Wilhelm Willink (sometimes Willem, Wilheim or Wilhem) (1750 – 1841) was a wealthy Amsterdam merchant, and one of the investors in the Holland Land Company, and the Louisiana Purchase. Wilhelm Willink had a summer estate on the Spaarne River, neighboring the estate villa Welgelegen of his associate Henry Hope.
In the 18th century it became fashionable for Dutch businessmen to invest in the young United States, and many were talked into investing in land there after John Adams signed the trade treaty with the Netherlands in 1782. Around 1790 there were reportedly thirteen investors in the Holland Land Company syndicate, who hoped to profit by buying a large tract of land in Western New York and northern Pennsylvania and reselling it to settlers and businessmen. The other Holland Land Company investors included: the merchants Pieter and Christiaan van Eeghen; Rutger Jan Schimmelpenninck, a lawyer and politician; Pieter Stadnitski; the brothers and bankers Jan, Roelof & Nicolaas van Staphorst; Hendrick Vollenhoven; Cornelius Vollenhoven; Hendrick Seye; Wilhelm Willink (the younger); Jan Willink; and Jan Willink (the younger). Robert Morris was involved in land dealings with the Holland Land Company.
The Town of Willink, along with the Town of Clarence, was taken to form Erie County in 1821. The Town of Willink was then dispersed by the formation of newer towns in Erie County (such as Concord, Eden, and Aurora). Some of the investor names appear on the Big Tree Treaty of 1804, by which the Iroquois sold off their rights to most of the land in the Holland Purchase.
The names of the investors were formerly given to locations in western New York, but they have since been replaced. Buffalo, New York itself was briefly called New Amsterdam. Stadnitski Avenue in Buffalo is now Church Street. Schimmelpenninck Avenue is now Niagara Street. Buffalo streets were also named after Willink and Van Staphorst. Their names appear as the original owners on most deeds for land in this part of New York.
The syndicate hired agents to perform the work of selling and improving their land. Their principal agent was Theophilus Cazenove, later succeeded by Paolo Busti. Others agents were Joseph Ellicott, Adam Gerard Mappa, Benjamin Ellicott, William Peacock, and Gerrit Boon.
In 1801 Willem and Jan Willink, merchants in Amsterdam, were enabled to purchase and hold real property in the town of Havre de Grace in Harford County. Ultimately, the syndicate earned only modest profit from the investment, but their funds greatly assisted the development of the United States.
- Kirby, C.D. (1976). The Early History of Gowanda and The Beautiful Land of the Cattaraugus. Gowanda, NY: Niagara Frontier Publishing Company, Inc./Gowanda Area Bi-Centennial Committee, Inc.
- Historical sketch of the Village of Gowanda, N.Y. in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of its incorporation, August 8, 1898. Buffalo, NY: The Matthews-Northrup Company, Leonard, I.R., Reprinted 1998, Salem, MA: Higginson Book Company.