I have a copy.I'll post it here.It's long, but have fun.
Long Island's First Italian, 1639
Berne A. Pyrke
It seems not untimely today to recall the story of Pietro Caesar Alberto who became a Long Island farmer in what is now the Borough of Brooklyn even before the island's first English settlements were established at Southold and Southampton.
One, who is himself, a descendent of this first Italian to become a Long Islander, here describes Alberto's arrival and Americanization.Judge Pyrke is a trustee of the New York Historical Association.He is perhaps more widely known, however, for having served eleven years as State Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets has.Before that he has been County Judge and surrogate of Essex County.
By dedicating his treatise to the many staunch Americans of Italian birth and extraction, now serving in the nation's armed forces and other activities, Judge Pyrke called attention to the fact that Pietro Caesar Alberto was among the early settlers who came to America from afatherland, Venice, which was even then a republic.
Pearl Bailey, Publisher,
The Long Island Forum
Long Island's First Italian, 1639
On May 28, 1635, in the evening, the ship deConinck David, Captain David Pietersen deVries, skipper, mounting fourteen guns and with a crew of five and twenty men, dropped anchor far down the bay into which the River of the Prince Mauritius poured its water, gathered in the far mountains.Two days later a boat was lowered, into which clambered Captain deVries and five of the crew.Without an inkling of the fate in store for them, the oarsmen bent to the task of propelling the heavy boat to Fort Amsterdam, five Dutch miles away.No one of the boatload other than the skipper himself was destined ever again to tread the deck of the deConinck David or of any other vessel.
We may guess the reason for this labored method of approaching the fort.Two years before, deVries had had an unpleasant experience with Wouter Van Twiller, the director general, which still rankled.Van Twiller had searched his ship, confiscated a few beaver skins, charged deVries with
violation of a regulation of the colony, and at one point in the controversy, had ordered the guns of the fort trained on deVries' vessel, and threatened its destruction.This was bitter medicine to be swallowed by the proud-spirited deVries, outstanding navigator of the Netherlands and co-founder of the ill-fated Swanendael of the South River, the more unpalatable coming from Van Twiller, just risen from a clerkship in the office of the Company in Amsterdam.DeVries had lodged a complaint in the home office and Van Twiller had learned of it from Kiliaen Van Rensellaer, his uncle.Under the circumstances, it was prudent for deVries to feel out the situation before bringing his ship within gun
range of the fort.
There was urgency, however, in the call.The deConinck David was leaking dangerously, and facilities for repair being lacking in the Virginias, deVries was forced to make the unplanned run up the coast to New Amsterdam in search of assistance.
On arrival at the fort, deVries found Van Twiller still holding forth, but weighted down with troubles and in a mellow and co-operative mood.Shortly before, he had sent an armed force to the South River to suppress an attempt at colonization by a band of Englishmen from Point Comfort,
Virginia, who had seized the site of abandoned Fort Nassau.He had captured the intruders and brought them to New Amsterdam, but was a wit's end to dispose of his troublesome guests.In addition, the English were again becoming aggressive at the Fresh River.All in all, he welcomed
the opportunity to consult the experienced deVries, who was well versed in the ways of the English and had established cordial relations with the settlers in the Virginias.
DeVries, deep in conference with Van Twiller, and not indifferent to Van Twiller's unexpected hospitality, decided to remain at the fort while he sent his crew back to the ship.Providentially for him, as it developed, he had found at the fort, one Flips Jansz, an experienced pilot formerly
in his employ, and he engaged Flips to accompany the crew and to bring in the ship.To the decision to remain at the fort deVries owed his life.
With the return journey nearly completed and the deConinck David but a mile or two away, a violent thunderstorm arose which the small boat found difficult in weathering.Filling with water it went entirely out of control.Two of the panic-stricken crew, Frenchmen, went overboard in a
desperate attempt to swim to the ship and were drowned.Towards nightfall two more jumped into the water in a hopeless effort to swim to shore and were seen no more.This left Flips Jansz and deVries' boatswain alone in the boat.
For two days and three nights, the boat was tossed back and forth, the plaything of the maddened waves.In the afternoon of the third day the boatswain announced that he would abandon the boat.Flips' resignation to Providence brought reward.Within a quarter of an hour of the disappearance of the boatswain the boat was cast through the heavy surf tothe shore of Long Island.Mustering his remaining strength, Flips dragged himself five or six paces from the water and fell exhausted.Friendly Indians found him, carried him to their habitations, and brought word of they tragedy to the anxious deVries.
