The fourth and last Director-General of New Netherland was the somewhat notorious Peter Stuyvesant (c.1612-1672). A former soldier, he had served as governor of the Dutch Caribbean Island of Curacao, where he lost his right leg. The injury left him with the unfortunate nicknames of "Peg Leg Pete" and "Old Silver Nails" from the stick of wood studded with silver nails that was his artificial limb. The ill-fitting prosthesis may have been the reason for his reputed ill-tempered manner and autocratic style.
Stuyvesant was appointed by the Dutch West India Company in July 1646 to replace William Kieft at a time of the most vulnerability of the colony. He was also a staunch member of the Dutch Reformed Church, knew the Bible well, and attempted to strictly enforce the rules of his employer. These factors came into play when the Dutch West India Company ordered Stuyvesant, illiberal in matters of religion, to concede and allow Dutch Jews from Brazil to live in the colony in 1655 after his initial objection.
First Settlement at Bergen Square
As the new governor, Stuyvesant's charge was to improve the economic status of the colony and to quell the Indian hostilities that interfered with the growth of Dutch settlements like Pavonia. In August 1655, he successfully took over the colony of New Sweden along the Delaware. He returned from that victory to handle the problems at Fort Amsterdam and Pavonia caused by the "Peach Tree War." He bargained with the Indians for the ransom of the captives and entered into negotiations that later culminated in a treaty. A peace agreement was signed on March 6, 1660. From this last Indian crisis, Stuyvesant directed settlers at Pavonia to establish a town for defense rather than live on isolated farms and estates along the Hudson River.
On January 30,1658, at Fort Amsterdam, Stuyvesant met with Indians chiefs from across the Hudson River for the repurchase of the western shore, that is "all the lands between the Hackensack and North (Hudson) rivers from Weehawken and Secaucus to the Kill van Kull (Lovero, p. 12). This paved the way for him to authorize the founding of Bergen in 1660, a major impetus for the future settlement of Jersey City. The town was built behind a square wooden palisade as a defensive measure to protect settlers against Indians.
The fortified site was near elevated terrain approximately two miles from the Hudson River that was a former Indian corn field. On September 5, 1661, Stuyvesant as Director-General issued a charter of incorporation to the Village of Bergen that included a court of justice, church and school. The eight hundred foot area is now Bergen Square at Bergen Avenue and Academy Street. During the remainder of Stuyvesant's tenure, Dutch settlers, mostly from New Amsterdam, moved into Harsimus, Paulus Hook, Communipaw, Hoboken, Minkakwa (Greenville), Pamrapo and
Four years later, Stuyvesant tried to defend New Netherland from takeover by England. Charles II and his brother James, the Duke of York, wanted to close the geographic gap in their control of the northeast coast of America. An Anglo-Dutch rivalry had developed over slave trade and the availability of cheaper goods from the West Indies. The elimination of New Netherland would also affect an end to the illicit trade conducted by the Dutch with the English southern colonies.
The Duke of York sent Colonel Richard Nichols with four ships and 400 soldiers to take over the Dutch colony. Nichols first went to Boston for additional recruits. When the English naval fleet took their position at the entrance of the New Amsterdam harbor on August 27, 1664, Nichols sent notice to Stuyvesant to surrender. Stuyvesant tried but could not rally support among the settlers to defend the colony. Rather, the settlers and his council offered no resistance and advised him to surrender. After years of discontent with Dutch rule and Indian warfare, the colonists held back while the English claimed control of the colony. Stuyvesant surrendered to the English and the Dutch agreed to a peace treaty in 1667. He died in 1672 and is interred at St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery.
New Netherland was divided to become the English colonies of New York and New Jersey. Dutch settlers, as well as Stuyvesant, remained and accepted English rule and law that included the promise of town government. They could keep their property, religious freedom and continue trade with the Dutch. These conditions allowed the Dutch to retain their ethnic culture in America through their customs and the institution of the Dutch Reformed Church.
Stuyvesant's Historic Portrait Sculpture
A statue of Peter Stuyvesant once stood in the front courtyard of the Martin Luther King, Jr. School (1969)/ School No. 11. The placement of the statue at 866 Bergen Avenue was proposed in 1910 at the time of Jersey City's commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the founding of the village of Bergen. A coalition called the Bergen Monument Association raised $15,000 for the monument. With the assistance of the Bergen Dutch Reformed Church/Old Bergen Church contributions came from Jersey City and its Board of Commissioners, residents and school children.
In a well-subscribed competition, the design by Scottish-American sculptor J. Massey Rhind (1860-1936) was selected. It would be his second statue of Stuyvesant. The first was completed 1898 and is now on view at Kingston, NY. The new bronze was cast at the Roman Bronze Work Foundry in New York City. During a prior competition, Rhind's design for the monument in front of City Hall had been bypassed by the selection commission.
