Jersey City boasts a barrage of miraculous and notable women, but one Jersey girl in particular helped change the course of the American Revolution. In fact, the Revolution might not have been won without her aid, because Jane Tuers disclosed one of the most infamous plots in American History: Benedict Arnold’s betrayal to deliver West Point to the British. Read on to learn more about this Jersey City heroine.
Jane’s Jersey City Roots
Born sometime around 1736, Jannetje Van Reypen married Nicholas Tuers in 1766 to become Jannetje Van Reypen Tuers, thereby joining two famous Jersey City families, both of whom still bear street names today, Van Reypen Street and Tuers Avenue.
Jane was born near McGinley Square, where the Hudson Catholic Regional High School stands today, with a plaque commemorating her home.
Jane’s Revolutionary Role
Jane and her husband, Nicholas Tuers, were farmers and sold their produce in Manhattan. By 1780, the colonies were in the throes of the American Revolution, and in an effort to divide and conquer the colonies, the British had successfully captured New York City, establishing it as their headquarters.
Fraunces Tavern, which still stands in Lower Manhattan at 54 Pearl Street, was owned by a man named Samuel Fraunces who harbored patriotic sympathies.
On one of Jane’s routine trips to Fraunces Tavern to sell farm goods, Samuel confided that British soldiers were in his tavern, toasting to the American General Benedict Arnold who’d agreed to deliver West Point, which was then an American military stronghold, to the British.
Photo Credit: Anne S. K. Brown Collection at Brown University
Many historians believe Samuel to have been of mixed race, a “passing” black man of French ancestry, born in the West Indies. As a woman and a man of color, two marginalized figures of society, Jane and Samual commanded much less attention from British officers. Therefore, their covert discussions flew beneath the radar within the hotbed of British occupation.
Additionally, Jane, being of Dutch heritage and speaking Dutch within her household, would have felt little allegiance to England or its King. Adding further motive to her espionage, Jane’s own brother had joined a militia to support the American cause but was captured and imprisoned by the Brits.
Jane returned home and informed her brother, Daniel, about Arnold’s plot to betray the Patriots. Daniel immediately rode to Hackensack to meet with General Anthony Wayne, who dispatched Daniel directly to General George Washington to divulge the conspiracy.
The arrest of British officer John André three days later confirmed the plot, and West Point’s capture by the British was averted. West Point, and its key strategic location, has safely remained within American control ever since.
What became of Jane?
Though accounts are sparse, Jane remained in her Jersey City home, living to the remarkable age of 98 years old, give or take a year for the poor records of her birth.
Jane died in 1834 and was buried in an unmarked grave in Lot 136 in the Old Bergen Church Cemetery. Interestingly, the Old Bergen Church was established in 1660 and is not only older than any New York City cemetery but is also the oldest continuous religious congregation in what is now the State of New Jersey.
The Tuers home was demolished in 1894 for the construction of the old Fourth Regiment Armory, which was then razed and eventually replaced by the Hudson Catholic Regional High School which was built in 1965.
Photo Credit: America: Jersey City by Patrick B. Shalhoub
During this 4th of July, toast not only to the Founding Fathers, but the Founding Mothers and Sisters who fought to win the Revolution, in their own ways.