Earlier, deVries, mystified by the failure of the ship to arrive, sent one of the company's yachts to bring in the vessel, and without further untoward incident this was accomplished.
When the deConinck David made contact with the wharf, one of the crew, without ceremony leaped ashore, and with quickening pace moved into its shadow.The name of this ex-sailor, for he was to be a lands-man henceforth, was Pietro Caesar Alberto. A native of Malamocco, Republic of Venice, the first of the Italian race to become a settler in New Netherlands, and probably in all of North America, and the progenitor-to- be of all in America of the name Alburtis of Burtis, names
once very common on Long Island.
This informal and unplanned entrance into New Netherlands of Alberto is valid heavily in mystery.He had been tentatively identified, by Louis P. DeBoer, a Specialist in Old World antecedents of early American settlers, as Guilo Caesare Alberti. He had been baptized in the parish church of San Luca on June 20, 1608, as the son of Andrea Alberti,
Secretary of the Ducal Treasury of Venice, and Lady Veronica, his wife.An older son, Pietro, it seems, had died previously, and later, when another son was born, he was also named Pietro, but to avoid an ill omen, was baptized Guilo.
Skepticism is in order when high birth is imputed to early settlers in New Amsterdam.In 1635 life was hard and drab, and the rewards of effort meager.In that feeble community, struggling to complete its first decade of existence.In fact, it was without doubt one of the last spots on the
planet, where one should have searched for a scion of the proud House of Alberti. A notable family of Gothic or Lombardic origin, widely spread in the south of Europe in the disturbed days of the Holy Roman Empire.
The New Amsterdam of 1635 was badly and arbitrarily governed, and largely neglected by its sponsor, the Dutch West India Company.Hedged about with savages of uncertain disposition and unpredictable behavior, and already feeling the uncomfortable pressure of the expanding and land-hungry Yankees to the north, they were also forced to meet an
occasional aggression from the English well to the south.
It was in that precise year that the New England Council granted to William, Earl of Stirling, all of Long Island, under the name of the Isle of Stirling, and accompanied the grant with a stern denunciation of the Dutch settlers as intruders.This may have seemed, at the time, as little more than an un-neighborly gesture, but it was deeply portentous
of things to come.In a score and a half of years, Colonel Nicholls, an Englishman, with an ample fleet at his back; would, with one daft, utterly lawless, though bloodless strike, sponge all of New Netherlands from the map.Making effective the regal gift of other people's property to the Duke of York and Albany, at the hands of his delightfully generous brother, Charles II.
There is one slight bit of recorded evidence that may lend support to the identification of Pietro Albert with the elite of Venice.An examination made many years ago of the records in Venice disclosed that in 1639 "the name of Pietro Caesar Alberto had been stricken off the Blue Book".This date may have significance for if our Pietro Alberto left Venice for
Holland about 1634 and had not been heard of in the meantime, his death could have been reasonably presumed by 1639 and called for the dropping of his name from the "Blue Book".
If our Alberto was the "Blue Book" Pietro Caesar Alberto, we have posed for us two problems. Why would a Venetian Blue Book enrollee engage as a sailor on a Dutch vessel, sailing from the Texel in a hazardous voyage, to plant a colony in faraway Guinea?Why did he later break completely with his aristocratic past and throw his lot in with an alien and
unpromising community in the New World?His presence in the United Provinces in 1634 or 1635 should not, in itself, be surprising.The Venetians were notable as being citizens of
the world, and could be found in some numbers, in all of the important capitals.Moreover, in the first half of the 17th century relations between the Republics of Venice and the Netherlands were close and cordial.
It is conceivable that Albert's engagement as a crew member on the deConinck David was animated by a spirit of adventure and that his impulsive decision to throw in his fortune with New Amsterdam was an escape from unhappy, perhaps intolerable, relations with deVries, who seemingly lacked enthusiasm for Italians.Once in a description of the
Indians, deVries remarked, "They are very vengeful, resembling the Italians."
