By the mid-1800s, almost 200 years after her death, Anneke Jans Bogardus was one of Albany’s most famous people, having been the subject of many books, newspaper and magazine articles. The popular story was that Anneke was a daughter of William the Silent, who was later crowned King William I of Holland.
Nineteenth-century rumor had it that unbeknownst to Anneke, her father had left a large fortune to her and her sister and that her heirs should undertake legal action to claim it. Another rumor was that Anneke had owned a large portion of Manhattan Island worth billions that had been illegally deeded to Trinity Church and should be reclaimed. There was some truth to the story.
Anneke Jans was born in 1605 in Flekkeroy, a village on an island off the coast of Norway. In 1623, at the age of 18, she married 21-year-old Roelof Janszen, a seaman from Marstrand, Norway, now part of Sweden. Neither Anneke nor Roelof could read or write. Roelof signed his name with a capital R, while Anneke used the + sign for her signature. This created considerable confusion as their names were spelled many different ways over their lifetimes.
Anneke and Roelof had three children born in Holland: Lijntje, Sara and Trijntje. Lijntje, the oldest, died in Amsterdam in 1629.
In the late 1620s, the Dutch West India Company was trying to attract settlers to their colony of New Netherland. On June 7th, 1629, the rules for settlement were relaxed and, on November 29th, a member of the Dutch West India Company, Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, declared that he was ready to establish a colony. Van Rensselaer committed to develop a colony near the juncture of the North River (Hudson River) with the westerly flowing Mohawk River. His colony would come to be known as “Rensselaerswyck” or “Place of the Rensselaers.”
Van Rensselaer searched for qualified tradesmen and farmers and hired the ship de Eendracht (The Unity) to bring settlers to his colony near Fort Orange (now Albany, NY). When the ship arrived in New Amsterdam (now New York City) on May 24th, 1630, on board were passengers Anneke and Roelof and their two children and probably her mother and sister, who appeared in local records shortly thereafter.
Roelof was paid the equivalent of $72 per year as a farmer at Rensselaerswyck at the de Laets Burg farm on the east side of the Hudson River across from Mill Creek (today’s Norman’s Kill). Within a short time, he was also appointed schepen (municipal officer or alderman) though there is no record of him being sworn in or ever serving. Roelof farmed the de Laets Burg farm for four years, during which time he and Anneke had two more children, daughter Sijtje and son Jan.
During their stay at Rensselaerswyck, the children were in almost daily contact with the local Indigenous People and became conversant in their language. (Thirty years later in 1664, daughter Sara, then Sara Roelofs Kierstede would be Director General Peter Stuyvesant’s translator in negotiations with the Esopus.)
In April 1634, probably having paid off his employment contract with Van Rensselaer, Roelof and the family moved to New Amsterdam where Roelof farmed one of the company bouweries (farms). In 1636, he received a grant from Director General Wouter Van Twiller for a bouwerie of his own consisting of 31 mortgens (62 acres) of land on Manhattan Island bounded by today’s Warren Street on the south, Desbrosses Street on the north, Broadway on the east and the Hudson River on the west. That same year, Roelof and Anneke had their sixth child, a daughter named Annatje.
By 1637, Roelof had the farm partially cleared and a small house built, but the land was not proving to be the best for growing crops and the family was struggling. Anneke’s mother had taken a position as the official midwife of the city of New Amsterdam. Then sometime that year Roelof suddenly died leaving Anneke a widow with five children. At the time of his death Roelof was owed 217 guilders by the West India Company, but Anneke was having trouble collecting.
Everhardus Bogardus was born in Veenendaal, Utrecht. He was the son of Willem Jansz Bogaert. In September 1622, he attended Latin grammar school and then Lyden University in 1627. He was granted a scholarship to attend the Theological College there in 1629.
In 1630, he graduated from the college and began his missionary work; he was sent to the African colony of Guinea (now Ghana) to work with the sick. On June 14th, 1632, he was ordained a minister, and in 1633 he was sent aboard the ship de Soutberg to the Dutch colony of New Netherland to replace Jonas Michaelis as the second ordained dominie (minister) of the Dutch Church in New Amsterdam.
