Narratives of Early Pennsylvania, West New Jersey and Delaware, 1630-1707

By Albert Cook Myers | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

IN 1638 the Swedes, impelled by the spirit of territorial and commercial expansion aroused under their late King, the great and victorious Gustavus Adolphus, founded the colony of New Sweden, thus planting the first permanent white settlement on the Delaware. This foundation was laid under the personal direction of Peter Minuit, the first governor, at Fort Christina, on a creek of the same name, where the present city of Wilmington, Delaware, now stands. Thence, during the next decade, especially under the vigorous rule of the warrior Governor Printz, who arrived in 1643, a thin fringe of settlement in the form of forts and trading posts -- barely a dozen in all -- with a population at no time exceeding a few hundred souls, was extended, mainly on the western shore, about thirty-five miles up and down the river between the sites of Philadelphia and Elsinborough, New Jersey, and not more than three or four miles inland.

The Swedish government supported the enterprise through the medium of a trading company organized, under the inspiration of certain Dutch promoters, on the model of the Dutch and English trading corporations. The Indian fur trade, along with the lesser traffic in Virginia and Maryland tobacco, was the chief business of the colony, and for the most part sustained the somewhat dilatory and wavering interest of the people at home. The colonists gave some attention to tobacco culture and grazing, and occasionally raised small crops of grain, but the evidence thus far available shows that they had no particular success in agriculture; frequently they were largely dependent upon their English and Dutch neighbors for necessary provisions.

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