Wednesday, February 8, 2012


2 – The Indigenous in Dutch

            The great powers of Europe began to colonize the New World. The Dutch founded New Netherland in the land that became the states of New York and New Jersey. New Sweden was founded in the area now known as the Delaware Valley. The Dutch then seized New Sweden, and the English followed suit in their seizure of New Netherland. The Duke of York quickly divested himself of New Jersey in 1665, selling the eastern half to Sir George Cartaret and the western half to Lord John Berkeley. After several unprofitable years’ attempt to promote settlement and collect tribute from the few who loped after the Lords Proprietors’ carrots and sticks, Berkeley sold his half to the Quakers in 1674.
            Throughout these lean, strife-riven years the Hillfield Lenape remained isolated on their hunched patch of land nestled amongst the pines and bogs that swamped the southern half of the colony. In 1675, however, the Quakers first set eyes upon them. As the settlers migrated east from Philadelphia to the Atlantic Ocean, they came upon the Lenape, now numbering no more than two hundred, on their large open field blanketing a hill of almost negligible elevation. The Quakers had always gone to great lengths to live peaceably with the indigenous populations. But these natives – stunted, deformed, and mumbling gibberish unintelligible even by the standards of the other Algonquin tribes – frightened the Quakers. Of no mind to slaughter other human beings, the Quakers proceeded to ignore them and settle the surrounding environs. The area thus became a series of small farms and cabins inhabited by white Quakers surrounding a field full of disfigured and slow-witted American Indians. The Hillfield Lenape remained inviolate.
But in 1695 their isolation came to a swift and violent end when three concurrent events conspired to change the course of Hillfield forever.
            As the Quakers had originally fled England in search of religious freedom, one wealthy Quaker named Faulk Madrigal sought to establish a settlement in New Jersey that welcomed those who believed in his particular iteration of the Quaker faith. Most of the details of Madrigal’s beliefs have been lost, but the specifics with which we are familiar – Jesus’ ministry in the New World, the corruption of Christian doctrine by Greco-Roman culture, undergarments imbued with supernatural powers – bare an uncanny resemblance to Joseph Smith’s Church of Mormon (pre-dating Smith’s religion by one-hundred twenty years, some, such as Hillfieldologist Mark Krasker, speculate as to the influence Madrigal’s beliefs may have had on Smith). Faulk Madrigal believed that the land occupied by the Hillfield Lenape would be perfect if he could convince the Lenape to leave on their own accord.
            Around this time a strange Dutchman began roaming the area and terrorizing the people. He claimed to be not only the last survivor of the drowned city of Saeftinghe, but also the bastard offspring of the mermaid who warned of Saeftinghe’s impending doom and the fisherman who caught her in his net. Initially the Quakers considered this aspect of Saeftinghe’s destruction to be mere folklore and the Dutchman to be a harmless kook. Soon, however, he began avowing himself to be an agent of divine retribution and proceeded to frighten crops, curse livestock, and scream incomprehensibly at children.
            Madrigal recognized the superstitious nature of the Hillfield Lenape and concocted a plan that would net him both the land he coveted and the respect of the Quaker community at large. He convinced the Saeftinghe Dutchman that a local mother of twelve known to us only as “the Woman Leeds” was to be the mother of the Anti-Christ unless he, the Dutchman, seeded her first. The Dutchman reportedly bound her to her bed, stripped her, and flung his ejaculations at her for several hours. The Woman Leeds’ screams and bloodcurdling prayers were eventually heeded when her neighbors found themselves unable to sleep through the caterwauling. The Saeftinghe Dutchman was dragged from the house and presumably killed somewhere in the nearby woods.
            The Woman Leeds soon found herself pregnant with her thirteenth child, but was traumatized by her experience with the Dutchman. Under the guise of comforting her, Madrigal preyed upon her piety, expressing fear as to what a baby conceived in such sin would be. Prayer services were conducted almost continuously, but the Woman Leeds repeatedly proclaimed, “Let it be the devil!” Meanwhile, Madrigal, feigning neighborly relations with the Lenape, stoked fear throughout the tribe with each new appraisal of the developing situation. On the night of the baby’s birth, Madrigal ran to the Lenape and told them that the Woman Leeds had indeed given birth to a monstrous demon with the head of a goat and wings like a bat. The Lenape were so terrified they immediately evacuated their land and disappeared toward the Atlantic.
            Madrigal promptly swooped in and bought the land. His plan had been a complete success, but his fortune would be short-lived. Soon after, a riot erupted at a meeting of the new settlement’s residents. Everyone agreed on the name of the new settlement – Hillfield – but they could not come to an accord as to whether it should be so named because it comprised a hill located in a field or a field located on a hill. Tempers flared and Madrigal was killed in the ensuing brouhaha.
            Hillfield was born.

The Redcoats Are Coming!