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Early History of Jersey City New Jersey

Jersey City History - Addition History of Jersey City  - Early History of Jersey City New Jersey

 

When Henry Hudson sailed up through the Narrows between Long and Staten Islands in 1609 and anchored in the upper bay almost opposite old Communipaw, and he looked over the surrounding country and, as his gaze fell upon the green plains and pleasantly wooded hills stretching away toward the setting sun, he declared his enthusiasm that it was “as pleasant a land as one need tread upon.  The three and a half centuries, which have passed since then, have wrought a green change in the beautiful scene, which drew this enthusiastic encomium from the great navigator.  The green plains have disappeared, and in their place stand huge warehouses and busy manufacturing establishments, while handsome residences and the tall spires of churches crown the hill beyond.  Where Hudson’s men fund “Grass and flowers and godly trees as ever they had seen,” now stands Jersey City, one of the most important cities of the new world.                            

The history of Jersey City is one of more than ordinary interest.  Within its borders is the spot where the Dutch planted the first settlement of New Jersey, and owing to its close proximity to New York it was the scene of many stirring events during the war of Independence.  The Jersey City of today is made up of what were originally small communities, and its history is the history of those settlements.  When in 1620 the condition of New Netherlands did not come up to the expectations of its promoters, and tempting “freedoms and exemptions” were offered to those who would establish colonies within its territory.  Michael Pauw, burgomaster of Amsterdam and Lord of Achienhoven near Utrecht, cast his eye upon the west bank of the Hudson River, which had not then been appropriated.  In 1630, he purchased was that portion of Jersey City which now lies south of Hoboken and east of the Heights.  It included Harsimus, Paulus Hook, and Communipaw.  Pauw gave his purchase to the appellation of Pavonia, which he obtained by Latinizing his own name.  The name still remains in Pavonia Avenue and Pavonia Ferry.  Paulus Hook took its own name from Michael Paulusen, or Poulaz, who was in charge of the settlement in 1633.  Ahasimus or Harsimus, as it is known at the present day, is an Indian name, and is spelled in historical documents no less than seventeen different ways.  Communipaw enjoys the distinction of having been written in fifteen different ways, although its origin is in doubt.

Pauw’s purchase proved a most valuable one.  The shore it embraced was of considerable commercial value.  It was a favorite trading post with the Indians, and from it they carried their peltries across the river to New Amsterdam.  It was not long before its value excited the envy of Pauw’s fellow directors of the Dutch West India Company, which had a monopoly of trade in this section of the country, and they made so much trouble over the matter for Pauw that he gladly relinquished his acquisitions.  In the latter part of 1633 the company cause two houses to be erected in Pavonia, which were the first regular buildings built on the west shore of the Hudson; one was located at Communipaw and the other at Harsimus.  In June 1634, Jan Evertse Bout succeeded Poulaz as superintendent of the settlement, and he established his capital at Communipaw.  Cornelius Van Vorst, who transferred the official residence to the house at Harsimus, succeeded him in 1636.  Van Vorst was the founder of one of the leading families of Jersey City.  Many of his descendants are residents of the cit today, and one of the principal thoroughfares and one of the city’s parks still bears his name.  Van Vorst has no sooner settled himself in his official residence when a catastrophe occurred which has become historical from the fact that it was the first conflagration in the new colony of which any record is extant.  Wouter Van Twiller, the head of the New Netherlands State, and Dominic Everardus Bogardus, who then represented the church, and who is famous as the husband of Aneke Jans crossed over the river to pay Van Vorst a visit of state. 

The latter had a well-stocked wine cellar, and entertained the representatives of state and church in a manner befitting their dignity.  During the entertainment they became involved in a hot dispute, which fortunately was drowned in generous flagons of Van Vorst’s Burgundy.  When the distinguished visitors departed for their homes. Van Vorst determined to give them a farewell commensurate with their exalted positions in the colony.  So he fired a salute from a swivel, which was mounted, in front of his house.  A spark from the cannon lit upon the roof and set fire to the dry thatch.  In a short time the entire building was a heap of ashes. 

In March 1638, William Kieft arrived in the colony as a director general, and the years following were marked by bloodshed and suffering.  Early in the settlement of the country the Dutch, in the presence of his young nephew had murdered an Indian.  The lad vowed to avenge the cruel death of his uncle, and h had now become a man, thirsting to fulfill his vow.  Kieft knew nothing of the Indian character, and was soon at swords’ point with the natives. He undertook to exact a tribute from them, and to force its payment by arms.  His exactions aroused the animosity of the Indians, and they began to regard him as their enemy.  At this point the Indian who had seen his uncle murdered, waylaid and killed one of the colonists.  Kieft demanded the surrender of the young man, but as he had only obeyed one of the unwritten laws of his race in avenging his uncle’s death, the chiefs refused to give him up.  Another white man was soon afterward murdered by a drunken Indian, whom some of the colonists had taunted with being unable to use his bow while in liquor.  He killed the man with his bow to prove that his tormentor lied.  Thus matters went on from bad to worse, until finally in 1634 Kieft issued an order for the massacre of the Indians.

