Last week I received in the mail from Andrew Hendricks, the Mesier descendant I was able to get in contact with, some of his genealogical research on the family and on the Mesier Mill. He also sent me his proposal to reconstruct the mill at Ground Zero as a memorial of the 9/11 attacks, as the mill was the first structure to be built on the site.
I was eager to read what research Hendricks had done in regards to the mill since it has been a big curiosity of mine since I learned of it last month. I’m happy to say that Hendricks has cleared a lot of confusion of mine when it came to the mill, and I finally feel settled about the matter.
I’ll explain what my initial concerns were, and why they came about.
When I first learned that the Mesier’s built/owned a mill in New Netherland, I looked for maps and the map keys that would label the sites and landmarks on them. I used Hugo Allard’s map, of course, as it’s one of the only topographic maps of early New Netherland. This particular map claims to depict the settlement circa 1660.
This version of Allard’s map was published by Matthew Suetter in 1673. The sites and key are the same. Here is the key:
You can see on the map to the far right a windmill with corresponds to the key, Q. In a book titled Views of Early New York, a description of Q, the windmill, is given:
**There’s an issue with this description in itself, which I’ll come back to later on in this post.
My mistake, which would lead to further contradictions, was assuming that this mill depicted on Allard’s map was the same mill on Castello’s Plan, located on the bluff just outside of fort New Amsterdam:
The information was at first non-controversial for me until I came to learn that the mill depicted on the Castello Plan was built around 1658. That wouldn’t make any sense if it were Peter Mesier who built it, since he arrived in New Netherland around 1661. I spent a lot of time confused about this matter. When I sat down with Dr. Jaap Jacobs and explained what I knew about the mill, he was hesitant to believe that Peter Jansen Mesier built the mill on Castello’s Plan and that he even built a mill in 1662.
Dr. Jacobs suggested Peter’s ownership of this particular mill would not have been likely given the context. Peter would have only been about 22 years old, and other documents which Dr. Jacobs has access to suggest that Peter may have been a solider (likely for the West India Company – this still has to be confirmed). In which case, coming to New Netherland would have been a “fresh start” for him. There are also sources which reveal that Peter was petitioning for an ancestor’s inheritance, perhaps insinuating a want/need of money? We can’t be sure, but it did seem unlikely to Dr. Jacobs that Peter had the means to erect this mill. Thus this became my own hesitation, and I tried to overcome the contradictions by proposing that though the mill was erected by someone else, Peter Jansen Mesier and his family came to own it at a later time.
Don’t be confused – the end of all this is that I was mistaken! Peter Jansen Mesier did in fact erect a mill. He did so around 1685 near Cortlandt and Wall Street. The street it was built on was appropriately named Windmill Lane. Dr. Hendricks is to thank for his research and clarification. He included a short description from The Tip of the Island: The Saga of Lower Manhattan by David Allgeyer:
“Mesier’s windmill stood at the end of Windmill Lane near the bank of the North River. Built in the days of the early colony in 1686, the big windmill became a landmark for ships and river craft, as its tall “sails” could be seen for great distances. It was relatively easy to navigate by both land and water around the tip of the island in the days of early settlers by simply becoming familiar with the locations of the great windmills.
Mesier’s windmill prevailed for almost a hundred years before becoming run down, and it was finally torn down about 1780. By about the end of the 1700’s all of the city’s marvelous windmills had vanished.”
Here is a map I found that notes the mill in 1695:
On a few maps the landmark is designated as “Mesier’s Mill.” This was the future site of the World Trade Centers; the South Tower stood almost directly on the site of the windmill.
I’m happy to have cleared this up, thanks so much to Dr. Andrew Hendricks! The find is very cool and important! My end goal in all of this is to have a comprehensive “Mesier” history, but also to put their history into context, sharing how the Mesier’s history is very indicative of American History. This last point is what has made the project so fascinating for me. I love it.
Everything being said about the windmill, I’m happy to have settled the discrepancies! Now on to the next chapter!