Cornelius Jacobsen May

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Cornelius Jacobson Mey
1st Director-General of New Netherland
In office
Succeeded by Willem Verhulst

Cornelis Jacobszoon Mey (in English often rendered Cornelius Jacobsen May), was a Dutch explorer, captain and fur trader. Cape May, Cape May County, and the city of Cape May, New Jersey, so named first in 1620, were named after him.[1]


Cornelius May is said to be from the city of Hoorn but may have been born in the small village of Schellinkhout, just east of Hoorn, as he appears to have been the brother of Jan Jacobszoon May van Schellinkhout, after whom the island of Jan Mayen is named.[2] Both brothers were the cousin of, in his day, a far more famous sailor, Jan Cornelisz May,[3] who led several expeditions to explore the Northeast passage and between 1614 and 1617 circumnavigated the world with Joris van Spilbergen.

1614 to 1616 expeditions to New Netherland

Cornelius Jacobsen May sailed first in the Mauritius River or "Hudson's river" (so referred to first by Adriaen Block in 1613) in 1614 where an agreement was made among various competing traders whereunder the explorer Adriaen Block. On October 11, 1614, May became a party to the New Netherland Company which received an exclusive patent from the States General for four voyages to be undertaken for three years to territories discovered between the 40th and 45th parallels at the exclusion of all other Dutch (until January 1618).

From August until November 1616, the company tried unsuccessfully to obtain a new patent for a territory situated between the 38th and 40th parallels (i.e., the Delaware Bay area) which in 1614, and 1615 had been surveyed by Cornelis Hendricksz from Monnikendam on the ship Onrust. In 1616 Cornelis Hendricksen, sailed the Onrust up the Zuyd Rivier (literally "South River," today known as the Delaware River) from its bay to its northernmost navigable reaches, on a voyage to ransom three fur traders taken from Fort Nassau on the North River.[4]

On behalf of the successor company of the New Netherland Company, Cornelius Jacobsen May had explored and surveyed the Delaware Bay on the ship named Blijde Boodschap (en. "Joyful Message") from which he carried on trade with the Indians there in 1620. In 1621, he ordered the construction of factorij of Fort Nassau at the mouth of the Big Timber Creek.

Two of the six business partners of the ships Blijde Boodschap and Bever which focused on exploration and trade in the Zuidt Rivier or Delaware River, were Thijmen Jacobsz Hinlopen and Samuel Godijn. Cape Hinlopen, now spelled Cape Henlopen in Delaware is named after the former. Cape Hinlopen was New Netherland's most southern border on the 38th parallel. Samuel Godyn had Godyn's Bay named after him, now renamed Delaware Bay. Also spelled Godijn or Godin, he was one of the first patroons in New Netherland as well as a director of the West India Company and of the Northern Company.

First colonists to New Netherland

May was unable to trade in the South River (Delaware River) to the exclusion of competing Dutch companies. Though the competing Dutch companies were eventually able to reach agreement in New Netherland, discord arose again which was settled, finally, by a judgment of arbitrators at Amsterdam on December 23, 1623. The 38th and 39th parallels region came under the final jurisdiction of the Dutch West India Company with the delivery of the first settlers to New Netherland in 1624, mostly Walloon and Flemish families.[5] May was the captain of the ship New Netherland who delivered the first boat load of colonists to New Netherland, first at Fort Orange, the trading post near present-day Albany, and then on Governors Island, in present-day NYC, that year. In the spring of 1624, Cornelius Jacobsen May returned to New Netherlands in command of the Nieu Nederlandt, with the first group of settlers, mostly young Walloon families. Some were sent to company lands in Connecticut, while two families and eight single males took a sloop to the Zuidt (South) River, now the Delaware River, and established Fort Wilhelmus. Eight men were also left on Nut Island to promote the fur trade, and the remaining eighteen families proceeded upriver to Fort Orange.[6] Having so transformed the New Netherland territory to a province, he was named the province's first director.

See also


  1. Russell Shorto, The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony that Shaped America. First Edition. (New York City: Vintage Books (a Division of Random House, 2004), p. 40. ISBN 1-4000-7867-9
  2. Samuel Muller Geschiedenis van de Noordsche Compagnie., Gebr van der Post, 1874, footnote on page 167 [1]
  3. Gerben Kazimier History of Schellinkhout 1601-1650
  4. Wheeler, Edward Smith. Scheyichbi and the Strand, J.B. Lippincott & Company, Philadelphia, 1876
  5. "Cornelius Jacobsen Mey", New Netherland Institute
  6. Klein, Milton M., The Empire State, Cornell University Press, 2005, ISBN 9780801489914
Preceded by
Director of New Netherland
Succeeded by
Willem Verhulst