Resource

Catalina Trico: Founding Mother

This resource has been adapted from the New-York Historical Society’s New World—New Netherland—New York curriculum.

Catalina Trico to William Morris

“Catalina Trico to William Morris,” The Documentary history of the state of New-York, Vol. 111, ed. E.B. O’Callaghan (Albany: Weed, Parsons & Co., 1850). New-York Historical Society Library.

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THE FIRST WHITE WOMAN IN ALBANY
Catelyn Trico aged about 83 years born in Paris doth testify and declare that in the year 1623 she came into the country with a ship called the Unity whereof was Commander Arien Jorise belonging to the West India Company being the first ship that came here for the said Company; as soon as the came to Manhtans now called New York they sent two families and six men to harford River and two families and eight men to Delaware River and eight men they left at New York to take possession and the rest of the passengers went with the ship as far as Albany which they then called Fort Orange.
Catelyn Trico, about 83 years old and born in Paris, swears that in 1623 she came to America on a ship called the Unity. It was commanded by Arien Jorise, and belonged to the West India Company. It was the first ship of settlers from the West India Company to come to the area. As soon as the ship arrived at Manhattan (now called New York) they sent two families and six men to the Harford River. They sent two more families and eight men to the Delaware River. Eight men were left at New York to settle there. The rest of the passengers on the ship went to Albany, which they called Fort Orange at the time.
When as the ship came as far as Sopus which is halfway to Albany; they lightened the ship with some boats that were left there by the Dutch that had been there the year before trading with the Indians upon there one accompts and gone back again to Holland and so brought the vessel up;  On their way, they stopped at Sopus, which is half way to Albany, to make their ship lighter by using boats that were left by previous Dutch explorers. Those explorers had visited Sopus the year before to trade with Native American tribes, but had gone back to Holland.
there were about eighteen families aboard who settles themselves at Albany and made a small fort; and as soon as they had built themselves some huts of bark. There were about 18 families on the Unity who settled at Albany. They built a small fort.
The Mahikanders or river indians, the Maquase,Oneydes, Onnondages, Cayugas, and Sinnekes, with the Mahawawa of Ottawawaes indians came and made covenants of friendship with the said Adrien Jorise there Commander bringing him great presents of beaver or otter peltry and desired that they might come and have a constant free trade with them which was concluded upon and the said nations came daily with great multitudes of beaver and traded with the Christians, As soon as they had built some houses out of bark, the Mohican, Maquase, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Mahawawa/Ottawawe tribes came and promised friendship with Arien Jorise. They brought him beaver pelts as presents, and asked to be able to trade with the settlers freely. They came every day with a lot of beaver pelts that they traded with the settlers.
There said Commander Arien Jorise sayed with them all winter and sent his son home with the ship;  Commander Arien Jorise stayed with the settlers all winter and sent his son home with the ship.
the said deponent lived in Albany three years all which time the said Indians were all as quiet as lambs and came and traded with all the freedom imaginable, in the year 1626 the deponent came from Albany and settles at New York where she lived afterwards for many years and then came to Long Island where she now lives. Catelyn Trico lived in Albany for three years. While she was living there the Native Americans did not fight with the settlers. They often came to Fort Orange to trade. In 1626 Catelyn Trico left Albany and settled in New York, where she lived for many years. She then went to Long Island, where she now lives.
The said Catelyn Trico made oath of the
Said deposition before me at her house
On Long Island in the Wale Bought
This 17th day of October 188WILLIAM MORRIS
Justice of the peace
Catelyn Trico promised that everything I’ve written above was true when I visited her house on Long Island on October 17th, 1688.

WILLIAM MORRIS
Justice of the Peace

Adapted from: Catalina Trico to William Morris,” The Documentary history of the state of New-York, Vol. III, ed. E. B. O’Callaghan (Albany: Weed, Parsons & Co., 1850). New-York Historical Society Library.

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This video was created by the New-York Historical Society Teen Leaders in collaboration with the Untold project.

Background

Records of the experiences of women in the early days of the New Netherland colony are scant, which makes this testimony, collected from 83-year-old Catalina Trico (misnamed Catelyn in the document) by an English colonial official in 1688, all the more valuable.

About the Document

Once the Dutch had established their claim to New Netherland, they wanted to fill the land with settlers, but only the very young and very desperate were willing to take the chance. Eighteen-year-old Catalina, a French-speaking refugee in Amsterdam, married 19-year-old Flemish textile worker Joris Rapalje, also a refugee, on January 21, 1624 in a ceremony arranged by the Dutch West India Company. The Dutch encouraged the emigration of both men and women, believing that the presence of women and households would secure their claim to the territory, build community, and ultimately support the Dutch commercial empire. Four days later they departed with the first wave of New Netherland colonists bound for the New World aboard the Company ship the Unity.

Upon their arrival, Trico and Rapalje were sent up the North River (known today as the Hudson River) to the settlement at Fort Orange (present-day Albany, New York). They helped construct a fort and farms. In this testimony, Catalina recalls a peaceful and fruitful trade relationship with the local native people, and mentions moving back to New Amsterdam in 1626. What she leaves out (due to memory failure, or perhaps because her interviewer wasn’t interested) is that they left Fort Orange because their settlement was razed during an intertribal war their Dutch commander had involved them in.

Catalina and Joris relocated to New Amsterdam, were among the first people to buy land in the settlement, and lived a prosperous, seemingly happy life together. Joris gained prominence by virtue of being a long-standing and successful landholder in the colony. Their first child, Sarah, was the first European baby born in New Netherland. Together, they raised eleven children who spread across the region and prospered in their turn. Catalina supported the surrender of the colony to England in 1664, and the Rapalje family became a powerful presence in the English period (see Resource 27 in New World—New Netherland—New York). Historians estimate that Catalina has approximately one million descendants living in the tri-state area today.

Vocabulary

  • Amsterdam: A city in the Netherlands.
  • Dutch West India Company: A Dutch trading company founded in 1621 to develop Dutch trading interests in western India, South America, and West Africa.

Discussion Questions

  • Why did the Dutch West India Company want to send married couples to New Netherland?
  • What can we learn about the early days of Dutch colonization by reading this account?
  • What are the drawbacks of this document as a historical source? What other places can historians look for further information?
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Themes

IMMIGRATION, MIGRATION, AND SETTLEMENT

New-York Historical Society Curriculum Library Connections

  • To learn more about the relations between the Dutch settlers of New Netherland and the Native communities who lived on the lands they claimed, visit New World—New Netherland—New York.
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