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Deborah Moody, widow of Sir Henry Moody, is the most picturesque female
we have found in the history of Long Island. Brought up in the most refined surroundings
in England, she and her son emigrated to New England to avoid persecution for their
religious ideas, but as was the case with so many other emigrants to the New World,
they discovered that New England was one of the most intolerant communities, and
that it was much better to move from that part of the New World, or else conform to
the Puritan faith.
Lady Moody organized a party to settle a new community under guidance of the
Dutch Colony of New Netherlands. She, with her fellow colonists moved to Long Island,
and started a settlement at a place named Gravesend, a name given it by the Dutch
Director Kieft, This was in 1643.
In October of that year, the settlers were driven off by the Indians and found refuge
under the friendly protecting arms of the Dutch at the fort at New Amersfoort, which
was later known as Flatlands.
The Grave of Lady Deborah Moody
On December 10, 1645, Lady Moody, Sir Henry Moody, Ensign George Baxter
and Sergeant James Hubbard, with their associates were granted a patent
by Director Kieft. The settlers entered into an agreement at Amersfoort
with Lady Moody and her associates by which the town was to be divided
into 28 parts, each to receive a plantation lot, also a village lot. In
1646 a new division was made, laying out the town into 40 lots and:
She was a daughter of Walter Dunch of England and was related to Oliver Cromwell and other prominent Englishmen. Her son possessed the largest library in America at that time. It consisted of some fifty-five volumes.
The old Van Sicklyn house on Neck Road, near Gravesend Avenue, has frequently been called Lady Deborah Moody house. This mistake has unfortunately been put in print, and thus great damage has been done to the accuracy of our contemporaneous historical literature.
Fortunately, my attention was directed to this mistake by Mr. William B. Lake, who is one of the best informed men on the local history of Gravesend and I made an investigation, the result of which appeared in my unpublished lecture on, "More Historical Homesteads of Kings County," from which I take the liberty of quoting;
"The ancient homestead in the village of Gravesend, which attracted the eye of every passerby for its beauty and charming design of the years that have gone before; its apparent great age; the good taste of its late owners, (Mr. and Mrs. Platt), in harmonizing the past and the present, without destroying the beauty of the past and the usefulness of the present.
"It has been said that Lady Deborah Moody lived in this house. There is no foundation for that statement, either in fact or history.
"It was the town plot of Ralph Cardell. Ralph gave his whole estate to his wife, Elizabeth, and died previous to 1689. She married Thomas Baylis, who died some time in that year, for his widow married March 17, 1689 or 1690, Isaac Haselberg. Haselberg and one Richard Gregory had purchased this property of Baylis, February 11, 1688-9.
"In 1701, Isaac Haselberg sells it to Nicholas Stillwell. In 1785, title was vested in John Van Sicklen, from whom it passed in 1841 to Thomas Hicks.
"Much that is interesting in regard to the title of this property will be discovered when the Gravesend records have been finally gone over by the Commissioner of Records' experts.
And now without shrouding this site of its own very interesting history, let us turn to Lady Moody's real home.
"She owned the two lots in the northeast corner of the stockade, directly opposite what was called Johnson's Lane. Her bowery was just across the street, and she is supposed to have had a house at the site of the old Barent Johnson House, which was torn down some years ago. A picture of that house is shown in Stiles' `History of Kings County.'
"The two lots in the stockade passed from Lady Moody to her son, Sir Henry Moody. He sold these lots, 9 and 10, to Jan Jansen Van Ryn. In 1663, Van Ryn sold them to Ralph Cardell, and they later passed into the possession of the Johnson family.
"Lady Moody's plantation, or bowery, included, it is supposed (by Bergen), the Johnson farm, the May or Samuel Smith of Brooklyn, the Cornelius Stryker, and Jacobus (Wm. B. Lake) farm.
"Bergen speaks of the tradition, which is still handed down that Lady Deborah Moody is buried under a stone in the old graveyard. Lady Moody seems to have been on intimate terms of friendship with old Director Pieter Stuyvesant, entertaining him at her bowery, December, 1654.
"In 1655 the English element in the town raised a hue and cry and hoisted the English flag. They were promptly put down by Stuyvesant and Lady Moody.
"After Lady Moody's death her son transferred this inheritance to one Johnson ancestor of the Johnson family.
There is a court record of a suit by Moody against Johnson. The complaint alleged that Johnson came to Sir Henry's house and used abusive language. A witness, Annetje Wall, testified that she was scouring pewter there, and Johnson asked her what she was doing? He commanded her to take it away. Calling Sir Henry at the same time, `a dog, a rogue and a skellumme,' and abusing her with evil language. Johnson was fined 10 guilders."
In closing, let us analyze her character. She was a woman with a strong, noble mind. Her word could be relied on. When the Colonists revolted against those to whom they were indebted for religious freedom and for the use of their lands, she stood for their benefactors and against her own neighbors and friends, because they were in the wrong and to her mind right was omnipotent. She won the friendship of old Pieter Stuyvesant and his admiration and retained the love of her colonists. So far as is known, she was a noble, pure-minded woman, laboring for the uplifting of her compatriots and her influence is felt to this day.