Thirst for adventure was an inborn quality of the Venetians, exemplified in its most bizarre form in the fabulous journeys of Marco Polo into the vastness of Asia, resulting in discoveries fully as momentous as those a little later in the New World of his fellow Italian, Columbus.In truth it was the enchanting tales of Polo, of the riches and wonders of distant China, which fired the imagination of the people of Europe and led indirectly to the discovery of America.
The voyage of Captain deVries in 1634 to South America was calculated to appeal to a spirit of adventure.The fourteen guns gleaming on the deck of the deConinck David testified pointedly that this was not to be a pleasure cruise.The Thirty Years' War was in full swing and to the natural perils of a trans-Atlantic voyage of that day, were the added
hazards of seas haunted by vessels of war, privateers, and pirates.
The outward voyage of two months to Guinea was commonplace enough for the circumstances of the period.The thirty planters were landed in their new home and set to work.After a month spent in organizing his new colony, which like the earlier one at Swanendael, was destined to short life, deVries sailed for Virginia in the expectation of recouping the cost of his voyage by exchanging the merchandise of his cargo for good Virginia tobacco leaf.Barely had he started when tidings came of dangers ahead.A refugee told of his escape from the Spaniards, "who had killed between 500 and 600 Englishmen".
A little later, off the West Coast of Spain, deVries encountered a fishing boat with a wood sloop in tow, filled with English refugees who had fled from the island of Tortuga to escape Spanish vengeance.The boats were so laden with human freight that they could not move and deVries was importuned to take fifty of the unfortunates to a place of
safety.DeVries was willing but his crew objected that in such a time it was dangerous to take on board so many strangers, outnumbering the crew two to one.After a long "discourse" in which deVries sought to quiet the fears of the crew by pointing out that the strangers were not seamen but planters who would not run away with the ship, the views of the skipper prevailed and the Englishmen were taken on board. The reluctance of the crew is understandable in a time when piracy thinly disguised as privateering was one of the most popular, as well as rewarding, forms of patriotic enterprise.
It is possible that Alberto may have been one of the leading insurgents in this attempt to flout the captain's authority, and the incident may have been the deciding factor in Alberto's determination to break the bond with deVries.
The event determined that deVries' judgement was sound, as the refugees were safely landed in Virginia, where deVries unloaded his cargo and after a month's delay pointed for New Amsterdam for repairs to his leaky vessel.
Whether Pietro Alberto was patrician of plebian, the story of his subsequent life in New Amsterdam, as it can be reconstructed in broken outline from the sparse records that have survived three centuries, has interest.
There is no way of knowing the reception which Alberto was accorded when he suddenly injected himself into the life of New Amsterdam which is described as containing "a roving waterside population of sailors, longshoremen and traders, including may rough and shiftless characters". But if there was any lifting of eyebrows at the appearance of this
unusual type of "foreigner", Alberto could have retorted, in the words of St. Paul, "I am a citizen of no mean city".For Malamocco had for centuries been one of the great powers of Europe, despite its small territory and a permanent population never exceeding 200,000.Dubbed the "Mistress of the Adriatic", it was much more than that.It dominated the
carrying trade of the Mediterranean and was an important factor in the coastal trade along the Atlantic seaboard, and its mariners had no superiors anywhere.
Alberto's first years in New Amsterdam are enshrouded in mystery. Nothing is known beyond the fact that he followed a humble but useful occupation to win his daily bread.
We first hear of him in 1639 and in an interesting connection.DeVries was back in New Amsterdam, this time not on his own ship but in a trading vessel of the Company.Again he was bent on founding a colony, this time a patron-ship on Staten Island.Alberto was planning a reception for him, but not in the modern Grover Whalen manner.In January of 1639 Alberto haled deVries into to compel payment of wages remaining unpaid from the 1635 voyage.DeVries, always belligerent, defended the suit on
the ground that Alberto had deserted the ship - as indeed he had - and thereby forfeited the balance unpaid.Alberto was able to produce a witness to show justification for leaving, in that deVries and twice on the voyage threatened to set Alberto ashore, once in Cayenne and later in Virginia.The court awarded Alberto ten guilders.
In the same year there is evidence that Alberto had moved up a rung or two in the economic ladder, for on December 15, 1639, he entered a contract with Pieter Montfoort to make a plantation and build a house at the Waal-Bogt "Bay of the Foreigners".It was not until a year and a half later that Alberto secured a patent for the land from the Director
General and council of New Amsterdam.Four yearssubsequently he received a second patent for an adjoining parcel.It is plain that Albert took possession before acquiring formal title.He may have entered into possession under an Indian purchase, but more likely as a squatter, counting upon securing a confirmatory grant form the Dutch
authorities in due season.
