From "The Hudson" by Carl Carmer
        Copyright 1939 renewed 1967 by Carl Cramer   BACK 
ISBN: 0-03-089387-9

The Regeneration of Jochem'Wessels

    It is possible that the honorable judges of the West India Company's new court 
would not have accepted their appointments so complacently had they known what 
difficulties were in store for them. The citizens in Beverwyck were slow to accustom 
themselves . to disciplined living.  One family in particular was often to be haled 
before them  from their second meeting on through many years. And since nearly the 
whole of the social history of the Beverwyck settlement is to be found in the story 
the court records tell of the life of Jochem Wessels and his wife, it deserves 
relating.

    When old Captain Willem Juriaens stopped baking in his cracked oven on the bank 
of the Hudson in the spring of x65z his next-door neighbors, baker Jochem WesselS 
and his wife Gertrude, were relieved.  Two bakeries next door to each other in a 
town of a hundred houses like Beverwyck might easily be confused, especially by 
Indians.

    Jan Van Hoesen and his family took over the captain's house and lot. They agreed 
to pay the old fellow for the use of it by letting him live there and eat as much of 
their food as he would need in the few years of life left him.  Both Van Hoesen and 
his neighbor Wessels had been born in North German territory, and all might have 
gone well between the dwellers on the plot that is now the park in front of the 
Delaware and Hudson Building in Albany, if there had not been another clause in the 
agreement already mentioned.  It read that-Willem Juriaens-would give Jan Van Hoesen 
the use of his bakeshop and tools and would teach him the baker's trade. Van Hoesen 
at forty-Seven was only ten years older than Jochern Wessels' and Jochern knew he 
was not the type 0f man to sit and wait for Indians to become confused between two 
houses. He would go out and get customers. Competition was not dead as the Wessels 
family had supposed. It would be heavier than ever.

    Gertrude Wessels' reaction to her discovery of this situation was a simple one. 
She had had two broods 0f children, one by her first husband, Hoffmeyer, in a Dutch 
colony in Brazil and one by Jochem, and she sallied out on an April day to defend 
them both. When she saw Jan Van Hoesen's wife, Volckgen, she walked up to her and 
said, You're a low woman and I can prove it." Then she doubled up her fist and 
struck Volckgen with all the power in her strong right arm

    Gertrude was probably surprised when a deputy came for her the next Tuesday and 
took her to the two story frame building with the pavilion.roof standing close to 
Fort Orange. Agreeably, however, she climbed the steep stair and entered, through 
the trap door at the top, the one big room of the second floor. There she saw a half 
dozen 0f the burghers of Beverwyck sitting about in dignity. One 0f them informed 
her that she had been haled into the second regular session 0f the In~erior Court of 
Justice 0f the town 0f Beverwyck on the complaint of Volckgen Van Hoesen who charged 
her with abusive language and assault.

    The newly made magistrates must have been embarrassed by what happened. Gertrude 
had not been accustomed .to dealing with an unco-operative neighbor by other method 
than the one she had used and she resented the innovation. She repeated what she had 
said about Volckgen with colorful embroidery. Then she told the court what would 
happen to each of them personally if they tried any nonsense with her. The written 
record of her trial ends with these words:  "The defendant is for her abusive 
language and assault and threats made here against the court condemned to pay a fine 
of six guilders, with order to leave the plaintiff henceforth in peace."

    The last admonition seems not to have been too well obeyed. Within the next two 
weeks the court saw fit to assign the old captain's lot to the Van Hoesens 
permanently. In a rage Jochem Wessels built a pigsty in front of the Van Hoesen 
door.  The court commented on this bold action a few days later: "It is decided that 
whereas the said baker'... had constructed an obstruction and nuisance to the house 
of .the aforesaid Jan Van Hoesen it is ordered that he must within the time of three 
days tear down the said pigsty."  When Jochem heard the decision he went home and 
buckled on his sword, ran back to the courthouse and up the stairs. Waving his blade 
about in the air he appeared suddenly through the trap door and interrupted 
proceedings by calling Magistrate Volckert Jans bad names and demanding that he come 
outdoors and fight like a man.

    Two mornings later the court met in extraordinary session to hear Volckert 
Jans's charges. They decided that this last crime of. Jochem's was serious enough to 
be referred to the authorities at Manhattan for action. And they were the more 
exasperated when they had to meet again in the afternoon to consider a further 
offense.  Jochem had been telling everybody who would listen that the magistrates 
had rushed from the morning session to advise Jan Van Hoesen what they had just done 
to his archenemy. The court' decided he would have to prove this accusation of 
undignified conduct or suffer an "arbitrary sentence."'

