In April of 1637, a young man named Pieter Claesen arrived on American shores in what was then the Dutch-controlled colony of New Netherland. Â Like as many as half of New Netherland's immigrants, Pieter's native language and culture were not Dutch. Â On the contrary, Pieter hailed from Norden, an area in modern Germany that spoke Frisian, dialects of which can still be heard in coastal areas of Denmark, northwestern Germany and the northeastern Netherlands. Â Both Pieter's parentage and impetus for immigration remain unknown.Upon his arrival, Pieter was contracted as an indentured farm hand for a fellow Frisian tenant farmer named Symon Walichsz on a vast estate, or patroonship, called Rensselaerswyck. Â Rennsselaerswyck, which consisted of approximately one million acres, had been granted by the Dutch government to the wealthy van Rensselaer family of Amsterdam. Â After a period of six years, Pieter's contract of servitude expired and he became a tenant farmer himself. Â He soon married a Dutch-born young woman, Grietje van Nes, and they began the family that would eventually number 11 children.
In 1650, upriver farmers started to move south toward New Amsterdam, the seat of government, to purchase land that was independent from large patroonships like Rensselaerswyck. Â By 1652, Pieter and Grietje had acquired a farm in the newly established community of Nieuw Amersfoort in what would eventually comprise the city, and later borough, of Brooklyn. Â The house they occupied was a simple one room structure with a packed earth floor and unglazed windows, with doors at both ends and a large jambless (open) hearth. Â Miraculously, it still stands today.
Over the centuries, the house has been reconfigured, expanded, and modernized to eventually encompass 6 rooms with three fireplaces, a walk-up attic above, and root cellar below. Â The Wyckoff family occupied the site for eight successive generations until 1901 when the land and house were sold to developers.
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