New York Burning

Wooing and Wedding,
page 9 of 12

Another and more strange meeting of lovers was when young Livingstone, the first of the name in New York, poor and unknown, came to the bedside of a dying Van Rensselaer in Albany to draw up a will. The dying man, with a jealousy stronger than death, said to his beautiful wife, Alida Schuyler, “Send him away, he will be your second husband;” and he was, —perhaps the thought provoked the deed.

Even if there were few startling or picturesque romances or brilliant matches, there was plenty of ever-pleasant wooing. New Amsterdam was celebrated, just before its cession to the English, for its young and marriageable folk and its betrothals. This is easily explained; nearly all the first emigrants were young married people, and the years assigned to one generation had passed, and their children had grown up and come to mating-time. Shrewd travellers, who knew where to get good capable wives, wooed and won their brides among the Dutch-American fair ones. Mr. Valentine says: “Several of the daughters of wealthy burghers were mated to young Englishmen whose first occasions were of a temporary character.” The beautiful surroundings of the little town tempted all to love-making, and the unchaperoned simplicity of society aided early “matching.” The Locust-Trees, a charming grove on a bluff elevation on the North River a little south of the present Trinity Churchyard, was a famous courting-place; or tender lovers could stroll down the “Maiden’s Path;” or, for still longer walks, to the beautiful and baleful “Kolck,” or “Collect,” or “Fresh Water,” as it was sequentially called; and I cannot imagine any young and susceptible hearts ever passing without some access of sentiment through any green field so sweetly named as the “Clover Waytie.”

There were some curious marriage customs, — some Dutch, some English. One very pretty piece of folk-lore, of bride-honoring, was brought to my notice through the records of a lawsuit in the infant town of New Harlem in 1663, as well as an amusing local pendant to the celebration of the custom. It seems that a certain young Harlem couple were honored in the pleasant fashion of the Fatherland, by having a “May-tree” set up in front of their dwelling-place.


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