In March, 1638, Dominie Everhardus Bogardus married the widow Anneke Jans. They lived at what is now 23 Whitehall Street near the old fort in New Amsterdam. In addition to the 62 acres of land Anneke owned, Bogardus owned another 84-acre farm on the Long Island shore near the Hellgate, bordering on the East River. Anneke’s farm became popularly known as “Dominie’s Bouwerie,” and the 84-acre-parcel was known as “Dominie’s Hook.” (Many years later the Dominie’s Bouwerie section of Manhattan would still be known as The Bowery.”
After their marriage, Bogardus attempted to collect the money for Anneke that Director General Wouter van Twiller owed to her deceased husband. Three times she gave Bogardus powers of attorney to pursue matters for her. One of the documents mentions: “to collect from the honorable directors of the Chartered West India Company, the sum of two hundred and seventeen guilders, earned by the late Roelof Janszen.” Apparently van Twiller was responsible for this non-payment. This led to several heated arguments between Bogardus and van Twiller.
Bogardus served 14 years as the dominie, frequently at odds with Director General van Twiller and later van Twiller’s successor, William Kieft. Both van Twiller and Kieft were later described as arrogant and incompetent.
Possibly as a result of his battles with the director general, Bogardus and Anneke Jans were involved in two legal actions. In one, Anneke was walking past the front of the local blacksmith shop where several male burghers were lounging, smoking their pipes and probably enjoying a stein of liquid refreshment. Comments were made and exchanged between Anneke, who was known to have an abrasive personality, and the lounging burghers. There is no record of exactly what happened but the result was that Anneke was arrested and charged with indecent exposure for lifting her skirt in front of the blacksmith shop.
Since the burghers filed the charges against her, it is probably safe to assume that the encounter was not a friendly one. From the description of the incident, a reader today might guess that after an exchange of sarcastic and possibly ribald comments, she “mooned” them. Her defense was that she merely lifted her skirts to keep them out of the filth in the street. This defense was accepted.
In the other case, Jacob Govertsen had given Anneke some dress goods, but he apparently died before he paid the weaver for them. Marin Anderson, the weaver of the cloth, asked Anneke to return the goods since Govertsen had not paid her for them. Anneke refused. This resulted in a lawsuit against Bogardus brought by Anderson. The court’s decision was to deduct the payment from the estate of Govertsen.
Bogardus and Anneke had four sons Willem, Cornelis, Jonas and Pieter, bringing Anneke’s children to ten; nine living.
In 1639, the bouwerie was described as recently cleared and fenced land with a tobacco house. It was considered mediocre farmland with a swamp and chalky hill. The farm was leased out to tenants and a series of leases mentioned improvements that would be required of the tenant such as “use all possible diligence to clear the land,” “put a new roof on the … house,” and “fence and keep tight the land.”
By 1647, Bogardus and William Kieft were at war with each other. Dominie Bogardus was castigating Kieft from the pulpit every Sunday. Kieft, in turn, chose Sunday mornings to have his troops drill outside the church with drums beating, trumpets blaring and cannons firing.
Due to Kieft’s position as director general and Bogardus’ position as dominie, they were the two most powerful people in the colony. Neither had any real control over the other and the situation was getting out of control. Both were flooding the authorities back in Amsterdam with complaints about the other.
Finally, Bogardus and Kieft agreed to have their charges and counter-charges against each other heard by the Classis of Amsterdam. Bogardus also took another claim with him, this one from Anneke’s mother, who had served as midwife of the colony until her death. The claim was for 254 guilders, 2 stivers and 8 pennies that she had not been paid. It seems that the directors general of New Amsterdam felt that if someone died that they owed money, the debt was cancelled.
Bogardus and Kieft boarded the ship De Princesse sailing from New Amsterdam on August 17th, 1647. As the ship passed to the north of England on September 27, it hit a violent storm in the Bristol Channel and sank. Both men were drowned.
