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Brooklyn Ferry in 1666 - British Royal Governor Confirms Dutch Owners Land Grant for the Brooklyn End of the Ferry
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Whereas there is a certaine Plott of Ground, with a House or Tenement there upon, Scituate and being at the Ferry, within the Bounds of the Towne of Brucklyn, in the west Riding of Yorkeshire upon Long Island…

RICHARD NICOLLS. Manuscript Document Signed, March 12, 1666, to Egbert van Borsum. 2 pp. with attached wax seal, 12¾ x 16¼ in.

Inventory #23988.12       ON HOLD

After the Dutch surrendered New Amsterdam in September 1664, Richard Nicolls became the first royal governor of New York. He guaranteed the formerly Dutch colonists the possession of their property rights, laws of inheritance, and religious freedom. Here, as British Governor, Nicolls re-grants land at Brooklyn Ferry to Dutch settler Egbert van Borsum, who had operated the ferry since 1654, so that he could continue it under British rule. Based on the history of the ferry, we believe this property is part of today’s Fulton Ferry Landing, just south of the Brooklyn Bridge. Businesses in the area now include the River Café and Bargemusic.

Historical Background

In July 1654, Egbert van Borsum obtained a patent for two lots at the ferry in Brooklyn and leased from the city exclusive rights to the Brooklyn ferry, which he operated between New Amsterdam (New York) and Brooklyn, from June 1654 to his death in 1676. Government regulations required the ferryman to provide a lodge on both sides of the river, so van Borsum also bought land on the Brooklyn side and erected a tavern. Dutch Governor Peter Stuyvesant granted the Brooklyn property to him in August 1654. This land grant from British Governor Richard Nicolls confirms the title of that land on the Brooklyn end of the ferry to van Borsum, so that he could continue to operate the Brooklyn Ferry under British rule. After van Borsum’s death, his widow and son continued their tavern and ferry business for several years.

Richard Nicolls (1624-1672) was the first English colonial governor of New York from 1664 to 1668. He commanded a royalist troop of horse during the English Civil War, and when the king was defeated, Nicolls went into exile. After the restoration, he became Groom of the Chamber for the Duke of York, and in 1664, Nicolls was part of an expedition to take New Netherlands from the Dutch. New Amsterdam surrendered to Nicolls on September 8, 1664. Under the authority of a commission from the Duke of York, later King James II, Nicolls assumed the position of deputy-governor of New Netherlands. With the help of his secretary, Nicolls drafted a code of laws, known as the “Duke’s Laws,” which he proclaimed in March 1665; they continued in force until 1683. He returned to England in 1668 and was killed in a naval battle

Egbert van Borsum (1605-1676) was born in Holland and emigrated to New Amsterdam in 1639. He was a sailor and the captain of the Prince William in 1644, which traded between New Haven and New Amsterdam. In 1642, he bought a house and lot called the Ferry by Wolphert’s Valley. He began operating the Brooklyn Ferry in June 1654 and continued to operate it until his death. He also owned a tavern. By 1670, he lived in Flatbush.

Matthias Nicolls (1630-1687) was the son of a minister and practiced law in Islip, Northamptonshire, England. In 1664, he came to New Netherlands with Richard Nicolls, who may have been his uncle and for whom he served as secretary. He was a member of the convention that established laws for the new colony and served in various judicial roles. In 1672 and 1673, he served as the sixth mayor of New York City, and in 1684, he was speaker of the General Assembly of New York that guaranteed religious freedom to Christians in the colony.


Lightly toned, repairs along folds, some blank paper restored (not affecting document’s text). Overall good, very legible. Page one retains original seal. The silk string remains, but has been clipped to allow page two to be displayed separately.

Complete Transcript

Richard Nicolls Esquire Governor Generall, under his Royall Highnesse, James Duke of York and Albany &c, of all his Territoryes in America, To all to whom these Presents shall come, sendeth Greeting: Whereas there is a certaine Plott of Ground, with a House or Tenement there upon, Scituate and being at the Ferry, within the Bounds of the Towne of Brucklyn, in the west Riding of Yorkeshire[1] upon Long Island, now in the Tenure or occupation of Egbert van-Borsum, beginging at a certaine Oake Tree, neare the Limitts of the Land, heretofore belonging to Cornelÿs de Potter, containing in breadth, Forty Foote, so to run downe to the waterside as much, Then to go along the Strand in breadth, Forty Foote, and from thence to strike up againe, to the Oake Tree aforesaid, as much For which said Plott of Ground, Egbert van Borsum, had heretofore a Patent or Groundbriefe, from the Dutch Governor Petrus Stuyvesant, bearing date the 18th day of August 1654. Now for a Confirmaton, unto the said Egbert van Borsum, in his Possession and Enjoyment of ye pemisses, Know yee, That by virtue of the Commission and Authority unto mee given by his Royall Highnesse, I have Ratified, Confirmed and Grannted, And by these pnts Do Ratify, Confirme and Grannt, unto Egbert van Borsum his heires and Assignes, the afore recited Plott of Ground, House and pemisses, with their, and every of their Appurtenances; And I do likewise give and Grannt, unto the said Egbert van-Borsum, his Heires and Assignes, Twenty Foote of Ground more, adjoyning to the former, both above and below, along the Strand; To have and to hold, All the said Plott of Ground, <2> House and pemisses, unto the said Egbert van Borsum his Heires and Assignes, unto the proper use and behoofe of the said Egbert van Borsum, his heires and Assignes for ever; Rendring and Paying, such Dutyes and Acknowledgmts, as now are, or hereafter shall bee Constituted and Establisht, by the Lawes of this Governmt, under ye obedience of his Royall Highnesse, his heires and Successors: Given under my hand and Seale, at Fort James, in New Yorke, the 12th day of March, in the 19th yeare of his Maties Raigne, Annoq Domini 1666.

                                                                        Richard Nicolls

Recorded by Order of the Governor

The day and yeare above written. /     Matthias Nicolls, Secry

[1] Late in 1664, the British renamed New Amsterdam, which they had just captured from the Dutch, to the Province of New York, which included modern New York, New Jersey, Vermont, southeast Pennsylvania, and Delaware. They created Yorkshire out of a portion of the Province and divided it into three ridings: the East Riding consisted of modern Suffolk County; the West Riding consisted of modern Staten Island, Brooklyn, Elmhurst, and Newtown; and the North Riding consisted of the rest of modern Queens, Nassau County, Westchester County, and the Bronx. In 1683, the British eliminated Yorkshire and converted it into six counties.

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