Cornelis Claessen Swits

M, b. circa 1614, d. 15 September 1655
FatherClaes Corneliesen Swits d. Aug 1641
     Cornelis Claessen was born circa 1614 in Switzerland. Cornelis married Ariaentje Cornelissen Trommels, daughter of Cornelius Trommels, circa 1637 in Schenectady, Schenectady County, New York, at the Reformed Dutch Church.1 The first we know of Cornelis is that he was the lessee of the West India Company’s Farm No. 5 circa 1640. For as of 1645, “Half a year after the expiring of the contracts with Leendert Arentsen and Cornelis Claessen Swits on farms no. 3 and 5 in 1645, these farms were transported to their lessors.” These company farms were created for the purpose of supporting the fort and its soldiers. Because of weather, but mostly because of the conflict between the Dutch and the Native Americans, this project was ended and the farms were all eventually sold into private enterprise. Cornelis is on record as having purchased a farm in these flats of Manhattan on 10 March 1653. This farm had originally been granted to Isaac DeForest and had been purchased from a man named Beekman. The Dutch authorities had evoked much ill feelings among the Native Americans and this feeling of hatred boiled over in September of 1655. Picking an early morning when Kieft was not on the island, the Indians came on shore and began plundering the village. Eventually, being forced from the village, the group took out their frustration and hatred on the settler living on farms in the surrounding flats. The farms were overrun with 50 being killed and twice that number, mostly women and children, taken into captivity and marched away. This slaughter took place on 15 September 1655. Cornelis was one of the victims, his wife and children, all taken into captivity.2,3 Cornelis was killed by the Indians on Wednesday, 15 September 1655 in his home, New Haerlem, Westchester County, New York.


Ariaentje Cornelissen Trommels


  1. [S522] Schenectady Reformed Dutch Church Marriage Records, 163? - Cornelis Claele Swits & Ariaentje Cornelissen.
  2. [S111] James Riker, History of Harlem, Its Origin and Early Annuals - The Revised Edition, page - Very early one morning, September 15, 1655, sixty-four canoes of armed
    savages landed on the beach at Niew Amsterdam, and before scarcely
    anyone had risen scattered about the town and began to break into the
    houses for plunder. All was alarm and confusion, and to make matters
    worse, Stuyvesant was absent, having departed on an expedition to the
    Delaware a few days before, taking with him most of the garrison. The
    members of the council finally prevailed with the chiefs and their people
    to withdraw from the city, but at evening they returned, and a skirmish
    took place between them and the Dutch soldiers, blood flowing on both
    sides. The now enraged Indians departed, but on that doleful night began
    a horrible slaughter of the settlers, full fifty of whom fell within three
    days, while over a hundred, mostly women and children, were carried
    into captivity.
    Hordes of armed savages, thirsting for blood, swept over these flats,
    slaying the settlers, plundering and burning their houses, and devastating
    their bouweries. Corllelis Claessen Swits, whose father had been killed by an
    Indian, now owned the farm on the Flats originally granted to Isaac De
    Forest, but which Swits had purchased from Beekman in 1653.
    Since his good vrouw, Adriana, had lost her father, Cornelis Trommels,
    of Rengerskerk, a quiet hamlet in the Island of Schouwen, what changes she
    had experienced! Left an orphan to the care of a guardian at
    Krouwershaven, she had, after other vicissitudes, found a home on these
    beautiful but solitary plains, having since her arrival here inherited
    some property from an aunt in Zeeland. She was now the mother of five
    children between the ages of three and fifteen years. Swits had built him
    a house, and labored hard upon his farm of fifty morgens, in clearing the
    land, etc., hoping by patient industry to cancel a debt of seven hundred
    guilders: due the West India Company for commodities advanced to him.
    His good friend Tobias Teunissen was equally busy on the bouwery near
    Spuyten Duyvel.
    These two households felt the full force of the Indian raid,
    being "miserably surprised by the cruel, barbarous savages," both Swits
    and Teunissen were massacred, their goods plundered or burned, and
    their terrified wives and little ones captured and hurried away to their
    haunts in the forest. The crops on the bouweries were destroyed, and the
    cattle either killed, driven off, or left to wander in the woods. The same
    scene was enacted at the Kuyter bouwery. The grain, etc., was burned, but,
    sadder still, the widow Kuyter, now the wife of Willem Jansen, from Heerde,
    in Gelderland, also fell a victim to savage fury, though the
    husband by some means escaped.''
  3. [S528] Jan Folkerts, The Failure of West India Company Farming on the Island of Manhattan, page 6 8 - Shortage and War -