Widowed for the second time, 42-year-old Anneke was left with nine children and a considerable amount of land, two farms and her home near the fort at 23 Whitehall Street. The next year, Anneke and probably her six youngest children, moved to Oranje, the settlement adjacent to Fort Orange, to live with or near her fourth daughter, 17-year-old Sijtje, who was married to Pieter Hartgers. Pieter Hartgers was a close associate of the patroon and a wealthy merchant and brewer. He traded with the Indians and other residents and people passing through Oranje. In 1652, Director General Pieter Stuyvesant renamed the village of Oranje: the village of “Beverwyck.”
On April 23rd, 1652, Anneke received a patent to a lot in the village of Beverwyck on the northeast corner of Yonkers (State Street) and Middle Lane (James Street) for which Pieter Hartgers agreed to pay an annual ground rent of four beavers and on which, Hartgers built her a house. Anneke’s house was noted as having a wildenhuysje and a bleach field at the rear. (Many homes in Beverwyck had a disconnected small building called a wildenhuysie suspected to be an outhouse.)
Pieter Hartgers also bought a house on the North River (Hudson) from Sijtje’s brother, Jan Roelofsz, a Beverwyck carpenter, and rented another house to Cornelis Bogardus, Sijtje’s halfbrother. Jan Roelofsz, together with Stoffel Jansz, built the old Dutch “blockhouse” church in the intersection of Yonkers and Handelaers Streets (State Street and Broadway).
Anneke seems to have lived comfortably in Beverwyck. As her children married, she gave each of them a bed and a milch cow to get started.
Another indication of Anneke’s abrasive personality appears in an entry in the February 2, 1655, Fort Orange court minutes. The entry indicates that Claes Gerritsz was summoned to appear before the court and tell the court who was responsible for nicknaming Mother Bogardus’ house “de Gierswerelt” or “The Vulture World.” Gerritsz testified that he heard that Cornelis Vos was responsible for the name. Claes Gerritsz was, however, known for nicknaming homes, usually with a negative or comical connotation. He had named Philip Pietersz Schuyler’s (the first Schuyler in America) house “Flying Wind” (Philip Pietersz may have been noted for eating too many hard to digest vegetables or drinking too much beer) and Pieter Hartger’s house “The Little Sparrow House.”
In 1659, Anneke’s daughter Sijtje died and Pieter Hartgers and his eight and ten-year-old daughters moved back to Holland, but he remained involved in Beverwyck business. When Hartgers left Beverwyck, he sold a lot to Johannes van Brugh, his brother-in-law and third husband of Trijntje Roelofs, another of Anneke’s daughters.
In 1663, Anneke died at the age of 58 having lived in Beverwyck for 16 years. [The next year the English would seize Beverwyck from the Dutch and rename it “Albany.”]
In her will, Anneke designated that her estate be divided among her seven surviving children and the two daughters of deceased daughter Sijtje. The unmarried ones were to receive a bed and milch cow, as well as their portion of the estate. She also directed that her first four children by Roelof Janszen receive one thousand guilders each from the anticipated sale of the 62-acre Dominie’s Bouwerie in Manhattan before any other division of the estate.
To Jonas and Pieter Bogardus, she left a house immediately west of hers in Beverwyck, probably where they were living. She also directed that each of her other four grandchildren receive a silver mug. (About 35 years later a nearly destitute widow, Ryseck Swart, would pawn a silver mug with the inscription “Rachel Hartgers” for board and drink.)
In 1663, Anneke Jans Bogardus’ heirs sold her Beverwyck home to Dirck Wessels Ten Broeck (great grandfather of General Abraham Ten Broeck) for “one thousand guilders, payable in good and whole merchantable beaver skins, at eight guilders apiece in three installments.” In 1664, Anneke’s son Cornelius Bogardus, a successful Beverwyck gunstock maker and next-door neighbor of Philip Pietersz Schuyler died.
Eight years later, in 1671, Anneke’s heirs sold her 62-acre Manhattan Dominie’s Bouwerie to English official Right Honorable Colonel Francis Lovelace for “a valuable consideration.” However neither Cornelius Bogardus, who had died, nor his heirs, participated in the sale.
Lovelace’s purchase was combined with other purchases and was renamed the Duke’s Farm, later the King’s Farm and finally the Queen’s Farm. It now expanded south to the tip of Manhattan.
