De Forest

Len Tantillo's painting of the de Forest / Montagne bouwrie based on documents describing the structure in detail.

Ancestor Notes

 “The First Family of Central Park,” by Sara Cedar Miller from her forthcoming book      (May, 2022) Before Central Park

In 1637, Walloon brothers Hendrick and Isaac de Forest, got permission from the Dutch West India Company to move far from the tiny downtown settlement of New Amsterdam to what would become a 200-acre (100 morgen) tobacco bouwerie, today located in the northern end of Central Park and central Harlem. Before Central Park explains why the de Forests chose to farm the unique this area and how the topography in Central Park still retains much of the family’s original site.

Soon after the de Forests begin planting, Dr. Johannes de la Montagne, a Leiden-trained medical doctor, arrived in New Amsterdam with his wife Rachel de Forest and their five children. When Hendrick dies, brother-in-law Montagne took over the farm and the homestead. For centuries many of the Harlem landscapes were named for him: Montagne’s Flats (today central Harlem), Montagne’s Point (today East Harlem) and Montagne’s Rivulet, a stream running through the northern end of Central Park.

Before Central Park tells the fascinating story of this important family and the fledgling settlement of Harlem. Montagne was appointed councilor to the powerful Willem Kieft and Peter Stuyvesant, and became embroiled in what became known as “Kieft’s War,” leading to the massacre of thousands of native Lenape and Dutch men, women and children in the 1640s.

Artist Len Tantillo has generously created a painting of the de Forest/Montagne bouwerie based on documents that describe the structure in detail.   See above.

Sara Cedar Miller is the historian emerita of the Central Park Conservancy and has been a staff member since 1984. She holds an M.A. in art history and an M.F.A. in photography. She lives in New York.


See Emily J. de Forest, a "Walloon Family in America, Vol. 1 ", p. 80 

Below is also a link for Volume II: 
and Van Rensselaer Bowier MSS, pp. 323, 328, 360