Challenges the belief that the Walloons and the Dutch of the Hudson Valley were cultural preservationists who resisted English culture. In 1678, seven French-speaking Protestant families established the village of New Paltz in the Hudson River Valley of New York. Life on the edge of European settlement presented many challenges, but a particular challenge for these ethnic Walloon families, originally from the southern Spanish Netherlands, was that they lived in a Dutch cultural region in an English colony. In Set in Stone, Kenneth Shefsiek explores how the founders and their descendants reacted to and perpetuated this multiethnic cultural environment for generations.
As the founding families controlled their town economically and politically, they creatively and selectively blended the cultures available to them. They allowed their Walloon culture to slip away early in the villages history, but they continued to combine Dutch and English cultures for more than 150 years. When they finally abandoned the last vestiges of Dutch culture in the early nineteenth century, they did so just as descendants of English colonists began to claim that the national commitment to liberty and freedom was grounded in the nations English heritage. Not willing to be marginalized, descendants of the New Paltz Walloons constructed an alternative national narrative, placing their ancestors at the very center of the American story.
Kenneth Shefsiek demonstrates that he has a keen eye for detail, and this careful attention to the small things helps bring New Paltzs past to life. The book paints a surprising picture of one of the most intriguing communities in early America. Andrew Lipman, author of The Saltwater Frontier: Indians and the Contest for the American Coast
About the author
Kenneth Shefsiek is Assistant Professor of History at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
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