Anthony Janszoon van Salee- New York’s first Muslim American

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jan Janszoon van Haarlem, commonly known as Murat Reis the younger (circa 1570 – post 1641?) was the President and Grand Admiral of the Corsair Republic of Sale, Governor of Qualidia, and a Dutch pirate, one of the most notorious of the Barbary pirates from the 17th century; the most famous of the “Sale Rovers.”

In 1619, the Sale Rovers or Salle Rovers declared the Moroccan port of Sale to be an independent Republic free of the Sultan. They set up a government that consisted of 14 pirate leaders, and elected Janszoon as their President.  He would also serve as the Grand Admiral of their navy. The Sale fleet totaled about eighteen ships, all small because of the very shallow harbor entrance.

Even the Sultan of Morocco, after an unsuccessful siege of the city, acknowledged its semi-autonomy. Contrary to popular belief that Sultan Zidan Abu Maali had reclaimed sovereignty over Sale and appointed Janszoon the Governor in 1624, the Sultan merely approved Janszoon’s election as President by formally appointing him as his ceremonial governor.

Under Janzoon’s leadership, business in Sale thrived.  The main sources of income of this republic remained piracy and its by-trades, shipping and dealing in stolen property. Historians have noted Janszoon’s intelligence and courage which reflected in his leadership ability.

Janszoon had become very wealthy from his income as piratical admiral, payments for anchorage and other harbor dues, and the brokerage of stolen goods. The political climate in Sale worsened toward the end of 1627, so Janszoon quietly moved his family and his entire piratical operation back to semi-independent Algiers.

In 1596, by an unknown Dutch women, Janszoon’s first child was born, Lysbeth Janszoon van Haarlem.

After becoming a privateer, Janszoon met an unknown woman in Cartagena, Spain, who he would marry.  The identity of this woman is historically vague, but the consensus is that she was of some kind of mixed-ethnic background, considered “Moorish” in Spain.  Historians have claimed her to be nothing more than a concubine, others claim she was a Muslim Mudejar – a name given to individual Moors or Muslims of Al-Andalus who remained in Iberia after the Christian Reconquista but were not converted to Christianity, unlike Moriscos who had converted- claims have been made that she worked for a Christian noble family, and other claims have been made that she was a “Moorish princess.” Through this mariage, Janszoon had four children: Abraham Janszoon van Salle (b. 1602), Philip Janszoon van Salle (b. 1604), Anthony Janszoon van Salle (b. 1607), and Cornelius Janszoon van Salle (b. 1608).

It is speculated that Janszoon married for the third time to the daughter of Sultan Moulay Ziden in 1624.

Jan Janszoon’s fourth child, Anthony Janszoon van Salee (1607-1676), was an original settler of and prominant landholder, merchant, and creditor in New Neatherlands (New York city).  Anthony Janszoon van Salee was New York’s first Muslim, an arguably one of the first in the New World. His Qur’an was eventually auctioned in the following centuries, having passed through a descendant, Robert Bayles, a one-time President of the Market and Fulton National Bank of New York.

Anthony Janszoon van Salee was born in 1607 in Cartagena, Spain. In 1624 Anthony was in Sale, Morocco with his father, leaving in 1627 for Algiers with his family. Van Salee was living near the harbor in Amsterdam when he obtained a marriage license on December 15, 1629 to marry a 27-year old German native Grietse Reyniers two days before his ship was to set sail for the New World. In 1630, at the age of 22, he had immigrated to New Neatherlands (New York city), along with his bride, as a colonist of the Dutch West India Company.

It is speculated that Anthony’s father had provided him a considerable fortune, and by 1639 he was one of the largest landholders on the island, as well as a prosperous farmer. The relationship with his father after arriving in New Amsterdam (New York) is unclear.

One of Van Salee’s  first properties was  a farm on the island of Manhatten acquired in 1638 which was named “Wellenstein”, titiled in memory of Albrecht von Wellenstein. Becoming one of the original settlers of the area, the plat was located on the north side of the stockade along present-day Wall Street. The bouwery was surveyed from Broadway to the East River between Ann Street and Maiden Lane.  He transfered the deed the following year.

Following numerous legal disputes, including with the church, Anthony was ordered to leave New Neatherland, but on appeal to the Dutch West India Company, was allowed to settle on 200 acres (0.81 km) in what would become  New Ultretch and Gravesend, Brookyln.  This made him now one of the largest and most prominent landholders on Long Island.  In 1643 he purchased a house on Bridge Street in New Amsterdam, in defiance of the court order restricting such. He would go onto become a successful merchant and creditor in New Amsterdam, while owning several properties throughout the region.

Anthony was a defender of minorities in the colony and subjected to repeated discrimination.  Neighbors called him ” A Turk”, a rascal, and a horned beast.” He was engaged in many legal disputes, from his dog attacking the hog of a black townsman, Anthony the Portuguese, to pointing loaded pistols at slave overseers from the Dutch West India Company.

