PETER MINUIT

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Synopsis: Peter Minuit (1580–1638) was the third governor of New Netherland. New Netherland was a Dutch community in North America. The British took over New Netherland from the Dutch. Minuit is best known for "buying" Manhattan from a Native-American tribe. He also later started a Swedish community in Delaware.

Early Years

Peter Minuit was born around 1580 in Germany. His father was a Belgian named Johan.

Little is known of Minuit's early years. In 1613, he married Gertrude Raedts. The two settled in the Dutch city of Utrecht.

Minuit then joined the Dutch West Indian Company. The company was in charge of Dutch colonies.

New Netherland Director

In 1625, Minuit traveled to New Netherland.

New Netherland was a Dutch territory. It stretched from what is now Delaware into Connecticut. It included New York, New Jersey and parts of Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

The colony's governor, or director, was Willem Verhulst. Minuit was given the job of setting up trade with Native American tribes. One of the main things that were traded were animal furs.

Minuit went back to Holland later in 1625.

He returned to the colony again after Verhulst was fired from his job as director. Minuit arrived in May 1626. He then became the colony's third director.

One of Minuit's first jobs as director was to "buy" Manhattan from the Indians who live there. In 1626, he bought the island from the Lenape Indians.

Minuit gave the Lenape 60 guilders worth of beads, metal tools and cloth. In return, the Indians gave the Dutch the whole island of Manhattan. Sixty guilders was Dutch money worth around $24 back then. It would be about $1,000 today.

Or that's what the Dutch said they did. Native Americans did not think land could be owned. The Lenape probably thought the beads and cloth were just a friendly gift, or that they were just loaning, or renting, Manhattan to the Dutch.

Minuit Loses His Job

At first, Minuit did well as governor. He helped the colony grow and built up the fur trade with the Indians.

He also sometimes broke the rules, in order to help his friends. In 1631, he was forced to step down as governor.

Swedish Service And Death

Minuit had to move back to Holland. He was still eager to return to the New World, though.

Minuit soon talked the Swedish government into setting up a colony in Delaware. He was given command of two Swedish ships.

In March 1638, Minuit reached the Delaware Bay. He then began building Fort Christina. The fort stood in what is now Wilmington. It was named after Sweden's queen.

Later that year, Minuit left for Sweden. He died at sea during a terrible storm.