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Brooklyn Eagle
29 December 1895
Page 18

THE NEW THIRTY - SECOND WARD _________________ Flatlands Becomes Part of the City New Years Day HISTORY OF THE ANCIENT TOWN _________________ Settled by the Dutch in 1624 and Called "Amersfoort." After a City in the Netherlands- Some of the Old Names Found in Stryker BERGEN'S Journal- The Dutch Church One of the Oldest in America- Its Bell Imported From Holland- Ceremonies Prepared to Celebrate the Annexation of the Suburb to the City- __________________

Next Wednesday the annexation of Flatlands will have been accomplished. The joining of that town to Brooklyn will add twelve square miles to the area and five thousand souls to the population of this city. With the annexation of Flatlands the county government ceases to exist, for all the territory of Kings will then be comprised in the municipality of Brooklyn and under its administration. Flatlands, the Thirty-second ward of Brooklyn, with its magnificent sea front, splendid territory, and healthful location, will rival Flatbush as a desirable place of suburban resemblance, as such as the city's water, gas and sewer systems are extended there. There are those who believe that because of its extensive water front, Flatlands will eventually develop into an industrial center. The population of the township now is composed almost exclusively of farmers and fisherman. In politics the town has always been Republican by a small majority. John L. RYDER, its chief executive since 1855, with the exception of four years, has been an honest, competent and economical administrator, and how much so the people only realized when another man took the helm five years ago. Last year Mr. RYDER, was prevailed upon to be again a candidate for supervisor and he was elected by an overwhelming majority. The exact date of the settlement is not known, but it is supposed to have been about 1624. It was a most desirable locality for immigrants, who came from the low level lands of Holland and were inexperienced in the clearing of forests. They found a wide expanse of sale meadows and prairie dotted with the clumps of woods and a soil that yielded abundant harvests with little labor. The colony was first called New Amersfoort, after a city of that name in the Netherlands, from where some of the early settlers had immigrated. Later, it was very appropriately, named Flatlands. The Indians and the white man appear to have dwelled together in peace in that section of Long Island. The red man's lands were taken only by purchase and no title was considered good until the Indian right had been legally extinguished. The aborigines were a tribe of the Algonquin family, known as the Carnarsie, and the village founded by them still bears their name. The "last of the Canarsies," known as Jim de WITT (Jim, the wild man, joined his ancestors in the happy hunting grounds in 1830. He died in a miserable hut at Canarsie. Among the first settlers of Flatlands, or New Amersfoort, was Andreas HUDDEN and Wolfert G. VAN KOUWENHOVEN. It is recorded that on June 16, 1826, they bought of the Indians and obtained the next year from Governor VAN TWILLER a patent for the tract of land that must have been a big slice of the present Flatlands, for in 1652 the West India company requested the governor to annul parts of certain land claims, among them those of HUDDEN and VAN KOUWENHOVEN, not a fiftieth part of which, the company alleged, these men were able to occupy. But neither HUDDEN and VAN KOUWENHOVEN relinquished possession. The latter's house was on what is now the intersection of Flatbush avenue and Kings Highway. Nearby lived Gerret WOLFERSE, VAN KOUWENHOVEN'S second son with his family. This was the center of the settlement. It was inclosed with stout palisades and was always guarded by armed men. It was intended as a refuge for all the settlers in case of an Indian outbreak. Though the redskins and the whites lived together peaceably the Indian was regarded as treacherous and likely to go on the war path without giving notice. However, in the de--ments relating to the early history of Flatlands there is no evidence that scalps were taken. As early as 1654 there dwelt in the town the: WYCKOFFS STOOTHOFFS VAN SIGELENS REMEYASBRYNSES DAVISES VAN DYCKHUYSENS VAN ARTS DOOLENS BERGENS and many other families that occupy to this day portions of the ancestral estates. So far as the earliest form of government of the town is concerned it was modeled after the laws and customs of Holland. Titles of land were derived from the governor and counsel in New Amsterdam and eases in law were settled by the same authority. In 1661, however, a local court of three magistrates was established. The judges were: Elbert ELBERTSON Peter CORNELISSEN and Simon JANSEN. These officers were elected annually by the freeholders, but had to be confirmed by the governor. In 1667 Flatlands was granted a charter as a township by Governor NICHOLS, but its vagueness as to boundary lines made the issuing of several other charters necessary. The last was granted by Governor DONGAN on March 11, 1685, to: Elbert E. SOOTHOFF Koelof Martense SCHENCK Peter Classen WYCKOFF William GARRETSON VAN KOUWENHOVEN -oert Stevenson VOORHEES Lucas VOORHEES and John J-UNISSEN for themselves and associates. The