“Split Rock” is the name for a huge boulder that was transported by the glacial ice all the way from Canada to the northwestern corner of what is now Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx (New York City). Tradition says this is the spot where my ancestor, Anne Hutchinson, was killed by Siwanoy Indians during a time of especially tense relations between Native Americans and the Dutch in 1643. The site is just southeast of the overpass where the New England Thruway (I-95) crosses the Hutchinson River Parkway.
My photo gallery of “Split Rock” is — > here.
To imagine the scene, one must recall a time when the Dutch settlement of lower Manhattan was still a scarcely populated farming community. It was around this time that the Dutch were constructing fortifications in the area of modern-day “Wall Street”, where a stockade wall was placed to protect the Dutch farms from Indian attacks. The island of Manhattan north of these defensive works, the outer boroughs of today’s New York City (Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island), New Jersey and eastern Long Island remained an inhospitable wildness to the European settlers.
In August of 1643, the Hutchinson massacre took the lives of Anne Hutchinson and most of her family, marking the tragic end of a remarkable and significant life. She is one of the most important figures, man or woman, in the history of the struggle for religious liberty in colonial New England.
Anne is my 10th great grandmother. She was born Anne Marbury in England in 1591. In 1634, she arrived with her husband William and their family in the fledgling colony of Massachusetts Bay (Boston). Although she was steeped in the religious tradition of the Puritans, she became an outspoken and controversial figure in the religious development of Massachusetts Bay Colony. She ran afoul of the religious leaders of the community by organizing weekly meetings to discuss recent sermons, in which she also expressed her own unorthodox theological views. It seems the feisty, intellectual Anne dared to interpret the bible her own way! In particular, she stressed the individual’s relationship with God as opposed to reliance upon the authority of ministers. These “radical” views were considered a threat by the civil and religious leaders of the colony, especially Governor John Winthrop, who considered Anne’s opinions to be blasphemy. She was tried by both civil and religious courts, excommunicated and banished from the colony in 1637. Eventually she settled in the colony of Rhode Island, which was founded about the same time by my ancestor Roger Williams, another religious exile from whom I am descended through both a son and a daughter.
Anne lived in Rhode Island until her husband died in 1641, then in 1643 moved to The Dutch New Netherland colony. That’s where this defender of religious freedom met a terrible end. Local Indians, long mistreated by the Dutch, had been fighting back, and in August 1643, a group of Indians murdered Anne and almost her entire family, who were living in the area around “Split Rock”. The only survivor of the attack was Anne’s daughter Susannah. According to legend, she wriggled into the crevice of “Split Rock” and hid herself, saving her life. Susannah was, however, later discovered and taken captive by the Indians, who held her for four years until she was ransomed. One of Susannah’s descendant’s was Stephen A. Douglas, who famously debated Abraham Lincoln in the Illinois campaign for U.S. Senator in 1858.
“Split Rock” is of enough historic importance that in the 1950s officials were persuaded by the Bronx Historical Society to move the planned I-95 New England Thruway a few feet north to save Split Rock from being dynamited.
In 1987, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis pardoned Anne Hutchinson, revoking the order of banishment by Governor Winthrop 350 years earlier. There is also a statue of Anne on the grounds of the Massachusetts State House in Boston.