderman of Hoorn in 1615 with whom he had four children, and he died about 1662 at Hoorn. His father, Pieter Jacobszen de Vries, had been a merchant mariner from a prominent family of Hoorn, Noord-Holland, who removed to the French port of La Rochelle after the 1584 assassination of Prince William of Orange, and his mother was a woman of Amsterdam, who came to La Rochelle not long before the birth of her son.


According to his own brief autobiography, de Vries was trained from his early years as a mariner, and more. He was skilled in sailing, fishing and whaling, in global geography, celestial and coastal navigation and piloting, as well as in naval ordnance and military tactics. In his lifetime, he sailed as far north as Jan Mayen Island within the Arctic Circle, west to Newfoundland and back, to the south around the Horn of Africa and east to the East Indies. He visited ports in France, Spain, and Italy, Guiana in Brazil, various ports in the West Indies, and several ports in North America including Dutch New Amsterdam, the Delaware River (still very wild at the time) and ports of call within the Chesapeake Bay in the English colony of Virginia. De Vries was self-confident and courageous, religious, forthright and upright, an astute judge of character, skilled in trading, diplomacy, and in interpersonal and group relations. During his lifetime, he met and interacted on equal terms with many upper-level governing officials of the Dutch West Indies Company, of France, several governors of the the islands of the West Indies, more than one Director of New Netherlands at Manhattan (New Amsterdam), and officials of some of the English colonies in North America as well. De Vries was apparently unbending and unbribable, yet well-raised and perfectly mannered. He socialized in the best circles in the Dutch and English colonies, yet always maintained his own personal opinion, dignity and integrity.


In 1618, at about the age of twenty-five, David Pieterszen de Vries made his first voyage as master of his own ship, and thereafter made several more successful voyages, including one for the French as vice-commander of a fleet of seven ships. In 1629 he joined a group of prominent Amsterdam investors as co-patroon (colonial proprietor) of the ill-fated Zwaanendael colony, located near the south cape of the Delaware Bay.


Several years after the disastrous end of the Zwaanendael colony on the Delaware, David Pietersen de Vries planted two individually-owned colonies near Manhattan. One was located on Staten Island and the other was at Tappan. In 1641, the Staten Island colony was the second of his colonies to be annihilated by Indians. After this, de Vries remained in New Netherlands a short while longer, then returned to Holland in 1644, where he began assembling the logs and journal entries he had kept during his career into a publishable book.


De Vries' book, "Korte Historiael Ende Journaels Aenteyckeninge van Verscheyden Voyagiens..." (Short History and Journal Notes of Various Voyages...), was published in 1655. Much of this work consists of Captain's logs describing locations and events (including navigation, detailed sailing data and the weather) in great detail, which he later incorporated into his book At the time of publication, time his official title was "Artillerie-meester vande Ed: M: Heeren Gecommiteerde Raden van de Staten van Westfriesland ende 't Noorder-qwartier" (Artillery-Master for the Esteemed Board of Directors of the State of West Friesland and the Northern Quarter).


In his logs and journals, de Vries described the many places he had visited, including the coast of Newfoundland, various ports within the Mediterranean Sea, his destinations in the East Indies and the West Indies, and his visits to English ports in North America. De Vries' published work contains a brief personal hstory, plus logs and narratives of his voyages as ship's master. He describes a trip through the Meditarranean in great detail, in which he visited ports along the Mediterranean coast of Spain and also sailed through the Tyrrhenian and Adriatic Seas on the west and east sides of Italy during his Meditarranean voyages. He describes various encounters with pirate vessels from Africa, and at least one major sea battle with a pirate fleet in which his ship had been engaged off the coast of Spain. At Carthagena, Spain, he encountered a fleet of ships commanded by the famous Dutch renegade pirate known as "De Veenboer," and describes his own ship's participation in the sea battle in which De Veenboer was killed.


In 1632 when he arrived at Zwaanendael to inspect its remains, David Pieterszen de Vries became the first Dutch patroon to personally visit his North American colony. He knew several of the Dutch Vice-Directors who governed the New Netherlands colonies from their headquarters at New Amsterdam. Arriving at New Netherlands for the first time during the tenure of Pieter Minuit, he was also present during the administrations of Wouter van Twiller and Willem Kieft. In 1639 he became the first patroon to actually reside in his colony. In addition to describing places and events he encountered during his voyages, his book gives detailed descriptions of events taking place during his period of residency near Manhattan. These include encounters and interactions with various Indians in groups and as individuals, occurrences during the time of his appointment as a member of Kieft's Council of Twelve, meetings with various persons, and his experiences as patroon of three separate Dutch colonies. An exemplar of levelheadedness, he always advocated for peaceful and diplomatic solutions to conflicts that arose between the Dutch and the Indians, a policy that had been a requirement of the West Indies Company from the outset. His journal contains the only existing eyewitness account of events happening during the time leading up to and following Willem Kieft's Indian wars.