consideration was fourteen bushels of wheat to be delivered annually in New York. None of the charters, however, defined the town boundaries accurately and for thirty years Flatlands and Flatbush were in litigation over the Canarsie meadows. Finally a joint commission from the two towns staked out a line across the meadows and in their report decreed: "All manner of difference between the two towns to this day to be forgotten and forgiven." But that did not settle the disputes. Several years later Flatlands sued Flatbush for trespass at Canarsie, and obtained judgement for $50. So far as is known this judgement has never been paid. The number of acres of land under cultivation in Flatlands in 1676 was 1,661. On the property the owners paid taxes amounting to about $100 a year. According to a census taken in 16?8 the population of the settlement at that time was as follows: 40 men -- women 130 children and 46 slaves or a total of 276 soul.They indeed, of course, sol--- upon agriculture as a means of sustenance. The open land of the town attracted immigrants nearly as soon as Manhattan Island was permanently occupies, many of them, however, using it merely as a temporary abode. A large number of families now living along the Hudson the Mohawk and in new Jersey trace their descent through permanent or temporary residents of Flatlands. Governor STUYVESANT had said of that region that it seemed to be the only one to thrive under the severe trials of those times. An idea of what Flatlands was like in those days will be gained from the following excerpt: from DANKER'S and STRYKER'S Journal of 1679-8---the manuscript of which is in possession of Stryker BERGEN of Mille Lane, Flatlands: "Monday, Oct. 2d, 1679-- We went after breakfast to the bay. We did not find Jan JHEUNESSEN at home, but the father and mother bade us welcome and took us around into the orchards. We found the land in general not as good as at Najack (New Utrecht). Toward the sea is a place of low flat land which is overflowed at every tide, while adjoining corn land are dry and barren for the most part. Some of them were now entirely covered with clover in blossom, which we discovered in the atmosphere before we saw the fields. There is here a grist mill driven by water which they dam up in the creek, and hereabouts they go mostly to shoot snipe and wild geese. "Tuesday, 3d-- Nothing but rain; compelled to sit in the house, which was constantly filled with a multitude of Godless people. This Elbert ELBERTSE being the principal person in the place, and their captain, and having a multitude of children of his own, there was a continued concourse at his house. While we were sitting there Dominie VAN LAURN came up, to whom the farmers called out as uncivilly and rudely as if he had been a boy. He had a chatting time with all of them. He spoke to us, but not a word about religion. Indeed, he sat prating and gossiping with the farmers without speaking a word about God or spiritual matters. It was all about horses and cattle and swine and grain, and then he went away." When the English gained control of the Government at New Amsterdam the affairs at Flatlands experienced no material change. Almost the only difference was in the conformation of the magistrates after they had been elected. before being allowed to assume office they were obliged to take the oath of allegiance to the English King. The people continued to be free citizens who enjoyed their lands and privileges as before. Beside, the Dutch were to be permitted to enjoy liberty of conscience in worship, as well as their own customs concerning inhertances. The Dutch home government was much displeased with the people of Flatlands and some neighboring colonies for yielding so readily to the English. The settlers refused to assist in the defense of New Amsterdam, because had they gone over there they would have left their wives and children to the mercy of the Indians. Flatlands neck, that portion of the township which is now bounded by Jamaica bay, New Lots, and Flatbush, was made over by interesting contract: "Wametappack, Sachem of Canaryssen and Ramieracy, Minnequahem, Camenuck, Panwangum and Attewaram, lawful owners of Canaryssen, and the appendages thereunto appertaining, have agreed and sold to the inhabitants of the town of Amersfoort, beginning at the west side of Muskyttehool, at a certain marked tree, thence stretching to where the ends of the flats comes by the two trees, situated on the north side of the said Flats to a certain marked tree: from thence to the Fresh Kill meadows, stopping at the path from the Great Flats to the Fresh Kill Meadows and stretching in the Flats; with all meadows, kills and creeks therein contained, and that for the sum of one hundred fathom of white wampum, one coat, one pair of stockings, one pair of shoes, four adzes, two cans of brandy and one half barrel of beer; with the conditions that the purchasers once for always a fence shall set at Canarsie for the protection of the Indian cultivation, which fence shall thereafter by the Indians be maintained and the land which becomes inclosed in fence shall by the Indians owners above mentioned all their lives to be used, to wit, by Wametappack, the Sachem, with his two brothers. All done without fraud or deceit." The contract was signed by