........ Conjecture, noun, the formation of judgments or opinions on the basis of incomplete or inconclusive information. Source: Encarta Dictionary

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Conjecture #4: Penelope sailed on de Kath, which wrecked in the summer of 1648

Margaret Thomas Buchholz’s book New Jersey Shipwrecks: 350 Years in the Graveyard of the Atlantic opens with a vignette of Penelope’s shipwreck and claims it’s the first one known along the New Jersey coast. However, she doesn’t list ships by name until 1731 and even our favorite nameless shipwreck is lifted from H. F. Stout’s book Stout and Allied Families.

Kath is the First Documented Wreck in New Jersey
But Ms. Buchholz has a point. The first documented shipwreck is the Dutch West India Company’s ship de Kath (whose name is spelled many different ways), whose salvage report is recorded in the New Amsterdam Council Minutes on 9 Nov 1648 as follows:

        “Whereas the yacht De Cath, of which Jeuryaen Andries was master, arrived here from Curaçao with a cargo inside Sandy Hook, otherwise called Godyn Point, in a safe port and, the wind being contrary, tried to tack to before Fort Amsterdam, said yacht, in tacking, stranded on a sand bank with such force that notwithstanding all effort it could not be brought off, except the effects which were in and on her, inclusive of the masts; only, by the splitting of the ship, a quantity of salt was dissolved. The effects and merchandise being calculated against the monthly wages earned by the crew of the said ship, the proceeds according to the inventory were found to amount to more than the accrued wages; and whereas the ship’s crew appearing in a body before the council request a final settlement according to maritime law, it is therefore resolved and concluded in council to furnish a proper account to all members of the crew of the yacht De Cath, who shall be paid and satisfied by the honorable directors at Amsterdam, on condition that they shall continue in the Company’s service until their bounden time shall have expired. This day, the 9th of November 1648. Present: The honorable general, Mr. Dincklagen, Briant Nuton [Brian Newton] and Paulus Leedersz.”

The Slowness of Bureaucracy
Aha, you say, de Kath wrecked in November and Penelope was already in Gravesend in September. No, the November date pertains to the salvage report being entered into the Council Minutes. There is no mention of when the wreck occurred but surely the bureaucracy of investigating shipwrecks took months, even in the 17th century.

The Stopover
Aha, you say, de Kath sailed from Curaçao, an island in the Caribbean, whereas Penelope sailed from Amsterdam. I ask, why can’t both statements be true? If you flew from Los Angeles to New York with a change of planes in Chicago, then you traveled from Los Angeles but both you and your second plane flew from Chicago. How much importance do you attach to the stopover? So, is it plausible that Penelope sailed on one ship from Amsterdam to Curaçao and took another ship from Curaçao to New Amsterdam?

Kath was a Busy Ship
Follow the career path of de Kath, as recorded in the contemporary records. Source details can be found on my website. Note: the Dutch had already converted to the Gregorian calendar; thus all these dates are in modern format.

6 Jun 1647: The New Amsterdam Council ordered the ships Groote Gerrit, de Kath, and de Leifde to voyage to the West Indies as privateers. No info on when they actually departed.

19 Feb 1648: Vice Director Lucas Roodenborch of Curaçao wrote a letter to Stuyvesant that the Groote Gerrit was severely damaged by a storm and that de Cath and de Liefde were ravished by sickness. Stuyvesant received the letter by way of Boston on April 14.

15 Apr 1648: In the Caribbean de Kath captured a Spanish ship with a cargo of hides and tobacco. Note the delay between capture (15 Apr) and official announcement (2 Jul).

2 Jul 1648: The New Amsterdam Council announced that Hans Wyer, captain of the yacht De Cath, arrived in New Amsterdam with a captured Spanish bark Nostra Signora Rosario, laden with hides, captured below Margarita in the Caribbean Islands. Note: The West India Company protocol required three public announcements for an auction of seized goods but Stuyvesant was reprimanded for issuing only one announcement.

