The Man from Santo Domingo


Jan Rodrigues, left ashore by a Dutch vessel in 1613, became the first non-Native resident of Manhattan. Described as "a mulatto born in St. Domingo," he had been given a musket, a sword, some knives, and eighty hatchets, probably for trading with the Indians until the ship returned. Sailors from several Dutch vessels encountered Rodrigues in 1614, but then he vanished from recorded history.

Scholars searching Dominican baptismal and Spanish court records have found several men in Santo Domingo named Juan Rodríguez who were accused by Spain of illegal trading with Dutch merchants. Further research may yet link one of them to the man from Santo Domingo who settled here eleven years before the founding of New Amsterdam.

These excerpts are drawn from a legal case in Holland involving an argument between two Dutch sea captains over events in Manhattan in 1613-14. The plaintiff - the one making the charges - was Adriaen Block, whose ship was probably the Fortuyn. The defendant was Thijs Volckertsz Mossel, captain of the Jonge Tobias. The witnesses ("deponents") were crew members from the two ships. The word "supercargo" referred to the officer who was responsible for the ship's commercial activities, including the purchase and sale of cargo.

"The said Mossel's ship arrived in the river of New Virginia [the Hudson River] about seven weeks later than the said plaintiff's ship arrived there...[The crew members] truly know that the aforementioned Thijs Mossel and his supercargo sought and tried to spoil the trade of the said plaintiff there. They made him suspicious partly because they gave or supplied twice as many goods of the same quality and quantity for a beaver as the plaintiff gave before they arrived there, namely three pieces, where the plaintiff gave only one.

"Finally [they declare] that when the said Mossel sailed away from the river with his ship, a mulatto born in St. Domingo, who had arrived there with the ship of the said Mossel, stayed ashore at the same place. They had given this mulatto eighty hatchets, some knives, a musket and a sword. The said Thijs Mossel and his supercargo themselves declared that this Spaniard had run away from the ship and gone ashore against their intent and will and that they had given him the said goods in payment of his wages and therefore had nothing more to do with him. Moreover they testified that the crew of the plaintiff ought to have killed him, seeing that he had declared that he would not come to this country [Holland] and that he would have jumped overboard if they had not allowed him to depart. The deponents declare also to have knowledge that nobody of the said Mossel's crew stayed ashore in the said Virginia other than the said Spaniard."

August 20, 1613: Declarations of some members of the crew of Adriaen Block's and Thijs Volckertsz Mossel's ships. City Archives Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Not. Arch. 1977, pp. 614v-615. Notary Jan Fransz Bruyningh. Hart, Simon. The Prehistory of the New Netherland Company. Amsterdam: City of Amsterdam Press, 1959, 75. "[The crewmen of the Fortuyn] declare that when they were lying in the river Montanges [the Hudson River] a certain Jean Rodrigues came on board their ship who said that he was a free man and requested of his own accord to serve the producer and his partners and stay on their ship, giving them to understand that he had nothing to do with and had no business with either [supercargo] Jan Jorissen or Thijs Mossel, and that he was not bound to them." July 23, 1614. Declarations of crew members of the ship the Fortuyn, master Hendrick Christiaensen. City Archives Amsterdam, Not. Arch. 198, pp 97, 97v, 98. Notary Jan Fransz Bruyningh. Hart, Simon. The Prehistory of the New Netherland Company. Amsterdam: City of Amsterdam Press, 1959, 80.

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