Schout of New Netherland, 1657-1664
Schout of New Amsterdam, 1657-1660
Nicasius de Sille was born September 23, 1610, in Arnhem in the Netherlands. He studied in Leyden and at the University of Orleans from which he graduated as a Doctor of Law. While still in Holland, De Sille served as an Advocate before the Court of Holland, and was a Captain in the service of the Dutch parliament. Known as a “man of no ordinary attainments in literature and science,” and as “a man well versed in the law, and not unacquainted with military affairs, of good character, and satisfactory acquirements,” De Sille was commissioned by the Dutch West India Company as First Councillor to Director General Pieter Stuyvesant.
De Sille arrived in New Netherland in the summer of 1653, a widower with five children, and held the post of First Councillor until 1660 when he moved to New Utrecht. De Sille became Schout-fiscael of New Netherland on June 26, 1656, following the dismissal of the previous Schout-fiscael, Cornelis van Tienhoven. Because Director-General Stuyvesant did not wish to appoint a Schout for New Amsterdam, De Sille also served in that capacity from 1657 until Pieter Tonneman was appointed Schout of New Amsterdam in 1660. From 1654 to 1656, De Sille also served as a New Netherland Commissioner of Boundaries.
In 1657, De Sille became one of the first patentees of New Utrecht, and built a house there using locally available stone and red roof tiles imported from Holland. This house stood for nearly two hundred years, until 1850. New Utrecht was granted status as a village in 1657, and received its charter in 1661. New Utrecht is now known as the Borough Park and Bensonhurst sections of Brooklyn.
Nicasius de Sille compiled the List of 1660, an enumeration of every citizen of New Amsterdam with their address. When used with the detailed map of the buildings in New Amsterdam known as the Castello Plan, the List of 1660 is a wonderful research resource.
When the English laid siege to the harbor in 1664, Commander Richard Nicoll sent a communication concerning surrender to the Director-General. Stuyvesant flew into a rage and tore the document in pieces, but Nicasius de Sille pieced the scraps together and the New Netherland Council, with popular support, agreed to terms with the English.
Nicasius de Sille was a poet, and three volumes of his work are said to have been published. In a poem about New Netherland, The Earth Speaks To Its Cultivators, De Sille wrote:
“Mother of all I was; but little did they care
If what I might bring forth did ever breathe the air
But heat and sunshine now – a bright and genial sky
Infuse in me new life and nourishment supply”
Nicasius de Sille died prior to March 29, 1674, when his house was sold by Nicholas Bayard, trustee, and Catrina Croegers, his widow.
Jaap Jacobs. The Colony of New Netherland: A Dutch Settlement in Seventeenth-century America (2009)
Schuyler Van Rensselaer and Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer. History of the City of New York in the Seventeenth Century ( )
Arthur G. Adams (ed). The Hudson River in Literature: An Anthology (1980)