Cornelis Melyn, early settler of Staten Island, instigator

Cornelis Melyn (1600 – c. 1662) was an early Dutch settler in New Netherland and lived on Staten Island. He was the chairman of the council of eight men, which was a part of early steps toward representative democracy in the Dutch colony. He was born in Antwerp which was part of the Spanish Netherlands. He decided to move to New Amsterdam on his second visit in 1638. He returned to the Netherlands and applied for the Patroonship of Staten Island, which he was granted July 3, 1640. A Patroonship allowed a landholder in New Netherland and its colonies, proprietary and manorial rights to a large tract of land in exchnage for 50 new settlers to the colony.

Melyn and his family were forced to flee Staten Island during a war with the Lenape and his plantation was destroyed. He purchased three plots in Manhattan where his family lived for 3 years while waiting to return to Staten Island. During that time, Melyn is attributed with having written the Vertoogh van Nieu Nederland’ (‘A Tale of New Netherland’), considered one of earliest descriptions of life in colony and condemnation of Dutch West Indies Company policies. He was in conflict with the govenor, Krieft and eventually also Peter Stuyvesant. Cornelis was sent to trial in Amsterdam, but returned again to resume his attempt to colonize Staten Island, along with a group of about 70 persons.  His feud continued with Director-General Stuyvesant, who had him arrested and imprisoned without trial or hearing in 1655.

In 1659, he relinquished his right of Patroonship of Staten Island. His death is not recorded but believed to have been in 1662.

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NYC tour guide -- licensed and starred with Dept of Commerce

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