Dutch and Swedish settlement
From the early Dutch settlement in 1631 to the colony's rule by Pennsylvania in 1682, the land that later became the U.S. state of Delaware changed hands many times. Because of this, Delaware became a very heterogeneous society made up of individuals who were both religiously and culturally diverse.
The first European exploration of what would become known as the Delaware Valley was made by the Dutch ship Halve Maen under the command of Henry Hudson in 1609, during a voyage to locate the Northwest Passage to Asia. Hudson sailed into what now is the Delaware Bay. He would name it the South River, but this would later change after Samuel Argall discovered the river in 1610 after being blown off course. Argall would later rename the river Delaware, after Thomas West, Lord De La Warr, the second governor of Virginia. Follow-up expeditions by Cornelius May in 1613 and Cornelius Hendrickson in 1614 mapped the shoreline of what would become Delaware for inclusion in the New Netherland colony. Initial Dutch settlement was centered up river at Fort Nassau at Big Timber Creek south of what is now Gloucester City, New Jersey.
Neither the Dutch nor the English showed any early interest in establishing any kind of settlement on this land. The first true attempt to settle Europeans in the territories that would become the State of Delaware was not made until 1629 when agents of the Dutch West India Company
Gillis Hossitt and
Jacob Jansz arrived to negotiate with the Native Americans to "purchase" land for a colony. (It was a rule among the Dutch that Native American land must always be purchased and never seized by force, but as the concept of land ownership was alien to the Americans, there was a great deal of cultural confusion attached to the transactions with the Dutch "payments" taken for gifts in keeping with Native custom.) Hossitt and Jansz secured a treaty granting the Dutch a parcel of land running along the shore eight Dutch miles long and half a Dutch mile deep (roughly 29 by just under 2 US miles), nearly coincidental with the coast of modern Sussex and Kent counties in Delaware.
In 1631 the Dutch sent a group of twenty-eight men to build a fort inside Cape Henlopen on Lewes Creek to establish the Zwaanendael Colony. This first colony was established to take advantage of the large whale population and produce whale oil. A cultural misunderstanding with the Native Americans led to the massacre of the initial 28 colonists before a year was out. Patroon David Pietersz. de Vries arrived shortly thereafter with an additional 50 settlers. Although he concluded a treaty with the Indians, deVries, his partners in Holland, and the Dutch West India Company decided the location was too dangerous for an immediate reattempt and the additional settlers were landed in New Amsterdam (New York) instead.
In March 1638, the Swedish colony of New Sweden became the first permanent European settlement in Delaware. The Kalmar Nyckel anchored at a rocky point on the Minquas Kill that is known today as Swedes' Landing (in Wilmington, Delaware.) The New Sweden Company was organized and overseen by Clas Larsson Fleming, a Swedish admiral and administrator. Samuel Blommaert, a Flemish director of the Dutch West India Company who had grown frustrated with the company's policies assisted the fitting-out. The expedition was led, and had been instigated by Peter Minuit, the founding governor of New Netherland who had been dismissed by the Dutch West India Company which operated the colony as a concession. Minuit resented the company and was well aware of the spareness of Dutch occupation along the Zuyd (Delaware) river valley. Like the Dutch colony it aimed to squat, New Sweden was a multicultural affair, with Finns, Dutch, Walloons (Belgians) and Germans as well as Swedes among the settlers.
The first outpost of the Swedish settlement was named Fort Christina (now Wilmington) after Queen Christina of Sweden. Governor Johan Björnsson Printz administered the colony from 1643 to 1653. He was succeeded by Johan Classon Risingh, the last governor of New Sweden. The Dutch had never accepted the Swedish colony as legitimate and the struggle between the forces of the Dutch West India Company and the officials and backers of New Sweden was on going. In 1651, New Netherland Governor Peter Stuyvesant had removed Fort Nassau and had it reassembled down river of Fort Christina as Fort Casimir, effectively encircling the Swedish colony. Fort Beversreede, a short-lived attempt to establish a foothold at the end of the Great Minquas Path (in modern Philadelphia) was abandoned. Three years later, the New Sweden colony attacked and seized the outpost, renaming it Fort Trinity. The struggle finally came to an end in September 1655. With the Second Great Northern War raging in Europe, Stuyvesant assembled a sufficient army and naval squadron to capture the Swedish forts, thus re-establishing control of the colony. Fort Casimir/Trinity was again renamed as New Amstel (later translated to New Castle) was made the center for fur trading and the colony's administration headquarters and the area's European population began to boom.