by Kevin Walsh

In 1640, Dutch provincial governor William Kieft prosecuted a war upon the indigenous Native Americans that resulted in more than 1,000 Indian fatalities in Manhattan and western Long Island. It was called the Kieft War and in it Kieft was particularly brutal, with beheadings, dismemberings and burnings. This was too much even for the Dutch, who recalled him; Kieft died at sea.

Into this volatile region arrived Lady Deborah Moody in 1643, a London widow in her mid-50s. She was granted a town patent by Kieft that permitted adherence to any church, a novelty in an age of religious fervor. Lady Moody, an Anabaptist (a sect that rejected infant baptism in favor of adult baptism) found the climate in England oppressive and sailed for the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1639; finding the Puritans there hardly accommodating, she founded Gravesend in 1643. The Native Americans destroyed the new settlement before it got a permanent foothold in 1645.

The purported Lady Moody House, #27 Gravesend Neck Road west of McDonald Avenue, dates to either 1665 or 1770, depending on which account you believe. 

Brooklyn historical records have Sir Henry Moody, Deborah Moody’s son, selling the property on which the house stands in 1659 to Jan Jansen ver Ryn. It passed through various hands before winding up with the Van Sicklen brothers, John and Abraham, who may also have built the house in the early to mid-1700s.

In 1904 the house, now a private residence, was acquired by realtor William Platt who renovated it in the Arts and Crafts style and spread the word that the house had been owned by Deborah Moody. It’s an old house that occupies the plot where she lived, but it was likely built decades after her death. It’s a very old building no matter how you slice it. [info: AIA Guide to NYC]

During one of the very successful latterday Forgotten NY tours, over 40 Forgotten Fans gathered at the house in June 2019. My hope is to return to live touring soon, my health allowing.

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John November 17, 2022 - 7:37 pm

Oh I’m sorry to hear that your health isn’t what it should be. Hope you get back on the horse soon! Re Lady Moody House: it’s the same structure that the Van Sicklens built in the 1700’s?!

Joseph Ditta November 17, 2022 - 8:00 pm

The guy standing dead center looks familiar . . .

therealguyfaux November 18, 2022 - 3:04 pm

Well, at least Ladt Deborah didn’t meet the same violent fate as her fellow exiled MA “heretic” Anne Hutchinson

Joe+Brennan November 22, 2022 - 10:16 am

Well, Anne Hutchinson was a casualty of Kieft’s war. The native Americans understandably didn’t want to see yet another European settlement getting started. I wonder whether the split rock might have been a holy place. Kieft’s war really calls into question which side were the “savages”.


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