The Bronx...Its History & Perspective
~An Ongoing Series~
North of Manhattan
by Harry Hansen
Published by Hastings House in 1950
In July of 1639, a Scandinavian-born immigrant from Holland named Jonas Bronck arrived from Holland
aboard a sailing ship named "Fire of Troy" He brought with him his wife, the former Antonia Slaghorn,
his servant, his cattle, and enough personal property to have him marked as a man of means. With a
pre-arranged agreement made with the West India Company, he staked out a claim of approximately
500 acres of the hills and meadows lying just north of the confluence of the Harlem and the East rivers.
The area at that time was known by it's Indian name, "Aquahung."
History is often partial to first arrivals and Jonas Bronck was the first white man to settle on this part of the mainland
which was opposite the "bouveries of Haarlem." The land was then referred to as "Bronck's
Land." Even though the records of the day show that Jonas Bronck only owned the land for four years,
the name Bronck's Land stayed and the name was used to describe all the surrounding lands.
The first time that the present spelling was used was when in 1697 the First Legislature outlined the County of West Chester,
East Chester, "Bronx Land," Fordham, Annie Hook's Neck, Delancy's Neck,
Minford's Island, and all land on the Maine east of Manhattan Island, and the Yoncker's land, and as far north as the highlands.
Regardless of the fact that Bronck had been granted the right to settle this land by the the West India
Company, through what was then known as a "Grond Brief," in order to make good his title
he also bought the land from two Indian Sachems, for it was the custom of the Dutch to clear title to their
estates. They did this by giving objects that had value in the Indian's eyes.
This done, Bronck built himself a house not far from the water. He also built a tobacco barn as tobacco
was one of the first crops grown in the area.
It was in this house in 1642 that the Indians and the Dutch made an agreement to keep the peace.
This agreement was shattered shortly after when the Indians massacared Anne Hutchinson (more about
her later) and her family on the Throgmorton Colony, today called Throgs Neck.
The house was named "Emmanus" and stood on what today is in the general vicinity of
Willis Avenue and 132nd Street.
The land where Jonas Bronck built his house was to gain importance over the years as it became
the principal route for traffic between Manhattan and the New England States. It was looked at as the
gateway to the mainland.
The land was eventually conveyed to two English merchant brothers in 1670, Lewis Morris and Captain
Richard Morris, both officers in Oliver Cromwell's army. They gave their name also to Morrisania as well
as to Morristown, New Jersey. On May 8, 1697, then Governor Benjamin Fletcher in the name of King
William III, issued a patent for the manor of Morrisania to Lewis Morris, son of Captain Richard Morris.
The manor had 1920 acres of Bronck's Land.
This young Lewis Morris became the first Colonial Governor of New Jersey, as well as Chief Justice of
the royal provence of New York. His grandson, born in 1726 became a signer of the Declaration of Independence,
and his half-brother became Gouveneur Morris, who prepared the final draft of the Constitution.
After the Constitution was adopted, the Morrises made an ineffectual attempt to have Morrisania
declared the capitol of the United States. This attempt was made when the First Congress
met in New York, October 1, 1790.
Still later, the family and local businessmen presented the natural advantage of Port Morris as the logical
harbor for trans-Atlantic ships because, unlike New York Bay, Port Morris was on the mainland. It
took time for the Morrises to give up on the idea that their manor land would be the strategic gateway to the interior.
The ninteenth century brought with it huge immigration and population pressures. Great arteries of trade
exploded in all directions from Manhattan and Port Morris became chiefly a port for coal and lumber barges.
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