The History of Williamsburg: 8 Incredible Facts
Williamsburg has a very interesting history. Here are eight incredible facts that are absolutely intriguing about Williamsburg's history.
Williamsburg is a town that contains over 113,000 residents. The town is known for its vibrant nightlife and local hipster culture. It is also known for being an influential hub of contemporary music and for being a community that contains some of the most momentous artwork known. Such a diverse town and population, no doubt has an equally exciting and momentous history attached to it. Here are some historical facts that will both intrigue and shock you.
1. Williamsburg Was Sold for More Money Than Manhattan By The Same Indian Tribe
No, really. The same Indian tribe that sold Manhattan sold Williamsburg. Williamsburg was also sold for more money than Manhattan. The Dutch West India Company first purchased the area of Williamsburg from the Canarsee Indians in 1638. It is very likely that this is the same group of Indians that sold Manhattan. The price of Williamsburg was higher than the price of Manhattan. It is thought that because the land was originally swamp lands, the Canarsee Indians didn't actually occupy what would be known as Williamsburg. It is thought that they used the lands primarily for hunting. It is also thought that the purchase was more of an agreement to allow both sides to use the land until it was developed, which took a long time.
2. Williamsburg was first settled by the French
Bosjwick is what the French called Williamsburg when they settled it in 1660, under the advisement of the Dutch. This became the northernmost Dutch village located within the borough. Bosjwick actually means "place of woods." Captain Kidd became one of Williamsburg's most frequent visitors around this time.
3. The Bushwick Inlet Used to be Bigger
The Bushwick Inlet used to actually go all the way up to North 7th street and was a lot more significant to the area's geography. It is now cut off by Kent Avenue. Before Kent Avenue cut it off, the inlet used to wind its way diagonally both east and south. The way it was laid out, it created a natural border between Williamsburg and Greenpoint.
4. Williamsburg Changes Names... A lot
Throughout its history, Williamsburg has been a town of many names. The town began as part of Bushwick. It has also been called King's Country and Cripple Bush. Once the town was originally called Williamsburg, spelled W-I-L-L-I-A-M-S-B-U-R-G-H. The H was eventually dropped from the name, when Williamsburg merged to become part of Brooklyn.
5. King's Country wasn't patriotic
Ironically, during the revolutionary war, King's Country wasn't very patriotic. At the time, most of the area was underdeveloped swamp land controlled by the Dutch. They didn't really care much about the conflict between the British and their colonies. If anything, the wealthy farmers inhabiting the area saw no need to jeopardize their own wealth by picking a fight with the empire. There were exceptions in which the Dutch became involved, but the majority really didn't care. John Titus lead one delegation of troops from the area, and his house later became the foundation for the development of Williamsburg.
6. Skulls and Bones on the Beach
It happened for years following the Revolutionary War. American soldiers who were captured and starved until they passed away would have their bodies dumped into the East River. As a result, for years after the end of the Revolution, their bones and skulls could be found as residents walked along the beach of Williamsburg. Many of the found skeletons would be provided with proper burials, thanks to donations provided by the Society of Tammany. Williamsburg's beaches were once filled with the bones of America's bravest soldiers, those who fought for our first taste of freedom.
7. They Had Slaves
Bushwick's farms carried a large population of slaves. Bushwick's big farms were no exception, and like the rest of King's Country, the large farmhouses within the area contained a large number of slaves. From the 17th century until New York ended slavery in the 1820s, roughly 20-30% of the population was enslaved. In 1827, only a small portion of free African-Americans remained within the area (which was the year that New York completely outlawed slavery and the year of Williamsburg's incorporation).
8. Williamsburg was the site of the first ferry
James Hazard became the first ferry operator along the East River. It is unlikely that he ferried regular commuters, but he did allow many farmers in the area to use his service. They used his service to take their produce to markets found on the lower east side. For a few years, Hazard had it all to himself, and even ventured out into real estate, but eventually the man went bankrupt.
Williamsburg may have started as a swampland, but now it is so much more. The area is immersed in culture and activity. There is hardly anything else like the neighborhood, and who knows what can be added to the list of historical achievements 100 years from now?
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