The natives had been attacked by their enemies, the fierce Mohawks, of the north, and had fled to the Dutch for protection.  They were huddled together around their camp fries one cold bleak night in February, thinking themselves secure under the protection of the Dutch, when they were set upon a squad of soldiers, sent over from New Amsterdam by Kieft, and massacred. The scenes that were there enacted are a blot upon the history of the Dutch occupation of New Jersey.

This massacre led to a bitter and relentless war between the Dutch and the Indians. Frequent attempts were made to secure peace, but the efforts only resulted in short lived truces.  The entire blame was laid upon Kieft, and threats were made to depose him from office and send him back to Holland.  He in turn attempted to shift the blame o the inhabitants of Pavonia, who, he declared, had urged him to destroy the Indians. This war, which was the first Indian war of the colony lasted 8 months, and spread poverty and misery throughout the settlement.  Finally in the spring of 1645, peace was brought about, which was celebrated with “a grand salute of three guns,” during the firing of which one of the cannons- a brass six-pounder – exploded, killing Jacobsen Roy, the gunner.

During May 1647, Petrus Stuyvesant entered upon office of the director general of the colony of New Amsterdam.  Stuyvesant profited by the experience of his predecessor and adopted a policy of conciliation toward the Indians.  This resulted in and eight years’ peace, during which the colony on the Jersey Shore grew and prospered.  In 1655 the war broke out again, and was brought about by that luscious fruit, the peach.  Henry Van Dyke had a farm on Manhattan Island, which ran from what is now Broadway, just south of Trinity Church, to the river.  Along the water’s edge he planted a peach orchard.  The fruit was new to the Indians, and when they became acquainted with its deliciousness, Van Dyke’s orchard became a sore temptation to them.  They used to cross the river from Pavonia in their canoes and rob Henry’s trees.  This aroused the righteous wrath of Henry's good frau and an effort was made to catch the marauders, but the nimble son of the forest easily eluded the slow going Dutchman, and all efforts to catch him were in vain.  It was determined to load with lead the next prowler found within the orchards.  One night a dusky form was seen stealing among the trees, and the guards fired upon it.  It was that of an Indian maiden, and when the watchers reached her side, she was dead.  This incensed the natives, and a band of eighty of them crossed the river one night and attacked Van Dyke, who had taken refuge in a neighbor’s house.  Van Dyke was wounded in the breast with an arrow, and his neighbor was cut down with a tomahawk.  The guards, however soon pt the Indians to flight.  The natives fled back to Pavonia, resolved to avenge themselves upon the inhabitants of that section.  They began the attack as soon as they landed, and in a short time, the entire settlement was laid waste.  With the exception of one family all who did not flee was murdered.  The cattle were all killed, and everything combustible was burned.  The Indians even crossed over to Staten Island and continued their depredations there. The raid lasted three days.  Every white man was driven from the Jersey shore, and for the next five years, the country remained in the sole possession of the natives. 

The people who fled to New Amsterdam to escape the Indians, as time went by began to long for the fruitful fields and wooded slopes of Pavonia.  Besides the occupations they were engaged in on the island were not all congenial, and they began to importune Governor Stuyvesant for permission to return.  Thinking to reconcile the savages further Stuyvesant purchased over again the land bought by Pauw and received a deed signed, or rather marked, by nine of the chiefs, with appropriate ceremonies.  In order to guards against any further depredations by the Indians, the council decreed that the village should be formed at a place which could be easily defended.  A place on the hill, now Jersey City Heights, was selected for the village, and it was further decreed that the land should be distributed by lot.  Those who proposed to settle here were obliged to make a beginning within six weeks after the drawing, and were to provide for the common defense at least on person capable of bearing arms.  Some time between August and November 1660, the village was surveyed and laid out the name Bergen bestowed upon it.  There is much controversy among historians as to the derivation of the name, whether it was taken from the Dutch verb Bergen, meaning to save, or was bestowed in honor of the capital of Norway, or came from Bergen op Zoom.

The village was laid out in a square, 800 feet on each side.  Two roads or street at right angles crossed it, and another ran around it. Palisades were erected about the outside street to protect the village from the Indians.  Where the two streets crossed in the center of the square there was a public plot about one hundred and sixty by two hundred and twenty-five feet. The plot remains today, and is Bergen Square on Jersey City Heights, while Academy Street and Bergen Avenue cross it at right angles almost as they did (though not by those names) over three hundred years ago.  The village prospered and grew so rapidly that every lot inside the stockade was occupied by the next May and a local government was formed.  Tielman Van Flack was appointed sheriff, and a local court of justice was erected, with the right of appeal to the director general and council of New Amsterdam.  Communipaw was made a village separate and distinct from Bergen in September 1660. It was surveyed and laid out into lots, and the work of fortifying it with palisades was commenced.  But the settlers did not enter into the work with any degree of enthusiasm, and tried to shirk their duty.  The work was not completed in 1663, when commissioners were appointed to complete the palisades.  This was necessary for the Indians still lurked in the country and occasionally committed outrages.

