Jersey City, NJ from
HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS OF THE
STATE OF NEW JERSEY
BY: JOHN W. BARBER and HENRY HOWE
PUBLISHED BY S. TUTTLE (NEW YORK) 1844



JERSEY CITY.

JERSEY CITY lies on the west hank of the Hudson, opposite New York, on a peninsula, the Indian name of which was Arese-heck. It was sometimes called, by the Dutch, Areseck-Houck. Soon after the arrival, in 1638, of William Kieft, Director-general of the Dutch West India Co., he had in his possession a farm, described as a lot of land called Paulus Hoeck, which is the first application of the name of Paulus Hook to this peninsula.

Powles Hook, from a very remote period, belonged to the Van Vorst family; and in 1804 was vested in Cornelius Van Vorst. On the 10th Nov. 1804, an act to incorporate the Associates of the Jersey Co. was passed by the legislature of the state, to whom the title by this time was conveyed. On the 28th Jan. 1820, an act to incorporate the City of Jersey, in the county of Bergen, was passed; under which, and the various supplements and amendments thereto since passed, this city has continued to this time.

The city, although small, is well laid out, with wide and commodious streets, and contains many large and elegant dwellings. It is the seat of justice for Hudson co., and a port of entry, annexed 1:o the collection ttistrict of New York, together with all that part of New Jersey lying north and east of Elizabethtown and Staten Island. It was a mere village at the time of its incorporation, in 1820, containing only about 300 inhabitants. It has since been very thriving, and now has a population of about 4,000. It contains 5 churches. of which the first-named is the oldest 1 Episcopal, 1 Reformed Dutch, 1 Congregational, 1 Methodist, and 1 Catholic; a female academy, in fine repute, (Misses Edwards, principals;) an excellent high-school for males, (W. L. Dickinson, Esq., principal;) the American Pottery Co., who make beautiful deiftware; the Jersey City Glass Co., conducted by Phineas C. Dummer & Co., which employs 100 hands, and manufactures plain and cut glass; 1 newspaper printing-office, 3 lumber-yards, 2 ironfoundries, and many stores and mechanic shops. The city is well lighted with street-lamps.

This is now the principal starting-point of the great line of southern travel. The New Jersey railroad commences here, and, in connection with other railroads, extends to Philadelphia. The Paterson and Hudson railroad also commences at this place, diverging from the New Jersey railroad at Bergen Hill; thence running to Paterson, a distance of 16½ miles. This road will ultimately ex tend amd unite with the Eric railroad, in which event this city will be vastly benefited. The Morris canal also terminates at J ersey City, after pursuing a circuitous route, from the Delaware river, of 101 miles. In its course it has a total rise and fall of 1669 feet, which is overcome by locks and inclined planes. The summit level is 915 feet above the Atlantic ocean. From the magnitude of the public works terminating at this point, Jersey City must fast increase in importance and population, being closely allied to New York, (distant one mile,) with which communication is had every 15 minutes, by a line of excellent ferry-boats, nowhere4surpassed.

In the war of the revolution, the spot where Jersey City now stands was an outpost of the British army, during their occupancy of New York. Their fort on Powles Hook, as the place was then called, was located near the building lately used by the Morris Canal and Banking Co., for their banking-house, at the corner of Grand and Greene sts. The graveyard was near the site of the Episcopal church. In grading the streets, a few years since, in that neighborhood, human remains were disinterred, together with a variety of military relics. In the latter part of the summer of 1779, this fortress was surprised by Maj. Lee; the following account of which is from Marshall's Life of Washington:

While Sir Henry Clinton continued encamped just above Haerlem, with his upper posts at Kingsbridge, and the American army preserved its. station in the Highlands, a bold plan was formed for surprising a British post at Powles Hook, which was executed with great address by Maj. Lee.

This officcr was employed on the west side of the river, with directions to observe the situation of the British in Stony Point, but, principally, to watch the motions of their main army. While his parties scoured the country, he obtained intelligence which suggested the idea of surprising and carrying off the garrison at Powles Hook, immediately opposite the town of New York, penetrating deep into the river. On the point nearest New York, some works had been constructed, which were garrisoned by four or five hundred men.

A deep ditch, into which the water of the river flowed, having over it a drawbridge connected with a barred gate, had been cut across the istlunus, so as to make the Hook, in reality, an island. This ditch could be passed only at low water. Thirty feet within it was a row of abattis running into the river; and sonic distance in front of it is a creek, fordable only in two places.

