Henry Hudson’s Discoveries

During the time of these occurrences under the leadership of Champlain, who was thus pushing southward from his embryo settlement on the St. Lawrence, other explorations were being made from the sea coast northward, the actors in which were undoubtedly impelled by the same spirit of enterprise, but exemplified in a less belligerent manner. Prominent among these, and particularly noteworthy as opening the pathway of civilization leading to the same territory towards which Champlain’s expedition tended, was the exploration of the noble river that now bears the name of its discoverer, Henry Hudson. Possibly, at the time Champlain was performing these feats near the head waters of the Hudson, the English navigator was encamped less than one hundred miles below. Strange that two adventurers, in the service of different sovereigns ruling three thousand miles away, and approaching from different points of the compass, should so nearly meet in the vast forests of wild America, each exploring a part of the continent never before traversed by Europeans. Strange, too, that the vicinity where these adventurers so nearly met should, for a hundred and fifty years, be the boundary between the nations respectively represented by them, and the scene of their frequent and bloody conflicts for supremacy.

Captain Henry Hudson, though an Englishman, sailed in the interest of the Dutch East India Company. After having, in returning from a quest for the coveted northeastern passage to India, sailed along the coast of the continent from Maine to Chesapeake Bay, and, as we have intimated, ascended the river which bears his name to a point within a hundred miles of that attained by Champlain, he returned to Europe. “The unworthy monarch on England’s throne, jealous of the advantage which the Dutch might derive from Hudson’s discoveries, detained him in England as an English subject; but the navigator outwitted his sovereign, for he sent an account of his voyage to his Amsterdam employers by a trusty hand 1.” Through the information thus furnished was established a Dutch colony on the island of Manhattan, for which a charter was granted by the States-General of Holland, bearing date October 11, 1614, in which the country was named New Netherland. Meanwhile, in 1607, the English had made their first permanent settlement at Jamestown, Va., and in 1620 planted a second colony at Plymouth Rock. These two colonies became the successful rivals of all others, of whatever nationality, in the strife that finally left them (the English) masters of the country.

On the discoveries and the colonization efforts we have briefly noted, three European powers based claims to the territory of which Addison county now forms a part. England, by reason of the discovery of Cabot, who sailed under letters patent from Henry VII, and on the 24th of June, 1497, struck the sterile coast of Labrador, and that made in the following year by his son Sebastian, who explored the coast from Newfoundland to Florida, claiming a territory eleven degrees in width and extending westward indefinitely. France, by reason of the discoveries of Verrazzani, claimed a portion of the Atlantic coast; and Holland, by reason of the discovery of Hudson, claimed the country from Cape Cod to the southern shore of Delaware Bay.

From the date of the death of Champlain 2.until the end of French domination in New France, the friendship established by that great explorer between the northern Indians and the French was unbroken, while at the same time it led to the unyielding hostility of the Iroquois, and especially of the Mohawks. If truces and informal peace treaties were formed between these antagonistic elements, they were both brief in tenure and of little general effect. As a consequence of this and the fact that Lakes Champlain and George were the natural highway between the hostile Indians, they became the scene of prolonged conflict and deeds of savage atrocity, which retarded settlement and devastated their borders. The feuds of the people of Europe and the malignant passions of European sovereigns arrayed the colonies of England against the provinces of France in conflicts where the ordinary ferocity of border warfare was aggravated by the relentless atrocities of savage barbarism. Each power emulated the other in the consummation of its schemes of blood and rapine. Hostile Indian tribes, panting for slaughter, were let loose along the frontier upon feeble settlements, struggling amid the dense forest with a rigorous climate and reluctant soil for a precarious existence. Unprotected mothers, helpless infancy and decrepit age were equally the victims of the torch, the tomahawk and scalping-knife. The two lakes formed portions of the great pathway (equally accessible and useful to both parties) of these bloody and devastating forays. In the season of navigation they glided over the placid waters of the lake, with ease and celerity, in the bark canoes of the Indians. The ice of winter afforded them a broad, crystal highway, with no obstruction of forest or mountain, of ravine or river. If deep and impassable snows rested upon its bosom, snowshoes were readily constructed, and secured and facilitated their march.

1. Lossing.

2. Champlain, who is commemorated in the annals of the country he served so ably and with such fidelity as “The Father of New France,” died at Quebec in December, 1635.


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