History of New Amsterdam

Map of early New Amsterdam

The town of New Amsterdam developed as a settlement  beside Fort Nassau some 55 miles up the Berbice River.  Around 1784,  as a result of the fluctuating fortunes of Fort Nassau, the Dutch relocated  the town to its present site at the confluence of the Berbice and Canje Rivers.

The name New Amsterdam was chosen because most of the colonists originated  from the province of Amsterdam in Holland. Between 1785 – 1790,  New Amsterdam was established as the seat of Government for Berbice. at that time the town was little more than a forest settlement, with a house there and a house there, no roads, no drains.

By the resolutions of an Ordinance dated 11 January 1791, plots of land were awarded to settlers along the river front. In 1776  George Pinkhard described the town as that of a wild country, only just opening into cultivation. It comprised an extent of wood and water, with small patches of land breaking into incipient tillage.

In May 1825 an Ordinance to establish a Board of Management for the town  was passed. Subsequent ordinances in October 1825 and September 1838 resulted  in the establishment of a ‘Board of Policy’ to be responsible  for the affairs of the Town. In 1844 a Board of Superintendence was established  for this purpose.

Under their guidance the town grew.  The Board of Superintendence lasted until 1 September 1891, when legislation was enacted to incorporate the Town into a Municipality. The membership of this council consisted of members who had served on the Board of Superintendents and Mr. Neil Ross McKinnon, K.C., who was president of that Board, was appointed as the Town’s first Mayor.