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Old Bergen

Chapter XLVI.

Daniel Van Winkle

Published 1902

Web version, edited by GET NJ
Copyright 2002

ALTHOUGH the Village of Bergen was prescribed within certain boundaries, as heretofore mentioned, the name attached itself to its outlying plantations and dependencies; and as it was the seat of justice and the location of the courts, the surrounding territory for a considerable extent was designated by the same name. Consequently when the province was divided into counties in 1682, it was but natural that the name of Bergen should attach itself to that portion of the territory including this venerable town.

As the development and prosperity of the state continued, it was found advisable to make smaller political divisions, and in 1709 an Act was passed setting off the County of Bergen as follows:

That on the Eastern division the County shall begin at Constable Hook, and so run up along the Bay and Hudson River, to the partition point between New Jersey and New York, and along that division line to the division line between the East and West sections of the Province, to Pequannock River, thence by such River and the Passaic, to the Sound, and thence by the Sound to Constable Hook where it began.
The rapidly changing conditions, with increase of population, necessitated political alterations, and old Bergen County, in 1837, was subdivided, the present Passaic Country being taken therefrom; and in 1840, the County of Hudson, with its present metes and bounds, was set off, leaving the remaining territory existing under the old name of Bergen County. Hudson County contains the old village of Bergen, and the Bergen Township, practically identical with the old Indian Grant of 1658.

In order that an accurate idea of the growth and transformation of this territory may be obtained, we will follow closely, yet briefly, the different changes that have occurred.

C. Van Vorst was the owner of a large tract of land at Paulus Hook, having obtained patent for same March 31, 1663, located between Harsimus and Jan de Lacher's Point. This property was located south of the present Newark Avenue, and extended to Communipaw Cove, reaching to above Merseles Street. The Duke's Farm, north of this, extending from Newark Avenue to Harsimus Cove, was owned by one Kennedy. He was envious of the exclusive privileges enjoyed by Van Vorst for operating the ferry to New York, and endeavored to secure the same for him self. After considerable controversy, Van Vorst was eventually successful, and such rights became vested in him.

April 14, 1804, Van Vorst sold part of the above property, including ferry privileges, to Abraham Varick, merchant. He transferred same to Anthony Dey and others, who afterward formed "Associates of the Jersey Company," who thereupon became invested with the title of the property. At this time the ferry was moved to a point between Grand and York, and near the center of the block on which Colgate's factory now stands. At this time the horse-boats elsewhere described were used, but these were displaced by steamboats in 1812. Says the Sentinel of Freedom: " The first trip drew thousands of spectators to both shores, attracted by the novel and pleasing scene. One may now cross the river at the slight cost of fifty cents, same as on bridge."

Old Ferry

Up to 1852 the rates of ferriage from Jersey City to New York were fixed by the Board of Chosen Freeholders of Hudson County, and it is curious to note how the amount charged was based upon the article carried. Appended are some of the rates fixed by the Board in September, 1849.

Every person on foot above ten years old, .03
Every person on foot under ten years and above five, .02
Man and horse only, .09
Ordinary 4 wheeled truck loaded, 2 horses, .37 1/2
Ordinary 4 wheeled truck light, 2 horses, .25
Coach, coachee, chariot, phaeton, etc., .30
Wagon load of hay or straw, .50
Oats, green peas and beans, per bushel, .01
Potatoes, per bushel, .01 1/2
Barrels containing apples or vegetables, .06 1/4
Oysters, per bushel, .03
Fancy chairs, each, .02
Common chairs, each, .01
Sofas and pianos, each, .25
Bureaus, .12 1/2
An additional sum of 3 cents each to be charged every person on any vehicle in addition to the driver, who is included in the first charge.
The first evidence of the disintegration of the old township of Bergen was in 1820, when the City of Jersey was incorporated (re-incorporated in 1829 as Jersey City). It comprised that part of the territory, bounded between the present line of Grove Street, on the west, and the Hudson River on the east, with the Bay as the southerly boundary line, and reaching north to Harsimus Cove, being part of the property alluded to above, as having been owned by Van Vorst. It contained at that time about three hundred inhabitants. Gordon's Gazetteer states in 1834: "Jersey City is commodiously laid out in lots twenty-five feet by one hundred, distributed into forty-five blocks, each two acres, with broad streets, and contains many good buildings." Van Vorst Township was taken from Bergen in 1841, bounded north by North Bergen, east by Hudson River and Jersey City, south by New York Bay, and west by Bergen and North Bergen.

