Demographics: Court Messenger

Occupation Types

A functionary among whose duties was to convene the court.

This was a paid position, possibly full time.

The Court Messenger was an employee of the Dutch West India Company, a “lower functionary with executive duties,” as Jaap Jacobs describes him (in New Netherland: A Dutch Colony in Seventeenth-Century America, 2005, p. 172).

These duties ranged from convening court officers, to issuing placards establishing small courts of justice in villages with the requisite population. The Dutch word for this position gives a sense of its flexible nature: gerechtsbode, or usher. He ushered, or delivered, papers to litigants in court cases and petitions to Director and Council. He posted ordinances and orders concerning public works that had been approved by Director and Council, and in one case he accompanied the tax collector to the home of a prominent citizen, brewer Oloff van Cortlandt, who was suspected of concealing taxable goods, beer, in his cellar.

Known court messengers are identified by name in Charles T. Gehring, Laws and Writs of Appeal, 1647-1663, 1991. See index.