follows; This is the mark X of Wame Tappack This is the mark X of Minnequahem This is the mark X of Attewaram This is the mark X of Oramsgy This is the mark X of Rammgeraen This is the mark X of Panwangum This is the mark X of Kameneck This is the mark X of Wanaciyek This done by me, the Constable, Minnie JOHANES. During the hundred years before the revolution nothing occurred to disturb the peaceful life of the people of Flatlands. They were loyal to the British crown and continued so to the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. Two months after the declaration of Independence they again passed under the control of the English and so remained until the evacuation of New York. The Flatlanders were only concerned in the cultivation of their fields. Politics did not excite them, even not after Flatlands was recognized by the state as a town, on March 7, 1788. The brief list of supervisors who served since 1783 is the best demonstration of that fact. It is as follows: 1783, 1785, 1786: Ulpianus VAN SINDERIN 1784: Abram VORHEES 1787-1798: Captain Nickolas SCHENCK 1799-1800: Hendrick I. LOTT 1801--1815: Johannes REMSEN 1816-1839: Gerrit KOUWENHOVEN 1840-1843: Andrew EMMONS 1844-1853: John A. VORHEES 1854: John A. WYCKOFF 1855-to the present time (with exception of two terms served by Richard BEASLY), John L. RYDER, now the patriarch of Flatlands. With one or two exceptions the Dutch church in Flatlands is the oldest of that denomination in America. The churches of Flatlands and in Flatbush were formed on the same day. February 9, 1654, by the Rev. Johannes MEGAPOLENSIS, pastor of the Collegiate church. In 1656 a church was completed in Flatbush at a cost of $1,800, to which Flatlands contributed $48. The first minister in Flatlands was the Rev. J. Theodorus POLHEMUS, who preached in private houses until 1663, when a house of worship was erected. The site was on an ancient Indian burial place. The shape of the building was octagonal, with a belfry and an inclosed portal called the baptistery. The roof was of heavy spruce shingles. The settlers were at first called by the sound of a drum. It was not until twenty-three years after the completion of the church that a bell was placed in the belfry. It had been imported from Holland. The sittings of the church went with the farms and were frequently named in the deed. After having been in use for 131 years the church building was torn down and a larger one erected in its place. The erection of this new edifice was decided upon at a town meeting called on March 4, 1794. The following notice was inserted in a New York paper: "Notice is hereby given to carpenters that proposals will be received by: Abram VOORHEES, Rem HAGEMAN and William KOUWENHOVEN, for building a church at Flatlands, 60 feet by 10 feet, lumber and materials to be furnished by them. The new church was dedicated December, 26 of the same year, the Rev. Mar--mus SCHOONMAKER preaching the sermon. The building was lighted by five large windows on each side and a single entrance on the south end. a reminder of the past was the town stocks and a whipping post which stood in the open space in front of the church. the edifice continued in use until 1848, when it was replaced by the present one, which was erected, together with the sheds and fences, at a cost of $5, 500. It contained sixty-six pews. In 1871 side galleries were added and other improvements made, costing $3,500. There are now five churches in Flatlands. The Methodist Episcopal church was founded there in 1850. For a year the congregation met in the school house of District No. 1. Then a house of worship was built on Mill lane. The first preacher was the Rev. Thomas H. BURCH, afterward presiding elder of the New York district east conference. The Protestant Methodist church at Canarsie was organized in 1840 with Ralph VAN HOUTEN as superintendent and a small church was built at the corner of Old Road and Church lane. In 1870 this was replaced by a larger one. The St. Matthew's Lutheran church at Canarsie was formed in 1879. St. Thomas' church situated in Flatlands village, was organized in 1883, by Rev. Father Bernard McHUGH, while he was a pastor of the Holy Cross church in Flatbush. The building of a house of worship was begun the same year and completed in a few months. It was first conducted as an annex to the Flatbush church, but later became independent and for the last four years it has been in a flourishing condition under the pastorate of the Rev. Father Edward W. DOLLEN. A fine four story brick parish house has just been finished at a cost of $12,000 and the corner stone for a church building was laid in the same year. The German Evangelical Reformed church was organized in 1876 by the Rev. C. DICKHOUT. The building of this church, which was erected at a cost of $5,000, was dedicated on November 4, 1877. The first school in Flatlands began with the settlement itself. The records go back to 1675, when it was already in a flourishing condition under the care of the church elders. The schoolmaster was Wellem GERRETSE. It is worthy of mention that in 1733 Abraham de LANOY, evidently a Frenchman, held the place. His salary was $30 per annum, and his receipts for that sum, written in a bold hand, are still extant. The original school house of District No. 1 stood on Hubbard's