Local teacher gets to share research with historical society

Scott Swanson

Lana Holden became fascinated with New Netherland when she was working on her master’s degree in history 10 years ago.

Along the way she discovered Catalina (Catalyntje) Trico, one of the first European women to live in the New World, who arrived on a ship from the Netherlands in 1624. In fact, Holden got so interested in Trico that she’s working on a book about her.

New Netherland was a Dutch colony in North America (1613–64), comprising what is now New York City, the area along the Hudson River and the lower Delaware River, including Manhattan, which the new arrivals purchased from the Indians.

Though the Dutch lost the land to England by 1669, they made a substantial contribution to the establishment of European colonies in the New World.

In the course of her studies, Holden also discovered the New Netherland Institute, a non-profit organization founded in 1986 to support the translation and publication of 17th-century Dutch documents from the period of the Dutch colonization of New Netherland. She became a member.

The Institute, which has members worldwide, holds an annual conference, a scholarly affair in which experts present papers on various topics related to New Netherland. Holden had thought about previous topics, whether she should submit something.

“I’ve kind of always dreamed of being able to go back there, of being chosen, ever since I found out about it when I was getting my master’s. ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to go back there and meet all these people and present there?’

“Each year the topic would be something that was OK, but it was not my road.”

Then, this year, the institute announced that its 40th conference topic would be “Women of New Netherland.”

“When I heard the topic, I thought, ‘I cannot not submit a paper,'” said Holden, who is director of the East Linn Museum and teaches seventh-grade world history and eighth-grade language arts at Sweet Home Junior High.

“I thought, ‘I know so much about her and I would just love to be able to talk about her.’

“This one was something I figured I could figure it out.”

Of close to 200 submissions, from all over the world, 11 were selected, including Holden’s.

She and her husband Mark, a SHJH science teacher, took an eight-day break to attend the conference on Oct. 22-23 in Albany, N.Y., and do a little sightseeing, since Lana Holden had never been there.

“I had never been to New York before. I had always wanted to because of the Dutch colony of New Netherland; that’s where it all started. We took extra time off to see more than what we would have seen.”

She said she has a personal interest in the early Dutch settlers because she herself is Dutch. In fact, during the course of her research, she found out she’s a descendent – along with “about 1 million” other people – of Trico who was 84 when she died in what is now Brooklyn, N.Y., leaving just over 150 living descendants in the area. All but one of Trico’s 11 children survived to adulthood, “and the one who did not was shot accidentally on their front step during a battle.

“That seems like a long time to live in the New World, with no medicine and having 11 kids and not dying. She was an incredible woman.”

But she also just likes what she’s learned about the early immigrants from The Netherlands.

They got along well with the Indians. They treated their slaves better than others did, she said.

“The Dutch, they thought outside the box. They welcomed other people. They were very tolerant of other ideas, very open and welcoming to new things. The Dutch educated their girls. Their women ran international businesses in the 1600s, across the Atlantic Ocean. They were amazing.”

The English and other colonists were “more stilted,” she added.

Holden got interested in New Amsterdam when, as a graduate student, she read “The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America” by Russell Shorto, a best-seller based on centuries-old documents discovered in the 1960s.

Since I read that book, I don’t think I’ve had a day go by that I haven’t written or talked or read about New Netherland. I became fascinated by it because, I think, the Dutch were so unique.

At the conference, she met Dr. Charles Gehring, a researcher of the early Dutch, who started translating those historical records in 1973.

“He’s still translating them,” she said. “He’s about 76 years old.

“I got to meet him. It was one of those things like, ‘If you could meet anyone in the world…,’ I would love to meet him. So I got to.”

She also met with a representative of the Dutch consulate who is interested in getting something started on the West Coast to promote the Dutch in the United States.

“She said, ‘This is really neat that someone on the West Coast is fascinated with the Dutch.”

She met authors, she got private tours of restored Dutch homes, she found the three houses where Trico had lived during her life and Mark Holden located the cemetery where she was buried.

“Everything I’ve ever read about old Dutch houses, I have that in my mind,” Lana Holden said. “But it was fun to walk in and actually see it.”

She visited the Crailo House museum in Rensselaer, N.Y., where she saw actual Dutch artifacts depicted in black-and-white photographs in archeology books she’s read.

“Alexander Hamilton’s mother-in-law lived there. It was exciting because there were walls and walls of all these artifacts that I’ve seen. They were the real things.”

Her presentation went well, she said.

“I was the first presenter, ever, from Oregon. Most of the presenters were from the Netherlands or the East Coast, the New York area.”

Now she’s getting “lots” of emails from people with questions and wanting help with their projects. She’s helping with school curriculum and programs.

“I’ve developed a two- to three-week course that I teach to my seventh-graders about New Netherland,” she said, noting that the fact that she was able to travel to New York to present a paper she had written has proved “a catalyst” for her eighth-grade writing students.

“I tell them, ‘You can do some really neat things if you can write,'” she said.