A Slave Burial Ground in Gowanus, Brooklyn?

Van-Brunt Homestead

A painting by James Ryder Van Brunt – Grandson of the Cornelius Van Brunt, who bought the farm in 1796. It likely took up four modern street blocks from 8th to 11th Street.

Civil activist groups are at odds with the City over the preservation of what could be a slave burial ground at 9th Street and 3rd Ave. in Gowanus. Since 2015, the City had wanted to build a pre-Kindergarten on the empty lot, but the Preservationists desire more research be done on the land before that happens. Recent Archeological digs haven’t found any remains or artifacts, but there’s still the possibility. According to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams – “…it is imperative that New York stands for preserving history and protecting the truth.”

Read the ongoing story here at the New York Times and here at the New York Daily News.

The Van Brunt family were Pioneers of Brooklyn, prominent farmers, but also slave-owners who lived at the location in the 19th century. A detailed diary, written by Adriance Van Brunt, noted that slaves were buried on the land.

“Buried old Mr. Bennet Aged 80,” Van Brunt wrote in September 1828. “Also a Black woman.” The following month, he wrote: “Buried Oct. 1 Nancy (Black girl) aged about 12 years.”

In 1846, members of the Van Brunt family were disinterred from the land and buried in Green-Wood Cemetery, the family continued on the Gowanus farm until 1867. The slaves’ final resting place, however, remains a mystery. There’s no longer a “well wooded” section on this plot of land and most likely the graves were unmarked.

The full diary can be accessed with advance notice through the New York Public Library’s archive and manuscript section in the Brooke Russell Astor Reading Room.

You can also find Van Brunt’s Genealogy records at the Brooklyn Historical Society.

I also found an interesting genealogical page created for the Van Brunt family –

http://bklyn-genealogy-info.stevemorse.org/Town/Homesteads/VanBruntRobarts.html

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Red Hook Waterfront: 1875

Some further reading into Red Hook’s history. Van Brunt Street is most-likely named after Rutgert Van Brunt, a member of the Dutch family from the latter 1700’s.

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Credit: Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

I hope the City and activists can come to an agreement and that the remains are found. If they aren’t, it would still be fitting to put a monument there, or plaque, acknowledging the slave’s grave-sites and ensuring that this vital piece of Brooklyn’s history and their existence are not forgotten.

 

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The Colonial history of Brooklyn

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It’s amazing how much of a pivotal role our city played during the Colonial era. As this new Smithsonian article brings out, “New York City is an afterthought—if it’s part of the conversation at all.” — Yet NYC suffered great losses, and with just a population of 25,000. The most heartbreaking of those being trapped in squalor aboard brutal British Prison ships and other make-shift prisons around the colony.

via The grisly history of Brooklyn’s Revolutionary War martyrs

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Prison Ship Martyrs Association

This is a group dedicated to preserving the memory and history of these tragic events. They even have the names of 8,000 victims.Whether they were captured, fought, or died. Chances are there were many more, but the records are what they are.

Further Reading:

When skulls and bones washed ashore in Brooklyn

The Battle of Brooklyn: A loss that helped win the Revolution

The Battle for Brooklyn, 1776

The last remnant of a colonial Brooklyn road

Every time I find an article like this, I’m always amazed how rich with Colonial history Brooklyn really is. I’m still surprised hearing George Washington’s name and that we can claim “The Battle of Brooklyn.” I try to imagine Brooklyn before it became the mini Metropolis it is today – With businesses competing in cramped quarters alongside residential homes and buildings. (Wistfully staring out the glass doors by the parking Lot at a row of 6 attached homes.- most likely 2-family, maybe with a tenant thrown in the converted basement.
The map in the post shows just how much open space there was in 1760, vs. The painting of Red Hook in 1865, overflowing with buildings, houses, factories, bridges and then some.

Ephemeral New York

Redhooklanestreetsign2Red Hook Lane is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it stretch of road off bustling Fulton Street in downtown Brooklyn.

This one-block lane is the last remnant of colonial-era Red Hook Lane, a Canarsie Indian trail that became the route from the heights of Brooklyn town through Dutch farmland to the swampy Red Hook waterfront.

Enlarge this 1760s map and you can just make out “Red Hook Lane” beneath Flatbush Avenue, where it says “Brookland Parish.”

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It has Revolutionary War significance too. Red Hook Lane, an important Continental Army artery, is where George Washington watched the British outflank the Patriots at Gowanus Pass during the Battle of Brooklyn in 1776.

Redhooklanesouth“Old Red Hook Lane was originally 25 feet wide, and ran from Boerum Place diagonally across Atlantic Avenue, between Court Street and Boerum Place, running near the old engine house on Pacific Street,” according to an 1894 New York Times piece.

“Then, turning…

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