Bergen Township, NJ from


Bergen has been much reduced from its original limits. It now comprises a small strip of land 7½ m. long, and from 1 to 3 broad. It is bounded N. by North Bergen, E. by New York bay, S. by the Kill Van Kuhi, and W. by Newark bay and Hackensack river. The soil is fertile, and it is inhabited by a thriving agricultural population.

Bergen is supposed to be the oldest European settlement in New Jersey. The village of Bergen is presumed to have been founded about 1616, by the Dutch colonists to New Netherlands, and to have received its name from Bergen in Norway. For several years it was probably merely a trading post, to which the Indians resorted for the sale of their game and fur. On the 30th Jan., 1658-9, the Indians sold to "the Noble Lord Director-general, Pieter Stuyvesant, and Councill of New Netherlandt," a tract lying on the west side of North river, "beginning from the great C!ip,* above Wiehachan, and from there right through the land above the Islandt Sikakes, and therefrom thence to the Kill Van Coil, and so along to the Constables Hoeek, and from the Constables Hocek again to the aforesaid Clip above Wiehachan." In consideration for this tract, which included all the lands between the Hackensack and North rivers, and the Kills, the indians received 80 fitt.homs of wampum, 20 fathoms of cloth, 12 brass kettles, 6 guns, 2 blankets, 1 double brass kettle, and one half-barrel of strong beer, and agreed to remove the first opportunity.

On the 22d Sept., 1668, a charter was granted by Coy. Carteret and his council, "to the Towne and the Freeholders of Bergen, and to the Village and Plantations thereunto belonging;" and the boundaries fixed in the deed then given, remained unchanged until the recent act of the legislature constituting the new county of Hudson, when Jersey City was set off The township, in the deed, was estimated to embrace 11,520 acres, (perhaps not more than half the actual quantity) and it was about 16 miles long, by 4 in width, including "the said towne of Bergen, Communipaw, Ahassimus, Minkacque, and Pembrepock," bounded on the E., S., and W. by New York and Newark bays, and Hackensack river. The conditions of this charter were admirable. By it, "the Freeholders within the said Jurisdiction," were bound "to pay the Lords Proprietors and their successors, on every 25th day of March, £15," as a quit-rent forever. They had power "to chuse their owne magistrates to be assistants to the President or Judge of the Court, and for the ordering of all Public Affaires within the said Jurisdiction." They were also enjoined to provide for religious worship, "to chuse a minister for the preaching of the Word of God, and the administering his Holy Sacraments,"-" to lay out such a proportion of Land for him, and the keeping of a Free School for the Education of Youth, as they shall think fit; which Land is to remaine and to continue forever without Tax or Rent." No person was to be molested for religious opinions, provided they did not "extend to Licentiousness," &c., &c.

The first settlement was doubtless at the village of Bergen, 2 miles west of Jersey City, on the summit of Bergen ridge, which now contains about 30 dwellings and a Reformed Dutch church. "The names of some of the early settlers in this region were, Pinhome, Eickbe, Berrie, Kiersted, Van Horne, Van Winkle, Edsall, Van Guellin, Van Vorst, &c.; and their descendants have continued to occupy the country to the present day, retaining much of their primitive habits, their language, industry, cleanliness, and general economy."