Extracts from several of de Vries' voyages were translated by Henry C. Murphy and published in 1853 as Voyages from Holland to America, A.D. 1632 to 1644. Only the voyages pertaining to the New-Netherland colonies (in North America) were included here. As well as relating eyewitness accounts of events in New Netherland, these also included descriptions of persons, places and events in the West Indies, a traditional stopping point in the translatlantic trade system. Murphy gives an excellent preface which includes a narration of de Vries' 1620 voyage to the coast of Newfoundland, Canada.


Certain interludes detailing the flora, fauna and the lifestyle of various native tribes, inserted in order to give a fuller view of the North American environment, may possibly have been lifted from the works of one or more earlier authors. De Vries was only one of many in this period to adopt this sort of authorial license. But the descriptions of the coastal waters, the landscape and rivers and the flora and fauna of the Delaware, and the rest of his work is entirely his own, related in the book by date and place-name and coordinates, just as it had been recorded in his Captain's logs and personal journals at the time of occurrence. These richly detailed accounts of events of the 1630's and 1640's in the North American colonies give us a rare, colorful and invaluable firsthand view of life in this great historical era, and provides portraits of individuals that can be found nowhere else. Of Kieft's Indian wars, Murphy writes, "His relation of the disgraceful and disastrous Indian war, in which he was an actor and friend of the Indians, is the only authentic one extant, of any completeness, except that of the government, and is, therefore, of great interest and value."


It seems so unfortunate that the entire "Korte Historiael Ende Journaels Aenteyckeninge..." was never translated into English. David Pieterszen de Vries was fearless, yet level-headed and fair with all persons whom he encountered. The journals of every one of his voyages are whole, complete, and fascinating to read. If published in English, they could add much to our understanding of the early Dutch colonial period in the Western Hemisphere, and of world geography and political history during this very interesting era.





A NOTE on misinformation published in 1969: David Pieterszen de Vries was NOT a Buccanneer!


A 1969 book, The Voyages of David de Vries, Navigator and Adventurer, by Charles McKew Parr (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company) seems to have conveyed some misinformation about David Pieterszen de Vries. Parr had apparently written a trilogy of books concerning the history of Portugese possessions; the de Vries book was the third in the series. These are not classified in the Dewey Decimal System as History, but under 910: Geography and Travel. Undocumented claims by Parr include a tale mentioning that de Vries was aboard his father's ship which brought the Pilgrim Fathers from England to Holland. Most dubious is an assertion that de Vries had been a buccaneer in the Spanish Main. De Vries may have carried letters of marque from the countries under whom he worked, but he was never a 'buccaneer' nor any sort of pirate at all. For a full description of The Voyages of David de Vries, Navigator and Adventurer, by Charles McKew Parr, see the untitled book review by Adrian C. Leiby in The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, Vol. 27, No. 3 (July 1970), pp. 507-508. Note that this writer has not yet located a copy of the Parr book, but in order to issue this caveat, relied upon Leiby's detailed review of it in The William and Mary Quarterly (available through JSTOR), which contains many specific details of the book's contents.







David Pietersz. de Vries was born in 1592 or 1593 in La Rochelle. His father, Pieter Jacobsz. de Vries, was a merchant mariner from a prominent family of Hoorn, Noord-Holland, who had removed to the French port of La Rochelle in 1584. His mother was a woman of Amsterdam, who came to La Rochelle only three months before his birth.


At age 4 he was brought back to Holland, probably to Hoorn. Most likely, his father had him trained in seamanship, navigation, buying and selling, and other skills needed to become a merchant mariner.


On 15 June 1615, he married Seitgen Simonsdocher Huygh, a child of Simon Cornelis Huygh, a schepen (aldermen) of Hoorn. They had children: Trijn, David, and twins Cornelis and Hildegonda. Trijn de Vries married Hendrick de Liefde of Rotterdam, a ship captain who had several brothers who were also ship captains, sailing to and from the West Indies. 


In 1617 de Vries went on a whaling voyage to Jan Mayen, a volcanic island in the Arctic Ocean between Iceland and the coast of Greenland (about 400 miles northeast of Iceland, about 300 miles east of central Greenland and about 600 miles west of the North Cape, Norway). The first known discovery of the island was in 1614, after which Dutch whaling corporations began operations there.