Rhind fashioned the near nine-foot high statue of Stuyvesant with an elaborate granite exedra. He dons a flowing cape, plumed hat and seventeenth century Dutch-attire holding a carved walking stick in his right hand, and rolled charter in his gloved-left hand--a symbol of his governance. The bronze, describes local historian John Gomez, "... was platformed [sic] on a 10-inch-high plinth and affixed to an 8-foot-high semi-circular exedra, or wayside seat, with a wingspan of 12 feet. The exedra . . . was caped [sic] at each curling end by Dutch seafaring reliefs" (Jersey Journal 7 February 2011). An inscription read: "In the year of our Lord 1660, by permission of PETRUS STUYVESANT, Director-General, and the Council of New Netherland, around this Square, was founded and built the Village of BERGEN, the first permanent settlement in NEW JERSEY."
The completed monument was placed at an angle to the entrance of Public School No. 11 facing Bergen Avenue. On October 18, 1913, a parade, starting from the Carteret Club (Bergen Avenue and Mercer Street,) marched towards a waiting crowd of 5,000 viewers who had gathered for the unveiling. Daniel Van Winkle, president of the Hudson County Historical Society, had the honor. Among the dignitaries in attendance were Acting New Jersey Governor James F. Fielder, who addressed the audience, Mayor Mark Fagan, and City Commissioners A. Harry Moore, James J. Ferris and Frank Hague.
The statue was well-received by the community. From three engraved tablets affixed to the monument, passers-by could read about the colonial settlement of Bergen and its historic significance. It joined the other notable works by Rhind: the bronze figures for the Grand Army of the Republic Memorial (Washington, DC), George Washington (Washington Park, Newark, NJ), Philip Schuyler (Albany, NY), and bronze south doors at historic Trinity Church, (New York City).
The Stuyvesant statue proudly marked historic Bergen Square undisturbed until the devastating three-alarm fire that destroyed Public School No. 11 on October 3, 1966. The decision to build the sixth school on the site was decided after community made known its wishes to Mayor Thomas Whelan. The future of Stuyvesant, minus the damaged exedra, however, was not clear. It was eventually affixed to a new concrete base and sidelined to the back north corner of the front courtyard.
The new school, designed by Comparetto & Kenny, was named for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and was dedicated on April 2, 1969. A bronze bust of Dr. King by sculptor Achimedes Giacomantonio was placed in the school lobby in remembrance of the slain civil rights leader.
The Stuyvesant statue remained at its nondescript niche until it was abruptly removed on February 5, 2010, The Jersey City Board of Education, assuming ownership of the statue, had it uprooted by Burns Brothers Monuments. The Board's explanation was that it was planning to redesign the school's courtyard, refinish the statue and place it at the Culinary Arts Plaza at Newkirk Street of Hudson County Community College--a site outside the four-block historic Bergen Square. The statue's removal met the ire of local preservationists and residents looking for answers about its status.
During its hiatus from public view, it was taken to The Beacon complex. Here, under the guidance of the Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy, the statue was restored by Zakalak Restoration Arts of Jersey City. The bronze portrait sculpture was carefully power washed, its surface repaired and treated with three coats of wax. Funds for the restoration came from Hudson County Open Space and the Historic Preservation Trust Fund.
The Peter Stuyvesant statue presently stands at the Newkirk Street plaza, as per an agreement with the City. According to John Hallanan, Jr. of the Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy, it is considered a temporary location while "a new base approximating the look and size of the original inscribed base is waiting for funding." It is expected to return to the Martin Luther King school, within historic Bergen Square, when Rhind's monument is again complete with the new base and statue.
Arrue, Karina L. "Jersey City's Statue of Peter Stuyvesant Will Be Restored and Returned to Its Original Location at School 11." Jersey Journal 19 October 2010.
Egan, Colin. "Stuyvesant Statue Belonged Where It Was." Jersey Journal 16 February 2010.
"Famed Stuyvesant Statue to Be Moved to The Beacon in Jersey City." Jersey Journal 11 August 2011.
Gomez, John. "Legends & Landmarks: Peter Stuyvesant Statue That Was Ripped from Jersey City's Bergen Square Is Rich in History, Artistic Value." Jersey Journal 7 February 2011.
Hack, Charles. "City and County Chip In for Stuyvesant Statue Pedestal." Jersey Journal 14 July 2012.
Hallanan, Jr., John to Carmela A. Karnoutsos. E-mail. 29 August 2016.
Hernandez, Yarleen. "Peter Stuyvesant's Statue Will Go 'Home' after Restoration." Jersey Journal 10 July 2013.
Lovero, Joan D. Hudson County: The Left Bank. Sun Valley, CA: American Historical Press, 1999.
"Monument to Stuyvesant." New York Times 19 October 1913.
Torres, Augustin C. " Stuyvesant Statue Finds Temporary Home." Jersey Journal 15 September 2014. Zakalak, Ulana. "The Peter Stuyvesant Statue Returned to Bronze Glory." Jersey City Restored, 2013 Calendar. Jersey City, NJ: Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy, 2013.