The Bronx Cultural Mosaic

The Bronx...Its History & Perspective
~An Ongoing Series~

Excerpted from North of Manhattan by Harry Hansen
Published by Hastings House in 1950

Ship & Bottle

If Henry Hudson returned today and viewed the land where Manhattan ends, he would observe a great bridge arching over the waters between the island and the land north of Manhattan. He would see tall buildings rising above the trees, but the contours of the land would have changed little from the time he last saw it in 1609. What would puzzle him most, perhaps, would be the 100-foot base that holds an effigy in bronze of a bearded sea captain in wide boots that now stands above his anchorage. He almost certainly would not recognize this as Karl Bitter's concept of himself, nor would he understand why he was thus elevated.

In the days after Hudson, the island of Manhattan was separated from the mainland by a small erratic creek that the Dutch called Spuyten Duyvil, and which the English thought meant "Spitting Devil," though they were never certain about its meaning. It had a small, confirmed channel, with large cliffs impeding its course, and it wound around what we now call Marble Hill as far as what is presently West 230th Street. It then flowed south into the Harlem River, where it met tides coming up from the East River.

This Spuyten Duyvil creek separated Manhattan from the land beyond and became the boundary of two counties.

Although the winding course of Spuyten Duyvil Creek around Marble Hill has long since been filled in and a wider ship canal had been blasted through the rock to provide easy passage for coal barges to the East River, the political boundary remains. The authority of the borough of Manhattan jumps the water boundary and holds fast the little tip of land that sticks like a prodding thumb into the borough of the Bronx.

Now we must return to Henry Hudson and what happened on September 13, 1609, and how it affected the fortunes of the settlers. On that day, Hudson anchored in the river near the Indian Village of Nappechamack, which in Indian lingo meant "the trap-fishing place." The Dutch transliterated the name to Nepperhan and it still identifies the river that flows secretly into the Hudson at Yonkers.


The shipmaster permitted some of the Indians to board the "Half Moon" and then decided to detain two of them.

According to a journal that was written in English and was kept by Robert Juet, a mate, an Indian was caught stealing a pillow, two shirts and two bandoliers. The master's mate shot him down, and when another Indian tried to climb aboard, the cook cut off his hand.

The Half Moon set sail and went as far as Albany. The ship returned several weeks near its former anchorage at Spuyten Duyvil, and on October 2, was besieged by a shower of arrows.

In retaliation, The Dutch fired six muskets, killing several Indians. Then they fired the small cannon which was called a Falcon and the bewildered Indians fled into the woods. Thus, the White Man's superior power and cruelty were demonstrated off the banks of the what would later be known as the Bronx.




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