The areas now called Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Bushwick (Community Boards 1 and 4) were originally one Dutch settlement, the Town of Bushwick. The land was purchased from the Canarsie Indians in 1638 and officially chartered by Governor Peter Stuyvesant in 1660. He also gave it the name of Boswyck (refuge or town in the woods).
The early settlers were Dutch, French, Scandinavians, and English farmers from the Plymonth Colony. They and their descendants for the next two centuries produced tobacco and food for themselves and the New York market, using their own and slave labor until 1827. (Kings County was the largest slave holding county in the north).
Dutch was the daily language until the 19th century. From 1758 to 1800, Dutch and English were taught in the schools and then English was taught exclusively. (Bilingualism is not a new issue in New York life).
Present day Bushwick, just one small part of the Town of Bushwick, was for a long time a jointly owned woodland used for grazing animals and gathering firewood. The road to the woods ran parallel to today's Bushwick Avenue.
The area closest to the East River, today's Williamsburg, developed early, while Bushwick remained rural until the 1850's. The entire area was then mapped by a descendant of the original Lefferts and Suydam families and sold for homes. The former Town of Bushwick merged with the City of Brooklyn in 1855 and from then on the population doubled and tripled every 20 years. Shipping and ship construction, oil, ironworks, pottery, clothing, printing, and every type of industry flourished along the waterfront.
About this period, over a million Germans and Austrians came to the United States, many settling in northern Brooklyn and creating an important "Little Germany." They opened breweries, beer halls, and restaurants (to encourage beer consumption), organized singing societies, and built many Lutheran and Catholic churches. St. Barbara's, a magnificent Baroque building on Central Avenue, is the most outstanding example of the brewers largesse. In 1880 there were 11 breweries in Bushwick and Williamsburg, and in 1904 there were 44.