Welcome to N.J. – Keep Out!: West Milford, the Story of a Suburb, Ch. 2

Chapter Two:  Welcome to New Jersey – Keep Out!

In 1524, Giovanni da Verrazzano’s ship entered New York Bay, where he was greeted by local natives in canoes.  It’s not known for certain whether they were Lenape or Iroquois.   The Susqehannock were known to fish off the Jersey Shore.  Verrazzano returned the greeting by capturing the natives and trying to enslave them.  They escaped. On a return voyage, they fired on Verrazzano’s ship and he never returned.  Verrazzano was killed on his final voyage, to Guadaloupe, and eaten by the native Caribe.  At least the New Jersey Indians didn’t eat him.

No European explorers visited the area again until Englishman Henry Hudson, sailing under a Dutch flag, sailed up the North River (later renamed for Hudson in the early 20th Century) in 1609. The river leading through the valley to Upstate New York, which the Indians had many names for – Shalenuc (“place of the Pelicans”) was the Mohegan name – was deemed the “North River.”  The Delaware River was called the “South River” by the Dutch and “Lennepewithittuck”by the Lenape.  The Lenape name for New Netherland (New Jersey) was Sheyichbi and their name for Europeans was “Wannekins” – people from over the salt waters.

The Lenape called themselves “the Original People or Real Men.”  They were generally acknowledged by all other Indian tribes to have emanated from the Lower Hudson River Valley and the northern New Jersey highlands.  Their tales tell of the world as a turtle surrounded by water with a tree in the center, and that their ancestors were rabbits or some other furred animal that lived in caves until the ice melted. Hudson got along with them well. The Indians were as

The“ice” would be the Wisconsin Glacier, which receded about 14,000 years ago.  The Lenape say that their ancestors emerged from the caves as rabbits and became men.  As the glacier receded, a barren tundra grew into flatlands that drew wildlife from warmer climates, and eventually various flora, not native to the area, began to grow. The wildlife became abundant and so did the Lenape.  The glacier also left steep hills, valleys, ponds, lakes, and streams that fed into rivers farther south, all of which would prove useful for milling later on.

Why were the Netherlanders so interested in acquiring property in New Jersey?

In the 17th-century, Europe was undergoing expansive social, cultural, and economic growth. In the Netherlands this was known as the Dutch Golden Age. Nations vied for domination of lucrative trade routes across the globe, particularly those to.  Hudson’s orders were to look for a northern route, but went south instead. Simultaneously, philosophical and theological conflicts were manifested in military battles across the continent. The Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, which had declared independence from Spain in 1581, had become a home to many intellectuals, international businessmen, and religious refugees. In the Americas, the English had a settlement at Jamestown, the French had a small settlements at Port Royal and Quebec, and the Spanish were developing colonies to exploit trade in South America and the Caribbean.

Hudson was hired by the Flemish Protestant emigres running the Dutch East India Company, located in Amsterdam, to find a Northeast Passage to Asia sailing around Scandinavia and Russia. Turned back by the ice of the Arctic in his second attempt, he sailed west to seek a northwest passage rather than return home and ended up exploring the waters off the east coast of North America aboard a small, two-ton ship the Halve Maen. His first landfall was at Newfoundland and the second at Cape Cod. Believing the passage to the Pacific Ocean was between the St. Lawrence River and Chesapeake Bay, Hudson sailed south to the Bay then turned northward, traveling close along the shore. He first discovered Delaware Bay and began to sail upriver looking for the passage. This effort was foiled by sandy shoals, and the Halve Maen continued north. After passing Sandy Hook, Hudson and his crew entered the narrows into the Upper New York Bay.

Proceeding north through the narrows, he reported “a river between two islands.”  A crew of men went ashore to explore the land.  They were attacked by natives and one man named Coleman was killed.  He was buried on ground to which they gave the name Coleman’s Point at Sandy Hook.

Believing he may have found the continental water route, Hudson sailed up the major river which would later bear his name. Days later, at the site of present-day Albany, he found the water too shallow to proceed.

Upon returning to the Netherlands, Hudson reported having found a fertile land and an amicable people willing to engage his crew in small-scale bartering of furs, trinkets, clothes, and small manufactured goods. His report, first published by the Antwerp emigre and Dutch Consul at London, Emanuel Van Meteren, in 1612, stimulated interest in exploiting this new trade resource, and was the catalyst for Dutch merchant-traders to fund more expeditions. Flemish Lutheran emigre merchants, such as Arnout Vogels, sent the first follow-up voyages to exploit this discovery as early as July, 1610.

For three years, a company called the “United New Netherlands Company” made treaties with the Indians and established trading posts. When the charter expired in 1621, the West Indies Company was established, with a charter that gave them jurisdiction over New Netherlands for 21 years.

New Amsterdam (New York) was founded in 1624. The ship, “Nieu Nederlandt” departed with the first settlers, consisting of thirty Flemish Walloon (French-speaking Belgian) families. The families were spread out over the entire territory claimed by the company. To the north, a few families were left at the mouth of the Connecticut River, while to the south some families were settled at Burlington Island on the Delaware River. Others were left on Nut Island, now called Governor’s Island, at the mouth of the Hudson River, while the remaining families were taken up the Hudson to Fort Orange. Later, in 1624 and through 1625, six additional ships sailed for New Netherland with colonists, livestock and supplies.

