Old Bergen

Chapter XV.

Daniel Van Winkle

Published 1902

Web version, edited by GET NJ
Copyright 2002

THE settlement at Communipau, being located within easy reach of New Amsterdam, flourished greatly, and it was determined to establish a village there. Jacques Cortelyou was ordered, on the 8th of September, 1661, to survey, and lay out into lots, the land about Communipau. The lots thus surveyed fronted on the Bay, and were about two hundred feet deep. It was decided to erect defences against the Indians, but their building was delayed on account of the unwillingness of some oŁ the settlers to engage in the work, for the reason that they did not apprehend any immediate attack by the savages. Complaint was made to the Director General and Council, and they were asked to enforce the ordinance. The Council urged and commanded the construction of the defences, but no decided action was taken, and as a matter of fact, the fortifications were never completed.

The people at Bergen and the dependent villages, settled upon the lots, as selected, by virtue of the provisions of the charter, but had neglected to secure patents. This created much confusion and trouble, and on September 15, 1661, all the inhabitants were ordered within three months to have their claims surveyed and marked, and on exhibition of returns to secure regular patents. This was done, and all disputes and controversies ended for the time. The titles to lands became vested in the parties as adjudged.

With increasing population, better facilities for reaching Manhatta were demanded, and December 22, 1661, Wm. Jansen petitioned the Director and Council to ratify a permission given him by the Schout and Schepens of Bergen, to work a ferry between Bergen and the Island of Manhatta. This was granted, and in pursuance thereof, a ferry from Communipau was established. This was for many years the only authorized mode of communication with Manhatta. The ferryman was regularly licensed,and rates were established for daytime and fair weather; but by night or in stormy weather, they were to be as the parties might agree. The ferryman was to keep his boat in readiness at all times, but more particularly on three days of the week, to be agreed upon unanimously by the inhabitants of Bergen and Communipau. From this ferry at Communipau a road extended along the route of the present CommunipawAvenue, and thence through Summit Avenue, to and connecting with, Academy Street, one of the cross streets of the Town of Bergen before mentioned.

In 1662 we find the ferryman complaining that the freeholders of Bergen authorized the inhabitants to ferry themselves over, as they pleased, much to his loss and discomfort. His protest seems to have been of little avail, for until very recent years, the old settlers and their descendants continued the practice of transporting themselves and their belongings to and from the city of New York. It is related that on one occasion, when one of our good Dutch burghers with his family was returning from market, an immense fish in its gambols leaped from the water, and, accidentally landing in the boat, crashed through the bottom. Whereupon the goodwife, drawing about herself her voluminous petticoats, calmly seated herself in the hole, effectually stopping the inflow of water, and enabling all to reach shore in safety. A striking instance of her presence of mind and general adaptability.

The isolated position of the settlement of Bergen town, back from the river, and surrounded by dense woods, which were populated by crafty Indians, rendered the town liable to attack at any time. Wherefore, in order that it should at all times be sufficiently protected, an ordinance was passed November 15, 1663, to the following effect:

All those who claim any lots in the aforesaid village shall, within twenty-four hours after notice being served, furnish and maintain for each lot, one man able to bear arms; and in case of their neglect to comply, their property is in danger of confiscation.

October 18, 1664, in the accounts rendered to the Council, we find an item of twelve pounds of powder fired from two cannon about eight o'clock in the evening as a warning to the people to be on their guard, "as two Christians on their way from Bergen to Communipau were this day murdered by the Indians."