Old Bergen

Chapter XXXII.

Daniel Van Winkle

Published 1902

Web version, edited by GET NJ
Copyright 2002

THE dangers and privations of the Revolution being now past, the people of Bergen once more resumed their avocations. Some there were who had cast in their lot with the British, and had been such active sympathizers with them, that they dreaded the retribution to which they would be subjected at the hands of their old neighbors, and failed to return. But the lukewarm and indifferent were permitted to occupy their old farms, and all now endeavored to rescue their lands and homes from the dilapidation and decay into which they had fallen. A few years sufficed to erase all traces of the bloody scenes that had been enacted, and the territory of " Old Bergen " resumed its accustomed quiet and peaceful appearance.

Many of the slaves now returned to their old masters, some actuated by kindly feeling, but most by self interest ; and their careless, irresponsible natures soon enabled them to assume their old relations, as if nothing had occurred to interrupt them. Their masters in many cases allowed them the privilege of cultivating small plots of ground after their regular working hours were over, and disposing of the proceeds of their labor for their own benefit; but through their natural improvidence, such benefit was but temporary, and oftentimes questionable.

The following extract is from a newspaper of 1804:

At the Bear Market (now Washington, author's note ) were seen on the Dock in the season for them, small stacks of cabbages, the perquisites, or overwork of the negro slaves from Hoboken, Paulus Hook and Communipau. They were brought over in canoes. After selling their stock, they would enjoy the jollification of a dance, upon the market floor, to the whistle of some favored one.

They were very improvident, freely spending the proceeds of their hard labor, devoid of any care or solicitude, anxiety or forethought for the future, but perfectly contented and happy in the present.

The inhabitants of "Old Bergen" now devoted themselves in the main to the cultivation of the soil. The farms and truck gardens soon showed the effect of their vigorous and intelligent treatment. Sloop loads of produce were ferried over to New York, and many of the comforts of home, which had disappeared during the unsettled times, were again replaced. The increase in population demanding better facilities for communication, new roads were laid out, so that all parts of the territory could be readily reached.

The formation of Bergen town in the shape of a square, with the cross streets, has been described. One of these streets (Bergen Avenue) extended on the south, about on its present line, to Bergen Point, meeting the Old Mill Road at Foye Place, and crossing the road from Communipau at Harrison Avenue.

To the north it extended along what are now Sip and Summit Avenues, and beyond the Five Corners, into what was known as Bergen Woods. At the Five Corners, it intersected Newark and Hoboken Avenues.

Academy Street, another of the original streets crossing the square, extended on the west along present Tonnelle Avenue to what was called the Back Lots, now known as Homestead; and easterly to and along its present line, terminating abruptly at the rocks at Front Street, being opened through on its present grade in the early '50's.

Summit Avenue ran from Academy Street south, as now, to Communipaw, being intersected below present Montgomery Street by the old Mill Road. The northerly section from Academy Street to Sip Avenue was opened more recently.

Until about the year 1848, when Grand Street was opened along its present line, the inhabitants of Communipaw and the lower end of the county were obliged to drive around through Bergen Avenue to Five Corners, and thence via Newark Avenue to the ferry ; or take the Mill Road passing Prior's Mill. The latter route was, however, but little used, owing to the steep grade. Following the laying out of Grand and Montgomery Streets, the whole country was opened up so that transportation became comparatively easy in any direction.