    In the meantime Volckgen Van Hoesen, had entered another charge against Gertrude 
Wessels claiming she had been slandered. Upon being asked whether she had anything 
to declare against her neighbor's wife, Gertrude was compelled by lack 0ť proof to 
say a reluctant "No," and was fined fifty guilders. The setback proved not to have 
weakened her spirit in the least, however, and now for the first time she began to 
fight back with the new weapon that had surprised and wounded her. By August she had 
trapped her own especial enemy neatly. Haled into court for having started a fight, 
Volckgen Van Hoesen and her good friend' Styntgen Laurens pleaded that they had 
attacked Gertrude only after she had provoked them to it by calling them dirty 
names. No witness had been near enough to hear Gertrude (probably she had been 
waiting for just the right conditions) and the two defendants were fined twelve 
guilders apiece. The suspicious court added to the sentence the despairing 
admonition: "Parties on both sides are furthermore ordered to hold their tongues and 
to leave each other in peace, as otherwise the court will take such measures as 
shall be found necessary."

     Watchfully the Wesselses now bided their time. By the beginning of the year 
Jochern had thought up a new onslaught. He charged Jan Van Hoesen with illegally 
occupying the house and lot which really belonged to poor old Captain Juriaens. When 
the court asked him to give security or bind himself in the old man's favor, 
however, he backed down and withdrew suit, not without whispering about that the 
chiel~ magistrate had offered Jan Van Hoesen ownership 0ť' the Old captain's 
property in 'return for a bribe of three beavers. The Van Hoegens answered the 
attack by throwing hot ashes and glowing' embers against the clapboards of Jochem's 
house and the court had to send a messenger to make them stop.

    Meanwhile Old Silver Peg in Manhattan had been hearing things about the quality 
and weight of the bread Jochem and his associates were baking. Complaints sent 
downriver stated that the bakers were making sugar buns, cookies, and pretzels from 
good flour and selling them to the Indians, who so loved sweets that they would pay 
almost any price for them. The remnants of the ground meal were being made into 
bread for the citizenry and conditions were getting so bad that the heathen were 
eating flour while the Christians were eating bran.

    Immediately the honorable director general sent. a letter prohibiting the sale 
to Indians of all white breads and cakes.  The Beverwyck bakers made a fearful to-do 
over that. In desperation they presented a petition to the court asking "permission 
to sell some white bread to the Indians, especially cake." The petition was taken to 
New Amsterdam by the president of the court and other magistrates who were making 
the trip to confer with Stuyvesant. Upon receiving it that dignitary sent his own 
especial representative, Cornelis Van Tienhoeven, up to Beverwyck with the returning 
magistrates to see to the enťorcement 0f his regulations with regard to both brewing 
and baking.

    Now the embarrassment to which Jochem Wessels had subjected the court reached a 
dizzy height.  During the absence of the chief magistrate Jochem had baked a fine 
batch 0f sweet cookies and then, standing before his bakeshop, had blown' upon his 
big horn: to advertise to the Indians that his wares were done to a nice brown and 
ready for sale.  To add to this brazen defiance 0f law and order, as Jan Van Hoesen 
was plaintively pointing out, Jochem had not torn down the pigpen he had been given 
three days to destroy eleven months before.

    Patience was at an end. The magistrates condemned Jochem to pay a fine 0f fifty 
guilders within twentyfour hours, commenting in their decision on the evil 
consequences which might arise... especially at this juncture of time that is, with 
Old Silver Peg's .own representative looking on   in the matter of disregarding the 
well meant ordinances of the Honorable Director General."

     But the officer from New Amsterdam was not satisfied. He presented a written 
complaint and the court had to go further.  In a long decision in which all Jochem's 
crimes were enumerated--slander, attacking a magistrate, false accusations, refusal 
to move the pigpen which he had erected in front of his neighbor's door to his 
annoyance and detriment," charging the chief magistrate with soliciting a bribe all 
of which are matters 0f very serious consequences," the court unanimously decided to 
condemn him, on promise and in hopes of better behaviour" to pay an additional fine 
of a hundred guilders.  Begun with sounding dignity and emphasis, .the decision 
moves on to state with judicial sternness that the fine must be paid within twenty-
four hours "or the double amount within forty-eight hours ... and so on in 
succession." It ends hopefully: "Also that he shall immediately tear down and remove 
the pigpen or that it shall be immediately torn down by order the court."