lane/ In 1696 the heirs of Elbert ELBERTSE, viz., Garret STOOTHOFF Thomas WILLES and Jan VAN DUYCKHUISON, deeded to Coert STEVENSE, Derick AMERTMAN and Cloes PETERSE, for themselves and others, premises described as follows: "All that house and garden spot, as it is now in fence, lying in the town of Flatlands, adjoining to the house and land of Fley----a-- VASYCKLYN and now used and occupied for a school house of said town." It appears that about his time a new school house was built. This seems to have been in use until 1816, when the town ordered a new structure. This was again replaced by a new building in 1861, and in 1879 this house was enlarged to twice its former size and now accommodates four school departments. District School No. 2 is located in Flatlands Neck. The present school house was built in 1835, but the district was not regularly organized under the general school law until 1843. A school had been taught, however, in that neighborhood for many years. As far back as 1811 it seems to have been a well established institution, under the charge of a Mr. DEAN. District School No. 3, at Canarsie, was organized in 1844, and reorganized in 1866 as a Union Free School District. By permission of the town the school house was built on a part of the burying ground on the road to the shore. This was used till 1875, when a large and commodious school house was completed. The first teacher of this school was the Rev. John A. MORRIS. The office of the town superintendent of schools, while it existed, was held by: William KOUWENHOVEN Elias HUBBARD Cornelius B. KOUWENHOVEN John L. RYDER and the Rev. J. T. M. DAVIE. The most important social organization in Flatlands, and one of which nearly all the leading residents of the town became members is that of the Sons of Temperance. It was founded in 1866, through the efforts of the Rev. C. BRETT, pastor of the Reformed church. An application was made to the grand division, Sons of Temperance, eastern New York, and a charter received as "Suburban division No. 48, Sons of Temperance." The charter members were: Rev. C. BRETT J. L. BERGEN John REMSEN W. W. KOUWENHOVEN Osher ANDERSON J. FLEMING P. KOUWENHOVEN, jr. J. D. MAGAW S. W. REMSEN G. SCHENCK W. K. REMSEN W. H. CORNELL J. V. BRUNDAGE Theodore BERGEN and S. W. STOOTHOFF. The first meeting was held and the officers installed on May 21, 1866. The following have been the preseidents of the organization: J. L. BERGEN John REMSEN G. SCHENCK J. V. BRUNDAGE A. D. SELOVER L. H. SMITH W. W. KOUWENHOVEN H. M. HITCHINGS C. BERGEN C. BRETT G. D. ANDERSON B. BRYAN H. PATON G. S. KOUWENHOVEN J. B. WOOLSEY Miss Sarah HENDRICKSON Elias HENDRICKSON V. OVERBAGH Peter REMSEN N. EMMONS and J. J. VAN WYCK. In 1893 an act was passed by the legislature empowering the town board to appoint a police commissioner of three members, who were to be entrusted with the organizing of a uniformed police force. Until then the guardians of peace in Flatlands had been constables. The commission was appointed and consisted of: Charles E. MORRELL Richard V. REMSEN and William J. WARNER. Those men were legislated out of office last spring and Lewis K. WORTH, the present police commissioner, was appointed by Supervisor RYDER. The force was reorganized and reduced in number, more policemen have been appointed, in the estimation of the taxpayers of Flatlands, than were necessary for the protection of the town. In the matter of improvements it is expected that Flatlands will fare better than has been the case with Flatbush since annexation. This belief is based on the fact that while Flatbush came into the city with a bonded indebtedness of over a million dollars, the debt of Flatlands amounts to only $30,000.


(While the Annexation Agreement covered 12 sections of new laws, I have transcribed the two I thought were important for research.) An act to provide for the annexation to the city of Brooklyn of the town of Flatlands, in Kings County, became a law, May 3, 1894, with the approval of the governor. Passed, three-fifths being present. Sec. 7. Immediately after the passage of this act the board of elections of the city of Brooklyn shall proceed and divide the territory hereby annexed into convenient election districts for the holding of general and special elections in the manner provided for dividing said city into election districts, and the districts so fixed shall be the districts for the purposes aforesaid until said city is again divided into election districts as by law provided. Sec. 9. All public books, papers and documents of said town or of any district thereof on file in any office or with any officer thereof shall be transferred to and filed with the appropriate officers or departments of the city of Brooklyn. And it shall be the duty of all persons having charge of such books, papers and documents to deliver the same to and file the same with the appropriate officer or department as in this section provided. And it shall be the duty of the controller and auditor of the city of Brooklyn, as soon as may be after this act takes effect, to cause the examination of the accounts of all persons and boards having charge of any moneys of said town to be made, and to report to the common council of said city the result of such examinations. Back to TOWN Main Page Back to BROOKLYN Main