New York, and particularly the Hudson River Valley, was once part of the Dutch Colony of New Netherland. Manhattan was once New Amsterdam, and the region is sprinkled with names that hint at the Dutch influence. As a New England, I’m always intrigued by the unique names in the Hudson Valley. Towns like Rensselaer, Guilderland and Watervliet have distinctly Dutch names.
Perhaps no place name turns the head more than Kill. It means body of water, and you’ll see it used often in the region. Peekskill, Fishkill, and from my rowing days the Schuylkill River. Normans Kill, Fall Kill, Owl Kill, Batten Kill, Saw Kill, Fall Kill…. and so on. I drive by these places and wondered for years what this kill thing was all about. Google and Wiki solved that mystery for me.
Doing business in the Hudson River Valley, I run into people with Van in their name, which is uniquely Dutch. Rip Van Winkle is a character right out of this valley. I’d imagine that if old Rip were to wake up now he’d hardly recognize the towns, but he’d know from the river and the hills exactly where he was.
The Hudson River Valley remains a strikingly beautiful corridor despite the encroaching development of the region. For Henry Hudson and other explorers to this region, it must have been an extraordinary trip up the river. The Dutch were a relatively small footnote in the settling of North America compared to the English, French and Spanish, but they picked a region that strongly influences the rest of the country. New York and Pennsylvania hold on stubbornly to the Dutch cultural influences. One could say you can’t kill it off.