Ep 6 – A Pirate Farm in Brooklyn – The Turk’s Plantation

In this episode of City Between – the podcast of New York History’s forgotten and mysterious corners – we go on a slightly Quixotic hunt in Brooklyn for a remanent of the farm of Anthony Jansen van Sale, New York’s first documented Muslim. This farm dates from 1639 and to make our journey 400 years into the past we follow old Indian and Colonial roads whose ghosts can be traced in the modern city. We begin in New Utrecht – once a Dutch Village – and head south in search of the farm.


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There is a lot of information out there about Anthony Jansen van Sale, but the most thorough is a history put together by one of his descendants named Brian Smith in 2013. It was indispensable for my account in this episode.

Damian and I begin our journey in New Utrecht. Here is an old map of the area under discussion from 1852, showing New Utrecht and Gravesend :

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We traveled south along the main road (now 18th Ave) from New Utrecht, then along the Bath and Coney Island Road (now Cropsey then Harway Ave) to this area around Jansen’s farm:

Screen Shot 2018-08-03 at 1.47.38 PM.png

Remembering that this map was made nearly 200 years after Jansen’s time, we can still see an area marked “12 Morgens” – this had been part of that farm. We can also see on this section of the map the Harway Basin that we discuss and the Mill Road running below it. One of the best accounts of the modern Mill Road is from the indomitable Forgotten New York.  They also have some great photos there.

Next using a map made closer to the 1879 discovery of the Jansen’s ruins (mentioned in Bergen’s history) we can see Mayor Gunther’s property with the mentioned buildings just below the “Bath & Coney” text. We can also see the Mill Road here which runs just below the tidal basin (the Harway) coming from the right of the map:


Here it is on a modern map:

And here is the 1879 map with the suspected site of the farm and the surviving modern day section of Mill Rd circled in red in three sets of overlays from old to new (oriented North):

First overlayOverlay 2Overlay 3




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25 replies »

  1. Very informative and well-researched. And timely as I am in Sale, Morocco researching Jan Jansen. Unsuccessful in my attempt to document Anthony’s birth when I was in Barcelona where the archives of the Kingdom of Aragon which holds the records from Cartagena last week; heading to El Escorial, North of Madrid, next week to see a Qur’an identical to the one Anthony owned.

    • Wow! How amazing you were in Sale – I can’t wait to learn about what more you find. It feels like that birth record must be somewhere – does this cast doubt on Cartagena for you?

      • Another way to get some idea of “Margarita’s” ancestry is to check for trace DNA indicating North African/Middle Eastern/Spanish ancestry in those who believe they are descended from her and Anthony. I’ve seen on MyHeritage that a DNA match named Emans and who probably is a descendant, does have some of this ancestry (maybe a little too much, though), including a bit of Jewish. I have trace amounts of DNA that 23andMe at first assigned as Sub-Saharan African, but recently revoked as that; perhaps it’s a trace of North African or something similar from Anthony, as it seems he and Grietje are my ancestors, also. I may know more in a short time, as my father just submitted his DNA to Ancestry, and his ancestors have lived in New Jersey going back to the 1600’s and include many Dutch families other than Jan Jansen’s.

        Also, a study of “Y” DNA from any living descendants from an unbroken male line from Jan Jansen van Haarlem or van Salee might be interesting (a project of such a thing could be set up on Family Tree DNA). There is such a project for “Swaim” Y-DNA, which is also Dutch, and did seem to have interesting results.

    • Brian –

      Thanks for posting your paper online. It’s a fascinating story. I’ve only recently discovered it, since until about a week ago I had no idea van Haarlem, Margarita, van Salee and Grietje were likely my ancestors. I have a couple DNA matches with them in their family trees, and many matches with Emans, Stillwell, and Morgan (who married into Sara van Salee’s line), so the connection is probably real.

      Bruce –

      Thanks for your posting, as well.

      • Anthony is so many generations back that I don’t think the dna science is helpful, at least not yet. It would take some sophisticated chromosome studying to get enough evidence if possible.

        Anthony is on my tree as a 9xGG. If I were able to identify them all, there could be as many as 1,024 distinct 9ggs on my tree. And if you received about of DNA from each descendent, then each of Anthony’s parents would be providing me with 1/20th of one percent of my DNA. Updates to my ancesty.com analysis of my DNA has also chopped out possible overlaps with spain or the netherlands. and another service always had me as 98% Irish, 2% english.

        the y-DNA track has potential with a big enough study. i participate in a Dalton study but few of us can trace back to common ancestor even 5 or 6 generations back.

    • I just started in your research that is linked to through this research. I look forward to reading it through. Thank you.