20 Jul 1648: The New Amsterdam Council ordered a ship to Curaçao to deliver supplies and bring back salt. Author’s Note: The sale of salt to New England fishermen was a big business. Name of ship was not recorded. The Council records often documented events that had already happened. In the Council minutes for July 2, they were already planning this voyage.

9 Nov 1648: The salvage report for de Kath’s salt was entered into Council Minutes.

How Long to Sail from New Amsterdam to Curaçao and Back?
If de Kath sailed from New Amsterdam in early July, took 5 weeks for a trip to the Caribbean and back, picked up passengers in Curaçao, and wrecked in mid-August, that schedule allows four weeks for Penelope to be attacked, rescued, and delivered to Gravesend before 12 Sep 1648. This scenario assumes that she is recuperating from her injuries at the Applegate home in Gravesend when she witnessed the cow incident. This timeframe also allows a plausible 3 months for creation of the salvage report.

 Don’t buy it? Then counter with a better idea. But first look at the previous blog entry Conjecture #3: Penelope and Richard Stout married in late 1648/early 1649.

 The Chain of Circumstances
Too unlikely? Every unusual event has a long chain of circumstances leading to it. Why was a particular passenger on the Titanic? If a child is hit by a stray bullet on the streets of Chicago, why was that particular child in that particular location at that particular time and why was the shooter there at that time? If my daughter hadn’t moved away from Brooklyn in Feb 2001, then my wife might have been waiting for discount Broadway tickets in the World Trade Center lobby eight mornings after Labor Day in 2001.

Comments , Please
Please use the comments section to express your opinions about my conjecture and the logic behind it or to ask questions that might spur further research.

5 comments:

  1. Jim, this is a great idea to work out some of these nagging questions!

    Regarding the Kath as the most probable ship for Penelope... while none of the early accounts offer the name of the ship, they are all consistent that wreck occured at SANDY HOOK. The Stouts settled there at Middletown, and knew the place well, so there can be no doubt that they were correct in passing this tradition of the place down correctly. The Kath is the ONLY ship to have been documented to have grounded at SANDY HOOK in the 1640s. Since it is during the right time frame, I don't think this leaves much room for doubt.

    Corresponding with Mark Valsame, he has offered some very interesting details regarding the Kath, suggesting that, if the Kath was indeed the ship on which she traveled, Penelope might have taken passage from Holland earlier on another ship; otherwise she may have traveled on the Kath from the Carribean (rather than directly from Holland). Mr. Valsame wrote:
    "The case for the Kath being the ship which transported Penelope Stout is more complicated than would first appear, based on what is recorded concerning the history of that vessel. Records shows the Kath under Hans Jelisz sailed from Amsterdam for New Amsterdam, where it arrived before June 6, 1647. According to the Council Minutes of New Amsterdam, the yacht Kath was then ordered, along with the Liefde, to cruise against the Spaniards. By February 19, 1647/48, both ships were reported at Curaçao, where they remained due to damage from storms and the illness of crew. On July 2, 1648, it was reported that the Kath under Hans Wyer had captured a Spanish bark called the Nostra Senora Rosario below Margarita Island and had brought the ship north to Manhattan. That same day (July 2, 1648) in a suit before the Council at New Amsterdam, Hendrick Van Dyck sought recovery of some pieces of eight and pearls taken from the captured Spanish ship by the crew of the Kath.
    "By November 9, 1648, the ship under Jeuryaen Andriessen had been reported as stranded on Sandy Hook, New Jersey, at which time the captain and crew requested final settlement of their wages before the Council at New Amsterdam. Since the ship became stranded on Sandy Hook while docked there after it’s return from Curaçao rather than Amsterdam, it is questionable whether this vessel could be the same one referred to in the Samuel Smith and Morgan Edwards/David Benedict accounts of Penelope Stout’s arrival. If the Kath was Penelope Stout's ship, it would imply that 1. she had possibly resided in the Caribbean previous to her arrival in New Jersey and 2. had taken passage from there to New Amsterdam on what was essentially a privateering vessel. While this is certainly possible, it doesn't really resemble the traditional accounts that closely."

