Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Trinity Church on Dominie's Bowery

While living in New York City, I did a series of sketches of the 50 oldest churches in the five boroughs. Trinity Church on Broadway at Wall Street in the city was one of the first churches I sketched. It was built between 1839 and 1846.

It is the third church to stand at this location. The church received its charter from England's King William III in 1647. The first church on the site was destroyed by the great fire of 1776 set by British troupes occupying the city during the Revolutionary War. That fire created a furrow of devastation three quarters of a mile long.

The second church rising from the ashes in 1787 had to be torn down due to structural defects in its design. The present building was constructed of New Jersey limestone which became black over time from the city grime. Some people believe the grime helps protect the stonework.

The property around Trinity has Manhattan's oldest grave yard. Here can be found the graves of Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and Robert Fulton who created the steamboat.

Researching my family history recently, I found a personal connection to the property on which Trinity Church stands. My 10th great grandmother on my mothers side, Annetje Jans and her husband Roeloff Janssen were married in Amsterdam, Netherlands on in May of 1623. In 1630 they set sail on the ship Verity with three daughters from Texel, Marstadt, Netherlands arriving at New Amsterdam, the Dutch Colony on the tip of what is now Manhattan after 65 sickening days at sea.

The Dutch West India Company colonized the New World beginning in 1624 and the colonies encompassed the present day New York City, parts of Long Island, Connecticut, and New Jersey.  It was difficult to find people willing to settle in the New World and, to reward them for their sacrifice, they were granted land. Annetje and Roeloff once owned the land that Trinity Church now stands on.

In 1623, Dutch Governor, Walter Van Twiller first granted 62 acres of land to Annetje and her husband Roeloff Janessen in New Amsterdam, which became known as Dominie's Bowery. Roeloff began to build on the property and developed the fields with manure. He died at the tender age of 35 and Anntje then married the second minister of the colony, Reverend Everardus Bogardus in 1638. At the age of 47 he too died, leaving Annetje a widow with 8 children. In 1639, she rented Dominie's Bowery as a tobacco farm. Later another tenant grew corn and pumpkins. The rent collected helped sustain the family in the New World.

The 62 acre tract was again granted by Dutch Governor Petrus Stuyvesant in 1654 to widow Annetje Jans Bogardus. She had to leave New Amsterdam when she found her land was fenced outside the fortifications of the city during the "Indian troubles." A dutch settler had shot an Indian taking a peach from his tree and the ensuing war became known as the Peach War. She moved up the Hudson Valley to Beaverwyck, which would later be called Albany. 

Annetje died one year before the English invaded New Amsterdam and Petrus Stuyvesant surrendered the city to the British in 1664. The city was renamed New York City, after the Duke of York. After her death, the 62 acres of land were passed on to her children. The British invaders allowed the Dutch settlers to maintain all land rights. 

In 1670, some of Anntje's heirs sold the 62 acres to a Colonel Lovelace, then the Colonial Governor of York. He was known as an unscrupulous leader. He later had to surrender the land because of his debts to the Duke of York. The problem is, that not all of the heirs of Annetje agreed to the sale. In 1701, Queen Anne granted the land to Trinity Church Corporation. The authenticity of this "Queen's Grant" was also questioned. For over 50 years the heirs of Annetje battled the church over the land rights. 

There was a concerted movement on the part of certain lawyers to foster among the heirs the conviction that they had been the victims of a great wrong which might, in some way, be righted. No one won the case except the lawyers who charged the heirs top dollar to keep the case alive in perpetuity. A lawyer was still pressing the case in 1914. At that time, there were hundreds if not thousands of heirs of Annetje Bogardus. The court decided that he should no longer be permitted to prosecute such an enterprise under the guise of an attorney-at-law. He was, therefore, disbarred. 

A small sliver of the property was purchased by the City of New York from Trinity Church for $5 in 1705. It once belonged to Annetje Bogardus and became the first public park in New York City. Duane Park is a triangular gem of greenery among the concrete and glass canyons of lower Manhattan and a reminder of greener times.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at analogartistdigitalworld@gmail.com

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