In March 1664, Charles II of England, who claimed to own New Netherlands, gave the territory to his brother James, Duke of York.  In May and expedition sailed from England to enforce the gift by taking formal possession of the country.  The Dutch were informed of their danger and took steps to fortify themselves against invasion.  While the English expedition was on its way across the Atlantic, James conveyed his grant to Lord John Berkley and Sir George Cartaret, and the name of Nova Caesarea or New Jersey was bestowed upon the land on the west bank of the Hudson. The name was given in honor of Sir George, who was born on the Island of Jersey.  The Duke of York’s expedition, unaware of the transfer, landed on New Amsterdam September, under the leadership of Colonel Nichols, and by the articles of capitulation it was agree that the people should continue free denizens and retain possession of their lands and goods and dispose of them as they chose.  They were also to enjoy their own customs regarding inheritances.  In February following Sir Phillip Cartaret, a brother of Sir George, was appointed governor of New Jersey, and in the latter part of July 1665, he assumed the government.  He changed the courts and local government so that they conformed more to the English form.  On September 22, 1668, Governor Cartaret granted the village a charter, and it became the “Towne of Bergen.”  The “Towne” grew rapidly, and was in a prosperous condition in March 1672, when war broke out again between the English and the Dutch.  On July 30, 1673, the Dutch captured New York, as New Amsterdam had been named by the English, three day afterward they sent a summons to surrender to the inhabitants of Bergen.  The Bergenites were more Dutch than English, and they lost no time in taking another oath of allegiance to their “High Mightiness the Lords States General of the United General of the United Netherlands and His Highness the prince of Orange,” and “the true Christian religion according to the word of God and the synod of the Dordrecht taught in the Netherlands Church.”

The authorities of New Orange, as the Dutch named New York after its recapture, anticipated the return of the English and set to work to prepare for it.  The fortifications were extended and strengthened, and a sort of militia was formed of the inhabitants of New Orange and Bergen. The services of the militia however were not required, for in the peace made between the Dutch and the English in 1674 the providence was restored to the English.  Although there were dissensions among the inhabitants of and quarrels with the governors, nothing happened to mar the progress of the town of Bergen until the war of Independence broke out.  In 1714 it was found that the charter of 1668 was inadequate for the needs of the large community the town had then become, and Queen Anne gave it a new one, which is still known as Queen Anne’s Charter.

The epoch of the Revolutionary war was an exciting one for the inhabitants of Bergen, Paulus Hook, and the other settlements, which were the nucleus of Jersey City. During the period extending from the final surrender of the providence b the Dutch to the breaking out of the war, almost a century, the good colonists on the west bank of the Hudson River peacefully passed their lives working their farms and raising their children in the doctrines of the good old Dutch Church.  When the skirmish at Lexington and the bloody fight of Bunker Hill made it plain that a desperate struggle had set in between England and the colonies it at once became evident that territory which is now Jersey City would be of the utmost importance to the side which held New York, Lord Sterling was the commander of the American forces in that vicinity, and when it became apparent that the British were about to evacuate Boston and sail for New York, he began operations for the fortification of the Jersey territory. He planned works on Paulus Hook and Bergen Neck, and named them with the Bergen Militia.  When Washington arrived at New York he ordered that the works on Paulus hook should be constructed at once, as the were “of importance.”  His orders were quickly carried out, and in a short time the fortifications on the Hook were completed and the troops laced behind them.

About this time, the Hickey conspiracy was discovered.  This was a plot among the Torries of New York and vicinity to corrupt Washington’s bodyguard so that he could either be killed or delivered up to the British upon their arrival, and the important fortifications around the harbor seized.  Of so much importance were the works on Paulus Hook considered that the place was included in the conspiracy.  Thomas Hickey was on of the most active conspirators.  He was a tall fine looking Irishman who had deserted from the British service and become one of Washington's guards.  He was found guilty by a court martial “of mutiny and sedition and treacherous correspondence with the enemy,” and sentenced to be hanged. The sentence was carried out with much show an solemnity in a field near the Bowery Lane, “in the presence,” Washington Irving says, “of near twenty thousand persons.”  The first approach of the British against New York was on June 29, 1776, when the lookout on Staten Island signaled that forty sail were in sight. They were the advance of the fleet commanded by Admiral Howe, and carried a portion of Lord Howe’s forces. Two days afterward, one hundred thirty men-of-war and transports were anchored in the bay of the Kill Von Kull, and Staten Island was in possession of the troops.