    To complete their work of establishing order during the visit of Van Tienhoven 
the court continued by disciplining the old captain whom Jochern had been 
encouraging to revolt against the provisions of his contract.  "Furthermore, to 
prevent all further disputes and differences, "said the judge, "it is ordered that 
Willem Juriaens shall have to comport himself as a decent old man should and at noon 
and in the evening come to meals at regular hours as is proper and shall also have 
to be satisfied with the ordinary food which Jan Van Hoesen daily supplies for 
himself and his family."  This pleased Jan and his family so much that they began 
triumphantly throwing their slops on Jochem's lot until the court enjoined them 
against the practice. It put Jochem in a bad temper.  He took it out on Mariken Ten 
Haer by getting into an argument with her at a rival baker's house and giving her a 
good beating.

    Then, when all must have seemed darkest to Jochem Wessels, victory suddenly sat 
upon his banners. From' the most unexpected source of all, the camp of his 
relentless enemy, came news of almost incredible joy.  The captain had proved too 
hot/for his apprentice to handle and Jan Van Hoesen was refusing to feed him. Jan 
said the old man had broken his word in failing "to teach him to bake and by hiding 
the baking utensils and making it impossible for him to do so."

    The captain complained, but the court decided that Jan was right and the 
agreement was void.  The old man should be allowed to live in-his bake house, 
however, until-he died.  They added that, in view of~ his extreme poverty, Jan 
should pay him 125 guilder for improvements he had made in the garden.  Apparently 
they, too, had found the old man difficult, for the record ends with an admonition 
in which, incidentally, the magistrates list themselves in distinguished company: 
"And in case it should hereafter be found that the plaintiff Willem Juriaens, 
according to his custom, should continue to blaspheme and abuse the name of God or 
His Service, or any of the magistrates 0f the court, whether in general or 
particular, he shall without exception be corrected by the court, either by the 
infliction 0f banishment or corporal punishment, as the case may require."

    Now Jochem rejoiced.  There was but one bakery in the neighborhood and that was 
his own.  Moreover, since the whole happy situation had been achieved by the court, 
he began to alter his attitude toward authority.  It would be unfair to intimate 
that he who had been the plague of the law became its champion overnight, but.he was 
trying to make amends.  The law had done away with a threat 0f competition that had 
caused him embarrassment.  He would support the law.

     Accordingly, on February 3, 1654, the contented baker presented hirnse1f as a 
voluntary witness before the court and answered questions about the crimes 0f a 
drunken Dutchman named Jacob Stoll, generally known as Hap. From his testimony the 
court learned that Hap had come to the guardhouse 0f Fort Orange one day o~ the 
previous summer just after guardmount, when Jochem was corporal 0f the guard. 
Incensed by something or other Hap had gone home to get his sword, and came back 
brandishing it with the avowed intent clearing out the guardhouse. Finding the 
village schoolmaster, Mr..Adrian, standing inside by the fire, Hap had called him a 
burgher's dog and given him a handkerchief with which to defend himself while he 
attacked him with a sword.  Then he had turned on Corporal Jochem and, holding his' 
naked blade close to that officer's nose, had said, "I dare you to draw your 
colonel's rapier," and had tried to fight with him "life for life".  Finally he had 
gone outside and called out to all bystanders that ii they wanted a fight he was 
their man, emphasizing this remark by firing his gun.

    After having given such valuable aid to the court, Joehem backslid a month later 
by getting into a fight over old man Juriaens's chickens. Jacob Willemsz testified 
that he had seen Jochem chase some setting hens off their nests and had remonstrated 
saying, "What do you mean?  They are the old captain's hens."  At this Jochem had 
immediately invited him to come outside and fight and, not accepting a refusal, had 
grabbed him by the throat and given him a sound beating, calling him an old 'dog. To 
which Joehem answered only that Jacob had returned the blows, pulled his hair, and 
called him a dog. Joehem had to pay thirty guilders for that exhibition of temper 
and behaved himself for another month.

    Then Hendrick Andriessen haled him into court for shooting his dog in the public 
street. Jochem got out of that by agreeably offering "to have a young dog trained 
with others and when trained to deliver it to the plaintiff."  The court decided 
that this was a fair agreement but added that, "as the deed was done in the public 
street and the plaintiff's dog was killed," Jochem must pay a fine of one beaver. 
That made Gertrude Wessels so angry that she shouted "abusive and slanderous words" 
against the court and was summoned to answer for it at a future session.'

