Dutch influence lingers in New York names

Legacy of Colonial past dots maps from Brooklyn to Saugerties

April 28, 2002|By Lyrysa Smith | Lyrysa Smith,ALBANY TIMES UNION

ALBANY, N.Y. - Although sometimes confusing and hard to pronounce or to spell, the place names of Dutch origins that fill the Hudson River Valley and the region around the state capital are charming. They reflect the extent and influence of Dutch settlements from the 17th century.

Some terms perplex even visitors from the Netherlands. For instance, kill means "stream" or "creek" (Catskill, Fishkill) but the word is no longer used for a waterway in current Dutch vocabulary.

Here is a sampling of the state's lingering Dutch language legacy.

Amsterdam, Montgomery County - Named for the Netherlands' capital city.

Brooklyn, New York City - Originally Breuckelen after a city in the Netherlands.

Claverack, Columbia County - Locals pronounce it in two and a half syllables, "CLAH (va) rek." From two Dutch words, klaver, meaning "clover," perhaps for the scalloped marks on the bank of the river resembling three-leafed clover, and rack, a straight stretch of a waterway (the Hudson River) between two points.

Cobleskill, Schoharie County - Named after Jacob Kobel, an early Palantine German settler. The creek on which he lived became known as Cobus Kill by Dutch residents, and soon, the nearby community was called Cobleskill.

(East and North) Greenbush, Rensselaer County - A Dutch map of 1656 refers to this area as grenen bos, meaning "pine bush."

Guilderland, Albany County - Named not for the Dutch coin called a guilder, but instead after the province of Gelderland in the Netherlands.

Kinderhook, Columbia County - Translates to "children's corner" or "children's point." Along this early navigational point on the Hudson River, it is thought that objects (or real people) on the shore resembled a group of children.

Lindenwald, in Kinderhook - The home of the eighth U.S. president, Martin Van Buren, who was born in Kinderhook of Dutch ancestry. The name refers to the property's linden trees plus the Dutch word woud, meaning "forest."

Muitzes Kill, Rensselaer County - From the Dutch word mutsje, meaning "shot glass," probably a nickname of an imbibing settler there.

Nassau, Rensselaer County - The name Nassau, the Netherlands county where Prince Willem van Oranje (William of Orange) was born, was given to several places in New Netherland.

Plattekill, Ulster County - Plat kil refers to a calm stream. Plat means "flat" and describes water without strong currents or turbulence.

Poestenkill, Rensselaer County - Possibly from the Dutch word poesten, which means "foaming water." But more likely from the nickname "Poest" for Jan Barentzen Wemp, who operated a farm and grist mill in the town in the 17th century. (Poest can mean a bump on the face or to breathe heavily, suggesting Wemp may have had a large nose or asthma.)

Rensselaer, Rensselaer County - Kiliaen van Rensselaer was the Dutch West India Co. director and patroon of Rensselaerswijck, encompassing Albany and Rensselaer counties.

Saugerties, Ulster County - Recorded in 1663 as Zagers Killetje, meaning "sawyers creek," for its sawmills.

Stuyvesant, Columbia County - Named after the director general of New Netherland, Petrus (Peter) Stuyvesant.

Tappan Zee Bridge - A combination of the local Tappan Indians and the Dutch word zee for "sea" or an "open expanse of water."

Ten Broeck Street, Albany - From the Dutch settler Dirck Wessels Ten Broeck, a trader and the mayor of Albany from 1696 to 1698. His surname literally translates to "at the wetland" from the Dutch words ten meaning "at the" and broeck meaning "flooded lowland."

Valatie, Columbia County - Pronounced "vah-LAY-shah," from the Dutch words, vaal, "falls" (waterfalls), and je, "little," to form valletje, meaning "little falls." The village has three falls today, created by the Valatie Kill and the Kinderhook Creek.

Vley Road in Scotia and Vly Road in Colonie - From the Dutch words vly, vley, vla, vlij, which all come from vallei, meaning "valley."

Voorheesville, Albany County - Named after an early Dutch settler, Steven Coerts Van Voorhees from Hees in the province of Drenthe in the Netherlands.

Watervliet, Albany County - From vlakte, meaning "overflowed plains," or the verb vlieten, meaning "streaming" or "flowing."

Wynantskill, Rensselaer County - Wijnant Gerritsen van der Poel was a kistemaecker (a furniture maker and carpenter) who bought a sawmill near the town on the east bank of the Hudson River.

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