Their presences filled the Torries with joy, and they lost no time in taking the oath of allegiance to King George.  The Whigs on the other hand, were depressed and apprehensive.  Many of them lost heart entirely, and thinking that the colonists would never prevail against such an overwhelming force, joined the British and became the unrelenting foes of their kindred and former friends.  Among these were the founders of some of the leading New Jersey families of today.

General Hugh Mercer, who had his flying camp at Bergen, commanded the American forces in New Jersey at that time.  Washington had sent him over to Paulus Hook to arrange fro the disposition of the Pennsylvania militia, as they should arrive.  He was ordered to place his men at Bergen Neck, and at the other places in the vicinity, in order to guard against an attack from the enemy on Staten Island, where there were then about nine thousand British troops.  General Mercer followed out his instructions, and, having received reinforcements at Bergen, considered himself in a position to attack the enemy, who appeared to have no intention of invading New Jersey. Bergen at this time was filled with Torries, who secretly held communications with the British.  For this reason Mercer exercised the greatest caution in preparing for his attack, which was fixed for the night of July 18. His plans were carefully laid, but failed owing to the bad weather, which rendered it impossible for his troops to cross the Kill Von Kull.  While this was going on the British continued to receive reinforcements, until no less than thirty thousand men were in the harbor and on Staten Island in the early part of July.  On the 12th of that month the Phoenix and Rose, two of the English men-of-war, the former carrying forty, and the latter twenty guns, weighed anchor, and favored by both wind and tide, went flying up the river.  The batteries of Paulus Hook opened up the two vessels as they went suddenly by, but did little damage, as sandbags protected the decks.

New York was captured by the British September 15, and on the morning of that day the patriots of Paulus Hook had another brush with the enemy, which did not redound to their honor.  The Roebuck, the Phoenix, and the Tartar, three of the British ships, started up the Hudson, and as they sailed by Paulus Hook they “caused tremendous firing.” The raw recruits that manned the fortifications were unable to stand the storm of lead, and in the language of their commander, General Mercer, “they behaved in a scandalous manner, running off from their posts at the first cannonade from the ships of the enemy.” Paulus Hook remained for some time in the possession of the Americans after the British had captured New York. Colonel Durkie was in immediate command of the post.  General Green had succeeded General Mercer in command of the forces on the Jersey shore, and Washington frequently crossed the river from his camp at Harlem, and in Green’s company reconnoitered the territory.  The two generals frequently went as far south as Paulus Hook.  It soon became evident, however, that the Hook could not be maintained in the face of the superior force of the enemy, and preparations were made for evacuating the works.  General Mercer ordered the withdrawal of all troops except a small guard, who had orders to evacuate the place the place upon the first approach of the enemy.  On September 23, the British came up and opened fire on the batteries on the Hook. After a half-hour’s cannonade they landed a party from the ships and advanced upon the works.  The Americans moved all the stores and useful cannons, leaving behind only such guns as had been rendered unfit for use, and retreated back to the Town of Bergen on the hill.  Their advance party took possession of Prior’s Mill, which stood on the meadows below the spot, near the Point of Rocks, now occupied by the new yards of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company.  In the following November Washington began his retreat to the Delaware, and Bergen was evacuated with the other settlements East Jersey.

The British garrisoned Paulus Hook with a large body of troops, and strengthened the fortifications. Lieutenant Colonel Abraham Van Buskirk, of Saddle River, the renegade Jersey man, was placed in command of the post. The garrison consisted mainly of those who had espoused the King’s cause upon the first approach of the British, and who called themselves “refugees.”  They were very zealous partisans of the king, and they demonstrated their zeal mainly by murdering their old neighbors and robbing them of their possessions.  The newspapers of the periods are full of accounts of the depredations of these renegades and their cowardice when they encountered the American troops.

During the dark days of 1777 bands of the patriot forces made excursions into the country around Bergen, and often ventured as far south as Paulus Hook and Bergen Neck. The history of the time is replete with incidents of the heroism of the American forces and the poltroonery of the renegade refugees.

Major Henry Lee, known and loved by all Americans as “Light Horse Harry,” had often been detailed by Washington to reconnoiter the west bank of the Hudson.  From the knowledge of the situation which he acquired in these excursions, he found that the garrison of Paulus Hook as most negligent, and he proposed to Washington that he should surprise and capture the place. Washington at first disapproved the scheme.  He considered that there was too much to lose by defeat and too much to gain by success. But Major Lee had a personal interview with him and finally gained his consent to make the attempt.  Washington directed Lee that in case he was successful he was to lose no time in bringing away what cannon, ammunition and other stores he could without any unnecessary delay.

