Great great great great great great great great ("G8") grandfather Garrett Van Swearingen, a Dutchman, really is one of our more intriguing ancestors.
He is our mother Eleanore Anne Eitelman's (and therefore Uncle Eddie's and Uncle Mike's)...
father Edward Decatur Eitelman's
mother May Katherine Pitman's
father Decatur Pitman's
mother Eleanore Amanda William's
father Congressman Jared William's
mother Anne Swearingen's
father John Swearingen's
father Thomas Swearingen's
Garrett was born to David Janse Swieringh and Hester Jacobs in Beemsterdam, Holland on February 4, 1636. (A few sources say "Reemstwerdam," but this is almost certainly a typo copied from one fastidious chronicle writer by another. Beemster is a section of Noord Holland County. "Beemsterdam" or "Beemsterwaal" refers to the section of Beemster closer to the inland sea, next to the dike. It is possible that "Reemstwerdam" is a reference to "Amsterdam" a short distance to the south, but I find no geographical precedent for the "ee" instead of "a" between the "r" and the "m" of "Ramsterdam.")
In the 1500s, the Netherlands, especially the Holland counties on the west, were a hotbed of economic and religious and political rebellion. The Holland counties became the most densely-urbanized section of all of Europe in the 1500s, and generally well-to-do. However, as the nation-state concept gained preeminence in the thinking of the people, increasing awareness of the idea of Separation of Church and State, as it did in Germany, and as the Princes of the Church in Europe wenched and taxed their way to disgust and infamy, the people of Holland started getting "itchy." After Holy Roman Emperor Charles V began to back-off Inquisition-style repression and executions in the Netherlands -- and there were a lot of executions in the Netherlands -- and began to grow lax in tax collections, his son Phillip II, inheriting the Netherlands as his share of the Holy Roman Empire, tightened the Catholic noose while reaching into purses with renewed vigor.
This made the Netherlanders, both those known to be sympathetic to Herr Luther and those who remained loyal to the Church, crazy people. The Protestant AND Catholic nobles asked for relief, and Margaret of Perma, Regent in Phillip's absence, was very intimidated by the unanimity of the support for relief, and, being small-minded, responded in exactly the wrong way, at a pivotal moment in history: She called the nobles "gueux," "beggars," and kicked them out of the room!
And thus began the Eighty Years War, one of the Reformation Wars which devastated Europe, in 1568.
Street gatherings led to armed mobs led to an attack on the walled town of Veurne. Called to respond, the militias -- the "Dutch National Guard" -- declined to repress the attack. Regent Margaret made late concessions to try to quell resistance. But she was closing the barn door after the animals escaped. Resistance continued. A noble loyal to Phillip led an army against the disorganized Calvanist rebels, crushed the revolt, and executed all of the leaders.
Phillip, alarmed at all of this, sent the Duke of Alba and a large army of Italian mercenaries to Holland. Alba proceeded like a political moron. He arrested 9,000 Hollanders, Catholic and Protestant, and executed 1,000 of them, and drove the rest into exile, seizing their property.
"Sea Beggars" -- Calvanist pirates authorized by Letters of Marque from William of Orange as Count of Holland, with a name snidely referring to Regent Margaret's unkind words dismissing the nobles of Holland -- preyed on Holy Roman Empire trade.
William of Orange invaded the Netherlands at the head of an army of 30,000 Germans, mostly Protestant. but he began to run out of money, and therefore began to lose his ability to feed his soldiers, who began to melt away.
But Islam, of all things, came to the rescue. Phillip was too distracted by the ferocious war with Turkish Islam at the Battle of Lepanto to oppose even William's weakened army.
And then the Duke of Alba was doubly stupid. He frightened even his most ultra-loyal ultra-Catholic supporters in the Netherlands with his brutal tax collections, and destroyed all local support.
The Dutch, Catholic and Protestant, suddenly wanted independence.
William of Orange proved himself even more harebrained than Alba, when he joined an invasion of the Netherlands, to promote respect for unity and public order in France!
At the same time, as all pirates do, William's Sea Beggars got out of hand, and began to prey upon 100% Catholic-but-neutral Hanseatic League ships, profitable to all.
Two negatives multiplied-out to a positive, here, though. Alba withdrew his Catholic army from a port named Brill to oppose Orange. The Calvanist pirates of William, having disgusted Queen Elizabeth by their profit-threatening anti-Hanseatic activity, were met with fierce opposition at sea. They took refuge at Brill. The pro-rebel militia in Flushing seized their port and invited the Sea Beggars there, too. William sought the support of these two ports and the surrounding provinces, and got it. Suddenly, he had his own united Catholic/Protestant rebel kingdom!
For the next 60 years, the battle went back-and-forth, back-and-forth. In all of the chaos, by 1635 the relatively-religiously-neutral Dutch had generated a stable, habitable republic which saw its way to entering into a Treaty of Alliance with Catholic France to divide-up the Spanish Netherlands, generating more warfare.
During this time, the Dutch East India Company and Dutch West India Company began to become extremely prosperous, generating a navy larger than that of any other in the world.
William of Orange's rebellious little state had become a world power.
This was the context of Garrett Van Swearingen's birth. At least one of his parents -- we can't tell which -- had him baptized Roman Catholic, and he remained Catholic to the end of his days. His Catholic faith, which he tended to "wear on his sleeve," makes his biography all the more notable, in several ways. We will see that, despite his Catholicism, he was at all points implicitly trusted by the Dutch West India Company. Despite his Catholicism, he will win a fierce political battle over the fate of a murderous debt collector visiting a colony for which Van Swearingen was sheriff and a judge. Despite his Catholicism, Van Swearingen will literally get away with murder, himself. Finally, despite his Catholicism, the English, in an attack upon Swearingen's little American colony, let him live, and probably because of his Catholicism Lord Baltimore gave Van Swearingen a wonderful tract of land in Maryland.
