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Two Interesting Walloon Settlers


Guillaume Vigne (1586-1632) and

Adrienne Cuvelier (1586-1655)


Guillaume and Adrienne are my 10th great grandparents by the following path: RWA → Vera Esler Abbott → William Esler → Anna Van Winkle Esler → William Van Winkle → Elizabeth Douw Van Winkle → William Janszen Douw → Sarah De Forest Douwe → Femmetje Van Flaesbeek De Forest → Grietje Dircks Van Flaesbeek → Christina Vigne Volkertszen → Guillaume Vigne and Adrienne Cuvelier


Guillaume and Adrienne (Ariantje) are two more ancestors who were Walloon settlers to New Netherland. They were born in Valenciennes in a French speaking region of what is now Belgium and northern France. In the 16th and 17th centuries this area experienced frequent wars involving France, Holland, and Spain. The Walloon settlers immigrated to Leiden, Holland by 1618 and from there left for New Netherland in 1624. The group was organized by Jesse De Forest who was the subject of another ancestor story. Guillaume and Adrienne had five children while living in Leiden; at least two children, including my ancestor Christine, were born in France before the family went to Leiden. Several of the children apparently died very young, as Guillaume and Adrienne made the trip to New Netherland with three daughters. Two other of my ancestors were also among these early Walloon settlers, Joris Jansen Rappalje and Catherine Jeronimus Trico.


Guillaume and Adrienne and their three daughters sailed from Holland in April 1624 and arrived at the Hudson River in mid-May. There were 30 families on the trip with a total of 120 passengers. These were families selected by the Dutch West India Company to help establish a permanent settlement. When the families arrived, 12 families were left along the Delaware and Connecticut Rivers and 18 of the families were sent north up the Hudson to Port Orange (present day Albany). It is not known where the Vigne family first settled. My other ancestors in this group, the Rappalje family, were sent to Port Orange. Conditions in Port Orange were extremely harsh. It is reported that the first shelters for the first shelters there were literally 7-foot holes dug into the ground, lined with wood and covered with bark.


Whether the Vigne family started in Port Orange, they were in New Amsterdam by about 1625. All the families from Port Orange were recalled to Manhattan Island to consolidate the settlement. The Vignes established their Manhattan farm along the East River north of what is now Wall Street. They had one more child, a son Jan, born about 1625. He was the first male European born in New Netherland. The daughter of my Rappalje ancestors was the first European child (and first female) born in New Netherland.


Guillaume died in 1632. By that time, the two oldest girls had married including my ancestor Christina (1615-1663). Adrienne remarried Jan Jansen Damen on May 7, 1638.


Things were not all family happiness with the new step-father. The two married daughters and their families were also at the house, so a total of three married couples and their various children. On 21 June 1638, Damen brought suit to have his two sons-in-law removed from the house. This was followed by one of the sons-in-law (my ancestor Dirck Volkertszen) making a charge of assault against Damen for attempting to physically remove my ancestor Christina (Dirck’s wife) from the house.


The combined new couple of Adrienne and Jan Damen held a lot of land. Their property extended from Pine Street north to Maiden Lane and from the East River to the Hudson River. Those areas are now occupied by New York’s financial district, Soho, and Tribeca, and included the site of the World Trade Center.


A dark side of my ancestor Adrienne was reported following the 1643 massacre of the Lenape Indians. This was a particularly brutal example of the interactions between the Dutch and the Indian tribes. This attack was a retaliation for the murder of a Dutch settler. On 25 February 1643, 129 Dutch soldiers attacked a settlement of Lenape and killed 120 including women and children; about 30 Indians were taken prisoner. One of the sons-in-law of Adrienne (I do not know which one) participated in the massacre and when the group returned they brought several heads of the slain Lenape. Adrienne is reported to have amused herself by kicking around the heads. At least, other New Netherlanders who witnessed her behavior found it disgusting (Seversmith, 1947).


Family Group Sheet for Guillaume Vigne and Adrienne Cuvelier:



Jameson, J. Franklin. (1909). Narratives of New Netherland 1609-1664. New York: American Historical Association.

Riker, David. (1985). New Netherland Ancestors of Aeltje Van Laer. De Halve Maen, 58(4), 4-6.

Seversmith, Herbert F. (1947). Ariaentje Cuvilje [Adrienne Cuvelier], Matriarch of New Amsterdam. National Genealogical Society Quarterly, 35, 65-69.


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