Paulus Hook was a strong position, and yet its strength was its greatest weakness, as it rendered the garrison reckless and unwatchful.  It was almost entirely surrounded by water.  Harsimus Cove rendered it safe on the north, and the waters of the Hudson guarded it on the east, while Communipaw Cove was at its south. To the west was a marsh, through which a deep creek ran, which was connected to Harsimus Cove by a ditch, which ran along about what is now Warren street.  At a point about half the distance of the ditch a drawbridge, at where Newark Avenue now touches Warren Street runs crossed it.  A barred gate, and about thirty paces inside the ditch protected this bridge and creek was an abattis, which ran out into the river. The fortifications were considered strong, having first been built by the Americans and then strengthened when they fell into the hands of the British.  The main line extended along Sussex Street from Green Street to about where St. Matthew’s church now stands, while the barracks were at Essex and Warren Streets. On the southerly side of Essex Street was a sort of semicircular fort, from which a redoubt ran along Washington Street to the main fort.  There were some blockhouses to the north of the main works, and the burying ground of the post was on the north side of Washington Street, running from Sussex Street almost to Morris Street.  When the city authorities graded Washington Street a number of bones and the laborers dug up military relics.  As had been said before, the inhabitants of this part of New Jersey were in sympathy with the British and fearing that they might betray him to the enemy, Major Lee caused it to be announced that he was going on a foraging expedition.  As such parties with as large a force as he proposed taking against the Hook were frequent, this announcement threw the Tories off their guard.  About 4 o’clock in the afternoon of August 18, 1779, Lee started from his encampment. He ha a force of 40 infantry, and a troop of dragoons dismounted.  Lord Sterling took up a position at New Bridge, which was at about where Newark Ave now crosses the Hackensack, and a force was stationed at Prior’s Mill to cover the retreat.  Horsemen were detailed to watch the Hudson River. And parties of infantry were stationed on the various roads leading to Paulus Hook.  The road leading from the Hackensack, which joined the present Hackensack road near the old church at the English neighborhood was followed, and when the vicinity of union Hill was reached the party filed into the woods. There the columns became lost through the treachery of the guide, and floundered about for three hours, during which some of the rear detachments became separated from the main body. Notwithstanding all their floundering in the woods, and the fact that patrols were along the river and small bodies of troops were stationed along the route, the expedition was not discovered. This is all the more singular when it is remembered that Colonel Van Buskirk, with a large body of men, was foraging in the vicinity of the English neighborhood.  In spite of all this delay Major Lee reached Prior’s Mill about 3 o’clock on the morning of August 19.  Day was rapidly approaching and no time was to be lost.  Lieutenant Rudolph, who had been detailed to reconnoiter the port, reported that all was quiet in the works, and that it was possible to pass the canal.  The command to push forward was then given, and the troops responded resolutely.  The advance, under command of Lieutenants Rudolph and McAllister pressed forward in silence with trailed arms.  The ditch at Warren Street and Railroad Ave was reached at half past 3 o’clock. 

The Americans met with no resistance, the guards evidently thought that they were Colonel Van Buskirk and his foraging party returning, and did not discover their mistake until the American van plunged into the ditch.  Then the firing began.  The troops in the blockhouses rushed forth to see what the case of the alarm was and the Americans promptly captured them.  The advance, supported by Major Clark, forced its way through all obstacles and was soon in possession of the main works, with cannon and stores.  So quickly did they do their work that they had taken place before the enemy could fire a single piece of artillery.  As the Americans came pouring through the abattis flushed with victory, Major Sutherland, who commanded the fort in the absence of Colonel Van Buskirk, with two officers and thirty Hessians, made a stand in a small redoubt.  Daylight was beginning to streak to the east, and Major Lee saw that he had no time either to dislodge Sutherland or destroy any of the cannon or stores in the fort. He was concerned about the boats, which he had left at Dow’s Ferry to facilitate his retreat.  Then, too, the firing had been heard in New York, and he was afraid that a boy of troops would be sent from there to the aid of the post. He hastily dispatched Colonel Forsythe to Prior’s Mill to gather together there the men who were be adapted for the service, an take up a position on Bergen Hill to cover the retreat which was then ordered.  Major Clark was sent ahead with the prisoners and Lieutenants Reed and Armstrong brought up the rear.  Lee himself hurried forward ton Dow’s Ferry in search of the boats.  When he arrived there he was dismayed to find them all gone. He faced his troops about and marched back to the Bergen Road and sent couriers to New Bridge to notify Lord Sterling of his position.  Then he went back to rear guard at Prior’s Mill.  He was in a most precarious position.  In crossing the ditch in the attack on the fort all the ammunition had been destroyed.  His troops were worn out with the night’s work and encumbered with prisoners, and it seemed impossible to cover the fourteen miles of retreat which lay before him, open as he was to attacks by the troops sent over from New York.  But relying on the patriotism and unconquerable courage of his men, he pressed forward.  When the Heights opposite Weehawken were reached, the first ray of hope appeared in the person of Captain Cartlett, who joined him with fifty men and a supply of good ammunition.  In order to guard against a sudden attack by the enemy one detachment to the rear of Major Clarke on the Bergen Road, and another was ordered to proceed along the river. When the Fort Lee road was reached, Major Lee was two hundred men under Colonel Ball, who had been sent to his assistance, further reinforced further reinforced Major Lee.  A large body of the enemy about this time opened fire on the right of the retreating column.  Lieutenant Reed faced about and returned their fire, while Lieutenant Rudolph seized a stone house, which commanded the road.  This held the enemy in check until the main body with the prisoners crossed the English Neighborhood creek at Liberty Pole, which is now the town of Englewood.  No sooner were they safely across when major Sutherland came up, but seeing the Americans on the other side of the creek he turned away without attempting to give battle.

