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You are here: Home » People » Our Hall of Fame » Arent Van Curler

Our Hall of Fame: Arent Van Curler (1620-1667)

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[This information is from pp. 6-7 of Our Hall of Fame, a booklet produced in 1938 by what was then called the Schenectady Public Library. It is in the Schenectady Collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at Schdy R 920 S324, and copies are also available for borrowing.]

Plaque for Arent Van Curler

Plaque: "Arent Van Curler, 1620-1667, Leader in the Settlement of Schenectady"

Arent Van Curler, the founder of Schenectady, was born at Nykerk, in Holland, and was baptized February 6, 1620. In his eighteenth year he came to New Netherland as assistant to the commissary in Rensselaerswyck, the great manor of Kiliaen van Rensselaer who had received control of the land from the Dutch West India Company. By 1641 Van Curler had the title of "commis" with full authority in government and trade.

He was kept busy with the growing fur and export business along the coast, and the duties connected with the tenant farmers of Rensselaerswyck who were supplied by the patroon with houses, and the necessary means of production.

There was a growing feeling of unrest and discontent among these people, who had left their mother country to secure freedom from the patroons and who wanted homes not under the feudal system of tenure. Their only hope was in a new pioneer town.

In 1661, Van Curler, together with fourteen other residents of Rensselaerswyck, applied to Peter Stuyvesant, the Dutch governor of New Netherland, for authority to purchase the Indian flat, Schonowe, on the Mohawk River. Permission was granted and the settlement started there in 1662 became Schenectady.

The privilege of trading with the Indians was not granted the settlers, because of the jealousy of the colonists at Rensselaerswyck, and there followed a long period of negotiations for this right and for additional land.

At this time the relations between the Canadian French and their southern neighbors were friendly. In the winter of 1666 Governor De Courcelle and his party, in an unfortunate expedition into the Mohawk country, faced starvation and Van Curler supplied them with provisions. The following year, accepting an invitation to visit the French governor in Quebec, he set forth, with several Indians, by way of Lake Champlain. Their small boat was overturned in a sudden storm and he was drowned in Perou Bay.

Van Curler was very influential among both the French and the Indians, the latter holding him in high esteem. He treated them with uniform consideration and justice and as a result exercised a powerful influence by which he preserved peace for many years.

Arent Van Curler was a born pioneer, fearless and progressive, honest in public affairs, and something of a diplomat as well. No likeness of him is known to exist.

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