The first recorded European exploration of the Delaware Bay was by Henry Hudson in 1609, under commission from the Dutch East India Company to seek a northwest passage to China and Japan. The following year the area was visited by an English captain in search of food for the settlement of Jamestown, who named the region in honor of the governor of the Virginia colony, the Baron DeLaWarr. The Dutch were the first Europeans to exploit the rich resources of the Delaware Valley and the first to settle in the area. They quickly set up a fur-trading network with the Indians along the Delaware River, and built outposts, such as Fort Nassau (1623), near present-day Gloucester Point, New Jersey, to support the trade network. In 1630, they also established a short-lived whaling colony named Zwaanendael, near present-day Lewes, Delaware.
The Swedes put an end to the Dutch monopoly of the region in 1638 by building Fort Christina, near present-day Wilmington, Delaware. By the 16401s both the Dutch and the Swedes had established outposts as far upriver as Trenton, and battled each other for supremacy in the Delaware Valley.
In 1651, the Dutch relocated their headquarters from Fort Nassau to Fort Casimir (now New Castle, Delaware), and founded the town of New Amstel adjacent to it. As the capital of the Dutch colony along the Delaware, New Amstel quickly grew into a thriving trade center. In 1654, the Dutch captured all Swedish posts, only to be conquered by armed British fleets in the 1660s during the Anglo-Dutch wars.
With the Treaty of Westminster in 1674, the British gained control of all Dutch North American colonies, including Delaware Bay. The lack of detailed mapping of the lands around the bay led to ambiguities in the royal grants for these lands, which resulted in long-running disputes over the ownership of lands along the western side of the bay. These disputes were not finally resolved until the eighteenth century, with the creation of the Mason-Dixon line.
From 1664-67 and 1672-78, the Dutch Wars over tobacco raged. The English would either anchor their tobacco fleet near the unincorporated community of Norfolk, or be bottled up in Lynnhaven Bay. To avoid attack in the latter, it became imperative to establish a fort for protection. Immediately across from the point Fort Nelson would be built on 100 years later, was the ideally situated Four Farthing Point (sic. Fort Point). The barricades of the fort were in a semicircle, thus it was completed and named Half Moon Fort on 28 August 1680. In June, the Assembly had passed an act designating Norfolk as a town.
The Dutch lost New Netherland to the English during the Second Anglo-Dutch War in 1664 only a few years after the establishment of Wiltwyck. Along the West Coast of Africa, British charter companies clashed with the forces of the Dutch West India Company over rights to slaves, ivory, and gold in 1663. Less about slaves or ivory, the Anglo-Dutch Wars were actually more about who would be the dominant European naval power. By 1664, both the Dutch and English were preparing for war, and King Charles of England granted his brother, James, Duke of York, vast American territories that included all of New Netherland. James immediately raised a small fleet and sent it to New Amsterdam. Director General Stuyvesant, without a fleet or any real army to defend the colony, was forced to surrender the colony to the English war fleet without a struggle. In September of 1664, New York was born, effectively ending the Netherlands' direct involvement in North America, although in places like Kingston, the influences of Dutch architecture, planning, and folklife can still be quite clearly seen.
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