Peter Minuit was born around 1580 to a Protestant family that had moved from the City of Tournai, Hainaut, part of the Southern Netherlands, presently part of Wallonia, Belgium, to Wesel in Germany, in order to escape the Catholic Spanish Inquisition.
Peter married Gertrude Raedts on August 20, 1613. From a wealthy family, Gertrude probably helped Peter Minuit in establishing himself as a diamond cutter.
By the mid 1620’s, he had joined the Dutch West India Company and was sent to the new colony of New Netherland in 1625 to search for tradable goods other than animal pelts which were then the major product coming from New Netherland.
Then on May 4, 1626, Peter was appointed the new governor general of New Netherland, taking over from Willem Verhulst.
Purchase of the island of Manhattan
According to tradition, Peter purchased the island of Manhattan from Native Americans on May 24, 1626 in exchange for goods valued at 60 Dutch guilders, which in the 19th century was estimated to be the equivalent of US$24 (or about $1,000 today).
In 1631, the Dutch West India Company suspended Peter from his post for reasons that are unclear, but probably for abetting the landowning patroons who were engaging in illegal fur trade and otherwise enriching themselves against the interests and orders of the West India Company.
He returned to Europe in August 1632 to explain his actions, but was dismissed and was succeeded as director by Wouter van Twiller.
Establishing the New Sweden colony
By 1636 Peter had become interested in his friend Willem Usselincx’s efforts to found a colony on the Delaware River south of New Netherland.
In 1637, Clas Fleming (a Swedish Admiral from Finland) began organizing the first Swedish expedition to North America.
Dutchman Samuel Blommaert assisted the Admiral in fitting-out two ships, the Fogel Grip and the Kalmar Nyckel.
Blommaert then appointed Peter Minuit to lead the expedition.
They embarked from the port of Gothenburg in late 1637.
By late March they sailed into Delaware Bay passing Cape May and Cape Henlopen in search of a good location for their settlement on the lower Delaware River.
The two ships ended up anchoring at a rocky point on the Minquas Kill on March 29, 1638 (Today this spot is known as Swedes’ Landing).
They built Fort Christina (named after Queen Christina of Sweden).
Today, this area is known as the city of Wilmington, Delaware.
Peter departed for Stockholm later that year for a second load of colonists but decided to first make a side trip down to the Caribbean to pick up a shipment of tobacco to resell in Europe.
He died August 5, 1638 during a hurricane at Saint Christopher Island in the West Indies.
Swedish Lt. Måns Nilsson Kling, whose rank was raised to captain about two years later, replaced Peter as governor.
It took the government that long for the next governor from mainland Sweden to be appointed and travel to North America.
Nine more Swedish expeditions to the colony were carried out before the Dutch captured New Sweden in 1655.
Now WE know em