The European history of our city begins in the 1600s, after Henry Hudson reported back to his Dutch employers that no, he hadn’t found a shortcut to the spice roads of Asia, but he had run into some nice real estate along the journey. The rest, as they say, is history. The Dutch East and West Indies Companies came here to set up businesses and make money, but that takes people. Soon Dutch farmers and tradesmen followed the soldiers, trappers and merchants to what is now the entirety of Long Island, as well as Manhattan, parts of New Jersey, and on up the Hudson.

I mostly write about Brooklyn, and there, the names of the earliest Dutch farmer families are now street and neighborhood names: Lefferts, Schermerhorn, Van Nostrand, Vanderbilt, Lott, Suydam, Bergen, Wyckoff and Remsen, among others. Over the centuries, all of these families, along with many others, intermarried and grew; spreading to all parts of what was once New Amsterdam. The Remsen’s are a good example of that growth, as well as a great example of how these families became important in the history of their communities.

Historians write often about the lives of these early residents of our city, but they don’t often talk about where they are laid to rest, in part because a lot of those places no longer exist. Public cemeteries were a 19th century necessity, as our cities just got too big to accommodate the dead in only in churchyards and small private cemeteries. There was also the matter of public health. We would probably be shocked to learn of all the private cemeteries and abandoned churchyards throughout the city that lie beneath our neighborhoods, buildings and streets.


It’s history in the eating. This Saturday, the Greater Ridgewood Historical Society will host Cook Like A Soldier, a reenactment of a meal that Revolutionary War soldiers might have consumed during the Battle of Brooklyn, which took place in August 1776. Culinary historian Carolina M. Capehart, an experienced hearth cook and writer, will prepare provisions over an open fire at the Vander-Ende Onderdonk House in Ridgewood. Capehart specializes in cooking with the recipes, equipment and ingredients of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The event will take place on the grounds of the historic Dutch Colonial stone house, but tours of Onderdonk’s recently restored, 18th century kitchen will be offered for those who prefer indoor dining.

Details: Cook Like a Soldier, Onderdonk House, 18-20 Flushing Avenue, Ridgewood, August 24th, 11 am – 3 pm, $10/$3.

Photo by Vander-Ende Onderdonk House/FB