Anthony Janszoon van Salee

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Van Salee was the first grantee of Conyne Eylandt (Coney Island), pictured here from space[1]

Anthony Janszoon van Salee (1607–1676) was the son of Jan Janszoon, a Dutch pirate who led the Republic of Salé, a pirate state in modern Morocco. He was an original settler of and prominent landholder, merchant, and creditor in New Netherlands. Van Salee may have been the first Muslim in the New World.[2][3][4] However, this claim ignores the fact that some Muslim slaves were brought to the Americas by the Spanish as early as 1528. A Qur'an said to have belonged to him was eventually auctioned in the following centuries,[2] having passed through a descendant, Robert Bayles, a one-time President of The Market and Fulton National Bank of New York.[5]


1736 Herman Moll map, Cartagena in red

Anthony was Jan Janszoon's fourth child, born in 1607 in Cartagena, Spain,[6] from his second wife. In 1624, Anthony was in Salé, Morocco with his father, leaving in 1627 for Algiers with his family.[1] Van Salee was living near the harbor in Amsterdam when he obtained a marriage license on December 15, 1629 to marry 27-year-old German-native Grietse Reyniers two days before his ship to the New World left.[6] In 1630, at the age of 22,[6] he had immigrated to New Netherlands, along with his bride, as a colonist of the Dutch West India Company.[5]

It is speculated that Anthony's father had provided him a considerable fortune, and by 1639 he was one of the largest landholders on the island, as well as a prosperous farmer.[7] The relationship with his father after arriving in the New Amsterdam is unclear.

One of Van Salee's first properties was a farm on the island of Manhattan acquired in 1638 which was named "Wallenstein", titled in memory of Albrecht von Wallenstein.[8] Becoming one of the original settlers of the area, the plat was located on the north side of the stockade along present-day Wall St. The bouwery was surveyed from Broadway to the East River between Ann Street and Maiden Lane. He transferred the deed the following year.[8]

Following numerous legal disputes, including with the church,[5] Anthony was ordered to leave New Netherland, but on appeal to the Dutch West India Company, was allowed to settle on 200 acres (0.81 km2) in what would become New Utrecht and Gravesend, Brooklyn. This made him now one of the largest and most prominent landholders on Long Island. In 1643 he purchased a house on Bridge Street in New Amsterdam, in defiance of the court order restricting such. He would go onto become a successful merchant and creditor in New Amsterdam, while owning several properties throughout the region.[7]

Social legacy[edit]

Anthony was reportedly a defender of minorities in the colony[3] and disliked by many in the colony. Neighbors called him "A Turk, a rascal, and a horned beast." He was engaged in many legal disputes, from his dog attacking the hog of a black townsman, Anthony the Portuguese, to pointing loaded pistols at slave overseers from the Dutch West India Company.[3][9] The first grantee of Conyne Eylandt (Coney Island), he helped found many Long Island settlements, including New Utrecht, Gravesend, and in 1660 Boswijck along with 23 settlers which included Franciscus the Negro, a former slave who had won his freedom.[10] Religiously he read his Qur'an frequently,[11][citation needed] petitioned for Christian missionaries,[clarification needed] and was fined for housing an English Quaker once at his home on Bridge Street who was to repair a Dutch church.[12] He was the neighbor of Lady Deborah Moody, with whom he was on good terms,[12] although he had disputes with her husband Sir Henry who filed speech charges against him.[13]

Marriage to Grietse Reyniers[edit]

He married Grietse Reyniers,[14] a scandalous woman from the Netherlands who was previously the mistress of Wouter van Twiller.[14] She had encountered him while an employee of the tavern belonging to Pieter de Winter.[9] Grietse is considered a legend of American colonial history because of her wild, sexual ways. She is dubbed the first Manhattan "lady of the night" by some accounts,[15] while others have called her the "Carrie Bradshaw" of colonial Manhattan.[16] She is quoted as having once said "I have long been the whore of the nobility. From now on I shall be the whore of the rabble."[9][14] She was known to have measured the penises of bar patrons with a broom stick.[14]

Between 1638-1639, the couple accounted for 10% of the crime rate in the colony, or 15 of 93 cases. During this period the Dutch legal system was heavily invested in quarrels, and the cases included actions of petty slander from the likes of Anneke and Domine Bogardus after Grietse accused of them of lying, Grietse mooning the naval fleet, and Anthony's drunkenness.[12]

Grietse died in 1669, and Anthony married Metje Grevenraet,[17] before dying in 1676 after passing his final years at his home on Bridge Street. Metje was a Quaker who helped Anthony tolerate the church.[12]

He had four daughters with Reyniers who married into respectable colonial commercial families:[9]

  • Eva Antonis, who married Ferdinandus van Sycklin, an original immigrant to New Netherlands for whom Van Siclen Avenue in Brooklyn is named for.[18] He was a descendant of a crusader and banker named Simon van der Sicklen, whose family possessed the domain of Nazareth, Belgium during the medieval ages and founded the town of Seclin, now in France. The family's original surname was de la Faucille.[1][19][20]
  • Cornelia, who married William Johnson[17]
  • Annica, who married Thomas Southard. Annica and Thomas's daughter Abigail was the great-great-grandmother of Cornelius Vanderbilt[21]
  • Sara, who married John Emans.[22] They are fifth great-grandparents of Warren G. Harding.[23]


Anthony's physical appearance and race is the subject of much debate, and like his mother, the consensus was that he was of a mixed-ethnic background. He was incredibly tall with superior strength. Van Salee has been described many ways, with some calling him a "semi-Dutchman"[24] of "tawny" complexion,[25] erecting the first "European" house in New Utrecht.[26] Other descriptions have said he was a "former black slave"[27] who was a "mulatto";[7] others include "half-Moroccan",[28] "Turk",[29] "Berber",[30] and "swarthy".

