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Catalynje’s Story

On the shores of Amsterdam in Holland, in 1623 a young couple stared at the waterfront and the Ship Eendract (which meant Unity) that entered the harbor and prepared for a voyage across the Atlantic that would take many people to the new world of America.

Joris Janszen Rapalje and Catalynje Jeronimus Trico anticipated the trip with the West India Company, along with other Walloon families, as members of an advanced party of colonists that agreed to pioneer the newly discovered land. Before this, though, they had made one condition to the company and the Church. They required a speedy marriage in agreement to join the others. On Saturday, January 13, 1623 Joris and Catalynje registered their intent to marry with the civil authorities. In just over a week’s time, they were married in the Walloon Church at Amsterdam, with the aided efforts of the Amsterdam Chamber of Commerce.

Agreeing to the contracts of the West India Company was no small feat for Joris and Catalynje. As a textile worker, Joris wasn’t guaranteed a position in that field upon the arrival in America. In fact, along with many other rules and laws, the West India Company asked that no one dyed clothes there, or wove for trade. The women could only spin for their own families. All of the “free colonists” as they were referred to, were to speak only Dutch, attend the Reformed Church, refrain from mining, and accept the land assigned to them for the duration of 6 years, after which they could sell to other “free colonists” should they so choose. The land they planted on was to be used for only the crops in which the West India Company allowed, and any surplus was to be sold back to West India Co. Lastly, everyone was to live in a generous manner, helping out other colonists within the party, and above all, don’t offend the Natives there, whom they called “Wildens.”

In exchange, the West India Company offered the pioneering party free passage to New Netherland, free farming, shipment of personal belongings from Holland for two years after their arrival, and a grace period on the incurred debt until the sale of their crops.

No one is quite exactly sure what Joris’s position was when he and Catalynje arrived to America. Not allowed to weave (he was a Borat weaver by trade) he possibly helped to clear land or plant crops. Maybe he worked as a field guard or added the fur traders in the processing of fibers? Regardless of his first jobs in New Amsterdam, Catalynje and he eventually owned and operated farm property in the Wallabout section of Brooklyn which is located on today’s Brooklyn Naval Yard. Catalynje worked at the Wallabout farmer’s market selling produce and flowers grown by her family.

In 1665 Joris died in their church, just as the British were entering Long Island to take the land from the Dutch. Catalynje remained on their farm in Brooklyn until her death in 1689.