From Vlissingen to Flushing
Moving to a new land is an adventure, but nostalgia for what you left behind seems to be part of human nature.
Take the Israelites, who were slaves in Egypt and led to freedom by Moses. True, they spent a lot of time wandering around in the desert (forty years is nothing to sneeze at), and they were not exactly well treated in Egypt. But when the going got rough, they moaned and complained. “We remember the fish that we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and the garlic. Now our gullets are shriveled. There is nothing at all!” (Numbers 11:5-6).
The first Dutch colonists in America were traders. They settled at the tip of Manhattan Island and built up a roaring fur trade. Back in 1624, it was a wild, forested place, probably very different from Holland, but they named it “New Amsterdam.”
In the 17th century, Vlissingen, a city in the Netherlands, was the main port of the Dutch East India Company. So again why wrack your brains to think up new names when you can recycle the old ones (and reminisce, in the bargain). One of the first colonies in the New World was named Vlissingen.
So what does Vlissingen mean? There are many theories, but one of them is that a 7th century Christian saint named Willibrord came to this region in southwestern Holland to spread his faith. He shared his bottle (fles = bottle) with some beggars, but a miracle occurred. They drank and drank, but the bottle was still full. You can see this legendary “bottle,” actually a silver-tipped leather flask, in the Vlissingen museum.
In 1664, the Dutch colonists surrendered to the British. New Amsterdam was renamed New York, in honor of the Duke of York, and Vlissengen became…Flushing.