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Deborah Moody (Dunch)

Also Known As: "Lady Moody"
Birthplace: Avebury, Wiltshire, England (United Kingdom)
Death: circa 1659 (68-77)
Place of Burial: Kings, New York
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Walter Dunch, MP for Dunwich and Deborah Mervyn
Wife of Sir Henry Moody, Kt.
Mother of Sir Henry Moody, Kt. and Catherina Snow
Sister of Ruth Button; Mary Dunch; Anne Dunch and William Dunch

Occupation: Founder of Gravesend (now in Brooklyn, NY)
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Deborah Moody

First woman land owner in the New World. Considered to be a "dangerous woman."

Deborah Moody (Dunch) April 3, 1586 in Avebury, Wiltshire, England- c. 1659

Parents: Walter Dunch and Deborah Pilkington

Husband: Sir Henry Moody d. April 23, 1629


  1. Henry Dunch 1607-
  2. Catherina Snow (Dunch) 1608-

Sir Henry Moody died intestate, causing Deborah to lose her home. She had relatives who were Puritans, but couldn't bring herself to leave England for America with them. She started attending religious gatherings of Anabaptists, Quakers, and other dissenting groups. When news of her activities reached official government ears, she was told she would have to leave London. Other dissenters were imprisoned, heavily fined, had their ears cut off, or were publicly whipped or hanged. She finally relented, and left for America. She arrived in New England sometime in June, 1639, probably on the ship James.

Lady Deborah bought a home and stayed in Salem for awhile, but left to live in the village of Lynn about 10 miles away. On May 14, 1640 the General Court granted her 400 acres in her own name. Sir John Humphrey had built and elaborate rock farmhouse on land near Deborah's, which he names Swampscott. Deborah bought the house and the 900 acres of land it was on when the Humphries returned to England in 1641.

Deborah joined the Salem Church in Salem, but learned there was no religious tolerance. Members were told what to do, and what to believe. Even clothing was regulated. No finery was allowed, no embroidery. Sleeves had to be 22 1/2 inches long. Anyone who disagreed was severely punished. Deborah found herself in the same situation she had left in England. Anne Hutchinson was banished from the colony two years earlier for being a dissenter. The Quarterly Court voted in early spring of 1643 to fine and evict Deborah from Salem for not considering infant baptism to be an ordinance of God. She was ex-communicated from the Salem Church.

Deborah and other like-minded individuals including Thomas and Mary Tilton, William Thorne, Edward Browne, and Richard Stout loaded what belongings they could on a boat and sailed south. They sailed through Long Island Sound, down the East River, and put in to shore at the southern end of Manhattan Island, at the colony of New Amsterdam. The governor of this colony was neither just nor fair. Feeling she could not make her home here, either, Deborah decided to start her own colony. She talked to the Governors secretary, and was granted a tract of uninhabited land on Long Island. She named her town Gravesend for the Governor's hometown in Holland. Deborah's tract included 7,000 acres of land with access to excellent harbors. She cautioned all settlers going with her to treat the Indians living in the area fairly, and to pay them for their home site.

There was no official church in Gravesend. Some settlers attended the Dutch Reformed Church in New Amsterdam. But Deborah and many others met in private homes. One person would read a passage from the Bible, and a discussion of the passage would follow.


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Deborah Moody's Timeline

April 3, 1586
Avebury, Wiltshire, England (United Kingdom)
February 7, 1607
Age 72
Gravesend cemetery, Kings, New York