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Engraving of New Amsterdam. From Dutch Barn Preservation Society and Hudson Valley Vernacular Architecture.

Cornelius Dircksen, aka Cornelius Dircksen Hoagland or Hoochlandt, was the first man to begin ferry service between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Cornelius was a landowner, farmer, and inn-owner in New Amsterdam. His 16 acres of farmland extended from Pearl and Wall Streets all the way up to Peck Slip. By the mid-1630s, most of the population worked for the Dutch West India Company and the Dutch began to spread out into Brooklyn. Cornelius offered irregular service and his canoe was rowed back and forth between what is now Maiden Lane in Manhattan and Brooklyn’s Joralemon Street. This ferry route later moved and began service between Peck Slip and Wallabout Bay, which incidentally was also a natural route taken by the Native Americans due to its shorter distance between Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Cornelius’ canoe accompanied two passengers in addition to the ferryman and was instrumental in transporting farm produce between Brooklyn and Manhattan. As he went about his farm duties, passengers needing a ride across the East River alerted Cornelius by tooting a shell horn hanging from a tree on his property. A man employed by Cornelius worked on the Brooklyn end of the ferry route and had a similar horn. Each passenger paid three stuyvers in wampum (about 6 cents) to cross the river; Native Americans always paid double even as fares increased.

1662 map of New Amsterdam. Dircksen's ferry to the upper-right.

In 1642, Cornelius began to use larger sailboats to accommodate more passengers and began operating regular service between 5am and 8pm. He ferried passengers between Peck Slip and what would become Fulton’s Landing in Brooklyn. Government officials rode free of charge while passengers started to pay six beads of wampum each way to cross the East River. The ride was often choppy and would take approximately one hour.

Cornelius owned a tavern near his Manhattan ferry landing; most of his guests were newcomers to New Amsterdam or visiting fur traders working for the Dutch West India Company. He also owned 33 acres of land near Fulton’s Landing in Brooklyn, which he eventually sold to Willem Thomassen (another source says Janssen) for 2,300 guilders in 1643. He regretted this decision when a new tavern on Thomassen’s property eventually became very popular. In later times, this ferry route became heavily used by Robert Fulton’s Nassau ferry until service ceased operations in 1924 after the success of the East River bridges.

Recently, New York Waterways began offering ferry service along the East River, transporting passengers between Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and Governors Island. Taking one of these ferries might help you imagine the sometimes-choppy ride between Nieuw Amsterdam and Breucklen.

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