The early interaction between the Lenape and Dutch traders in the 17thcentury was primarily limited to the fur trade, particularly beaver.  Anxious to do business, the Lenape hunted the species of beaver found in the New Jersey Highlands into extinction.  According to Dutch settler Issac de Rasieres, in 1628, the Lenape’s major crop was maize. The Indians used the tools they had traded the beaver pelts to improve their farming.

Differences in conceptions of property rights between the Europeans and the Lenape resulted in widespread confusion among the Lenape and the eventual loss of their lands. After the Dutch arrival in the 1620s, the Lenape were successful in restricting Dutch settlement until the 1660s to Pavonia in present-day Jersey City along the Hudson.

The Dutch finally established a garrison at Bergen, which allowed settlement west of the Hudson within the province of New Netherland.   The women and children at Fort Orange (Albany, N.Y.)  were forced to move to safety due to Indian violence. At this point, in the spring of 1626, the Director General of the company, Peter Minuit, came to the province.  Minuit motivated to get a safe place, purchased the island of Manhattan. He immediately commanded engineer Cryn Fredericksz to start the construction of Fort New Amsterdam.

The Dutch settlers limited their agricultural labor, in the beginning to clearing the fields and breaking the soil.  Dutch settler David de Vries explored the area of the Achinigue-hac (or “Ackingsah-sack”) River valley from 1633 to 1644, observing the Lenape’s hunting and farming habits.  Land in the new territory was divided according to these rules:  any member who within four years could found a colony of at least 50 adults outside of Manhattan would become a Patroon, the chief of the colony.  Each colony was entitled to lands 16 miles in length on one side of a navigable river, or eight miles on each side, extending“as far back as the situation of the occupiers will permit.”

Each Patroon was required to recompense the Indians for the occupied land.  The first Patroons were Godyn and Bloomermaert. They selected land on the “south corner of the Bay of the South River.”  Van Renssaelaer took the lands adjacent to Fort Orang (near Albany), while Michael Pauw, Burgomaster of Amsterdam and Lord Acklionhoven, finding the west shore of the North River uninhabited, obtained deeds from the Director of New Netherland and from the Indians.  These were the first conveyances of land by deed in New  Jersey.  Pauw’s holding, including what is now Jersey City (later named Bergen by the Dutch), Hoboken and “Staaten Eylandt”, in 1630.  Pauw gave the land the name of Pavonia in honor of himself.

In 1634, the Iroquoian-speaking Susequehannock went to war with the Lenape over access to trade with the Dutch at New Amsterdam.  The Susquehannock defeated the Lenape, who became tributaries to the conquerors, and whom they called “uncles.”  They added the Lenape to the Covenant Chain in 1676.  The Covenant Chain is embodied in the Two Row Wampum, and has its earliest roots in agreements negotiated between Dutch settlers in New Netherland and the Iroquois early in the 17th century. When the English took over New Netherland and established the Province of New York, they renewed these agreements. In the mid 1670s, New York’s Governor Sir Edmund Andros negotiated the signing of several treaties that expanded the number of tribes and colonies involved.

Trouble arose between the Indians and the Dutch settlers as soon as the beaver ran out and the settlers started to expand, introducing alcohol into Indian consciousness, which wreaked havoc on the tribes and resulted in an incident involving Dutch settlers and a drunken Indian who was dared to kill a settler repairing his thatched roof.  The incident sparked a bloody feud that ended with the infamous Pavonia massacre. Not much in the way of “development” occurred until 1645 when a peace treaty was concluded.  Twice the Europeans and the Indians had clashed in bloody encounters.

The Pavonia Attack, by one account, involved Lenape who had sought refuge from a fiercer tribe from across the North River.  The Dutch colonists of Pavonia gave them shelter.  But the director of New Amsterdam, William Kieft gave the order and a massacre followed, to horror of whites and Indians alike.  Reprisals followed until the 1645 treaty was signed.  In one of the Indian raids, a Captain Post, progenitor of the Post family in Pompton, was taken prisoner, but treated well and helped formulate the treaty. By the time the treaty was signed, there was not a building nor white settler left in New Jersey.

In 1656, Peter Stuyvesant, then Governor of New York, bought all the Indian lands east of the Hackensack River and all of Newark Bay.  Gradually, families who had been driven out returned, including Michael Jensen Vreeland, who arrived in 1636 with his three sons.  Vreeland would be the progenitor of the first settlers of what would eventually become West Milford.  The Dutch established the town of Bergen, the first municipality with a government and court in the state of New Jersey.   The town was laid out in lots around a center square, in which a well was dug.  These first settlers (Baeker, Petersen Voo, Von Varcom, Tysen, Seeken, as well as new landowners such as Casper Steinmetz, Englehart Stoenhuysen, Gerrit Gerritseen, and Adrian Hardenbrook) of Bergen were the progenitors of others who also would move farther out, becoming the earliest dwellers of the Pompton area.

But the British were coming.  Covetously eyeing the Dutch lands of the New World, with their wealth of furs, farmlands, fishing, and (as it turned out), copper and iron, the English simply decided to “take over.”  In 1664, King Charles II granted to his brother James, Duke of York, all the lands east of the Delaware Bay.  While the squadron conveying this news was still on the Atlantic, James conveyed, by lease, to John, Lord of Berkeley and to Sir George Carteret the tract of land lying between the North and South Rivers (the Hudson and the Delaware).  “Which said tract of land is hereby to be called by the name or named New Cesaerea or New Jersey.”

This invasion would have direct consequences for the later township of West Milford.

Welcome to New Jersey.





Published in: on October 15, 2012 at 2:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

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