Jasper Van Sant
Jasper Van Sant is the son of a widowed Dutch bricklayer. Having lost his wife to cancer of the womb a season ago, Willem lost his taste for the Colonies; he's left the Dutch villages around the Hudson, leaving his middle child to forge his own path.
Jasper has come to the Massachusetts colony to find work as a journeyman bricklayer. He found a strange world- dim memories of the rural Zuiderzee and his half a life growing up along the Hudson didn't prepare him for life in a city. For now, Jasper has no strong opinion about the Tori loyalists or the growing dissent of the colonial patriots galvanizing the city. He knows the Dutch are supplying arms & food in trade here. And he certainly understands the desire to be free of distant tyranny.
Jasper Van Sant was born to Dutch Calvinists Willem and Lotte on June 3rd, 1757, in a small seaside village on the Zuiderzee. His father is a skilled bricklayer who espoused Calvinist philosophy and practice with his wife, who was a skilled midwife. Their marriage was a compartmentalized partnership of equals. They had five children, three of whom have lived into adulthood- Jasper being the middle child. Jasper’s brother Stefaan left home at fourteen to work in the slave trade coming out of Africa. The family hears from him hardly at all though he knows they have emigrated to the Americas. Jasper’s younger sister, Fien, has remained in Scharwoude under the care of Siske, Willem’s spinster sister.
The Van Sants emigrated to the British Colonies in North America- specifically to the New York Colony when Jasper was twelve years old. His mother sickened during the trip and never fully regained her health. For a time, Jasper doted on her. The family quickly moved to the Hudson Islands where the settlements were primarily Dutch though the language of trade remained French and English. Willem worked as a bricklayer there and continued to apprentice his middle son when originally, Willem had chosen Stefaan.
Stefaan was a choleric boy who hated the craft and had a penchant for meanness when he was intoxicated. He didn’t attend church with the Covenant and took to drinking and whoring at a young age. He left home abruptly, signing on as a deckhand and cabin boy to a Dutch trader bound for Africa. The family has an unclear picture of what has happened to Stefaan but its possible he’s become a mercenary slave trader: his last letter came through with Portuguese stamp duties from around the Algarve.
Jasper, in the wake of his brother’s actions, as well as being the more phlegmatic of the two sons, dutifully took up the family trade. He’s worked with Willem for six years now. As the wealth of the Dutch Golden Age began to wane, building projects began to dry up for the Van Sants. They fell into financial hardship. The opportunities seemed to be across the sea, or in Africa- but Willem was against the slave trade as it took away work for free men. Willem decided to move the family to the Americas for a time, though they had planned to eventually return. Willem sold himself and his son into indentured servitude to finance the family’s journey. When they landed in New York, the term of their indenture was for five years in a small village in the Hudson River Islands.
With his mother falling into a long illness, Jasper took on more of the family trade while his father supported his ailing Lotte. She finally succumbed in the twilight hours a week before Candlemas, leaving Willem and Jasper alone in a strange land. Though they had made acquaintances, the Dutch here were quite insular. Willem made a go of trying to continue but after six months, he was tired and longed for the Zuiderzee. He’d taken up drinking and arthritis was making work hard. Their indentured servitude had ended a year ago and, being once again free, Willem chose to return to Holland. He encouraged his son to come along but Jasper wanted to wait. He had made a few friends- or so he’d thought. By the time Willem was in New York and ready to sail, those friendships had somewhat evaporated as they married off.
Anchorless, Jasper at first considered the frontier, but he had little head for farming. He decided he would try the Massachusetts Bay Colony where surely he could find work as a bricklayer. What he found was a seething cauldron of political discourse punctuated by angry calls for action. He tried to duck what he could of it in his naivete, gaining lodgings with an eccentric man and his son. So far Jasper has only found piecemeal work, enough to get by but not enough to sustain longterm. He’s learned that the man and son he lives with are not all they claim to be. They are Tories, this he knows, and the father helps run a Loyalist printing press. The son is an odd young man indeed and Jasper has recently heard that he may be a grave robber for the cause of the anatomists and scientists. But he has no actual proof and fears exposing it and losing the roof over his head.
Jasper can read and write a little, though the latter only crudely. He’s never been an especially good horseman but he has an eye for the lay of the land, and he is quite loyal to those who treat him well. He has a strong back and knows his way around hard labor.
|1767||1773||Indenture in Niewtonhook, near Stuyvesant and Kinderhook||Hudson River Islands, New Netherlands|
|1773||Moved to Boston||Boston, Massachusetts Bay Colony|