Did you know that New York City was founded by the Belgian Pierre Minuit?
This Walloon purchased Manhattan Island from its first inhabitants in 1626.
The son of a Walloon who emigrated to Germany, Minuit was born in Wesel in the Duchy of Cleves in around 1585. His Tournai ancestors had fled the Spanish Netherlands during the religious persecutions.
Based in Utrecht and in contact with the Walloon reformed churches of Leiden and Amsterdam, Minuit was interested in the testimonials of Walloon settlers who, since 1624 had established themselves over a vast area between the modern-day states of New Jersey and Connecticut. The Dutch West India Company then tasked Minuit to write a report on the condition of the settlements, their organisation and commercial potential. So Minuit travelled across the Atlantic, wrote a report which impressed the Calvinists, who sent him back to New Amsterdam with the title of Governor and the task of establishing an infrastructure in order to promote trade.
On 4 May 1626, Minuit landed on the Island of Manhattan, where the settlement had just thirty houses. The village was surrounded by fields and orchards tended by the Walloons. Accustomed to managing groups, the new Governor formed his council and decided to purchase the island from the indigenous people. The purchase ceremony took place on 26 May and according to accounts of the time, Minuit offered the Indians fabrics, axes and other cooking utensils in exchange for the island.