History Lesson

How Yonkers Got Its Name

This past week we posted some interesting historical "goings on" in Yonkers in the 20th century, which were fun to research.  Yonkers has a rich and varied history and one that is filled with quite a few firsts.   Here now, we give you some historical information on the city that NYCitySlab calls home.

The first residents of the City of Yonkers were Native Americans of the Algonquin, Mohegan and Manhattes tribes.  Napperckamack, the name of their village (which means rapid water settlement) was where the Neperah stream, which is the present day Saw Mill River, flowed into the Hudson or Shatemuck River.

In 1609, the Dutch West India Company sponsored Henry Hudson's expedition up the waterway which now bears his name, to find a new sailing route to India.  His discovery led to fur trading with the Indians at various points along the river.

Under Dutch rule, the purchase of lands became quite a business.  Twenty years after Peter Minuit bought Manhattan Island for the grand sum of $24, Adriaen Van der Donck received a land grant from the Dutch West India Company.  In addition to being the first lawyer in the Dutch colony, Van der Donck was a leader in the political life of New Amsterdam (modern New York City), and an activist for Dutch-style republican government in the Dutch West India Company-run trading post.  

As the area's patron and as dictated by Dutch law, Van der Donck bought the land from the Indian Sachem of the Keskeskick in the late 1640's and named it Colen-Donck (Donck Colony). He built one of the first saw mills in the the New World on De Zaag Kill, or the Saw Mill River, in 1649. Van der Donck was referred to as De Jonkheer, "young gentleman" or "young nobleman".  De Jonkheer evolved through several changes to The Younckers, The Yonkers and finally to present day Yonkers.

            Adriaen Van der Donck

            Adriaen Van der Donck