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Along the Hudson River


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This is Steve Ember. And this is Shirley Griffith with the VOA Special English program, EXPLORATIONS.

Today we tell about a famous river on the east coast of the United States, the Hudson.

The first European explorer of the New World to see the mouth of the Hudson River was Englishman John Cabot in Fourteen Ninety-Eight. Yet it was not until 1609 that a European explorer entered the river. He sailed north from the Atlantic Ocean as far as his ship could go, about 250 kilometers. That explorer was Henry Hudson.

Captain Hudson and his sailors – English and Dutch – were working for the Dutch East India Company. Like the other explorers, they were looking for the northwest passage, a way to China and India that did not exist.

At first, Captain Hudson did not know that the water he entered was a river. After all, the water flowed from the ocean in the south toward the north. The water was very salty, like the ocean. On both sides of the river, Captain Hudson saw great hills and mountains. After sailing for 250-kilometers, the ship reached the point on the river where the city of Albany, New York stands today. From that point to the north, the river was not deep enough for his ship to sail.

Hudson saw that the river did not provide a way to India and China. He had failed. He turned his ship around and sailed back to the Atlantic Ocean and then home to Holland.

When he returned to Holland, Henry Hudson told about the friendly natives and how good the land was along the river.

No one knows how long native Americans lived along the great river. The first people to settle along the Hudson were called the Algonkin Indians. They called the Hudson "the river that runs two ways," because it flows both north and south at its southern end. This is because the ocean tides push water up the river as it flows down to the south.

There were many different tribes among the Algonkins. Some of the names of these tribes were Raritan, Hackensack, Tappan, and Haverstraw. Another tribe was called Manhattan. Today, that is the name of the most important part of New York City. Manhattan is a long, thin island, with its southern end pointing into New York Bay.

When the Indians lived there, and when the Europeans first saw it, the island was green and covered with forests. They would not recognize it today. Trees and forests have been replaced by tall buildings and busy streets crowded with cars, trucks, buses, and millions of people.

For 12 years after Henry Hudson explored the river named after him, there was little interest in his discovery. Just a few ships came to Manhattan Island to trade with the Indians. In 1621, the government of Holland created the Dutch West India Company to govern this new land. Three years later, 30 Dutch families sailed on a ship from Holland to North America. They were seeking religious freedom in the New World.

Some of these people settled on Manhattan Island. They named their settlement Fort Amsterdam. The ship they sailed on continued up the Hudson River, stopping where the city of Albany is today. Eighteen families settled there. They called this place Fort Orange. Now there were two communities on the river – both of them Dutch.

The religious freedom promised by the Dutch West India Company brought other people to the Hudson River. Among them were Huguenots from France, Presbyterians from Scotland, Jews and Quakers. However, for almost 50 years – until 1664 – the Hudson River country was Dutch. The official language of the area was Dutch, as were the government, the politics and the customs.

Even today, many places along the Hudson River still have Dutch names, such as Yonkers, Peekskill, Catskill, and Rensselaer (Renn-sa-LEER).

The most famous leader of the Dutch colony in the New World was Peter Stuyvesant. The Dutch West India Company sent him to be the governor of the colony. Mr. Stuyvesant was a strong man who very quickly made the settlers understand that they must obey the laws of the colony.

Peter Stuyvesant's government did not last long. In 1664, five English warships stopped at Fort Amsterdam, which was now called New Amsterdam. The commander of the ships ordered Governor Stuyvesant to surrender the colony to the king of England.

The English said the land was theirs because Manhattan Island had been discovered by Englishmen such as John Cabot. They also said that since Henry Hudson was an Englishman, everything he discovered belonged to the king of England. Peter Stuyvesant and the other Dutch officials returned to Holland.

The English period now began on the river. The official language became English, instead of Dutch. Also, the names of many places on the Hudson were changed. The colony of New Netherland became New York, in honor of James, the duke of York. He was the brother of England's King Charles, the Second. To honor him further, the settlement of New Amsterdam on Manhattan Island was also called New York.

For more than 100 years, the English ruled the colony of New York. During this time thousands of people came from Europe to live along the river. Many were English. However, settlers came from across Europe – Germany, France, and Holland. Even then, it seemed that New York and the Hudson River country were places where people of all nations were welcomed.When the American Revolution began in Seventeen-Seventy-Six, British troops quickly seized control of New York. They wanted it because of its military, political, and economic importance. During the seven years of fighting, no part of the 13 American colonies saw as much military action as the Hudson River area. Both the American Revolutionary Army under George Washington, and the British Army understood that control of the Hudson River meant victory.

Some of the most famous battles of the American Revolutionary War were fought along the Hudson River. The British had more soldiers, more guns, and more bullets than the Americans did. But the Americans fought fiercely and won.

After the treaty of peace was signed in Paris in Seventeen-Eighty-Three, General Washington moved with the new government to New York City. The Hudson River now belonged to a new and free nation – the United States of America.

One of the greatest signs of progress in the newly established United States was a new kind of ship that traveled up and down the Hudson River. In 1807, a steam boat called the Clermont sailed north up the river from New York to Albany. An engineer named Robert Fulton built the boat. Soon there were many such boats traveling up and down the river, helping industry and trade to grow along the Hudson.

For many years, Americans dreamed that it would be possible to travel by water between the East and the West of the United States. In 1825, the Erie Canal opened. It was a river built by men. It went from the Hudson River near Albany west for more than 400 kilometers to the city of Buffalo, on Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes. Now, ships could carry people and products from New York City west to the central part of the country, opening a way to the West.

As Hudson River transportation grew, the population along the river grew, especially in New York City. There, business and industry developed with great speed. New York became the industrial and political center of the United States. It also became one of the great cities of the world.

The real beginning of the Hudson River is near Mount Marcy, the highest of the Adirondack Mountains in New York State. Close to Mount Marcy, melting snow feeds a little lake named Lake Tear of the Clouds. From the lake, a small stream runs down the mountain. As it continues to flow south, other streams join it. The stream becomes the Hudson River near the town of Newcombe.

The Hudson is wild and fast for those first 250 kilometers from Lake Tear of the Clouds to Albany. Then, near Albany, the fresh water of the river meets the salt water of the Atlantic Ocean. The ocean water has been carried up the river for 250 kilometers. At this point, the Hudson becomes a wide river, the same quiet river that Henry Hudson sailed on in the year 1609.

This Special English program was written by Oliver Chanler. It was directed by Paul Thompson. This is Steve Ember. And this is Shirley Griffith. Join us again next week for another EXPLORATIONS program on the Voice of America.


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Source: EXPLORATIONS - June 12, 2002: The Hudson River
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