December 26, 2009
No Dutch treat for NYC gay pioneer
Posted by: Chris
Knee-deep into an interesting article about the efforts of librarian Charles Gehring to rediscover New York City as New Amsterdam is this fascinating vignette about the anti-gay persecution, and ultimate death, of an important early Dutch leader in the area:
Mr. Gehring’s translation of the journal of Harmen Meyndertsz van den Bogaert, a barber-surgeon and a likely ancestor of Humphrey Bogart, was turned into the graphic novel “Journey Into Mohawk Country,” by the artist George O’Connor. The journal chronicles van den Bogaert’s journey through the Mohawk Valley to Oneida, a pathbreaking trip in the winter of 1634.
Years later, van den Bogaert was made commander of Fort Orange, site of present-day Albany, but fled back into Indian country after his fellow colonists discovered he was gay. Van den Bogaert was pursued by the Dutch, captured and brought back, but he escaped when a sheet of floating ice damaged the fort. He drowned in the Hudson before he got very far.
That's a far cry from the famous tolerance toward homosexuality we associate with NYC, the Dutch and Old Amsterdam, albeit with some notable exceptions. Any takers for a van den Bogaert statue for the Village or Chelsea?
(Illustration of van den Bogaert is from "Journey into Mohawk Country" by George O'Connor)
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