One biographer credits Garrett Van Swearingen with being well-educated, based on his knowledge of French, German and English. One gets the sense, in viewing his life panoramically, that he was indeed deeply intelligent. But in fact his knowledge of the three languages may simply be the result of his roots and exposure to cosmopolitan Holland.
Probably after several years' exposure to the shipping industry in Holland as a teenager, in December, 1656, at age 20, Garrett Van Swearingen secured employment as "super cargo" -- superintendent of cargo -- on board the Dutch West India Company's "Prince Maurice." His subsequent actions, bold, tending to take control in a responsible fashion, ratify the wisdom of his appointment, and verify a supposition that even at age 20 Garrett Van Swearingen had considerable experience even at age 20.
West India Company archives related the following...
"Sailed from Amsterdam December 21, 1656, left Texel December 25, 1656, arrived at Long Island March 8, 1657; wrecked.
"Jacob Alrichs, director
Alexander D'Hinoyossa, Lieutenant
Evert Pietersen, comforter of the sick
Gerrit van Schweringen, Supercargo
Jan Barents, chief boatswain
Jan Gerritsen, sailor
Joost Theunissen, sailor
129 persons including Colonists, free mechanics, soldiers and attendants.
"J. Alrich reports: 'We proceeded with them on the proposed voyage, and after some storm and other obstacles, reached the vicinity of the Manhattans. ...[T]hrough ignorance of the skipper and pilot who were never on this coast, having neared the shore in the evening, [the Prince Maurice, on March 8, 1657] immediately grounded, and so shoved, which continued afterwards harder and harder, that we were not for a moment, sure of our lives, and seeing no escape in the morning, we unanimously resolved to save ourslves on a broken coast, which we, some days later, understood to be Long Island. An agreement was made with the skipper of the Beaver to charter the passengers to the Colony on the South River. The Beaver set sail from New Amsterdam on April 16 to the South River, arriving at New Amstel, April 25th, with about 125 persons for the Colonie from the ship Prince Maurice, including 50 persons who arrived on other ships. Thirty-eight soldiers, with the Captain and Lieutenant, marched over land because there was no room in the Beaver to allow of their coming by water. The ship experiencing contrary wind, the soldiers, on that account, started somewhat later from the Manhattans, and therefore arrived at the fort six days later."
Other details which have come down to us are that Dutch Governor Peter Stuyvesant, hearing from some Indians that a vessel had run aground on some rocks just outside Fire Island Inlet, sent a small boat to investigate; that Garrett Van Swearingen was carried by that boat to Peter Stuyvesant and introduced to him, and that Peter Stuyvesant, after receiving a full report from Van Swearingen, released him to allow Van Swearingen to hire a somewhat smaller boat, the "Beaver," to ferry "Prince Maurice" passengers and crew ashore and off-load the valuable cargo.
New Amstel, their ultimate destination, was Fort Casimir, now Newcastle, Delaware on the South River, now Delaware River.
Fort Casimir was no impregnable fortress. A sketch and a model illustrating that it was little more than a small walled compound containing the fort's residential headquarters make it clear that it was a place Dutch colonists would only retreat to in the event of an emergency...
On April 25, 1657, Garrett Van Swearingen, his superiors, the colonists and the soldiers demanded surrender of Fort Casimir by the occupying Swedes. The Swedes duly surrendered the fort, without violence, perhaps because the Dutch comprised a vastly superior force. The Dutch renamed the fort New Amstel.
Garrett Van Swearingen rose up steadily through the ranks, from Clerk in the Fort Store, to Chief Commissary, to Second Councilor, to First Councilor (Executive Officer), to Captain -- the military commander-in-chief -- and "Schout" or Sheriff, and judge
In January, 1659 (the most-commonly-cited date), GGGGGGGG GF Garrett Van Swearingen, at 23 years of age, married GGGGGGGG GM Barbara DeBarette, also 23 years of age, daughter of GGGGGGGGG GF Isaack DeBarette, probably a wool merchant from Valenciennes, Nord Pas de Calais, France, who brought Barbara and her brother Peter to Fort Casimir, perhaps at Garrett Van Swearingen's invitation.
In December, 1659, Garrett Van Swearingen reported by letter to a sponsor in the Dutch West India Company...
'New Amstel, December 8, 1659
'NOBLE, WORSHIPFUL, WISE, RIGH, PRUDENT SIR: --
'With due respect and reverence, have I hereby taken the liberty to greet you, though bound in duty of gratitude, to devote to you all the days of my life. ...I cannot neglect, hereby to communicate my promotion. About a year and a half, after my departure from Patria (my native country), with your Honor's faborable recommendation, I have been appointed Sheriff here subject to the approbation of the Honorables the Principals. Previously, I have taken care of the store as clerk; and after J. Rynevelt's death, as Commissary, from which I have not requested to be discharged, as I have, though unworthy, been recently made Second Councilor, with Sir Alexander Hinojossa, First Councilor, and Captain of the military here, who intends to go over in the Spring, to represent this miserable place.
'If things become worse, I, individually, am ruined, for I have received here, some goods from my brothers, all of which I have laid out in a house, horses and mules, which cost me full, four to six thousand guilders, Holland currency.
'Besides that, I am also married. ...
'Herewith I commend your Honor to the mercy and protection of the Most High God, and remain.
'Your obedient, humble servant,
'G. Van Sweringen'
More to come.