In 1618, he made his first voyage as Master of his own ship.


Voyages as ship captain and merchant mariner


  • 1st voyage. 20 August 1618 - 26 August 1619. Mediterranean voyage. At Texel on 16 Sept. awaiting favorable sailing winds. Through Straights of Gibraltar, to do business in the Mediterranean. Attacked by Turkish galleys off Cephalonia, successful in replusing them.


  • 2nd voyage. 10 June 1620 - 8 Sept 1622. To Newfoundland and to France.Arrived off Newfoundland in the end of July, 1620, to obtain codfish. Bringing that to the Mediterranean, in convoy with a few other ships returning from Newfoundland, he met a fleet of eight Turkish ships carrying many guns and men, commanded by "De Veenboer" near Carthagena, Spain on 10 October 1620. A battle with the Turks lasted all day but at nightfall, "De veenboer" was killed and the Turkish fleet sailed away. De Vries remained in Carthagena 3 month, then sailed across the Med to Tabarcka (off Tunisia, owned then by a Genoese family) for grain. To Genoa, Italy; to Toulon where he joined Charles, Duke of Guise, a French Admiral. Freighting in the Med; sold ship and returned via Marseille and Dieppe by land and from Dieppe to Rotterdam, arriving there in August 1623.


  • 3rd voyage -- 1 July 1624 - October 1625. Partnership with Jan Mackyn of La Rochelle. After learning that de Vries intended to sail to the West Indies, the Dutch West Indies Company impounded his ship, preventing him from sailing on schedule. His father-in-law interceded in his behalf at Den Haag, where he was attending a general assembly of the United Netherlands states. To La Rochelle and to Canada, commissioned by the King of France. The ship was eventually released; de Vries sold this ship and left for La Rochelle, where his partner had been writing letters to the WIC in de Vries' behalf. To Bayonne, where he purchased another ship and hired Basque fisherman for a trip to Canada, but his ship was taken into service by Charles, Duke of Guise under the King of France and used at La Rochelle, where a Huguenot revolt was taking place. The Treaty of Paris was signed between the city of La Rochelle and king Louis XIII on 5 February 1626.


  • 4th voyage. 8 March 1627 - 24 June 1630. To Batavia, East Indies, in the service of France, as Commander of a fleet of seven ships. From the East Indies he sailed to Masulipatnam, a port on the southeast coast of India.


  • After his return to Holland in June 1630, de Vries entered into a co-patroonship with certain West Indies Company bewindhebbers to plant a colony called Zwaanendael on the Zuid Rivier (South River, now the Delaware), near the southern cape of the Delaware Bay in New-Netherlands. Twenty-eight men were sent out from the Texel on 30 December, 1630, to plant this colony, which was "to carry out the whale fishery in that region, and to plant a colony for the cultivation of all sorts of grain, for which the country is very well suited, and of tobacco." The ship carrying these men was to take sixty French persons to Tortugas in the West Indies, where they were to plant another colony for the Dutch, before sailing north from there to the site of Zwaanendael. The French were returned to Holland but it would be useful to learn who they had been.


  • 5th voyage. 24 May 1632 - 24 June 1633. West Indies (Caribbean), the Delaware, Virginia and New Netherland. Setting out for Zwaanendael in order to equip it with a ship for the whale fishery, where de Vries was to stay as patroon and director of the whaling operation. But the entire group of colonists at Zwaanendael (including a few additional men in the service of the WIC) had been massacred by Indians, which was learned in Holland in early 1632. De Vries sailed from Texel on 24 May, 1632, stopping several places in the West Indies where he took on cargoes of fruit and salt. Arriving at the destroyed colony of Zwaanendael on 6 December 1632, they found the bones of the settlers and of their horses and cattle scattered in the field, and their fort burned to the ground. De Vries future son-in-law, Heindrick de Liefde of Rotterdam (called "cousin" in the English translation of de Vries' Voyages) was with him during this inspection. De Vries in [[the squirrel]] spent several weeks sailing and trading in the Delaware River, where he saw Ft. Nassau (at present site of Gloucester, NJ), "where formerly some families of the West India Company had dwelt," as he writes. After avoiding attacks by the Indians on the NJ side of the Delaware near Ft.Nassau, he made peace with nine or more sachems of the River (Lenni-Lenape) Indians. Hunting turkeys; in danger due to ice; encountered, threatened by and escaped from a group of fifty Minquas (Susquehannock) Indians, whom he learned were part of a company of six hundred, warring at that time with the Lenni-Lenape. To Virginia for grain...