The two farms had a river frontage of about 700 feet, and with the land of Michael Picet, comprised the area now laying between Claremont and Hampden Avenues in modern Brooklyn.
It is a certainty that Alberto was one of the first occupants of land on the Long Island Shore of the East River, and he may well have been the first producer of tobacco on Long Island.It is a pleasing fancy that he derived his idea of becoming a tobacco grower and his understanding of the appropriate cultural practices during the month that the deConinck David was berthed in the Virginias.
The first patent for a "tobacco plantation" in New Netherlands was granted to Thomas Besher on November 28, 1639, a few weeks before Alberto made the contract with Montfoort to make a plantation and build a house. Besher's land was "on the beach of Long Island", probably at Gowanus.
There is no way of determining whether Alberto or Besher was the first to make a tobacco crop, but surely Alberto was among the first planters of tobacco on Long Island.
Three years before, Jacobus Van Curler was the patentee of an extensive area which became New Amersfoort and later Flatlands, but there is nothing at had to indicate that tobacco was a crop there.
The next glimpse we get of Alberto was when he embarked on his greatest adventure, marrying a wife.Among the early marriage records of the Reformed Dutch Church in New Amsterdam is the following entry:
1642 den 24 August, Peter Petro Albert, j.m. Van Venetian en Judith Jans, j.d. Van Amsterdam.
The bride was the daughter of Jan Manje and his wife, Martha Chambart. The Manjes were probably Walloons, that ancient and interesting race of French-speaking provinces of southern Netherlands, many of whom having fled into the northern Netherlands to escape religious persecution were ready immigrants to New Netherlands.They constituted the first farmer element in the new province.
Jan Manje has some claim on fame because of being one of the very few casualties of Kieft's insensate Indian War whose identity can be definitely established.As he lay dying from wounds received at the battle of Stamfor, Connecticut (1644), he availed himself of a soldier's privilege of making a nuncupative (oral) will by declaring his testamentary intentions to Councilor La Montage.La Montage, a
distinguished physician, while opposed to the war, led the Dutch forces and was Manje's commander, and the appropriate person to receive, and later confirm in court, the dying man's last wishes.
Both deVries and La Montage had protested but without avail when Kieft had declared earlier his intention "to wipe the mouths of the savages".
In the twelve years following the marriage of Pietro and Judith, seven children were born to them.All were properly baptized in the New Amsterdam Dutch Church and given mainly Dutch names - Jan, Marles, Aert, Marritje, Francytie, Willem and Francyn.
In selecting names for their offspring Pietro and Judith followed the Dutch custom in naming their first and second-born, Jan and Marles (Martha) for the maternal grandparents.If the practice was adhered to in the naming of the children later born, it may be inferred that the
name of the Father of Pietro was Arturo or Gugliermo, rather than Andrea as suggested by DeBoer.Of the seven children, Francytie died in infancy and Marles probably did not reach maturity.
The early home of the Albertos was on the Heere Graft (Broad Street), from which they moved prior to 1643.This street in early days was "the favorite dwelling place of the quality", but it is not intended to suggest that the Albertos were of that rank.
Both Pietro and Judith died shortly before November, 1655.From an allusion in the records to the "stewards of the Deat (dead) and of the Indian sufferers" in connection with the guardianship of the children, an inference has been drawn that they lost their lives in an Indian raid, to which their location on Waal-Bogt might have exposed them.
There is no record of how the orphaned group were held together in their precarious situation, following the deaths of both parents.Fifteen years or more later, the records show that the daughters have married and the sons have moved from the Waal-Bogt up Newton Creek and become established at Maspat Kills.Contact with that English community has
Anglicized the Dutch given names: Jan has become John, Aert Arthur, and Willem William.John, married Elizabeth, daughter of John Scudder, and early became a substantial property owner and a citizen of recognized standing.Alburtus Avenue in Queens is a present day reminder of the
rank of the family in Newtown two and a half centuries ago.
Arthur, married Elizabeth, daughter of James Way, a favorably known English-born Quaker, settled in the Foster's Meadows section of Hempstead about 1690 and became the progenitor of the Burtises who for decades were numerous in Hempstead and Oyster Bay.
