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New York’s Coldest Case: A Murder 400 Years Old

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  • Terry Foreman
    [A brief article, a bit off-topic; but it sheds light on some 17c sailing-crews.] New York’s Coldest Case: A Murder 400 Years Old Detectives and historians
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 4, 2009
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      [A brief article, a bit off-topic; but it sheds light on some 17c
      sailing-crews.]

      New York’s Coldest Case: A Murder 400 Years Old

      Detectives and historians looked at the evidence in the Sept. 6, 1609,
      killing of John Colman.

      Not much is known about him, much less about his murder. His body was
      hastily buried and has never been found. A weapon was recovered, but it
      vanished. The only account of the crime is second-hand, pieced together
      from a few witnesses, some of whom might have harbored a grudge. The chief
      suspects were singled out because of racial profiling but were never
      questioned. No one was ever prosecuted.

      It was on Sept. 6, 1609 — 400 years ago Sunday — when this, the first known
      and recorded murder in what became metropolitan New York, was committed.
      Colman was killed only four days after the first Dutch and English sailors
      had arrived.

      [...]

      The facts as they are known (maybe):

      Colman was an accomplished sailor, one of a handful of Englishmen in Henry
      Hudson’s largely Dutch crew of 16. They sailed into New York Harbor early
      that September on the 85-foot-long Half Moon, searching for a Northwest
      Passage to Asia, and anchored somewhere between Coney Island and Sandy Hook.

      The only contemporary account of the murder is a journal kept by Robert
      Jouet, a k a Juet or Ivet), the first mate. His sole source was the four
      survivors of a reconnaissance mission that Colman commanded. Their version
      was taken at face value.

      [...]

      “The many complaints Hudson and Jouet made suggest that the Half Moon crew
      was a typical blend of sociopaths and working men,” said Kathleen Hulser,
      public historian at the New-York Historical Society.

      Jouet, whom Hudson himself described as mean-tempered and whom one
      historian would call his “evil genius,” later led a mutiny against Hudson.

      Colman had been recruited by Hudson, apparently as his second mate, after
      serving as a trusted boatswain on an earlier voyage. Unlike Hudson, he also
      spoke Dutch, although, in a letter to his wife, he contemptuously wrote of
      the Dutch crew: “Looking at their fat bellies, I fear they think more
      highly of eating than of sailing.”

      The Indians were probably wary of the new arrivals, although just two days
      before the murder, in their first encounter with the crew, Jouet said some
      of them came aboard “seeming very glad of our coming.” Word might have
      spread of Hudson’s men’s plunder a few weeks before in Maine where, Jouet
      wrote, the crew dragged the Indians from their homes “and took the spoil of
      them, as they would have done us.” Or perhaps they had heard of the
      explorer Samuel de Champlain’s recent bloody encounter with Indians to the
      north. “It might have been retaliation, not aggression,” Ms. Hulser said.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/05/nyregion/05murder.html?hp=&pagewanted=all
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