Anthony was very wealthy and had made many enemies, while falsely being attributed to certain history written well after his death. Anthony's appearance is consistently used in court documentation alongside his name with the phrase "Turk", indicating his appearance and/or lifestyle was a main emphasis for documentarians and historians during that period.[31][32][33] Janszoon was not a "free black", claimed in 2008, and "former black slave", as claimed in 2001,[27] because he was the wealthy heir of a former head of state. Janszoon was considered "European" enough to be credited, in 1643, for building the first "European" settlement in New Utrecht,[26] while even historic Southern African-centric collections cannot determine what his actual appearance, race, or origin was.[7] He had four daughters who married into respectable, colonial New Amsterdam families of European origin.[7]

Notable descendants[edit]

Anthony's notable descendants include the Vanderbilt dynasty in the United States and Europe[21] and Warren G. Harding.[34]


  1. ^ a b c "The University magazine, Volume 8", Harvard University. 1898. p. 372
  2. ^ a b "The Van Salee Family", PBS. Accessed September 10, 2011
  3. ^ a b c "Anthony van Salee, the Turk", Bill Greer. 2009. Accessed 10 september 2011
  4. ^ "Muslims in Early America", Long Island Genealogy. Accessed September 10, 2011
  5. ^ a b c GhaneaBassiri, Kambiz (2010). Islam in America: From the New World to the New World Order. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge university Press. pp. 9–14. ISBN 978-0-521-61487-0. 
  6. ^ a b c "Fulfilling God's mission: the two worlds of Dominie Everardus Bogardus, 1607-1647", Willem Frijhoff, Myra Heerspink Scholz. BRILL, 2007. ISBN 978-90-04-16211-2. p. 461
  7. ^ a b c d e Gomez, Michael Angelo (2005). "Muslims in New York". Black crescent: the experience and legacy of African Muslims in the Americas. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. 128–42. ISBN 978-0-521-84095-8. 
  8. ^ a b "New Amsterdam and its people: studies, social and topographical, of the town under Dutch and early English rule", John H. Innes. C.Scribner's sons, 1902. p. 312-313
  9. ^ a b c d "The island at the center of the world: the epic story of Dutch Manhattan and the forgotten colony that shaped America", Russell Shorto. Random House Digital, Inc., 2005. ISBN 1-4000-7867-9, ISBN 978-1-4000-7867-7. p. 85-86, 299
  10. ^ "Root & branch: African Americans in New York & east Jersey, 1613-1863", Graham Russell Hodges. UNC Press Books, 1999. ISBN 0-8078-4778-X, 9780807847787. p. 35
  11. ^ Portrait of New Netherland. Ellis Lawrence Raesly. Columbia university press, 1945. p. 149
  12. ^ a b c d "Pirate utopias: Moorish corsairs & European Renegadoes", Peter Lamborn Wilson. Autonomedia, 2003. ISBN 1-57027-158-5, ISBN 978-1-57027-158-8. p. 206-211
  13. ^ Historical and genealogical miscellany: date relating to the settlement and settlers of New York and New Jersey, Volume 5, John Edwin Stillwell. Genealogical Pub. Co., 1970. p. 223
  14. ^ a b c d "New York's First Whore", Bill Greer. 2009. Accessed 9 september 2011
  15. ^ "New York History", World 66, Retrieved 1 oct 2009.[unreliable source?]
  16. ^ "Sex and the City", Bill Greer, Retrieved 1 oct 2009.
  17. ^ a b The Washington ancestry, and records of the McClain, Johnson, and forty other colonial American families: prepared for Edward Lee McClain, Volume 3. Charles Arthur Hoppin, Edward Lee McClain. 1932. p. 86
  18. ^ "American Ancestry: Embracing lineages from the whole of the United States", Thomas Patrick Hughes, Frank Munsell. 1888. p. 56
  19. ^ "Van Siclen = VanSicklen, Van Sickle", CHRISTINE GHESQUIRE. August 10, 2005. Accessed 6 october 2011
  20. ^ "Van der Zickels of Ghent", Barbara Van Sickle Spatz. 22 October 2000. Accessed 6 october 2011
  21. ^ a b Nexus: the bimonthly newsletter of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, Volumes 13-16. New England Historic Genealogical Society. 1996. p. 21-23
  22. ^ Leaves from the tree, an American heritage: a history of the ancestral families of Robert Bone Hutchinson and Jack Thomas Hutchinson. Jack Thomas Hutchinson. Anundsen Pub. Co., 1989. p. 295
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Better Prospects", History of the city of New York, p. 161, Retrieved 30 sept 2009.
  25. ^ "From Creole to African", The Slavery Reader, p. 455, Retrieved 30 sept 2009.
  26. ^ a b "Was Anthony Jansen van Salee a Huguenot?", The Historical Magazine, p. 172, Retrieved 30 sept 2009.
  27. ^ a b "Founding and Settlement", Gravesend: The Home of Coney Island, p. 26, Retrieved 30 sept 2009.
  28. ^ "The Gentenaars of Nieuw Nederland", Flanders House, Retrieved 30 sept 2009.
  29. ^ "Historical Magazine", The Historical Magazine, p. 173, Retrieved 30 sept 2009.
  30. ^ "Black Crescent", Black Crescent: the experiences and legacy of African Muslims, p. 182, Retrieved 30 sept 2009.
  31. ^ "Etchings", The Century Illustrated monthly magazine, p. 776, Retrieved 30 sept 2009.
  32. ^ "Historical Magazine", The Historical Magazine, p. 173, Retrieved 30 sept 2009.
  33. ^ "The De Rapaljes", The Ancestry of Leander Howard Crall, p. 279, Retrieved 30 sept 2009.
  34. ^