Nov 05

I came across this record last year sometime, and the exercise to determine the voyage date spurred my memory.

The first tangible record of Jellis (Gillis) in America has been established as that found in Fort Orange on October 15, 1651 when he received permission from the court to distill liquor in Greenbush, a small village near Albany.

Early Albany Court

Early Albany Court

However… a new record has been found in the book “Early Irish in Old Albany” which places him there a couple of months earlier. Not a big difference, but nonetheless, this appears to be the earliest tangible record of a Fonda in the New World: Early Irish in Old Albany, N.Y.: with special mention of Jan Andriessen, “De Iersman Van Dublingh”, Danaher, Franklin M., Boston, MA, American-Irish Historical Society, 1903, p. 17:

[…the court records show that on August 18, 1651, “Thomas Konnig abused the court as an unlawful court, taking materials from the sayings of Dyckman, who sang the 82nd Psalm and called the high council rogues and tale bearers in presence of Evert Pels, Art Jacobse and Gillis Fonda.”]

Evert Pels was also listed in the October 15 court record as the party selling distillation equipment to Gillis for the production of liquor. It is odd that the men were in court merely observing two months prior to their court date. Perhaps they were preparing for their upcoming petition.

Jellis had been an innkeeper and blacksmith in Amsterdam. Brandy was a product of high value in New Amsterdam. The skills and knowledge needed may have been similar. Although none of the early Fonda’s were known as anything but pious in nature, the making of spirits was a worthwhile commercial venture in the fur trading environs of early Albany.

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