Nicasius De Sille: Statesman and Poet of New Amsterdam
 

This account of  DeSille’s life is in rough draft stage; once I can get a hold of additional source materials about New Amsterdam (not an easy task when living in New Mexico), I anticipate being able to round out this account. Any additions, corrections, and comments are greatly welcomed.
 

Early life and emigration

Nicasius De Sille was born 23 Sept 1610 in Arnheim, Netherlands to Laurens De Sille and Walburga Everwijn. (1)   Laurens served as burgomaster and schepen in Arnheim Netherlands for about ten years. De Sille’s grandfather, Dr. Nicasius De Sille had a distinguished career as a statesman in the Netherlands. He served as Pensionary of Amsterdam, and was an Ambassador who visited England, France and Denmark. (2) According  Genealogies of Long Island families (3) , he also served as first advocate in the Provincial Council at Namur, secretary to the Privy Council, and a delegate in the States General.

Nicasius De Sille, before emigrating to New Netherlands served as a captain and as an advocate before the Court of Holland. In 1654 he was commissioned by the Dutch West Indian company to serve as first councilor to director Peter Stuyvesant. Nicasius emigrated as a widower (his wife Cornelia Meulmans had passed away). Nicasius brought his five children: Walburga, Anna, Gerdientje, Lawrens, and Petrus. (4)

First Councilor of New Netherlands

Nicasius served as first councilor to Peter Stuyvesant, a position which should have put him in the number two position in the province. Unfortunately Stuyvesant preferred Cornelius Van Tienhoven, the fiscal. Council decisions tended to be controlled by Stuyvesant and Van Tienhoven since they held three council votes, while De Sille and La Montagne, the other councilor, held only two votes. (5)

When Stuyvesant went away on extended visits to Fort Orange and even Curacao, he did not swear in De Sille, but instead Van Tienhoven. In 1655 the infamous "peach massacre" which costs the lives of about 40 Dutch settlers occurred while Stuyvesant was away and Tienhoven was in charge. Many of the settlers blamed Van Tienhoven for the massacre, and went so far as to send petitions to Amsterdam. (See Bob Fulkerson’s article on  Tienhoven's escapades). This coupled with letters send by De Sille resulted in the dismissal of Van Tienhoven and the appointment of De Sille in his place as schout-fiscal in 1656.

De Sille, in the role of provincial councilor, participated in law making; in his service as schout fiscal acted as sheriff and prosecuting attorney; and held the positions of church warden, fire warden, and even for a time, captain-lieutenant.

Marriage to Catherine Kreiger

De Sille married Catherine Kreiger, the daughter of his friend Captain Martin Kreiger, in 1655. In the meantime, Lawrens DeSille married Catherine’s sister, and Walburga married Catherine’s brother Francis. Unfortunately the marriage of Nicasius and Catherine did not work out. De Sille, in 1659 petitioned the magistrates for a divorce on the grounds that his wife "led an unbecoming and careless life, both by her wasting of property without his knowledge as by her public habitual drunkenness."(6)  De Sille later dropped proceedings, possibly out of regard for the harmony his children’s marriages. At any rate, Nicasius and Catherine tried to keep out of each other’s way, he in New Utrecht and she in New Amsterdam.

First Citizen of Nieuw Utrecht

De Sille became one of the first twenty patentees of New Utrecht in 1657. His house, built by Jacob Hellekeers Swart was the first stone house built in New Utrecht, was surrounded by a stout palisade and featured a red tiled roof. A sketch of the house can be found in An Album of New Amsterdam (7). The house stood until 1850.

Poet of New Utrecht

De Sille enjoyed his time spent in New Utrecht and many of his poems reflect this. His poems were included in his Description of the Founding or Beginning of Nieuw Utrecht (8) , which he wrote in the capacity of town secretary.

 Look at some excepts from  De Sille's poetry

Later Years

In 1663, De Sille was put in command of the provincial forces in the western portion of Long Island. Raelsy (9) attributes him with protecting the five Dutch towns from British hostilities. After the English takeover of New Amsterdam, De Sille settled town to a quieter life in New Utrecht.

De Sille and his estranged wife battled over their New Amsterdam house in 1669 when De Sille tried to sell it. The quarrel must have gotten so heated that Governor Lovelace heard about and asked Mayor Steenwyck to form a committee of arbitration. According to Raesly (10),  the committee was not able to resolve the dispute.

De Sille’s reputation must not have suffered due to his domestic squabbles, however, for Lovelace appointed him notary public of Mydwout around the same time. (11)

De Sille’s date of death and his place of burial are uncertain, but by most accounts he passed away before 1674.
 

Notes

1.   Raesly, Ellis L. (1965). Portrait of New Netherland. Port Washington, NY: Ira   J.Friedman Inc. Originally published by Columbia University Press, 1945. Pg. 295.

2.   ibid.

3.  Genealogies of Long Island Families, 2 Vols.

4.  Raesly, Ellis L. pg. 295-296.

5.  ibid. pg. 298-300.

6.  ibid. pg. 301.

7.   Dillard, Maud E. (1963) .An Album of New Amsterdam. New York: Bramhall House. Plate 73.

8.   De Sille, Nicasius. (1657?) Description of the Founding or Beginning of Nieuw Utrecht

9.  Raesly, Ellis L. pg. 307.

10.   ibid. pg. 308.

11.   ibid.
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