Josse van Huerter

Josse van Huerter

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Josse van Huerter also known by several transliterations (such as Joss van Hurtere, Joost de Hurtere or Joss van Hürter, and later in Portuguese, Joss de Utra or just Dutra) was the first settler, and captain-major of the island of Faial
Faial Island
Faial Island , also known in English as Fayal, is a Portuguese island of the Central Group of the Azores....

 in the Portuguese Azores
The Archipelago of the Azores is composed of nine volcanic islands situated in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, and is located about west from Lisbon and about east from the east coast of North America. The islands, and their economic exclusion zone, form the Autonomous Region of the...

. After 1482, the island of Pico
Pico Island
Pico Island , is an island in the Central Group of the Portuguese Azores noted for its eponymous volcano, Ponta do Pico, which is the highest mountain in Portugal, the Azores, and the highest elevation of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge...

 was also incorporated into his captaincy. His son, Joss de Utra would later inherit the captaincy from him after his death.


Van Huerter, a name of Flemish
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

 origin, appears frequently in Portuguese writings, frequently with many variations. What is known, is that the family name Huerter evolved through Portuguese transliteration to Utra and later Dutra (a contraction of the latter). Similarly, the city of Horta
Horta (Azores)
Horta is a single municipality and city in the western part of the Archipealgo of the Azores, encompassing the island of Faial. Horta has a population of about approximately 15,038 people and an area of 173.1 square kilometers. The population density is about 88 persons per square kilometer...

 (settled by Huerter and his flemish compatriots) would owe its name to an adulterated variation on the Huerter name. Josse, has also appeared with some variations; Josse van Huerter himself used the shorter Joss in communications, although Joz, Job, Jobst and Jost have also been identified.

His was the son of Léonard van Huerter, of a governing family with feudal holdings in Wijnendale
Wijnendale is a village located in the Belgian province of West Flanders.It belongs to the municipality of Torhout. Wijnendale is situated at 4 km from the city center of Torhout, halfway in between this city center and Ichtegem....

, West Flanders. Marcelino Lima stated that the Huerter holdings were specifically in Hagenbruck, refuting the claims of the German navigator and geographer Martin Behaim
Martin Behaim
Martin Behaim , was a German mariner, artist, cosmographer, astronomer, philosopher, geographer and explorer in service to the King of Portugal.-Biography:The Behaim family had immigrated to Nuremberg because of religious persecution around...

, in his Globo de Nuremberga (who believed that the noble family lived in Moerkirchen). The Huerter family was of good lineage, and established heraldry, whom dedicated themselves in the homeland, which was confirmed by a 1527 document, by Jacques de Hurtere, of Flanders, the cousin of Joss de Utra (second Captain-Donatório of Faial), and chronicled by Manuel Luís Maldonado.

Little is known of his life prior to his participation in the great exploration and colonization of the 15th Century. What is known is that he frequented the circles of Flemish nobility, and made friendships in the court of Isabella of Portugal.

About 1460, he made an acquaintance of Friar Pedro, the Queen's confessor, who traveled with the Infanta Isabella of Portugal, Duchess of Burgundy, to Flanders. He developed a friendship with the young nobleman, and quickly promoted the advantages of exploration in the "new" islands of the Azores. Dom Pedro talked to van Huerter of the islands and what he believed were large deposits of silver and tin (referring to the islands as the fabled Ilhas Cassitérides or Islands of Tin). Van Huerter later convinced 15 other noblemen of the profitability of a venture in the archipelago. Around 1465, Huerter first disembarked along the eastern coast in the channel between Pico and Faial, in an area that would later be known as Praia de Almofariz (now Praia do Almoxarife
Praia do Almoxarife
Located in the municipality of Horta, Praia do Almoxarife is a civil parish of the archipelago of the Portuguese Azores. Ironically, for its history , its population has not grown significantly since it was settled...

). The expedition remained in the area around Lomba dos Frades for about a year, until about the time their supplies ran out. It was at this time that many of his compatriots became disenchanted with van Huerter and angered by the lack of return on their investments: finding none of the promised precious metals. Things escalated and van Huerter nearly escaped to Flanders, abandoning some on the island, and returning hastily to the court of the Duchess of Burgundy
Duchy of Burgundy
The Duchy of Burgundy , was heir to an ancient and prestigious reputation and a large division of the lands of the Second Kingdom of Burgundy and in its own right was one of the geographically larger ducal territories in the emergence of Early Modern Europe from Medieval Europe.Even in that...


He returned In 1466-67, with a contract from the Duchess of Burgundy to settle and populated the islands in the name of the Crown of Portugal. The Duchess would send a two-year supply of the equipment, foodstuffs, animals and materials to support the fledgling colony made up of Flemish nationals looking for a new life following the Hundred Years War. But, quickly, He discovered the limitations of the area owing to the lack of sufficient potable water. He abandoned the main settlement in Almofariz, in favor of the adjacent valley (later known as the Valley of Flamengos
Flamengos is a Portuguese civil parish on the island of Faial in the archipelago of the Azores. Its name was derived from the grouping of Flemish settlers who made their homes in this landlocked valley, in the municipality of Horta...

). Huerter would later extend his community farther south along the shore of Horta Bay, where he would construct a small chapel to Santa Cruz , that would become the nucleus of the small village.

The Infante Ferdinand, Duke of Viseu
Duke of Viseu
Duke of Viseu was a Portuguese Royal Dukedom created in 1415 by King John I of Portugal for his third male child, Prince Henry the Navigator, following the conquest of Ceuta....

, had bestowed on Huerter the first captaincy of the island on February 2, 1468, which would later extend to the neighboring island of Pico (December 29, 1482) by Infanta Beatrice.

Huerter cultivated new relationships in the Flemish community of Flanders, hoping to construct a "New Flanders" by attracting a second wave of settlers to Faial. One of them, Willem van der Haegen
Willem van der Haegen
Willem van der Haegen, at times Willelm van der Hagen or Willelm van der Haagen , transliterated to the Portuguese as Guilherme da Silveira , was a Flemish nobleman, entrepreneur, explorer and pioneer in the settlement of the islands of the...

 (later transliterated to Guilherme da Silveira), brought administrators, tradesmen, settlers and other compatriots to settle on the island. This was a short-term colony, owing to a falling out between Van Huerter and van der Haegen, the latter abandoned the island, eventually settling on Flores. On October 15, 1484, Van Huerter was honored with a knighthood in the House of the Duke of Viseu.

He was married to Dona Beatriz de Macedo, daughter of Jerónimo Fernandes, the governess of the Infanta Beatrice, who bore him two children. Huerter'S son, Joss de Utra (who would become the second Captain-General of Faial), and daughter, Dona Joana de Macedo (who married Martin Behaim at the Santa Cruz chapel) were born on Faial. Joss de Utra would later marry Dona Isabel Corte Real, and Dona Joana would marry Martin Behaim (navigator/cartographer).

Van Huerter died in 1495 in Horta, and along with his wife (in 1531) would be buried in the Chapel of Santa Cruz, where today the Church of Nossa Senhora das Angústias is located.