    The next period of model behavior on the part of' Joehem was much longer. 'Old 
Silver Peg sent up to BeVerwyck an Urgent appeal for a loan of money tO help in the 
fortifying of Manhattan and the court called upon the "most prosperous and 
loyal'citizens" to subscribe. Possibly flattered to be included in such a category, 
Jochem offered five beavers and forty florins, just one beaver and eight florins 
more than Jan Van Hoesen. A week later he strengthened his support of good 
government by appearing as a witness to aid the prosecution of Elmerhuysen Kleyn and 
Gerrit Van Slichtenhorst for selling brandy to Indians. Joehem said that he had seen 
the defendants fill a glass with brandy which the Indian took in his hand and drank 
down. The Indian had then come out of the defendants' house drunk, picked up a maul 
lying near the Van Hoesen house, and used it to beat down the door of the Wessels 
homestead. Thereupon he had "greatly molested" Gertrude, the children, and himself.

    Continuing to exert a restraining and dignifying influence upon the community, 
Joehem 'began the new year of 1655 by appearing as a witness against scandalmonger 
Cornelis Vos, who had apparently applied nicknames so appropriate to the houses of 
various respected burghers that the whole town was bandying them about and getting 
many a mean laugh out of it.  He had called one house The Cuckoo's Nest and another 
The House 0f Bad Manners. One he-had named Birdsong after a famous disorderly street 
in the town of Gouda in Holland, and another The Savingsbank because of its miserly 
inhabitants. Mr. Van Rensselaer's house he called Early Spoiled and 
Mother.Bogardus's'The Vulture's World, and he had entitled the town eating house The 
Seldom. Satisfied.  These names, said Jochem, he had learned at 'the harvest feast 
of farmer Oom Dirrick and he was informed' they had been invented by Cornelis Vos. 
Though his testimony did not convict Cornelis, it showed Joehem Wessels on the Side 
of decency and order and prepared the magistrates somewhat for the almost incredible 
next step.

    As soon as he had finished his testimony about the nicknames Jochem said that he 
and a neighbor of his had a request to make of the court.  The neighbor turned out 
to be Jan Van Hoesen, no longer planning to be a baker, and the two men in friendly 
agreement requested that the court order the old captain's house be put in repair 
because it might, in its present condition, cause a serious fire in Beverwyck.  A 
month later they brought the matter up again and got the court to order the old man 
not to bake in the house until it had been repaired. Then for more than a year the 
two former enemies kept' after the magistrates to take some action, a year that must 
have witnessed many a friendly conference. Finally they persuaded the court to 
appoint a committee to solicit loans toward 'repairing the house and authorize 
repayment from a mortgage on it. Joehem furnished thirteen boards and the roof 
timbers, and Jan twenty five boards.

    Meanwhile the now pleasantly co-operative and charitably minded baker was 
finding that the rewards of virtue are not always immediate.  Some of his neighbors 
who apparently did not believe. in 'his change of heart intimated that the good beer 
which the night watch .on his rounds .had. found a group of Indians -guzzling was in 
a pail they, had seen in the Wessels house.

    'And Gerrit Van Slichtenhorst, against whose illegal sale. of brandy Jochem had 
testified so glibly, picked a fight with him' one July day when they were piling 
firewood.  Gerrit went after Jochem with an ax and Jochem ran home and got his sword 
and chased Gerrit up the street and into the house of Thomas Paul.  Peaceloving Mr. 
Paul had no sooner succeeded in getting Jochem to surrender his sword than Gerrit 
returned to the fray and jumped on his disarmed enemy.  The struggling men fe11 to 
the floor and Jochem, having twisted himse1f to a position above Gerrit, was "trying 
to mutilate and ruin him" when onlookers intervened. Possibly realizing at that 
moment that the whole affair was somewhat undignified for him in his new role, 
Jochem got up and hurried home.  Then Gerrit rushed to his own house and emerged 
waving a cutlass with which he chased Jochem about the town and struck a mighty blow 
which was intercepted by the transom bar over the door of Thomas Paul's house, 
"committing private injury and violence against the person and the house 0f the 
aforesaid Thomaz Paul."

     Both Gerrit and Joehem were fined for this indulgence 0f their tempers but 
Jochem had to pay more than Gerrit, a hundred guilders and costs. Moreover, at the 
session during which he was fined he was obliged to undergo the humiliation 0f 
hearing Jacob Willernsz, with whom he had fought about the old captain's hens, and 
Thomas Paul, whose privacy he had invaded, testify that on the previous Saturday 
they had. seen an Indian stroll out of the Wessels bakeshop munching an oblong 
.sugar bun. So strong in good deeds had Jochem become by-this time, however, that 
his offer to swear 'that he had not committed the crime of selling the .tidbit to 
the savage was sufficient and the case was dismissed.

