Jessé de Forest


Jessé de Forest (Avesnes, Department of Pas de Calais, Nord-Pas de Calais, France; 1576 - Oyopok River, Brazilian New Guinea, South America; October 22, 1624) was a prominent explorer and colonizer, leader of a group of Walloon Huguenots who fled Europe due to religious persecution and emigrated to the New World, where he planned to found New-Amsterdam, which is now New York City.


Jessé de Forest was the son of Anne Maillard (c.1551-1640), daughter of the mayor of Felleries, a town near Avesnes, and of Jean de Forest (1543-1606), a cloth merchant and prominent canon of the Catholic Church who left Avesnes around 1598. Some authors claim that Jean died in Holland and was the first to convert to Calvinism.

His parents were married on June 5, 1570 in Avesnes, Seine-Maritime, Haute-Normandie, France and they had 8 children.

Jessé de Forest was the third child in order of birth and one of his brothers, Gérard de Forest (1583-1654), was a dyer like him and was fortunate to have invested in the Van Rensselaer fur trading post near Fort Orange (now Albany, New York).

Jessé de Forest married Marie du Cloux (1576-1622) on September 23, 1601 in Sedan, Ardennes, France and together they had 13 children: Marie de Forest (1602-1621), Jean de Forest (1604-1668), Henry de Forest (1606-1637), Elizabeth de Forest (1607-1621), David de Forest (1608-1621), Rachel de Forest (1609-1643), Anne de Forest (1611-?), Nicaise de Forest (1613-?), Jessé de Forest (1615-1636), Isaac de Forest (1616-1674), Israël de Forest (1617-1618), Johannes de Forest (1619-?) and Philippe de Forest (1620-1621).

One of her four granddaughters, Rachel de la Montagne (1634-1664) emigrated from Leiden and married in 1657 at Fort Orange with Gysbert Van Imbroch (1630-1665), a surgeon from Aachen, Germany. However, Rachel was captured by the Indians at New Platz in 1663 and killed on October 4, 1664. As a result of this link, 4 children are recorded, one of whom was the father of Johanna Van Imbroch (1699-1748), who was Jessé's great-great-granddaughter and married Benjamin Foster (1700-1736) on February 1, 1722 in the Dutch Reformed Church in New York.

It should be noted that Jessé's wife, Marie du Cloux, was a native of Sedan in the Ardennes and the daughter of Nicaise du Cloux (1540-1598), a fellow merchant of Jesse's father. His family members were people of good repute in Sedan, generally merchants, lawyers, and surgeons.


Jessé was born in 1576 in Avesnes, France and around 1609 lived in Sedan and Montcornet before settling in Leiden, Holland, where he had a successful career as a dyer. He would probably have stayed there for the rest of his life sinking into the anonymity of history, however difficult economic times and the maintenance of a large family forced him to seek new horizons. At that time that meant one thing, emigration to the New World.

According to family history, in Leiden, Jessé was a very skilled dyer and from there he later moved to obtain the right to emigrate with his family and gathered a group of Walloons to create a colony. After some unsuccessful negotiations with the English, Jesse's group finally negotiated a deal with the Dutch East India Company to settle in the New World.

Before his voyage, he served as a lieutenant and captain under Prince Maurice of Nassau (1567-1625), who led the Dutch rebellion against Spain, [2] and met many Pilgrim Fathers and future Mayflower passengers who had previously fled to Leiden to escape persecution.

The "Petition for Freedom" Round Robin

Jessé de Forest wanted to take a group of families to the New World, so on February 5, 1621 he sent a petition signed by 56 heads of Walloon families, written in French, to Dudley Carleton, first Viscount of Dorchester (1573-1632) and Her Majesty's Ambassador at The Hague, to establish a colony in Virginia. He applied for permission to travel with more than fifty Walloon Huguenot families who planned to follow the Puritans to America (then called the West Indies).

In a document known as Round Robin, de Forest asked to have a territory with a radius of eight English miles. After a few months of waiting, on August 11, 1621, the Virginia Company gave an agreement in principle, but raised some restrictions such as not allowing the group of Walloon families of Jessé to settle together. Not content with that deal, de Forest rejected this proposal, but later received permission from the Dutch East India Company to emigrate to the West Indies.

In 1623, Jesse set out for the New World in a small ship called The Pigeon on a reconnaissance mission to the coast of Guyana mapping with his good friend, Johannes La Montagne (1596-1670), some of the first maps of the Brazilian coast. 

Things looked promising with vast land suitable for tobacco plantations, but unfortunately, Jesse died there, presumably from heat stroke while living with the Yaos Indians on the banks of the Oyapock River.

