I have come to the conclusion that I am a community historian at heart. This was an odd revelation for me because I went into history wanting to tell larger stories, but along the way I realized that I liked being the voice of those smaller areas that had no storyteller of their own.
Therefore, I am excited to announce my new research project. I’m following the steps of five families from their arrival in New Netherland through their move south and into the region of Randolph County, WV where they remained after the American Revolution.
Beginning in New Netherland in the 1640s, these individuals came separately over a period of decades. They all had close ties with their church, and somewhat of a dislike for the English takeover of their area. They kept moving south as the English moved into and populated areas all around them, ending up in the Virginia backcountry where they lived in relative isolation from the world despite the dangers from the Native American population.
George Washington’s diaries mention the early Dutch settlers during his time surveying the Northern Neck Proprietary. His entry is rather disparaging saying they were more uncivilized than the Indians. Despite his initial impressions, later on Washington notes that they were part of the early fort and militia systems in place and speaks more highly of them as being reliable, if nothing else.
Those in these family groups who fought in the American Revolution show up as Patriots, and it seems clear that they love their adopted homeland and once they settle in West Virginia they seem to maintain a presence here. With much of the history of early West Virginia populated with tales of the Scots-Irish or German ethnicities, the Dutch influence is rarely, if ever, mentioned. Therefore, this is a tale not of the genealogy of these families, but rather a new study in the sense of community of these people who arrived as strangers in a strange land, but who remained together as family for centuries. They made their mark on the land they loved, but did so quietly remaining in the background of history except for a short remark made by George Washington as a young surveyor.
I’m excited to work on this project and plan to update as I can on how it goes as I delve deeper into who these people were. Their story is begging to be told now, and I have apparently adopted them as their storyteller (or they adopted me—I’m no longer certain). I can’t wait to share snippets with you.