It was 1 o’clock in the afternoon when Major Lee safely arrived at New Bridge, bringing with him one hundred and fifty prisoners, without further loss to himself than two men killed and three wounded.  The failure of the Americans to meet with Colonel Van Buskirk was one of the greatest disappointments of the expedition.  In the report of the affair which Major Lee sent to headquarters he said: “Among the many unfortunate circumstances which crossed our wishes none was more so than accidental absence of Colonel Van Buskirk and the greater part of his regiment.  A company of vigilant Hessians had taken their place in the fort, which rendered the secrecy of the approach more precarious, and at the same time diminished the object of the enterprise by a reduction of the number of the garrison.  Major Sutherland fortunately saved himself by a soldier’s counterfeiting his person.  This imposition was not discovered until too late.  I intended to have burned the barracks; but upon finding a number of sick soldiers and women with young children in them, humanity forbade the execution of my intention.  The key of the magazine could not be found, nor could it be broken open in the little time we had to spare, many attempts having been made to that purpose by the lieutenants, McCallister and Reed.”

The capture of Paulus Hook under the very guns of the fortifications in New York was very humiliating to the British, while it filled the Americans with joy, and had a wonderful effect in bracing up the wavering.  Washington congratulated Lord Sterling, and in writing to Congress in reference to Major Lee, said: “The Major displayed a wonderful degree of prudence, address and bravery upon this occasion, which does the highest honor to himself and to all the officers and men under his command.  The situation of the post rendered the attempt critical and the success brilliant.”  Major Lee was the hero of the hour.  Congress passed resolutions thanking Washington for ordering with so much wisdom the late attack upon the enemy’s works and fort at Paulus Hook;” to lord Sterling “for the judicious manner taken by him to forward the enterprise and secure the retreat of the party;” and to Major Lee “for the remarkable prudence, address and bravery displayed by him on the occasion.”

“The discipline, fortitude and spirit manifested by the officers and soldiers under the command of Major” were also highly commended by Congress.  A gold medal emblematic of the affair was ordered to be struck by the treasury department and presented to Major Lee, while Lieutenants McAllister and Rudolph were made captains.  On August 19 1879, the citizens of Jersey City celebrated the centennial of the battle of Paulus Hook with appropriate ceremonies.

From the capture of Paulus Hook until the opening of the spring campaign in 1780, nothing of importance happened in Bergen and that vicinity.  In December 1779, General Wayne marched down from Tappan and pitched his camp in the “Towne”.  He kept his eye on the enemy at Paulus Hook for a while and then went into winter quarters at Westfield, Union County.  The inhabitants of Bergen suffered considerably from the raids on both sides.  They buried their money and their valuables, but often their hiding places were revealed to the enemy by the renegade Tories.  There are on record many interesting incidents of the strategy the Americans resorted to, to save their goods and chattels from the enemy.

The winter of 1779-80 was an unusually severe one.  The river between New York and Paulus Hook was frozen over, and the people crossed from one place to another on the ice.  Wood was exceedingly scarce in New York, and sold as high as £4 a cord.  This tempted the Tories to cut down the fine growth of timber, which covered the Bergen Hill, except where it had been cleared away for farms, and sell it to the British across the river.  In order to pursue that business unmolested by the Americans they constructed a number of blockhouses.  One of these bock houses were held by refugees and a lot of murdering and thieving marauders whose depredations extended as far inland as Elizabethtown and New Barbadoes.

General Wayne was ordered by Washington to destroy one of these blockhouses, which was located near Guttenberg, and drive off a number of cattle, which were on Bergen Neck.  The block house, however, was strongly built so that Wayne’s cannon made no impression upon the logs; and seventy Tories, under command of Captain Tom Ward, one of the worst villains and thieves of that time, were able to defeat the superior forces of the Americans brought against them.  General Wayne managed to drive off the cattle, but was unable to destroy the blockhouse.  He lost fifteen men wounded, and it is said that he wept when he saw so many of his men killed.  The refugees received much fulsome praise for their part in the affair.  Sir Henry Clinton, the commander in chief thanked them, and directed that they should be supplied with uniforms, clothing and hats from the inspector general’s office.  King George patted them on the back and ordered that “ the survivors of the brave seventy” be informed that the sovereign approved their behavior. 