    • Dr . Smith, my wife’s family had the original Qur’an which was sold through a book dealer. They have always hoped that someone woud find it so that they could retreave the family history. Can you give us any more information on what you found as far as the Qur’an ? Thanks

      • Still looking. Traced it to a bookseller in Trenton, NJ where it was placed on consignment for sale; the asking price was $50.00 and you’re relative received $25.00 upfront with $25.00 due when it sold. Apparently, the bookseller died, and, without a name, I have not been able to identify him and look for his probate file which would, or could, provide the information needed to find out where it went from the Trenton shop circa 1875.

  2. Excellent work! I was thrilled to listen to this podcast.

    For the past couple months, I’ve undertaken online research as to exactly where my ancestors lived with the intention of making a tour of the locations. I haven’t succeeded with all of them and some have required multiple sources to develop my best guess.

    Imagine my joy to find that you’ve already done the work for my 9th great-grandfather. I appreciate it very much.

    You may be aware, but it seems that the 1655 home of his daughter Annica and her husband Thomas Southard seems to still be standing in Bellmore. For other researchers that may see this, I descend through a Spragg line to the Adams family.

    Thank you! I’ll be sure to start in on your other podcasts.

    • Thank you Peter! A fun follow-up might be the next episode, number 7 about the “Moorish Tower” of Coney Island. I’ll have to check out the Southard Bellmore house tip for sure.

      • your work on this subject inspired me in a new direction with my ancestors. I’ve been trying to identify the known or approximate locations of where they lived. As I have as many as 12 generations in the US and non of my direct ancestors left NY or New England, I’ve started to visit these locations. I am loading this on my ancestry.com so that hopefully other researchers can benefit from the work you inspired me to do.

  3. Thank you for Anthony’s story. It made me curious about the stories of three New Amsterdam ancestors of mine who were related by marriage: Jan Celes (John Sales)(1585-?), his daughter Phoebe (1626-1666), and Phoebe’s husband, Teunis Nyssen de Nyse, all immigrants. Jan was the notorious one, having arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony with the Winthrop fleet, but then proved to be desperate enough to turn to thievery. He and Phoebe disappeared from the colony records, appearing next in New Amsterdam. By 1638, Jan apparently turned his life around and was a landowner somewhere on lower Manhattan (a tract of land called “Old Jan’s Land;” there’s a puzzle to sort out).

    In 1640, Teunis married Phoebe at the Reformed Dutch Church in New Amsterdam. Teunis is said to have acquired and sold land in New Amsterdam throughout his life, and to have farmed in Gowanus. Teunis became a magistrate in Brooklyn at one point.

    I would enjoy hearing more about the New Amsterdam years to better understand the context of my ancestors’ lives.

    • So many intriguing stories from New Amsterdam! Gowanus was a kind of paradise then and I would like to find more on the area from this period too. Jan’s tale sounds interesting- where did you learn about it?

  4. Hello everyone.
    According to historical records my family AOUAD or AWAD, originating from the city of salee, used to practice piracy during the same period 16 & 17th centuries. I am curious to know if they have met, interacted or worked with the dutch VAN SALEE

  5. also Sale Rovers or Salle
    Rovers, were a dreaded band of Barbary
    corsairs in the 17th century. They formed the
    Republic of Salé on the Moroccan coast. The
    most famous of the rovers was Jan
    Janszoon, a Dutchman who had been a
    pirate for Holland in the Mediterranean. He
    “turned Turk” after being captured by one of
    the Moorish states in 1618 and became
    known as Admiral Murat Reis.(121131[4)

    • That information is incorrect. Jan Jansen converted to Islam prior to 1600, when he married a Muslim woman as his second wife; without converting he would have been killed for marrying a Muslim as would his wife. He was in Sallee many years before 1618.

      • it is good to know that my Salee ancestors have participated in the foundation of the mystical and famous city of New York

  6. While I still have not found any State document placing Antony’s birth in Cartagena the family library of his second wife, Morjana bint Abd er-Rahman al-Shâabi, which is held today by the al-Shâabi family in a small village in Southern Morocco, does state they married in Cartagena on 12 August 1600. I am in contact with a descendant of Morjana’s brother who lives in France. My research indicates that Morjana was the great-granddaughter of Emir Abd el-Malik of the Saadian dynasty; he ruled Morocco 1576-1578. Jan Jansen’s third wife was the daughter of the successor of Abd el-Malik, his brother al-Mansur, the greatest of the Saadian rulers. Under his rule Morocoo expanded greatly in size, eclipsing any European nation in size and wealth, and, as Caliph “of all-Islam” his rule was even greater. I am in the final steps of editing my book on the family and its history through North Africa & Iberia from the 7th to the 17th centuries. The Saadians were sharifian, that is to say, direct descendants of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).

  7. it is good to know that my Salee ancestors have participated in the foundation of the mystical and famous city of New York

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