Dutch Days


According to one legend, Maiden Lane takes its name from three sisters whose father owned a farm where the lane meets the East River. Christine, Marie and Rachel Vigne came with their parents on the first ship of settlers in 1624. Originally the families split into three groups up the Hudson River, down on the Delaware and east on the Connecticut. Within two years, the settlements had consolidated on Manhattan and the girls' parents Guillam Vigne and Adrienne Cuvelier had planted the farm.

Christine was eldest, about fourteen when she sailed to America, and she bore eight children. Maria was second, about eleven, and was the grandmother of Franklin Roosevelt by her first husband. Rachel was but a year old when she arrived on the Hudson.

The family arguably chose poorly when it came to marriage. The widowed mother Adrienne married Jan Damen, who took over her first husband's farm. Widowed Marie took Abraham Verplanck as her second husband. Rachel wed the philandering scoundrel Cornelis van Tienhoven, Secretary of the colony under two Directors. The three husbands were involved in one of the most notorious acts during the forty years of Dutch rule, an act that got underway during a dinner on Maiden Lane.

On Shrove Tuesday in February, 1643, Damen hosted the dinner for his in-laws, Director Kieft and another man indebted to him, Maryn Adriaensen. The party plotted a massacre of the Weckquasgeek Indians, who were encamped along the East River and on the western shore of the Hudson, ostensibly under the protection of the Dutch.

The town had been trying to restrain Kieft's fury at the Indians over the killing of a tavernkeeper several months before. But Kieft was determined. At the dinner, he had Damen, Verplanck and Adriaensen sign a petition from "the whole of the freemen" begging authority to attack the Indians. Kieft commissioned Adriaensen to lead the attack.

A few nights later, the attack began. David de Vries, a ship's captain and patroon, described the carnage: "Infants were torn from their mothers' breasts and hacked to pieces ... other sucklings, being bound to small boards, were cut, stuck and pierced, and ... thrown into the river ... When the fathers and mothers endeavored to save them, the soldiers ... made both parents and children drown."

The ensuing war lasted over two years.

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