In 1639, the first European settler came to establish himself on the mainland north and east of the Harlem River. His name was Jonas Jonson Bronck. Born in Sweden, in the small village of Komstad, Norra Ljunga socken, outside Sävsjö in the Swedish province of Småland, some time around the year 1600.

Rather than take over his family’s farm, he became a sailor, and it is known that he traveled to Japan and India. He married his Dutch wife, Teuntje Joriaens, on July 6, 1638, in the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), Amsterdam. He and his wife subsequently decided to emigrate to North America.

In June, 1639, Bronck navigated up the East River in a ship, De Brant Van Troyen (The Fire of Troy), and made home on a piece of land he had acquired across the Harlem River from the village of Harlem. His farm (known as Bronck’s Land, and then just Broncksland), covered roughly the area south of today’s 150th Street in the Bronx.

The original price paid for the Bronx, or a large share of it, was as follows: 2 gunns, 2 kettles, 2 coats, 2 shirts, 2 adzes, 1 barrel of cider, and 6 bitts of money. The assessed value of Manhattan today (2009) is $5,116,000,000 and that of the Bronx $732,000,000 (realty).

He, his wife and his indentured servants from Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands gradually cleared the woods and cultivated the lands between today’s Bronx and Harlem Rivers, mostly south of modern 150th Street.

An Indian treaty was made in his house. Whnen they felt they had to have a seal to seal it with, they used Jonas’s seal on the flag he had flying on his ship, The Fire of Troy. These elements later became part of the seal of New York City and New York State. The motto is from the Aneid: Yield Not To Evil.

Bronck died in 1643 and his land was sold off. The area was known as “Broncksland” only through the end of the 1600s – so the modern name of the NYC borough does not come directly from that farmland. However, the river which runs North-to-South through the mainland area, and which his farm butted against, kept the name Bronck’s River, eventually being abbreviated – or misspelled – to Bronx River. This name stuck, and it was this river (which splits the modern borough in two) after which Bronx was named.

In 1683, the colonial government established counties, and all of the modern Bronx was the southernmost portion of Westchester County. In 1874, a dynamic and growing New York City annexed the part of today’s Bronx west of the Bronx River. That territory became part of New York City and New York County. In 1895, the lands east of the Bronx River were taken by the city as well. In 1898, the city took over Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. Along with Manhattan, they all became subdivisions of the city called boroughs. It was decided that the two areas previously annexed should also become a borough, but those lands never really had a name before. Looking at a map, the city fathers saw that the Bronx River ran through the middle of the territory. For this reason, they named it the Borough of Bronx.

To hear the following names in Dutch Peter Stuyvesant; Peter Minuit (also: Minnewit), who in 1626 bought Manhattan (Manhattan was ceded to the British in 1664 after the 2nd Anglo-Dutch Sea War in exchange for Surinam, which looked more promising at the time); Cornelis Steenwijk; Adriaen van der Donk; Jonas Bronck.

 A side note

Peter Minuit (also: Minnewit), the director-general of New Netherland, the Dutch West India Company’s colony in North America, bought Manhattan, the “island of many hills”, in 1626 from the local indigenous population for glass beads and trinkets worth not more than 60 guilders with a 2008 purchasing power of $1,102, according to the International Institute of Social History‘s calculator, and not $24 as commonly believed (good deal).

Today, The Bronx Times..TM is published just a few feet into and a few more above what used to be the 1609 water-line at the corner of Coenties Slip and Pearl Street (named after the pearls found in the oysters littering the waterfront), in the Financial District of downtown Manhattan.

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2 Responses

  1. Brian G Andersson

    His name was Jonas Jonasson Bronck. We do not know that he travelled to Japan and India. The inventory conducted of his estate after his death indicated that he owned a Japanese cutlass. Some assume that this may have been acquired in his travels. There is no other indication or proof.

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  2. Brian G Andersson

    Additionally, it is “The Borough of The Bronx.” Never leave out the definate article “The.” And capitalize that “T.”

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