William, whose wife was Mehitabel, moved, about 1701, from Newtown to New Jersey, and eventually became lost to view.
The evolution of the family named Alberto, to the present day style Burtis, is not lacking in interest.The Dutch of the New Netherlands did not generally use surnames.When Pietro Caesar Alberto appeared among them, his full name, especially the cognomen, Alberto, gave them difficulty, and never received complete acceptance.In the records he is
described in more than a score of styles, ranging from Pietro Malamocco to Peter Schoorsteenveger, the first indicative of his place of origin, and the second descriptive of his early vocation in New Amsterdam.
These variations arose not from uncertainty on the part of Alberto as to his true name, but generally from the language predilection of the clerk, or sometimes the dominie, preparing the document or entering the record.In the court action against deVries, Alberto was described as Cicero
Pierre.It was doubtless a clerk trained in French who wrote the name Pierre.The substitution of Cicero for Caesar occurring in this instance and once five years later when Alberto receipted for his wife's share of her father's estate, cannot be explained except on the ground of the
scrivener's confusing the names of the two classical writers, Caesar and Cicero.
With the fondness of the Dutch for nicknames, it is a certainly that Alberto in the common speech of the community was called "Peiter the Italian", more formally Pieter Ceser, and occasionally Pieter Mallamacque.
The Latin form "Albertus" is clearly a gift of the church through the classically trained Dominie Everardus Bogardus.In that period men attached to the learned professions and particularly individuals engrossed in the classics affected Latinized name forms, of which Everardus Bogardus is an example.
Through the baptismal records of the New Amsterdam Dutch Church the Latinizing process at work on the name Alberto can readily be followed.At the time of his marriage, there is no touch of the Latin in the recording of his name as Peter Petro Alberto, but with the baptism of the first child the Latin becomes manifest.When Jan was baptized the father
is entered as Petrus Petro Alberto.At the baptism of the second child, Marles, there is a slight backward step, as the father becomes Cesar Alberto, alias Pieter de Italian.Two years later Aert is baptized, and there for the first time the Latin Albertus appears, the father being described as Caesar Albertus.For more than thirty years thereafter and
extending down to the second generation, the form "Albertus" is consistently adhered to in the church record.The last family entry was made on October 1, 1676, when Judith, the child of Jan Pietersen Bandt and Marie Pieters (Alberto) was baptized and the child's uncle was recorded as a witness under the name of "Willem Albertus".
Dominie Bogardus may have been in a whimsical mood in applying the Latinizing technique to the Alberto family.Conscious that not a few Dutchmen, himself included, had dubbed themselves with Latin names, he may have concluded that it was fitting that the only real Latin among them should, regardless of cultural attainments, be accorded a similar dignity.
The change from Albertus to Burtis was probably not in the beginning a matter of decision by the family.The Latin name Albertus was hard for the Dutch to handle, and at an early date it was occasionally the shortened, even in the records to Burtes, Burtos or Burtis.Eventually, the family conformed to the practice of the community, and in about the
fourth generation the name Burtis was in nearly universal use.
Member of the Burtis family intermarried with a considerable portion of the early Long Island families, including Baylis, Bedell, Carman, Clowes, deBevois, Dorlom, Duryea, Foster, Fox, Hendrickson, Higbie, Linnington, Mott, Remsen, Van Nosterand, Way and Wycoff.The family speedily became
known as Dutch as indeed it was, reflecting the preponderance of Dutch blood through intermarriage.
At the normal rates of proliferation there should be in the United States at the present time, upwards of three thousand persons who embody the Alberto genes.Yet, probably not more than a score of them have awareness of their descent from the venturous, industrious, resolute Pietro Alberto.Three centuries ago, finding himself, by the whim of fate in an alien community, he adapted himself to his new environment, as if to the manner born.He conformed to the prevailing religion of the community, took to himself an Amsterdam wife, presented his children at the alter of the Dutch church for baptism in Dutch names, in short, became a Dutchman in everything but name and blood.But more important, he
established himself as a worthy prototype of the hundreds of thousands of his countrymen.Who, in the intervening years followed his blazed trail to our shores and through their abundant gifts of body, mind and spirit, have contributed significantly to the development and well-being of this,
their adopted land.
(Adapted from a reprint from the Long Island Forum of 1943).