Major Andre, the unfortunate young English Officer who was afterwards hung by the Americans as a spy and who was in New York at the time, write a clever satire upon the affair, which he named “The Cow Chase”

The next taste of war, which Bergen receive, was in October 1780, when General Lafayette moved with the light camp from Fort Lee down toward the town.  On the morning of the 25th pickets and patrols were thrown out and Colonel Stuart’s regiment was stationed within range of the soldier’s muskets at Paulus Hook. As the day advanced the entire American force was on the brow of the hill- about where the Jersey City Cemetery id today- in full view of the English.  The enemy, however, did not attack them, and the whole day was spent in foraging as far down as Bergen Point.  They help themselves to the grain and supplies of the inhabitants, who were given certificates for the same.  If any complained, as many of the thrifty descendants of the more thrifty Dutchmen did, no notice was taken of their protestations further than to tell them that they had contributed little enough to the support of the war, and what had been taken from them was in the way of tax.  The Americans considered this bold appearance in the face of the enemy a challenge to battle, and were well pleased with their valor when the British allowed them to depart without firing a shot.

Bergen figured conspicuously in a plan, which Washington formed for the capture of the traitor, Benedict Arnold.  John Champe, of London County, Virginia, a sergeant of Major Lee’s dragoons, was chosen for the principal part of the task.  He was apparently to desert from the army, make his way to New York, and the endeavor to bring Arnold to the Jersey shore where the Americans would be read to seize him.  Champe’s mission was a dangerous one, as the country was covered with patrols. He begged Major Lee to delay pursuit as long as possible and then started.  He had been gone only half an hour when Captain Carnes reported to Major Lee that one of his patrol had encountered a dragon who, when challenged, urged his horse forward and escaped.  Lee pretended to believe that the man could not be one of his commands, and finally when he was shown indisputable evidence that the fugitive was on of his own petty officers he ordered a pursuit.  He delayed the pursuing party as long as possible but they managed to catch up with the fugitive near Union Hill.  From there Champe rushed across the county through Bergen, toward Brown’s Ferry, off which, in the Newark Bay, were anchored a number of English galleys.  He threw away his unnecessary luggage as he ran, and reaching the water he plunged in.  The British on the galleys fired at hi pursuers and sent a boat to meet him. The manner in which Champe reached the enemy’s lines convinced them of the genuineness of his desertion.  His mission, however, was unsuccessful.  He enlisted in Arnold’s American Legion, and soon discovered that there was no foundation for the suspicious that other American generals were connected with Arnold’s treachery.

It was a long time before Champe saw an opportunity to fulfill his mission.  Finally, he sent word to Major Lee that if he would meet him with a party of dragoons at Hoboken, he would have Arnold there.  When the day named arrived, Lee was at the rendezvous with three dragoons and as many led horses.  The hours sped on, but neither Arnold nor Champe appeared.  The scheme had failed as Arnold moved his headquarters the day before.  It was a long time before Champe could get back to the American army.  He underwent many hardships, and finally escaped while serving in Virginia under Lord Cornwallis.

Prince William Henry, the third son of George III, afterward William IV, visited New York in September 1781.  He was a midshipman under Admiral Digby, and the British and Torries made a lion of him.  The renegade Jerseymen on Bergen Neck sent him a very sycophantic address, and received an appropriate reply.

Petty raids and depredations by both side continued in the vicinity of Bergen until September 1782, when the fort at Bergen Neck was evacuated and destroyed by fire.  In the following month, Ward and his detestable band of refugees sailed for Nova Scotia.  Paulus Hook was the only place the British held in New Jersey from that time until November 22, 1783, when they evacuated the works.  Three days afterward the British sailed away from New York, and a few days later the inhabitants of Bergen and the Hook cheered Washington as he passed through on his way to Mount Vernon.  The war was over; and peace reigned throughout the land. 

On the shores of the New York Bay, at the foot of Danforth Ave, Jersey City, there stands alone by itself an old brick mansion with a double porch or veranda in front facing the water.  This was a famous place during the revolution, and was known as Retirement Hall.  It belonged to Captain Thomas Brown, who was one of the few citizens of Bergen who espoused the patriots’ cause.  His home was famous for the entertainment it afforded the American officers.  In his early days, Captain Brown had been a slaver, and it is said he used to keep slaves chained up in the cellar of his house. Even to this day, old rusty hooks and rings in the cellar are pointed out as the laces where the captain chained up his Negroes.  Strange sounds often pervaded the house, which the lovers of the supernatural declared were the sighs of the spirits of Captain Brown’s Negroes, mingled with the clanking and creaking of their chains.  The house was said to be haunted, and an air of romance hovered about old Retirement Hall.  In its latter days, it fell into decay, and was inhabited by the poorest lass of tenants. It was recently repaired and now is the home of the Greenville Yacht Club.

