Dutch language in the Catskills

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Wed Nov 13 00:29:35 UTC 2002

This following question was distributed to a group interested in NYState history.  Perhaps one of you learned folk have some knowledge of this matter.


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998.

----- Original Message -----
From: Patricia Morrow <PMorrowJ at CS.COM>
Date: Thursday, November 7, 2002 6:01 pm
Subject: Dutch language in the Catskills

> The message below was sent to the Mountain Top Historical Society
> in Haines Falls (Greene County, NY) and subsequently forwarded to me,
> requesting that I pass it along to someone who might be able to help this gentleman.
> Pleasecontact him at <evenhuis at zeelandnet.nl> if you can help.
> Thanks. Patricia Morrow, Windham Town Historian
> -------------------------------------------------------------------
> -----------
> --------------------------------------------------
> Delivered-To: mths at mhonline.net
> From: "Marco Evenhuis" <evenhuis at zeelandnet.nl>
> To: <info at mths.org>
> Date: Sun, 3 Nov 2002
> Hi,
> I am interested in the remains of the Dutch language as a language of
> colonists abroad. I visited your website and thought that maybe
> your society could help me find some more information about the linguistic
> heritage in the Catskill region.
> A friend of mine wrote me the following: "I used to own a house on a
> mountaintop in the Catskills and several of my neighbors who were
> born just before or after WW II told me that Dutch was spoken in their homes
> as a daily language when they were growing up."
> Since Dutch linguists never did any research in the area that was
> once the colony of New Netherland, they assumed and still assume that what
> a few local scholars wrote them, was correct: "The Dutch dialects of Jersey
> Dutch, Albany Dutch and Mohawk Dutch, spoken in NJ en NY State, died out around
> 1900. There are no speakers left."
> I find that this statement, that has been copied over and over
> again into all popular and scientific publications about the Dutch language in
> America, is incorrect and needs to be refined. Almost without any effort, I
> already found some people who claim that a family member still spoke Dutch in
> the 1950s and 60s.
> The reason that I write you this e-mail is to see if you can help
> me with the following question: do you have any idea untill when (colonial)
> Dutch was the home language for a significant part of Dutch descended families
> in the Catskills region and do you know if there might still be some
> people around that maybe still know (some of) the language? The latter sounds
> more far sought then it actually is given the information that my friend
> came up with as well as the fact that in 1998 I found a handful of speakers of
> BerbiceCreole Dutch in Guyana, a language that was considered to
> have already died out in the 1880s or 90s.
> If you cannot help me answer these questions, maybe you know
> someone who can help me. I am not really interested in the help of 'professional
> linguists', because they tend to follow the general assumption the
> language already died out a century or at least half a century ago without any further
> research.  [Sorry about the sneer at professional linguists -- GAT]

> Greetings from the Netherlands!
> Marco Evenhuis

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