The first immigrant
by Fausto Gardini
For decades historians have speculated about the identity of the first immigrant from Luxembourg to the New World. Nicholas Gonner, Roger Krieps, and others refer to a statement found in a book by Anton Eickhoff published in 1884.
The first enduring agricultural colonization of New Netherland began in the spring of the year 1623 under the authority of the West India Company, as thirty families emigrated from Amsterdam aboard the ship ‘New Niederland’ to the new world for that purpose. Cornelius Jakobsen May led this expedition as the director of the new colony on Manhatas.
Focused on trade purposes
The original intentions of the West India Company were focused on trade purposes; however one had recognized the need of establishing settlements for the promotion of the same. The colonists who came over on the first ship accompanying director May were mostly Walloons, Luxemburgers and inhabitants of other countries bordering on France, of which eight families settled near Fort Orange, a few remained on the island of Manhatas, others near Fort Nassau at the South River and the remainder on the south side of the East River, where Brooklyn lies today. Eickhoff did not give a source for his statement.
The 1860 Gazetteer of New York states the following about the settlement on the island of Manhattan: A settlement was made upon Manhattan Island by a company of Dutch traders, under the auspices of the West India Co., in 1612; but no permanent agricultural occupation began until 1623. During this year 30 families of Walloons from the Flemish frontiers, and a number of domestic animals, were sent over to form the nucleus for the permanent occupation of the country. Regrettably, some but not all the names of the 110 members of the thirty families who landed in the New World aboard the New Niederland or Nieu Nederlandt are known.
Philippe de Lannoy
Researchers from Luxembourg like to associate Philippe de Lannoy (1602-1681), a confirmed ancestor of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, with the de Lannoy family of Clervaux, ,Luxembourg, as the first Luxembourger to immigrate to North America. Philippe de Lannoy, also referred to as Philippe de la Noye, was born in Leyden, Holland in 1602 of French parents, who had him baptized in the Walloon Church in 1603. He was among the thirty-five passengers aboard the ship Fortune arriving at Plymouth in November of 1621. To this day, a connection between the presidential ancestor and Luxembourg‘s de Lannoy family could not be positively confirmed.
Actually, Luxembourg City-born Dr. Claude-Auguste Neyen (1809-1882), identified the first Luxembourger to emigrate to the New World in his remarkable work entitled Biographie Luxembourgeoise, wherein he writes : Hotton…….. native of the village by the same name in the Ardennes8 lived towards the end of the sixteenth and the first quarter of the seventeenth century. Admitted to the priesthood, he was a priest for some time, probably in his place of birth. Later, he entered the Jesuit order, and went to the West Indies, becoming its missionary. Various documents confirm Guillaume Hotton (1577-1629) traveling to the New World allowing to locate his whereabouts there.
It is thus in 1616, one hundred and twenty-four years after Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) discovery of America in 1492 that we find the first confirmed Luxembourger in the New World. Two surviving letters by the previously mentioned Father Martin (de/from) Bruges (Martinus de Brugis) contain references to Guillaume Hotton. The first letter is dated Mexico, February 20, 1617, wherein he mentions Father Guillaume Hotton from the Gallo-Belgica province who left Belgium with him. The second letter is dated Mexico, April 21, 1617. It mentions that Father Hotton resides at Cinaloa (Sinaloa)10. Two letters by Guillaume Hotton himself are on record. The first one is dated Mexico, October 24, 1617 and the second letter is dated Cynaloa (Sinaloa), January 9, 1618.