Wednesday, February 9, 2011

(my) Writing Wednesday #5

I am continuing to “spiff up” each family's chapter in the family history. My chapter on Hans Dreper and Maritie Pieters is “cooked” at least to medium well – the chapter weighs in at forty some pages (single spaced, but Verdana font). I will take it out of the oven when I get the figures, tables, maps and illustrations incorporated... But it is lookin' good! After I think it is all done, I will read it aloud for flow, then circulate for other eyes to peruse... 

Meanwhile, I have begun the spiffing up process on the chapter on Jan Janszen Schepmoes and his wife, Sara Pieterse van Naerden. Jan Janszen Schepmoes, Sara and their two children[1] immigrated to New Amsterdam aboard the fluiten (small ship), Dolphijn (Dolphin). The Dolphijn left Texel on September 7, 1637 and arrived in New Amsterdam March 28, 1638 [2] (six months!). Plagued by bad weather, a questionably unsafe ship, substandard services, and even moldy food, the trip undoubtedly was unpleasant. It may have been a small miracle that the family arrived intact after such a voyage. 

Passengers of the voyage let their disgruntlement with their treatment be known in Court shortly after their arrival. Testimony was heard over several days in April of 1638 - less than a full month after their arrival. The crew of the Dolphin provided evidence to the court not only of a stormy passage and subsequent damages to the West India Company’s cargo, but also of the unsafe conditions which were known before the ship left port.

Captain Jacob Teunesen stated that he had reported not once, but twice, before leaving Texel that the ship wasn't safe. It leaked, among other things, and before leaving, he wanted time to repair it.[3]  His crew provided additional detail, summarizing: “...that it is true and truthful that they, the deponents sailed from the Texel ...with the above named yacht to New Netherland and on the voyage encountered divers storms by which the ship, both above and below became very leaky and took in much water, so that a considerable part of the cargo ..was ruined." 

In addition to the crew’s testimony, on April 23, 1638, the passengers’ voices were added, with a declaration stating: “They the deponents, sailing in the yacht Dolphin... Were not provided by him [the captain] with twenty-three meals, notwithstanding the weather was favorable for cooking; also, that the above named skipper has not supplied them during the voyage according to the Company's schedule of rations. In the second place that they, the deponents, for three successive weeks did not receive any ration of bread.” [4]

Given their treatment and dissatisfaction, perhaps it is not surprising that the passengers refused to pay for their passage. But it often is the case that in days of old, the little guy rarely won. Ultimately, the passengers were ordered to pay up by Cornelis Van Tienhoven, then Secretary in New Netherland. However, our Jan evidently did not let the matter drop, as the issue of the ship and voyage was a continuing saga. Still ongoing seven years later, on January 12, 1645, a declaration was taken from “Leendert Arenden [a fellow passenger], respecting the treatment of Jan Jansen Schepmoes and family, passengers in the Dolphin in 1638.” [5]


 Instead of a recipe tied in with my “story” for today, I am feeling rather pensive. I recently lost someone to whom I was very close. She died of cancer after a long, drawn out battle over the 11 months or so since she got her diagnosis. She didn't go the chemo/radiation route – and although I tell myself I would not  have made the same choice, she did do it her way, with great dignity. It is now 3 months since she died, yet I am finding it hard to bounce back, at least in part because I never quite understood why she didn't fight.

Then today I heard a “quote” - a character on TV no less! I think the quote captures some of the wanderings of my (somewhat) tortured, but still pensive thoughts today, and highlights how her approach - and what I think my approach would have been - can be so different, but in their own way, each different pathway is equally the right one. I thought I would share the quote (from such a venerable source) as it touches on the internal battle I have had over the last year, watching her slowly waste away. 

As someone who "does battle" in the face of adversity, I thought the quotation captured the essence of why we were such great friends – truly heart sisters. It was our differences – and the complementarities that those differences created – that helped to forge an iron bond... so here is the quote and here is to my wonderful heart sister as well.


"We all react to life’s challenges in different ways. 
Some fight death; and some embrace its solace. 
Some recognize their fate; and, others do whatever is necessary to alter it. 
Sometimes we defy others’ expectations; and occasionally we rise to meet them. 
But the constant is being true to ourselves. 
We do what we have to when we have to. 
We react, as ourselves, for better or worse."
It is who we are...


1  New York Historical Mss: Dutch, vol I Register of the Provincial Secretary (1638-1642), by A.J.F. van Laer, page 7
2  Fall/winter voyages tended to be longer than those in the spring/summer – about double the time.
3  Register of Provincial Secretary 19, 23, 28 April 1638 in E. B. O'Callaghan's Calendar of Historical Manuscripts in the Office of the Secretary of State, Albany NY.
4  New York Historical Mss: Dutch, vol I Register of the Provincial Secretary (1638-1642), by A.J.F. van Laer, page 7
5  Calendar of Historical Manuscripts in the Office of the Secretary of State. New York (State), Secretary of State, New York , E.B. Callahan, Part I, 1863, page 31.

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