Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Jessé de Forest 1570 ~ 1626

Having such deep Southern roots I was definitely interested to find an ancestor who is considered one of the founding father’s of New York, so much so there is a monument to him in Battery Park, New York City.

Jesse de Forest was born around 1576 in Avesnes, France to Jean de Forest and Anne Maillard.  He married Marie du Cloux on 23 September 1601. 
As was popular with many European Protestants at the time trying to escape persecution, Jesse wound up in Holland.

In Leiden, Holland, Jesse did pretty well for himself.  He was a very skilled dyer of fabric and as family history has it, especially black dye.  Evidently, dying fabric so that it actually stayed black after washing was a pretty specialized skill back in the day.  He served as lieutenant and Captain under Prince Maurice of Nassau who lead the Dutch rebellion against Spain.  Jesse was also thrown into the mix with many Pilgrim Fathers
(future passengers on the Mayflower).

Jesse wanted to bring a group of Walloon Huguenot families to the New World so he petitioned the English Ambassador at The Hague to establish a colony in Virginia.  The ambassador said, sure but wouldn’t allow Jesse’s group of Walloon families to settle together.

Not happy with that deal, Jesse petitioned and received permission from the Dutch East India Company to immigrate to the West Indies

Drawing of Jesse de Forest

In 1623 Jesse was off to the New World on a small ship called The Pigeon on a reconnaissance mission to the coast of Guyana mapping with his good friend, Johannes de la Montague some of the first maps of the Brazilian coast.  Things looked promising with vast lands good for tobacco plantations.  Unfortunately, Jesse died there, presumably of sun stroke while living with the Yaos Indians on the banks of the Oyapock River
 "our said Captain died, much regretted by the Christians and Indians who had taken a great liking to him."

The group of settlers Jesse had organized back in Holland arrived in New Amsterdam in 1624.  Jesse never made it to New Amsterdam himself but his daughter, Rachel, ended up marrying his old friend, Johannes de la Montague.  Rachel and Johannes, who arrived back in the new world on the ship called The Rennselaerswyck in 1637,  settled in New Amsterdam taking over her brother, Henry’s tobacco plantation, Vrendal (what is known today as the upper half of Central Park in New York City).

While Jesse de Forest may have never set foot in New York his efforts to grow the colony there grant him the Founding Father status.

Monument in Battery Park

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