||After her first husband died in 1632, my 11 x great grandmother,
Ariaentje Cuvilje Vigne, who gave birth
to Jan Vigne, the first European male child born in Manhattan, married Jan Jansen Damen. He was the
first owner of the World Trade Center site owning 70% of the land above the water. He got the land grant on April 25, 1644.
When he died childless in 1651, Ariaentje was his sole heir and became the second owner of Ground Zero.
||The maps show their land in red. It was on both sides of Broadway north of Wall Street stretching from the Hudson almost
to the East River. Their land, comprising over 20 square blocks, was the site for AT&T's original Headquarters,
Federal Hall, the Federal Reserve Bank and several major skyscrapers. The bottom map is from the "Iconography of
Manhattan Island" (Vol. 6, page 64i). Compare these maps [red area] to a map [shaded area] of New Amsterdam in 1660.
On September 10, 2004, the New England Historic Genealogical
Society, the oldest genealogical society in America, published this article in their
eNews Vol. 6, No. 37 commemorating
the third anniversary of the terrorist attack on America.
The First Owners of the World Trade Center Site
By Don Parrish of Downers Grove, Illinois
On April 25, 1644, Jan Jansen Damen, a prominent leader of the Dutch colony,
received a land grant in lower Manhattan from Wall Street north to Fulton
Street and from the Hudson River to almost the East River. In today's terms
it is more than twenty square blocks. Jan owned about seventy percent of
the World Trade Center site above the water (Greenwich was the shoreline
then) and the West India Company owned the rest. This is documented in
Iconography of Manhattan Island (vol. 6, pp. 86, 64i [map]). See a map of
the site and additional references online at:
My eleven times great grandparents, Ariaentje Cuvilje and Guleyn Vigne, were
Walloons who fled religious persecution in Valenciennes, which was then in
the Spanish Netherlands and today a city in France. They arrived in Leiden
in 1618 when this tolerant Dutch city was also giving refuge to the
Pilgrims. The Vignes sailed to New Amsterdam in the spring of 1624 on the
Eendracht or Nieuw Nederland, the first two ships with colonists. Their son,
Jan Vigne, was the first male child born in Manhattan. Their descendants
include Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt,
and Thomas Edison.
After Guleyn died in 1632, Ariaentje married Jan Jansen Damen who was about
twenty years her junior. This marriage consolidated their adjacent land
holdings that are worth billions today. Ariaentje was called the "Matriarch
of New Amsterdam." An article by that title appeared in the National
Genealogical Society Quarterly, 35:65-69 . It even describes the
incident after a preemptive battle against the Indians when she "amused
herself in kicking about the heads of the dead" [Indians]. When Jan died
childless in 1651, Ariaentje, as his heir, became the second owner of Ground
Zero. She died in 1655.
Now three years after the terrible attack of September 11, 2001,
construction has begun anew on this hallowed ground. Many surprising and
amazing things have occurred on the Twin Towers site since the Damen land
grant. A June 2004 article by Eric Lipton, a New York Times reporter,
surveying three and a half centuries of Ground Zero history is online at:
(registration and fee to view required).
Here is an example of what can be found in the court record on Jan Jansen Damen.
This minor entry gives a good insight into his
character and to the culture of the early Dutch colony. There are only a few hundred
people in Manhattan in 1640. Life is tenuous, but still remarkably organized. In spite of the passage of over 360 years
and being translated, the economy of language of this declaration retains its fundamental moral force.
A child has been orphaned, and Jan Jansen Damen and David Provoost pledge to the court to be his guardians.
"We the undersigned, David Provoost and Jan Jansen Damen, chosen this day guardians of Jan van Vorst,
promise as honest and honorable men that we shall administer and dispose of the means, effects and patrimony of the
aforesaid Jan van Vorst as faithful and upright guardians are bound to do with property of orphans. Furthermore,
that we shall use our diligence to collect all debts and claims which the aforesaid Jan van Vorst may have elsewhere;
that, as guardians, we shall earnestly take the same in hand and prosecute and argue his case before all courts, judges
and justices to final determination, whether as plaintiffs or defendants. For which we bind our persons and property,
movable and immovable, present and future, without any exception. Done this 27th of January 1640.
Jan Jansen Damen"