The first grantee of Conyne Eylandt (Coney Island), he helped found many long Island settlements, including New Ultrecht, Gravesend, and in 1660 Boswijck along with 23 settlers which included Franciscus the Negro, a former slave who had won his freedom. Religiously, he read his Qur’an freguently, partioned for Christian missionaries, and was fined for housing an English Quaker at his home on Bridge Street who was to repair a Dutch church.  He was the neighbor of Lady Deborah Moody, of whom he was on good terms with,  although he had disputes with her husband Sir Henry who filed speech charges against him.

Claims have been made that Grietse Reyniers, a woman from the Neatherlands was previously the mistress of Woulter van Twitter.  She encountered him while an employee of the tavern belonging to Pieter de Winter. Grietse was dubbed the first Manhatten “lady of the night” by some accounts, while some have called her the “Carrie Bradshaw” of colonial Manhatten.

Between 1638 – 1639, the couple accounted for 10% or 15 of the 93 cases brought before the Dutch legal system in the colony. During this period the Dutch legal system was heavily invested in quarrels, and the cases included actions of petty slander from the likes of Anneka and Domine Bogardus after Grietse accused of them of lying, Grietse mooning the naval fleet and Anthony’s drunkenness.

Grietse died in 1669, and Anthony married Metje Grevenraet, before dying in 1676 after passing his final years at his home on Bridge Street. Metje was a Quaker who helped Anthony tolerate the church.

He had four daughters with Reyniers who married into repectable colonial commercial families:

  • Eva Antonis, who married Ferdinandus van Sycklin, an original immigrant to New Neatherlands for whom Van Siclen Avenue in Brooklyn is named for. He was a descendant of a crusader and banker named Simon van der Sicklen, whose family possesed the domain of Nazareth, Belgium during the medieval ages and founded the town of Siclin, now in France. The families original surname was de la Faucille.
  • Cornelia, who married William Johnson.
  • Annica, who married Thomas Southhard, born Thomas Southworth, cousin to Constant Southworth, stepson of Governor William Bradford of the Plymouth Colony, Annica and Thomas daughter Abigail was the great-great grandmother of Cornelius Vanderbilt.
  • Sara, who married John Emans.

Anthony Janszoon van Salee’s physical appearance and race is the subject of much debate, and like his mother, the consensus was that he was of mixed-ethnic background.  He was incredibly tall with superior strenght.  Van Salee has been described many ways, with some calling him a “semi-Dutchman” of “tawny” complexion, erecting the first “European” house in New Ultrecht.  Other descriptions have said he was a “former black slave” who was a “mullato”, others include “half Moroccan”, “Turk”, “Berber” and “swarthy”.

Anthony was very wealthy and had made many enemies, falsely being attributed to certain history written well after his death.  Anthony’s appearance is consistantly used in court documentation alongside his name with the phrase “Turk”, indicating his appearance and/or lifestyle was a main emphasis for documentarians and historians during  that period.  From deduction, he was not a “free black”, claimed in 2008, and a “former slave”, as claimed in 2001, because he was the wealthy heir of a former head of state.  It is also noted that Anthony was considered “European” enough to be credited in 1643, for building the first “European” settlement in New Ultrecht, while even historic Southern African-centric collections cannot determine what his actual appearance, race or origin was.  It is also noted that he had four daughters who married into respectable, colonial New Amsterdam families of European origin.

Anthony Janszoon van Salee’s notable descendent’s include the Vanderbilt dynasty in the United States and Europe, while it is unclear if a brother or himself was a progenitor of the Bouvier line of the Kennedy dynasty according to family legacy.

It is claimed that Jan Janszoon van Harleem, Murat Reis, President and Grand Admiral of the Corsair Republic of Sale had many prominent descendent’s in North America and Europe.  They include William Henry Vanderbilt, Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, Dr. John van Salee de Grasse, John Vernou Bouvier III, John H. Hammond, Princess Lee Radziwell, Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, Gloria Vanderbilt, Consuelo Vanderbilt, Dutchess of Marlborough; James Spencer- Churchill, 11th Duke of Marlborough; Lady- in- waiting to Queen Elizabeth II, Rosemary Mildred Spencer-Churchill, George Spencer-Churchill, Earl of Sunderland, Christopher Denys Stormont Finch Hatton, 17th Earl of Nottingham, Countess Gladys Vanderbilt Szechenyi of Hungary, Countess Sylvia Szechenyi of Hungary, and: Jacqueline Kennedy, former American First Lady, Humphey Bogart,  Academy Award Winning Actor, Caroline Kennedy, American First Daughter, Gertrude Vanderbilt, American Socialite, John F. Kennedy Jr., American First Son, Frederick Theodore Frelinghuysen, American Senator, Anderson Cooper, American Media Personality.


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