Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Visit to the Norman's Kill

Just who is Norman and who did he kill?

I paddled the Normanskill on Labor Day - hence these thoughts.
No one as it turns out.  Living in the Hudson River Valley one must have a smattering of Dutch.  Norman, or Noorman, is Dutch for Northman, Norseman, or Norwegian.  Kill, or kil, is creek.  Therefore we have Norwegian's Creek.

So, who is this Norwegian and why did the creek get named after him?

The Norman in question is Albert Andriessen Bradt often known simply as the Noorman.  Albert was born about 1607 in Fredrikstad, Norway.  At some point, his family moved to Amsterdam, where there was a sizable Norwegian community.

On August 26, 1636 Albert and two others signed a contract with the patroon Killaen van Rensselaer to establish a new sawmill venture in van Rensselaer's colony Rensselaerswyck.  In October, Albert, his wife Annatie Barents, their two young daughters and about 35 other passengers set sail.  "Most of the men were farmers or farm laborers, but there were also smiths, shoemakers, carpenters, a millwright and a mason, all trades of necessity to the frontier community."  After an eventful crossing, the ship finally arrived at Fort Orange on April 7, 1637.  (Albert & Annatie would eventually have 8 children in total - one of whom, named Storm, was born during this crossing.)

Albert set about creating a life for himself and his family in the frontier community that would later become Albany and Bethlehem. He was a woodcutter, sawmiller, tobacco planter, orchardman, and trader.   He accumulated wealth and acreage (including some in New Amsterdam - today's Manhattan).  While a respected businessman and an elder in the Lutheran church (a somewhat dangerous prospect given the dominance of the Reformed Church at that time) he was also known to be "irascible", a difficult neighbor and a thorn in the side of the patroon.

Albert, who died on June 7, 1686, was "a man of vision in a new world, a settler in a strange land, one of the founders of a colony.  He... reached a position of respect, then watched his sons surpass him....in his later years he was separated from his wife [wife #3, not Annatie], alone and bitter, watching his children pursue a strange religion. "

All of the above quotes are from Peter R. Christoph's publication "A Norwegian Pioneer in a Dutch Colony: The Life and Times of Albert Andriessen Bradt: Miller, Merchant, and a Founder of the Lutheran Church in America."  I highly recommend you get your hands on a copy of this book.  Christoph does a marvelous job of presenting the complicated man that is Albert Bradt in the context of his times using primary sources.  You can find it at the Bethlehem Public Library under the title "A Norwegian Family in Colonial America."  Or if you ask nice, you could read my copy.

I'll close with a quote of a quote from Christoph in describing Albert:

His complexity draws to mind an oft-quoted paradox from Martin Luther, simul iustus et preccator - "righteous and sinful at the same time."

On a further note, we'll save for another day the discussion on whether the river's name is Normanskill, Norman's Kill, or, as the sign on 9W says, Normans Kill.

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