    I will add that Jaap Jacobs' thesis ("de Scheepvaart en handel van de Nederlandse Republiek op Nieuw-Nederland 1609-1675") indicates that only about thirty six ships total from the Netherlands were recorded arriving at New Netherlands (now New York) between 1640 and 1648. Given those few ships, I would find it very difficult to believe that two Dutch vessels would have wrecked at Sandy Hook, New Jersey, during that short time, and that there is only a record for the one--the Kath.

    Another question is: Was the Kath coming or going from Manhattan when she grounded at Sandy Hook? If coming, then Penelope would have seem to have taken passage from the Carribean on a privateering vessel (what an adventure!) If going, then she and her first husband had already been at New Amsterdam and were headed somehwere else. If the former, where were they previously? If the latter, how did they get to New Amsterdam in the first place (there are no records of them there), and where were they going? It opens up another can of worms.

    --Nick Sheedy (nsheedy@yahoo.com)

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  2. The Dutch had already converted to the Julian calendar (courtesy of the Spanish occupiers in the previous century). Therefore, the typical English usage of Feb 1647/48 is inappropriate for dates from Dutch documents.

    On 20 Jul 1648 the Council ordered a ship (name not recorded) to sail to Curacao in the Caribbean to bring back salt. The Kath wrecked a few weeks or months later with a load of salt. Therefore it's logical to assume that the Kath was returning to New Amsterdam from Curacao.

    A peace treaty between Spain and Holland was approved in Jan 1648 but not officially signed until later, so privateering should have ended. But in practice it didn't.

    Assuming Penelope sailed on the Kath, how did she first get to Curacao? Good question. I know the names of three ships that sailed from Amsterdam in spring 1648 to New Amsterdam but I cannot determine if their route included Curacao. The previous year (1647) Stuyvesant's fleet of 4 ships stopped at Curacao on the way to New Amsterdam but he used to be vice-Director of Curacao and his new position was Director-General of all New Netherland, which included Curacao.

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  3. Here's an interesting item from the Journal of John Winthrop (Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony) for 22 May 1648. He comments on the "late wreck of three ships" belonging to the Dutch West India Company. The Kath cannot be one of the three because it arrived in New Amsterdam around 23 April and sailed for Curacao around 2 July. The time frame of the loss is not given either but Winthrop implies the wrecks happened after Stuyvesant's arrival (a year ago on 11 May 1647). Because The Dutch West India Company's theater of operations was the entire Atlantic, these losses could have happened in West Africa, Brazil, the Caribbean, the high seas, or along the coast of North America. But it would be good to learn the names and locations of these wrecks to determine whether Sandy Hook was a site. Conceivably Winthrop was confused and referred to the three Dutch ships that arrived at Curacao in Feb 1648 in distressed conditions but not wrecked.

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  4. I still favor the explanation that Penelope Prince ran away from Elizabeth Cox on Kent Island in 1646 and turned up in Gravesend, Long Island, by 1648.

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    1. That makes more sense to me; the classic tale is so heroic it strains credulity. But the indenture theory raises the huge question, "How did she do it?" It's not THAT far from Kent Island to Hoboken, but it's not a day's jaunt either. There were still hostile Native Americans in 1648 and essentially nothing European except New Sweden between Kent Island and Hoboken. Pennsylvania didn't come about for another thirty-some years.

      Some folks have suggested that she took ship. Well how did a runaway indenture pay the fare? The most likely method isn't palatable; she's our grandmother after all, but what's the alternative?

      On that note, one of her many sixth great grandsons, James Stephen Stout, born on Stout Run in Wetzel County, WV, my grandfather, probably ran a house of ill repute in Wheeling. He's in the 1900 Census with his younger brother and seven "single" females between 18 and 30. Either he was in the tall clover or he was the muscle keeping the customers in line. Or both.

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