    Now that he had passed the age of forty the joys and woes of family' life began 
to' settle upon 'Jochern' Wessels. His good-for-nothing stepson, Willem Hoffmeyer, 
got into trouble by selling beer to the Indians.  He had twice sailed his canoe up 
the Hudson and peddled a cargo of half-barrels of beer. In fact, he had even 
employed one Indian as his agent to sell the beverage to Indian customers. Willem 
was banished for three years and fined ~00 guilders, which Jochem gave bond for and 
eventually had to pay. He must have been somewhat consoled, however, when his own 
daughter Catryna married one of the richest and most distinguished men in Beverwyck, 
Abraham Staats, surgeon, trader, and magistrate, who as a member of the court had 
had ample opportunity of knowing his parents-in-law.

    The tone of the judges in their dealings with Joehem now underwent a change. 
This was probably not so much because there was a new chief magistrate, the first 
one having gone crazy, as because of Jochem's continued good behavior. When, as a 
citizen' deserving of consideration, he asked for a grant of land for a garden he 
was informed that "The court will take the request under advisement and after 
inspection of the place requested accommodate the said Jochem in all fairness."

    By 1657 the Wesselses and the Van Hoesens were such close friends that one of 
the Van Hoesen girls was working as a maid at the house next door. But the old 
unhappy status was temporarily revived when Jan sued Gertrude Wessels .ťor having 
kicked his .daughter- in the chest.  "Gertrude said that the girl had been impudent 
and that she had kicked her,' but in a place considerably removed from the chest. 
Jan replied that wherever it had landed the kick had been administered from behind 
while his daughter' was bending over and that it had caused her much pain. The court 
fined Gertrude thirty guilders and costs "for the pain."

    From then on Jochem and Gertrude Wessels led a prosperous and comparatively 
uneventful life. At the age of fifty-five Jochem flared up and became the old 
hothead ťor a while when Captain Baker intimated that Gertrude (whose son was now 
over thirty-five) was a loose woman. Demanding reparation of his honor, the baker 
brought the English captain into court which was then presided over by Abraham 
Staats the    insulted old lady's son-in-law.  When the captain produced an 
affidavit from a doddering alcoholic named Claes Wip in support of his accusation 
Jochem produced one from the same' old drunk declaring that to the best of his 
knowledge Gertrude was a good woman.  "Therefore," declared the honorable court, the 
honor of both parties remains intact and they are to live together in peace."

    So full of the love of humankind did Jochem become that he once paid a fine for 
having harbored overnight two elderly Indians whom his kind heart would not allow 
him to turn out into the autumn darkness. He must have done well in the baking 
business, for one burgher "being located in a street where there is no business" 
asked the court for the privilege 0f living next to him in the busy section on the 
steep bank 0f the Hudson. Later two others aspired to live in lots bordering 
Jochem's.

    Gradually he became a devout and influential leader in the Lutheran church.  
Then in 1672,. at the behest of Mr. Philip Schuyler, the members of the Court 
personally investigated the work of the Lutherans in extending the gate to their 
churchyard and warned the builders not to go beyond the limits allotted them. 
Hearing this, Jochem returned to his old pastime by telling the magistrates they had 
weak minds and that the one who had been a tailor had better go back to his job. 
Sergeant Parker gave evidence of this indecorum to the magistrates assembled in 
court and Jochem promptly called him a liar. For this he was fined twenty-five 
florins, the Lutherans were again reminded of the limitations placed on their gate, 
and the court ended its decision with an injunction: "Above all, a perpetual silence 
and obligation to keep still is hereupon imposed upon Jochem, the baker."

    Three years later, in December, 1675, Willem Hoffmeyer, now a man of family 
nearing forty, sued the Lutheran congregation for the sum of 174 guilders which he 
said was due him for reading service in the church. Jochem Wessels, respected senior 
eider and the plaintiff's stepfather, replied in court that Willem had earned no 
such amount, having failed to read the service on many occasions when he was 
supposed to. The court was regarding this as a dignified and acceptable answer from 
a responsible elderly citizen until Willera explained he had not always been able to 
read services when he was supposed to' because stepfather Jochem had several times 
stolen the key of the' church from him.

    In February, 1680, death imposed on Joehem Wessels "a perpetual silence and 
'obligation to keep still."  So far as is known, this is the only admonition of the 
sort he ever obeyed.

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