The following is a description of this country in 1680, taken from Smith's history of New Jersey :- Near the mouth of the bay, upon the side of Overprook creek, adjacent to Hackensack river, several of the rich valleys were then (1680) settled by the Dutch; and near Snake hill was a fine plantation, owned by Pinhorne and Eickbe, for half of which, Pinhorne is said to have paid £500. There were other settlements upon Hackensack river, and on. a creek near it, Sarah Kicrsted, of New York, had a tract given her by an old Indian sachem, for services in interpreting between the Indians and Dutch and on which several families were settled; John Berrie had a large plantation, 2 or 3 miles above, where ho then lived, and had considerable improvements; as had also near him, his son-in-law, Smith, and one Baker, from Barbadocs. On the west side of the creek, opposite to Berrie were other plantations; but none more northerly. There was a considerable settlement upon Bergen Point, then called Constable Rook, and first improved by Edsall, in Nicoll's time. ( Other small plantations were improved along Bergen neck, to the east, between the point and a large village of 20 families, (Communipan.) Further along lived 16 or 18 families, and opposite New York about 40 families were seated. Southward from this, a few families settled together, at a place called Duke's Farm; and further up the country was a place called Hoebuck, formerly owned by a Dutch merchant, who, in the Indian wars with the Dutch, had his wife, children, and servants murdered by the Indians, and his house and stock destroyed by them; but it was now settled again, and a mill erected there. Along the river-side to the N. were lands settled by William Lawrence, Samuel Edsall, and Capt. Beinfield; and at Haversham, near the Highlands, Gov. Carteret had taken up two large tracts; one for himself, the other for Andrew Campyne and Co., which were now but little improved. The plantations on both sides of the neck, to its utmost extent, as also those at Hackensack, were under the jurisdiction of Bergentown, situate about the middle of the neck; where was a court held by- selectmen or overseers, consisting of 4 or more in number, as the people thought best, chose annually to try small causes, as had been the practice in all the rest of the towns at first; 2 courts of sessions were held here yearly, from which, if the cause exceeded £20, the party might appeal to the governor, council, and court of deputies or assembly.

Bergen, a compact town which had been fortified against the Indians, contained about 70 families; its inhabitants were chiefly Dutch, some of whom had been settled there upwards of 40 years.

The following interesting facts, relating to the ecclesiastical history of the village, are from a manuscript historical discourse by the Rev. B. C. Taylor, D. D., Bergen:In 1663, the inhabitants agreed to be taxed for a place of worship, and in 1664, the church records commenced, and have been regularly kept ever since. About that period the church was constituted, being the first church of any denomination in the state, and one of the first Dutch Reformed churches in the Union. Until 1680, public worship was held in a rude structure, probably of logs, which, tradition says, stood on the hill within what is now known as the old graveyard. That year, the first regular church ediface was erected. It. was built of stone, octagonal in form ; with pews around the wall, solely occupied by the males, while the remainder of the floor was covered with chairs for the females. A belfry rose from the roof, and when ringing, the sexton stood in the centre of the church. In 1773, this church was taken down, and a new one (shown in the annexed view) was erected, which stood until 1841, when the present splendid church edifice, standing 15 or 20 rods south of the old one, was built. On it is the appropriate inscription-" The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our fathers: let him not leave us or forsake us." The territory over which the congregation was originally scattered, comprised the whole of the ancient township of Bergen, in which, for 162 years, it was the only organized church. On the hallowed spot where the late house of worship stood, there was, at least for 140 years, the only house of worship. There, for over 160 years, successive generations worshipped the living God. There are now, (1843,) in the same limits, 15 temples in which public worship is held, 4 of which are in this township, viz: 1 Reformed Dutch and 2 Methodist churches at Bergen neck, and 1 Reformed Dutch at Bergen.

The congregation, from its organization, was supplied with preaching from the Reform. ed Dutch church at Now York. In 1750, a call was made by the cousistories of Staten Island and Bergen, on one Petrus De Wint. He commenced as a candidate, and endeavored to procure his ordination as a minister, and installation as a pastor, of these churches, from the party known as the Coetus. The call, however, was referred to the Chassis of Amsterdam for approval, from which body a letter was subsequently received, declaring Do Wint to be an impostor; upon which he was discharged by the congregations. In 1752, the two churches unitedly called Wm. Jackson, a young theological student, whom they sent to Holland to complete his education.