North Bergen was formed in 1842, and comprised all the territory of old Bergen Township lying north of the New Jersey Railroad, and between Van Vorst Township and Hackensack River. Secaucus is a strip of land lying in the western part of this township, and surrounded by marshes.

Hudson City was erected in 1855 from the territory of North Bergen, and was the southerly portion thereof, bounded directly by the New Jersey Railroad, and extending north to the line of the Paterson Plank Road. It had been previously separated from Bergen, in 1852, and was first called the Town of Hudson.

In this territory likewise, numerous little settlements sprang up, each possessing its own characteristics, and each known by its distinctive name, such as Washington Village, West Hoboken, North Hoboken, Union Hill, Guttenberg, Weehawken and New Durham, all telling of rapid growth.

To the southward, the Township of Greenville was incorporated in 1863, and at that date was cut off from the Township of Bergen, and was bounded on the north by Linden Avenue, reaching down to the Morris Canal. From its commanding and healthful situation, it was early sought as a place of residence, but the love of the early settlers for their acres, and their consequent unwillingness to part with them, for some time retarded its growth. Owing, however, to the passing away of the original owners, and necessary division of the home acres, as has been said, much has been thrown on the market, since which time the town's growth has been constant and rapid, until to-day it has become a most important part of Jersey City, into which it became incorporated at the time of consolidation in 1872.

At Communipaw, Lafayette was laid out. It had no direct connection with Jersey City, on account of the impassable nature of the marsh that surrounded it, until a foot path was built by driving sharpened stakes into the soft meadow ground, and placing planks over them. This means of communication was often entirely interrupted by high tides, which frequently carried away the precarious foot path. The extending and filling in of Pacific Avenue, to and connecting with Grand Street, made a direct and reliable connection, and caused the rapid growth of that vicinity.

Bayonne was incorporated in 1869, and comprises all the southern portion of the peninsula lying between the New York and Newark Bays, south of Morris Canal. Hoboken, now become a city of considerable magnitude, was purchased by John Stevens in 1804, as previously stated, who shortly after had the same surveyed and laid out into building lots; and many were sold. In 1838 Stevens formed the Hoboken Land and Improvement Company, which was incorporated on February 21, of that year. He transferred much of the land to this Company the following year, and a uniform system of improvement was instituted, the wisdom of which policy has been emphasized by the rapid growth and the attractive character of the im provements. Hoboken was set off from North Bergen in 1849, and incorporated as a city, March 28, 1855.

Bergen, after having been dismembered to form other municipalities, was incorporated as the Town of Bergen in 1855, its area comprising but little more than the old town as originally surveyed, and the outgardens in its immediate neighborhood. March 11, 1868, the City of Bergen was incorporated and Henry Fitch elected first Mayor. In 1872 it, with other towns, was absorbed by, and became part of, the City of Jersey City. Like many of its old families, it has lost its name and identity, but its influence continues, even to the present time, in the shaping and directing of the general municipal policy. All of the above mentioned territory (outside of the Town of Bergen was originally attached to the old town. It comprised the buytentuyn, or out-gardens, of its inhabitants, and at the close of the Revolution was very sparsely settled. The growth of the neighboring city of New York caused a demand for near-by homes, and from time to time, settlements were made, until at the present time, the whole territory is occupied by a thriving population.


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