The group of settlers that Jessé had organized in Holland arrived in New Amsterdam in 1624 and, although Jessé never arrived, did his daughter Rachel, who married his old friend, Johannes La Montagne.

Rachel and Johannes, who arrived in the new world on the ship called The Rennselaerswyck in 1637, settled in New Amsterdam and cared for their brother on Henry's tobacco plantation, Vrendal (what is now known as the upper half of Central Park In New York).

New Belgium

Jessé de Forest's desire was to establish a colony in the New World, so that the Walloons could practice their Reformed Protestant Christianity without persecution. After undertaking the journey with the families of the Walloon and Dutch Protestants for the settlement in New Amsterdam, the first permanent settlers would arrive during May 1624 (without de Forest).

The founding of the Dutch West India Company in 1621 had created multiple opportunities. In 1581, Philip II of Spain had banned trade within his kingdom with Dutch ships, even in Brazil, and since the Dutch had invested large sums in financing sugar production in the Brazilian northeast, a conflict over control began of the area.

In proposing his services and those of his compatriots to the Dutch West India Company, de Forest informed them that a group of families practicing various trades were requesting the opportunity to emigrate to America. The States of the Netherlands, realizing the importance of such openness for future colonization, immediately consulted the Directors of the Company, who were meeting in The Hague.

On August 27, 1622, following the efforts of Willem Usselincx (1567-1647) and Jessé de Forest, the latter finally received authorization to emigrate with other families to the West Indies.


Jessé de Forest allegedly died of heatstroke on October 22, 1624 on the shore of the Oyapok River, Brazilian New Guinea, South America. 

Who would have thought that later her daughter Rachel, her granddaughters, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren would later unite in the territories that surrounded the future city of New York [3] and although Jessé never made it to the territory, her efforts to grow the colony grant the condition of Founding Father.

Chronicles of Jessé de Forest

Before 1901, it was always assumed that Jesse had joined the New Holland settlers, but had passed away during or shortly afterward. Later, the Reverend George Edmondson, while investigating the enormous bookshelves of the British library, discovered the "Journal du voyage faict par les peres des familles enuoyes par mrs les directeurs de la Compagnee des Indes occidental pour visiter la cost de Gujane" or "Diary of the trip made by the parents sent by the directors of the West India Company to visit the coast of Guyana".

The original manuscript is in the British Museum and details the Caravel Pigeon Expedition, led by Jesse de Forest, to the Amazon River region of South America in search of settlements.

Although this diary details Jesse's journey, and is known as "The Diary of Jesse De Forest", it was probably not written by him. Not only does it refer to Jesse in the third person, which would not be the case if Jesse himself were the author, but Jesse dies near the end of the journey. The story continues long after Jesse's death, so obviously it must have at least two different authors. The best guess as to the true author is Jesse's good friend, Johannes La Montagne (1596-1670).

It's currently considered a historical relic with its details of exploration and colonial conflict. Not only is it an important first-hand account of the Dutch exploits in South America, but it is also well known for having some of the first detailed maps of the Brazilian coast north of the Amazon.


The Monument to the Walloon Settlers at the north end of Battery Park in New York City was given to the city by the Belgian province of Hainaut in honor of Jessé de Forest's inspiration in founding New York.

Belgian Baron Emile de Cartier de Marchienne (1871-1946), representing the government and Albert I of Belgium (1875-1934), presented the monument to Mayor John Francis Hylan (1868-1936) of New York City on May 18, 1924. [4]


  1. CNN/SI - 1999 Tour de France - Stage 7.
  2. ^ "The DeFreest Family History ". Archived from the original on 2009-04-18. Retrieved 2009-04-29.
  3. ^ "Jessé de Forest (New York and Its Origins. Legends and Reality)". Archived from the original on 2009-08-27. Retrieved 2009-04-29.
  4. ^ Walloon Settlers Memorial (NYC - Battery Park).


  • De Forest, John William The De Forests of Avesnes (and of New Netherland): A Huguenot thread in American colonial history, 1494 to the present time (New Haven, CT: The Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor Co. 1900).
  • De Forest, Emile Johnston A Waloon Family in America; Lockwood De Forest and His Forbears; in Two Volumes. Together with a Voyage to Guiana, Being the Journal of Jesse De Forest and His Colonists 1623-1625 (The Apple Manor Press. 2007, originally published in 1914).
  • Griffis, William Elliot The Story of the Walloons at Home, in Lands of Exile and in America (Houghton Mifflin. 1923).
  • Bayer, Henry G. The Belgians, First Settlers in New York and in the Middle States (Bowie, Md.: Heritage Books, 1987, c1925).