Springtime on the Hudson
THE HUDSON RIVER
Kingston. The owner, Sharon, is as nice as they come. They have a good
ramp into Roundout Creek and a safe place to leave your tow vehicle
A FAMILY STORY
was early October, two hundred eighty-nine years ago, when a ragtag group of
Germans were sailed up a creek off the Hudson River, and offloaded. Many were
sick; all were gaunt and weary. Refugees, they had floated down the Rhine and
crossed the Channel to England. The previous Christmas, they had boarded ten
ships in London, bound for the New World. They
called their flotilla The Wonder Fleet.
There were more than 2,000 strong men, women and children ready for the departure
for the New World. But, it was not to be. Gunboats, to protect the transports
from French privateers, were unavailable due to bureaucratic confusion. They
lay, at anchor, for three and half months in Portsmouth harbor.
-----Such misery. Every day, young children died. The youngest died in great numbers. On one ship alone, eighty died. On another, over one hundred were sick at one time. The few, who held their health, cared for the miserable ill as best they could. They were all ill - weak from lack of good food. They had no exercise, no sunlight, no fresh air. After a month in Portsmouth, a fever began to spread among them - ship fever. Crowded in those foul holds with little or no provision for the most elementary sanitation, this dread disease, now known as typhus, decimated them. Infected fleas and body lice spread it.
-----Finally, in April, the ships pulled anchor. It was a dreadful crossing, wracked by late winter storms. More than four hundred more died. Thirty babies were born. All were wretched. The first ship to arrive, sailed into New York harbor in June - more than two months at sea. The miserable survivors had lived on those cramped ships almost six months. The last ship to arrive in New York was driven ashore by storm on the eastern end of Long Island in July.
-----After months of bureaucratic dithering on Governor's Island in New York harbor, they were transported up the Hudson river to their new homeland. The remnants of once-sturdy Palatine families struggled ashore into untamed forest along the banks of the Hudson. Land had to be cleared, shelters built, and crops planted - winter would soon enough arrive. One family had four young children. Within a year, one child and her mother were dead. One of the surviving little boys was my ancestor.
-----Almost three hundred years later, on Halcyon, El and I cruised up that same little creek off the Hudson River. We tied off and walked up the slope to the town, Saugerties, where my people had struggled to survive those first years. We found "de steenekerk" they built atop a hill in the Katsbaan, upon the south end of a barren rock. Beside the stone church, there is a cemetery. Many of the surnames are mine.
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