"Isaac de Forest opened his brewery three years ago. Thomas pronounced his beer worthy of a stopgap tankard if a man's thirst couldn't wait the extra blocks to The Spotted Cow. Isaac and I had developed a healthy respect for one another, him thinking he might catch up to my flavor someday, me pretending maybe so."
-- Jackie Lambert comparing the beer of Johannes VerVeelen's partner to what she served at The Spotted Cow, in The Mevrouw Who Saved Manhattan.
Johannes VerVeelen had three things in common with lots of Dutchman. He liked beer, he didn't like taxes and he loved litigation, or so it seemed from the amount he engaged in.
As the Dutch liked to say, "Beer and wine certainly weren't brewed for the geese, so let us use it to our heart's content." Thus brewing was a good business to get in and that's exactly what Johannes did when he arrived in New Amsterdam with his wife Anneke Jaaesvelt and his son Daniel. He purchased a house on the Marketveldt, the center of trade in lower Manhattan where Whitehall Street runs today and at the end of Brouwer Street, so named for the breweries that lined it. (Soon it would be the first street to be cobbled and take its current name, Stone.) Johannes teamed up with established brewmaster Isaac de Forest and made himself enough of a success to become burgher in April 1657.
In little more than a year he had enough business to land in court three times in August. The first case involved fighting with a soldier in the house of Salomon La Chair. Fighting wasn't the charge, however. It was La Chair who got in trouble for taking away the soldier's sword. Good thing for Johannes for even without being skewered, La Chair had to carry him home.
The second case was over payment for a horse Johannes sold Lauwerens Janzen. He had to sue to collect the 150 guilders in beaver and 120 guilders in sewant Janzen owed for the horse.
The third case reveals a certain prejudicial character. Johannes was trying to help a poor illiterate woman named Grietie Maas in a dispute over a keg of nails she purchased from Jacob Cohn, Jew. Cohn was apparently represented by another Jew named Josep d'Costa, who accused Johannes of swearing, "You are a Jew. You are all cheats together." VerVeelen denied saying anything such thing. True or not, don't be too hard on the man as he was merely following the example of Director Peter Stuyvesant. When the first Jews arrived in New Amsterdam a few years earlier from Brazil, Stuyvesant tried to pack them off to Amsterdam. The West India Company finally told him to cease and desist. "You know how much capital the Jews here have invested?" the Company asked when they told him to stop after three years of trying.
After failing twice to win a position as schepens on the New Amsterdam Council, Johannes moved up the island to Harlem, where his legal dispute involved the hated taxes. The schout, Allard Anthony, hauled him into court after discovering in his house two half barrels of strong beer on which the excise tax had not been paid. VerVeelen claimed his son Daniel had sent the beer up from lower Manhattan. "The tax wasn't paid?" asked Johannes. "Who knew?" The court accepted his ignorance but it fined him 25 guilders in sewant for insulting the schout.
In 1667, Johannes won the license to operate a ferry between Harlem and Long Island. The privilege exempted him from the excise tax on beer and wine, ending his tax troubles at least for the five year term. It also let Johannes get back into court. Before the ferry, people and livestock forded to Long Island across the Spuyten Duyvil. Johannes didn't like anyone bypassing the two pence his ferry charged for a person, the ten for a horse or the eight for an ox. When John Barcker forded with a considerable number of cattle and horses, Johannes sued for the fares owed him. Pay up, the court ordered Barcker.
Son Daniel followed his father into the brewing business and was prosperous enough to contribute 24 guilders to strengthen the town's defense after Indians attacked in the 1655 Peach War. In 1664 when Director Stuyvesant was preparing to fight the English fleet demanding the town's surrender, Daniel signed the remonstrance begging that he reconsider as nothing could be expected from refusal but "misery, sorrow, conflagration, the dishonor of women, murder of children in their cradles, and, in a word, the absolute ruin and destruction of about fifteen hundred innocent souls."
The Mevrouw Who Saved Manhattan Reviews
"[A] romp through the history of New Netherland that would surely have Petrus Stuyvesant complaining about the riot transpiring between its pages ... Readers are guaranteed a genuine adventure that will evoke the full range of human emotions. Once begun, they can expect to experience that rare difficulty in putting down a book before they have finished."
-- de Halve Maen, Journal of the Holland Society of New York, Summer 2009
"Bill Greer has deftly blended fact and fiction in his humorous tale The Mevrouw Who Saved Manhattan. ... The characters are rowdy, raunchy, loveable, and sometimes despicable, but thoroughly believable. ... This is a thoroughly delightful story that brings the Dutch colonies to life."
-- Historical Novels Review Online, August 2009