Lovelace however, was recalled by the British officials for mismanagement and was brought back to England in disgrace. His lands in America were confiscated by Governor Edmund Andros and turned over to the Crown. In 1697, this land was leased to Trinity Church for 60 bushels of wheat. In 1705, Queen Anne granted the land to Trinity Church. The Trinity Church building was built on the southernmost tip of the land at Broadway and Wall Street (not on the Dominie’s Bouwerie portion). The Trinity Church graveyard would later include Alexander Hamilton and Robert Fulton.
By 1750, the northward expansion of New York City finally reached the Bouwerie, and the land increased substantially in value. By 1800, the swamp had been drained and commercial buildings were built on it making it probably the most valuable land in the United States.
Starting about 1830, litigation began that would continue for well over 100 years. That year, John Bogardus, a descendant of Anneke’s son Cornelius, mounted a significant legal attack to recover part of the 62-acre Dominie’s Bouwerie. Neither Cornelius nor his descendants had participated in the sale. His lawsuit failed, but the complicated decision ran 130 pages.
In the 1850s, another Cornelius Bogardus, the great grandson of Anneke’s son Cornelius, mounted a second challenge. He took possession of a house on the farm and built a fence around it. Trinity Church hired some men to remove him from the house and burn the fence. He then retaliated by burning some of the church’s fence.
Over the next several years there were reports of: crops destroyed; five men wounded with bird shot; an old woman was kicked in the eye; Hannah Marsh, a woman of 63 “came close to having her head dipped in a pail of grog;” and one of Anneke’s heirs in possession of the house, a Mrs. Broad, tried to dump scalding water on the heads of men who came to her front door. This second suit was another failure. However, the notoriety of the case and the huge amount of money at stake gave rise to many subsequent lawsuits.
Many unscrupulous lawyers were seeking out Anneke Jans’ descendents with promises of success if the descendant would fund, or help fund, further legal action. Millions of dollars were spent on frivolous litigation. New, but false, branches of the family were appearing with new heirs joining the litigation. At this time, the story appeared that Anneke Jans was a descendant of King William I of Holland and that he had left a large fund for her and her sister but was never proven.
Well into the 1900s, Anneke Jans litigation continued in New York; none was successful.
Anneke Jans’ funeral was held at the Old Dutch Church (built by her son Jan Roelofsz) in the middle of the intersection of Albany’s Jonker and Handelaers Streets and she was entombed in the crypts built under the church. When that church was torn down, the remains from the crypt under the church were moved to the Middle Dutch Church on Hudson Ave. The remains from the Old Dutch Church were placed beneath the bell tower in the new church.
The following notation is inscribed on the Edward Charles Dudley monument at the Albany Rural Cemetery:
“Under the Middle Dutch Church in Hudson Street are deposited the remains of our Ancestors taken from the Old Church in State Street. Among them are those of Anneke Jantz Bogardus, Jan Jansen Bleecker, & Rutger Jacobson who laid the corner stone of the old church above named in 1656. Jan Jansen Bleecker came from Meppel, Province of Overmesel, Holland to America A.D. 1658, married Margaret daughter of Rutger Jacobson and Granddaughter of Anneke Jantz Bogardus 1667. [He was] mayor of Albany 1700.”
When the Middle Dutch Church was closed in 1881, all the remains from the crypt under the tower were moved to Albany Rural Cemetery’s Church Ground section. However cemetery records seem to indicate that Blandina Bleecker Dudley, Edward Charles Dudley’s widow, may have moved her ancestors to the Dudley family plot (lot 1, section 61). If Anneke was not moved to the Dudley family plot, she would have been removed to the Church Ground Section with the other remains from the Middle Dutch Church.
Illustrations, from above: A redraft of the 1660 Castello Plan map of New Amsterdam, drawn in 1916; a portrait believed to be Anneke Jans Bogardus; Dominie Everardus Bogardus portrait; Parts of the land holdings of Annetje and the minister Bogardus; Anneke Jantz Bogardus memorial at Albany Rural Cemetery.