This difficulty of access, added to the remoteness of the nearest corps of the American army, impressed the garrison with the opinion that they were perfectly secure; and this opinion produced an unmilitary remissness in the commanding officer, which did not escape the vigilance of Lee.

On receiving his communication, Gen. Washington was inclined to favor the enterprise they suggested; but withheld his full assent until he was satisfied that the assailants would be able to make good their retreat.

The Hackensack, which communicates with the waters of the Hudson below New York, runs ahnost parallel with that river quite to its source, and is separated from it only a few miles. This neck is still further narrowed by a deep creek which divides it, and empties into the Hackensack below Fort Lee. West of that river runs the Passaic, which unites with it near Newark, and forms another long and narrow neck of land. From Powies Hook to the new bridge, the first place where the Hackensack could be crossed without boats, the distance is fourteen miles; and from the North river to the road leading from the one place to the other, there are three points of interception, the nearest of which is less than two miles, and the farthest not more than three. The British were encamped in full force along the North river, opposite to the points of interception. To diminish the danger of the retreat, it was intended to occupy the roads leading through the mountains of the Hudson, to the Hackensack, with a select body oLtroops.

Every preparatory arrangement being made, the night of the 18th of August was fixed on for the enterprise. A detachment from the division of Lord Stirling, including 300 men, designed for the expedition, was ordered down as a foraging party. As there was nothing unusual in this movement, it excited no suspicion. Lord Stirling followed with 500 men, and encamped at the new bridge.

Maj. Lee, at the head of 300 men, took the road through the mountains, which ran parallel to the North river; and, having secured all the passes into York island, reached the creek which surrounds the Hook, between two and three in the morning. He passed first the creek, and then the ditch, undiscovered, and about three in the morning entered the main work; and, with the loss of only two killed and three wounded, made 159 prisoners, including three officers. Very few of the British were killed. Maj. Sutherland, who commanded the garrison, threw himself, with 40 or 50 Hessians, into a strong redoubt, which it was thought unadvisable to attack, because the time occupied in carrying it might endanger the retreat. Wasting no time in destroying what could easily be replaced, Maj. Lee hastened to bring off his prisoners and his detachment.

To avoid the danger of retreating up the narrow neck of land which has already been described, some boats had been brought, in the course of the night, to Dow's Ferry, on the Hackensack, not far from Powles Hook. The officer who guarded them was direct.. cd to remain until the arrival of the troops engaged in the expedition, which, it was understood, would happen before day. The light having made its appearance without any intelligence from Maj. Lee, the officer having charge of the boats conjectured that the attack had been postponed; and, to avoid discovery, retired with them to Newark. The head of the retreating column soon afterward reached the ferry; and, fatigued as they were by the toilsome march of the preceding night, were compelled to pass as rapidly as possible up the narrow neck of land, between the two rivers, to the new bridge. A horseman was dispatched, with this information, to Lord Stirling, and the line of march was resumed.

About in the preceding evening, Maj. Buskirk had been detached up the North river, with a considerable part of the garrison of Powles Hook, and some other troops, for the purpose ol falling in with the American party, supposed to be foraging about the English Neighborhood.

On receiving intelligence of the disappointment respecting the boats, Lord Stirling tock the precaution to detach Col. Ball, with 200 fresh men, to meet Lee, and cover his retreat. Just after Ball had passed, Buskirk entered the main road, and fired on his rear. Taking it for granted that this was only the advanced corps of a large detachment, sent to intercept the party retreating from Powles Hook, Ball made a circuit to avoid the enemy; and Buskirk, finding a detachment be had not expected, took the same measure to secure his own retreat. The two parties, narrowly missing each other, returned to their respective points of departure; and Lee reached the new bridge without interruption.

This critical enterprise reflected much honor on the partisan with whom it originated, and by whom it was conductcd. Gen. Washington announced it to the army, in his orders, with ]nuch approbation; and congress bestowed upon it a degree of applause more adapted to the talent displayed in performing the service than to its magnitude.

It was at this place that the intrepid Champe, in his pretended desertion from the American army, while being hotly pursued, at the peril of his life, from near Tappan, by a party of Lee's legion, of which he was the sergeant-major, embarked on board of a British barge, and escaped to New York, for the purpose of getting Arnold, by stratagem, into the power of Washington; and thus save the life of the unfortunate Andre. For a full and thrilling narration of this event, the reader is referred to Lee's Southern Campaigns.

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