  • 6th voyage. 10 July 1634 - 4 Oct 1636. West Indies, Virginia and New-Netherland. Conveying 30 colonists to Cayenne, Surinam... Arranged for purchase of land on Staten Island, on which to plant his second colony, this time as the sole patroon.


  • 25 Sept 1638 - 21 June 1644. To New-Netherland. Stops as usual in West-Indies. Land residency near Manhattan. Planting and supervising his colony on Staten Island. Member of Kieft's Council of twelve in New Amsterdam (dissenting from Kieft's decisions on warring against the Indians). Members of his colony on Staten Island were massacred by Indians in 1641. Planted his third colony at Tappan in 1640, called Vriessendael. But discouraged by the massacre of his second colony and thoroughly disgusted by the conduct of the vice-directors at Manhattan and their cronies over the last ten years, he left his farm at Vriessendael in October 1643, and had returned to Holland by 21 June 1644.


  • 1644 - 1655. After his return to Holland, de Vries settled again at Hoorn. He was appointed Artillerie-meester (Artillery-Master) for the "Gecommiteerde Raden van de Staten van Westfriesland en het Noorderkwartier." At Hoorn, he worked his captain's logs and journal entries, along with some descriptions of North American flora and fauna apparently from Champlain, into a book that was published in 1655 at Alkmaar, Noord-Holland (West-Friesland), as "Korte Historiael Ende Journaels Aenteyckeninge van Verscheyden Voyagiens in de Vier Veelen des Wereldts-Ronde, als Europa, Africa, Asia, ende Amerika" ("Short History and Journal Notes of Various Voyages in the Four Corners of the World -- Europe, Africa, Asia, and America").


  • 1662. David Pieterszen de Vries is said to have died in 1662 at Hoorn, although research needs to be done in Hoorn to confirm this.






David Pieterszen De Vries, 1655."Korte historiael, ende journaels aenteyckeninge van verscheyden voyagiens in de vier deelen des wereldts-ronde, als Europa, Africa, Asia, ende Amerika, gedaen door D. David Pieterszen de Vries ... waer in verhaelt werd wat batailjes hy te water gedaen heeft: yder landtschap zijn gedierte, gevogelt, wat soorte van vissen, ende wat wilde menschen naer 't leven geconterfaeyt, ende van de bosschen ende ravieren [sic] met haer vruchten." t' Hoorn, voor David Pieterszen de Vries, Arlillerij-Meester van 't Noorder-quartier. Tot Alckmaer, by Symon Gornelisz. Brekegeest. Anno 1655. In English, an abbreviated title of this work would be "Short Historical Notes and Journal Notes of Various Voyages in the Four Corners of the World -- Europa, Africa, Asia, and America".One copy is in Collections from the Library of Congress, accessible from The Atlantic World website's homepage at http://memory.loc.gov/intldl/awkbhtml/awkbhome.html


Henry Chase Murphy, Voyages from Holland to America, A.D. 1632 to 1644 By David Peterson de Vries. Translated from the Dutch for the New York Historical Society, with an introduction and notes, by Henry C. Murphy. Collections of the New York Historical Society 2d. ser. v. 3, pt. 1, pp. 1-136 [1853]. On internet at http://books.google.com/books?id=knoFAAAAQAAJ& -- and here: http://books.google.com/books?id=wdN29cUg_G4C& --also found on The Atlantic World website.


J.C. Mollema, [date unavailable]. De Nederlandsche vlag op de wereldzeeen. Met David Pieterszen de Vries in de vier werelddeelen. Scheltens & Giltay, Amsterdam. One of Mollema's sources of information was "Verscheyden Voyagien van David Pieterszen de Vries" by Dr. H.T. Colenbrander, who obtained information on de Vries' father-in-law, wife and children. Copy in possession of Cor Snabel, who kindly supplied and translated certain information from this work.


CS Weslager with A.R. Dunlap, 1961. Dutch Explorers, Traders and Settlers in the Delaware Valley 1609-1664. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.


The 1853 Murphy extract and translation of de Vries' North American voyages can be found here:



Adrian C. Leiby, in The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, Vol. 27, No. 3 (July 1970), pp. 507-508. Available at http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/jstor/wm/wm-3.27-3-toc.html


Also see the Zwaanendael Museum at 102 Kings Highway, in Lewes, Delaware, which has a website: http://history.delaware.gov/museums/zm/zm_main.shtml



© 2010 Elizabeth A. Johnson. Free use can be made of the above for personal genealogical research, but commercial or for-profit use is strictly prohibited. Contact the author for further informatiuon iris.gatesATgmail.com




Elizabeth A. Johnson -- ©April 2010

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