EARLY ADMINISTRATION OF NEW AMSTERDAM
After the founding of New Amsterdam in 1791, it was governed by a Board of Police until 1844. Main Street was constructed in 1811 and one year later the Governor delegated a commission to plan and execute the construction of roads, bridges and a drainage system. By then the area of the town had expanded to 554 acres.
To manage the town, a Board of Management established in 1825 and in 1838 this became a Board of Policy. Further changes occurred in 1844 when the Board of Policy was dissolved and a Board of Superintendence was appointed by the central Government to manage the town's affairs.
This Board functioned as a Town Council and appointed a Receiver of Taxes, a Secretary, a Clerk of Markets, a Surveyor of Works and a Town Superintendent who was also the Inspector of Nuisances. However, the Board of Superintendence was not an independent entity since the Court of Policy had to authorise its annual budget and assessment of taxes.
Under the supervision of the Board of Superintendence, the Town Hall was constructed in 1868. A public hospital was built ten years later.
The Board members from time to time requested the central Government to establish an elected Town Council. These requests were denied every time they were made, but finally in 1891 the Government decided to establish a Town Council, and after its election, the Board of Superintendence was abolished.
The new Council was made up of seven members. Only those persons with properties in the town rated at a value of $1,000 could qualify to stand as a candidate for Council elections; voters had to own property valued $400.
The composition of the Council changed in 1916 when representatives of the Government were appointed to it. There were now nine members, six of whom were elected and three appointed by the Government. At the same time, any resident who had property rated at a value of $500 or paid $40 in rent for a house now also qualified to be a candidate for the Council. Property qualifications for a voter also dropped to $250 or if he paid a rent of $15 a month.
As the town grew commercial activity developed along the Strand, the street running parallel to the Berbice River, and along Pitt Street near to which a thriving market developed. Schools and churches were built and civic organisations made their appearance. A ferry service across the Berbice linking New Amsterdam and Rosignol also expanded over the years.
The town also faced a number of problems, among which was that of obtaining a regular supply of water for domestic use. At first water was obtained from a canal on its boundary with Plantation Smythfield and Plantation Vryheid. Efforts over a period of years to negotiate water rights through Plantation Vryheid, then a sugar estate, failed. But eventually the Council obtained permission from the Government to obtain water from a canal which connected to Calabash Creek, a tributary of the Canje River. The canal passed through Plantation Vryheid but the Government declared that it was located on Government property thus preventing the estate owners from making any objection. In 1915 mechanical pumps were purchased and residents began to receive water through pipes.