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Old Bergen

Chapter XX.

Daniel Van Winkle

Published 1902

Web version, edited by GET NJ
Copyright 2002

THOUGH the inhabitants of Bergen were now able to devote themselves to the improvement of their holdings, much dissatisfaction existed, not only because of the uncertain tenure and undefined boundaries of the land settled upon, but the "out drift," or common lands, were also a subject of controversy. The land considered as such, lying between Communipau and Bergen, caused much bickering, and although several agreements were entered into, they seem to have been only tentative. The cattle belonging to the two hamlets intermingling, and becoming thereby subject to adverse claims, were the cause of constant dispute. The feeling thereby became greatly intensified, and finally appeal was made to the authorities at New Amsterdam, whereupon the following order was issued:

May 24, 1674, the Schouts, Magistrates, and Commonalty, of the Town of Bergen, complaining by Petition that over two years ago, a question arose between the Petitioners and their dependent hamlets of Gemonepau, Mingaghun, and Pemropogh respecting the making and maintaining of a certain common fence, to separate the cattle, the Council at New Amsterdam ordered and commanded them to promptly regulate themselves, according to the decision or arbitration.
This action on the part of the Council temporarily settled the difficulties, and the government of Bergen was continued under the Carteret Charter until 1714, when the land titles became again a subject of dispute, and new controversies arose. A petition was presented setting forth the facts in detail and praying for relief. January 14th, 1714, an act was passed giving the petitioners a new charter, under the name of "The Inhabitants of the Town of Bergen," giving full titles to lands, power to convey, etc., as follows:
It is agreed by, and between, all and every, the parties to these presents, that whatsoever part of the common and undivided lands, have been by them, or either of them, at any time heretofore taken up, used or claimed, and added to their patented, or purchased lands, shall forever hereafter, be deemed taken and adjudged, and shall remain and continue in common, until a division be made of the said common and undivided lands.

Finally, for the faithful performance of these articles, they individually, bind themselves in the penal sum of One Hundred Pounds, proclamation money of New Jersey, to be forfeited and paid by any party breaking the agreement.

Signed by :

  • IDO I. SIP.
Sealed and delivered in presence of, JOHANNIS VREELANDT. DIRCK KADMUS.
June 16, 1743.
This agreement continued in force until December 7, 1763, when, in consequence of the impossibility of adjusting satisfactorily under its provisions the difficulties that were continually occurring, an act was passed by the General Assembly of the colony "for finally settling and determining the several rights, titles, and claims to the common lands of Bergen; and for making a partition thereof, among those who shall be adjudged, by the said Commissioners, to be entitled to the same." Under the operation of this act all feuds and controversies were ended, and the titles to lands made valid.

Peace prevailed throughout the settlement for some years, and its prosperity and growth continued until the breaking out of the Revolutionary War. The settlement of the territory of " Old Bergen " continued with considerable rapidity. Settlements sprang up at intervals, either because of some natural advantage or on account of a mercantile demand ; people not only located along the shores of the bays and rivers almost surrounding the region, but also pushed back, into the country, so that at the time of the Revolution, there were hamlets scattered from Bergen Point to the most northerly limits of the county. The inhabitants availed themselves of their opportunities to cultivate the soil, for the products of which they found an excellent market at New Amsterdam. Through their frugal and industrious habits they were enabled to increase the limits of their farms, until all the territory became the property of different settlers either as buytentuyn or wood lots. The winter months were employed in clearing these latter, and the timber cut down was placed on sleds and hauled to the home lot to be used for fuel.

As the growth of the town continued, new demands were made for facility of intercourse. In 1669, Gov. Carteret appointed a new ferryman, reserving the right of free passage to himself and family, probably the first instance of the free pass system for officials in this country. In 1753, a road was laid out from Aharsimus by way of Prior's Mill to the church at Bergen, and intersecting it was a road along the line of Newark Avenue, across the marsh from Paulus Hook. This was often covered with water and frequently impassable. As per following advertisement of July 2, 1764, in the New York Mercury of that date, there was "Good news to the Public ": "The long wished for ferry is now established, and kept across the North River from the place called Powles Hook to the City of New York."

This ferry was located at the foot of Grand Street, and was provided with an equipment of several row boats, with two oarsmen to each, with spare oars, so that such passengers as desired haste or exercise might be accommodated.

The same year, a stage route was established from this ferry, leading through Bergen Point, and thence by Blazing Star ferry to Woodbridge ; whence passengers were conveyed to Philadelphia in covered wagons, the trips occupying two days in summer and three in winter. In 1767 a serious accident occurred on this ferry. While a coach containing passengers for Philadelphia was being ferried across, a number of passengers retained their seats ; and when approaching the shore, the stage ran overboard, and two ladies were drowned.

As a road was laid out about the time of the starting of this ferry, running through about the present line of Grand, Warren, York and Van Vorst Streets, crossing the marsh and bridge at Mill Creek, following in a great measure the road to the mill before alluded to, and then connecting with the Old Mill Road, it is presumably the route by which this stage line passed through Bergen, thus corroborating the tradition, that the Old Mill Road was formerly the New York and Philadelphia Stage route. This is verified by the fact that one of the old residents informed the writer that through the cedar woods at that time standing along the brow of the hill, and about half-way between Montgomery and Mercer Streets, there was a lane cut through the hill which reached Summit Avenue, at a point south of present Montgomery Street, joining there a road that reached Bergen Avenue, at Foye Place ; and that this was the New York and Philadelphia Stage route.

In 1765 the road leading to Brown's Ferry was laid out. This followed about the present line of Clendenne Avenue, and reached the Hackensack at a point south of the present Plank Road bridge. This ferry was afterward used as a connecting link for the lines of stages from Paulus Hook to Newark, and beyond. As the travel over this route, with the exception of the stage lines, was very infrequent, a horn was kept hanging on a tree near by, so that by a succession of blasts, the ferryman might be notified of the passengers' desire to cross. As showing the means of intercourse at this time between Newark and Jersey City, the following advertisement is inserted:

Whereas the stage wagon from Newark to Paulus Hook, has for some time been stopt, for want of a proper person to drive the wagon through Bergen, the many complaints for the want of such a conveyance, induces the subscriber again to endeavor to accommodate them. He therefore proposes to drive through from Newark to Paulus Hook, once a day, every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
It is probable that during the Revolutionary War all regular ferriage stopped, as we find that in 1786 an application was made to the Common Council of New York to repair the ferry stairs leading to Paulus Hook, which would indicate it was again in active operation. The Jersey landing at this time was at the foot of the present Grand Street. During the same period the ferry at Communipau was discontinued, but in 1783 the public was informed that Aaron Longstreet and Company gave "constant attendance by the Boats at the Ferry Stairs, near the Exchange (New York) at three p.m., to bring passengers to Communipau," where the Newark stage would be ready to convey them to Newark, and "thence by the excellent New York and Philadelphia running machines in one day to Philadelphia."


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