TOP: Jamaica Bay was named for the Jameco Indians who made this area their home.
MIDDLE: Built in 1694, the Old Quaker Meeting House is New York City's oldest house of worship in continuous use.
BOTTOM: Painting of the the Lent Riker Smith Homestead, which has been maintained as a private dwelling since the arrival of the first Dutch settlers
Painting by William R. Miller
The Dutch English Rule
The geographic area of Queens offered plenty of sustenance for the
Native peoples. The numerous bays and creeks around Queens provided fin
fish and shellfish while the forest supplied game and migratory fowl.
Strawberries, grapes, chestnuts and walnuts grew in the wild throughout
The Native Americans on Long Island lived in small bands and led an agricultural
way of life growing corn and squash.
The Flushing Remonstrance written in 1657 is sometimes regarded as the first declaration of independence and as a forerunner to the First Amendment.
Some of the places associated with these early inhabitants include
Jamaica, named for the Jameco Indians, Rockaway, named after the
Reckowacky Indians, and Maspeth, named for the Mespat Indians, who
inhabited the headwaters of Newton Creek.
In 1614, Adrien Block sailing for the Dutch East India Company passed
through Hell Gate in the East River and became the first European to
eyes on Queens (and incidentally the first to realize Long Island was
After his ship burned in the Hudson River, he built a fort and a settlement at
tip of Manhattan that was named New Amsterdam which became the seat of
the regional colony in 1625. Beginning in 1637, Governor Peter
Stuyvesant made periodic grants of land in Queens to individual
and settlement began in what is today known as Astoria, Hunters Point,
and the Dutch Kills area of Long Island City.
While the Dutch settled the area, Englishman began coming from
the north and east. The Dutch were willing to grant a charter to the
English as long as they swore allegiance to the Dutch government, took
Dutch name for the colony, and accepted the Dutch form of government.
With approval from the Dutch government some English from New England
took up lands in Maspeth at the headwaters of Newtown Creek in 1642.
following year, a war between the Native Americans and Dutch caused the
settlement to be destroyed. Additional settlements followed in
Flushing (1645,) Newtown (1652,) and Jamaica (1656.)
While English settlers managed to exist side-by-side with the Native
Americans, trouble with the Dutch was one of the factors which
drove the Indians from Long Island. The other was a smallpox epidemic
1658, which reportedly killed two-thirds of the tribes in the area.
Tensions began to grow between the English and Dutch especially after
the Anglo-Dutch War of 1652-54.
The most significant event of this period occurred in Flushing in 1657.
Quakers in Flushing rose in opposition to Governor Stuyvesant's laws
which mandated that the Dutch Reform Church be the only one practiced
the area. The Quakers reacted by writing the "Flushing Remonstrance."
The Remonstrance argues the cause of religious freedom and extends
freedom of worship to Quakers, Jews, Turks, Egyptians, Presbyterians,
Stuyvesant reacted swiftly, instituting fines, imprisonments and
removals from office, and replacing the Flushing town government with
his own appointed organization.
In 1662, John Bowne openly defied the ban and was caught allowing
Quakers to worship in his home. He was imprisoned and banished to
Holland for judgment. He successfully argued his case and the directors
of the Dutch West India Company declared Bowne a free man. The company
then sent the Dutch New World officials a note: "Let everyone remain
Bowne's actions and those of his fellow residents of Flushing
principles that evolved into the Bill of Rights of the United States
Constitution. The Flushing Remonstrance is sometimes regarded as the
first declaration of independence and as a forerunner to the First
Dutch rule came to an abrupt end in August 1664 when four English Ships
commanded by Richard Nicolls sailed into New Amsterdam harbor and
demanded surrender in the name of James, Duke of York. The English
renamed New Amsterdam, "New York" and Long Island "Yorkshire." They
replaced the Dutch colonial structure and divided the area into three
"ridings". Modern Queens made up parts of the North and West ridings.
Most settlers, especially the English, were happy with the new
leadership. However, in 1669 and again in 1674, the settlers protested
at their lack of representation. The results of these protests led to a
new governor and a permanent Provisional Assembly where colonists would
be able to send delegates. The riding system was abolished and the area
was divided into ten colonies.
On November 1, 1683, Queens officially became a county and emerged for
first time as a geographical entity. It was named in honor of
Queen Catherine of Braganza, wife of King Charles II. The county
the areas that are now Queens and Nassau counties. Each county was
divided into towns. In Queens county, there were five towns: Newtown,
Flushing, Jamaica, Hempstead, and Oyster Bay. Jamaica was the county