Paulus Hook was incorporated jersey City January 20, 1820, but continued to be a part of the Town of Bergen.  The Jersey City of that time comprised but a small fraction of its present extensive territory, and lay between Warren Street and the river, and First Street and the Communipaw Cove.  Abraham Isaacsen Plank, May 1 1638, brought the territory from the Dutch West Indian Company, who became its owners when Pauw gave it up.  The Plank family remained in possession until August 2, 1699, when they sold the property to Cornelius Van Vorst for £300.  It was tilled as a farm from that time until 1764, and the greater part of it continued to be used down to 1804.

In that year, a body of capitalists, foreseeing the future importance of Paulus Hook, commissioned Lawyer Anthony Dey to negotiate with Cornelius Van Vorst for its purchase.  Alexander Hamilton examined the title, and acted as counsel with Anthony Dey.  On February 22, 1804, Van Vorst conveyed the title to Dey, in consideration of an annuity of $6,000, equivalent to the sum of $100,000.

The sale was made subject to a lease of Paulus Hook, which Van Vorst had made to Major Hunt, the keeper of the tavern where the stage put up, which lease expired May 1, 1805. 

One month after the apportionment of the share of Paulus Hook property, November 10, 1804, the shareholders received a perpetual charter as “The associates of the Jersey Company.”  Alexander Hamilton drew it up.  It allowed them to elect their own trustees to carry out the covenant in regard to paying Van Vorst his annuity and to lay out and make all streets and squares, an to regulate the building of all docks, piers, and wharves.  The company was further given the right to build docks, piers, and wharves and appropriate the same to their use.  In 1882, when Jersey City, which had then become a flourishing city, undertook to extend its streets to the water’s edge over the made over the made ground east of Hudson Street, the successors often East Jersey associates built fences across the streets and claimed that they owned the land along the river by virtue of these provisions of their charter.  The matter was taken to the Supreme Court of the United States, where the claim of the associates was upheld. 

By the act of incorporation of 1820, Jersey City was governed by five freeholders, who constituted the board of selectmen.  Dr. John Seaman composed the first board.  On Washington’s Birthday 1838 the incorporate name was changed to Mayor and Common Council of Jersey City.  Dudley S. Gregory was the first mayor, and served five years, though not in succession.  In march 1839, the boundaries were extended Van Vorst Township, which included old Harsimus, was annexed March 1851, by a vote of the inhabitants of the two towns.  The whole number of votes cast in Jersey City was 495, and Van Vorst Township 416.  At the same time, the city received a new charter, which divided it into four wards.  The fifth and sixth wards were erected in February 1861 and in March 1867, the seventh was added, and in 1870 the eighth.

Old Bergen lost much of its territory by the erection of the cities and townships around it, so that all that was left when it was incorporated as the city of Bergen in 1868, was bounded by the railroad cut on the north; Newark Bay and the Hackensack on the west; the canal on the south, and Mill Creek on the east.

In February 1843, all that portion of the country north of the railroad cut and Mill Creek was taken from the Township of Bergen and named North Bergen. In March 1855, all that portion of North Bergen between the railroad cut and what are now known as the North Hudson townships was incorporated as the City of Hudson or Hudson City.  This was made the county seat of the new county of Hudson, which was set off from Bergen county February 22, 1844.  On October 5, 1869 under an act of the legislature, an election was held in the several cities and townships of Hudson County east of the Hackensack River, to determine whether those municipalities should be consolidated into one under the name of Jersey City.  Jersey City became the second largest city in the state in point of population.  Since then, it has grown rapidly.  The ditch and swamp, which bounded old Paulus Hook, are filled in and covered with large buildings.  Harsimus Cove has been reclaimed, and is now the freight yard of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company.  Much of Communipaw Bay is solid ground, and is covered by the immense depots and yards of the New Jersey Central and Lehigh Valley Railroads.  Jersey City is one of the greatest railroad terminals of the country, no less than ten district railways and trunk lines terminating at its riverfront, opposite New York.  The largest railway passenger shed in the world that of Pennsylvania is within its borders and the largest tobacco company in the world Lorillard’s give employment to hundreds of its inhabitants.  One of the largest of the American Sugar Refining Company’s branches stands near the sot occupied by the old Paulus Hook fort; while steel, iron, and zinc works and silk manufactories add to its commercial value. Two ocean steamship lines sail from her wharves, and great inland water runs through a section of her territory.

Jersey City is most advantageously situated for residential as well as manufacturing and commercial purposes.  The Heights back of Old Harsimus and Paulus Hook, overlooking as they do the river and harbor, and in the southern section affording a view down through the Narrows make a most desirable place of residence.  Its future is most promising.  Already extensive plans are under consideration for covering its entire southern shorefront with immense docks, basin, wharves, and warehouses; and it would be an extravagance to predict for Jersey City the commercial supremacy of the harbor.

 

 

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