In 1737 he returned as an ordained minister, with a commission appointing three clergymen of the Dutch church in this country to install him pastor over these churches; which took place Sept. 10, 1757. He was an able and devoted minister. On the 10th of December, 1789, the Classis of Hackcnsack recommended to him the propriety of returning his call, by reason of sore mental affliction. The church then secured to him, through life, the parsonage and adjacent lands; and administered to his wants until his death, July 25, 1813, at the age of 82, and nearly 24 years after his release from the church. On the 28th of November, 1792, this church united with that of English Neighborhood in a call on the Rev. John Cornelison, which he accepted, and continued in the double charge until December 1, 1806; from which time until his death, March, 1828, he was pastor of this church alone. On the 1st of July, 1828, the present pastor, the Rev. Benjamin C. Taylor, D. D., entered upon his labors. It is a fact worthy of notice, that there arc now in this congregation 35 pew-holders with the prefix of Van to their names ; of these there arc 22 of the name of Van Vreeland. Other very numerous names are the Van Winkles, Van Horns, Van Reypen, Van Boskircks, Newkirks, and Cadmuses. Previous to the settlement of Cornelison, and during part of his ministry, the services were in the Dutch language; and the church records, until 1809, were in Dutch.

In the war of the revolution Bergen village was frequently Successively occupied by American and British troops on the same day; and there was much skirmishing between them. A fort was erected by the Americans, about 200 yards E. of the centre of the village, on land belonging to Garret G. Newkirk; and one by the British, on Van Vorst's hill, about a mile SE. They were simply earthen breastworks covered with sod, with trenches in front. The accompanying extract from an ancient newspaper, relates to the murder of Stephen Ball by the refugees, Feb. 15th, 1781. According to tradition, he was hung on a small persimmon-tree, near the tide-mill on Bergen Point. After be was dead the refugees cut the rope, and his corpse fell into a grave dug by them. He was subsequently reburied at Newark.

This unfortunate man was deluded by a declaration made by the commanding officer on Staten Island, that all persons who would bring provisions should have liberty to sell the same, and return unmolested; in consequence of which declaration Ball carried over four quarters of beef, with a full assurance of being well treated, and expected to return undiscovered by his countrymen; but soon after his arrival on that island, he was seized by Cornelius Hetficid, who commanded a party of six or seven men, and was carried before Gen. Patterson, who refused to call a court-martial to try him. From thence he was carried before Gen. Skinner, in order for trial; but he also refused, pretending to shudder at the thought of trying and executing a person who came to bring them relief. Nevertheless, the said Hetfield and his party, being lost to every sense of humanity, after robbing their prisoner of what property he had with him, carried him across to Bergen Point, and without even the form of a trial, immediately informed him that he had but ten minutes to live, and accordingly put their horrid design into execution, notwithstanding the prisoner strenuously urged that he came with provision, agreeably to the above mentioned declaration. And when he found they were determined to take his life, be begged for a few minutes longer, but was answered that his request could not be granted; but if he had a desire any person should pray with him, one of their party should officiate. When he was near expiring, James Hetfield, one of the banditti, put a knife in his hand, and swore that he should not go into another world unarmed. The persons who perpetrated this cruel act were Cornelius Hetfield, Job Haetfield, James Hetfield, sen., James Hetfield, jr., Elias Man, and Samuel Man-all late inhabitants of Elizabethtown; and Job Smith, late an inhabitant of Bergen. When Ball's father became acquainted with the tragical death of his son, he solicited a flag, which he obtained, for the purpose of bringing over the corpse; but the enemy, with savage brutal ity, would not suffer them to land.

At the close of the revolution, Cornelius Hetfield, the principal in this murder, fled to Nova Scotia. in 1807 he returned to this state, and was arrested for the crime. After his incarceration in the Newark jail, he was shortly brought before Judge Pennington, on a writ of habeas corpus. He was finally discharged by the judge, who was of opinion, by the spirit of the treaty of 1783, that he was not answerable for the transaction.

Communipaw is a small settlement, consisting of 12 or 15 houses, facing the sea, on the shore, about 2 miles below Jersey city; and inhabited principally by fishermen. It was very early settled by the Dutch; and its inhabitants have long been noted tbr their tenacity to the customs of their ancestors. Washington Irving, in his history of New York, humorously describes this place.

Return to [ New Jersey History ] [ History at Rays Place ] [ Rays Place ]