Hudson County

 

FORMATION OF BERGEN AND HUDSON COUNTIES

 

The first municipality within the limits of New Jersey was erected by order of Director General Stuyvesant and his council on Septem-

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ber 5, 1661, and christened "The Village of Bergen." The origin of the name "Bergen" rests in some doubt. Some writers confidently claim it to have been derived from "Bergen," the capital of Norway,

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while others as confidently assert it to have been derived from Bergen op Zoom, an important town on the River Scheldt, in Holland, eighteen miles north of Antwerp. Without expressing an opinion,

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I may say that, so far as my investigations have extended, the evidence seems to favor those who claim the name to have been derived from the Holland town. During the seven years following the christening new settlers rapidly purchased and located on lands outside of the "Village" limits. These, with a view to more effectually protecting themselves from the savages, asked that they might be annexed to the main settlement. Accordingly, on the 7th of April, 1668, Governor Philip Carteret and his council, of East New Jersey, granted to the settlers of Bergen (then comprising some forty families) a charter under the corporate name of "The Towne and Corporation of Bergen." This new "Towne" comprised the present County of Hudson as far west as the Hackensack River. The line on the north, as described in the charter, started "at Mordavis meadow, lying upon the west side of Hudson's River; from thence to run down upon a N. W. lyne [sic] by a Three rail fence that is now standing to a place called Espatin [The Hill] and from thence to a little creek [Bellman's Creek] surrounding N. N. W. till it comes unto the river Hackensack [Indiana name for "Lowland"], containing the breadth, from the top of the Hill, 1 1/2 miles or 120 chains." During the next sixteen years new settlements sprang up north of Bergen, but in matters of government these were termed "out lands" or "precincts," without any corporate power whatever, and subject to the jurisdiction of the authorities of the "Towne."

As time went on and population increased, courts became necessary; and as all the colonial officials were Englishmen, and many English immigrants had settled in the colony, it was but natural that they should desire the adoption of the English system of county government. On the 7th of March, 1682, the provincial legislature passed, and Deputy Governor Rudyard approve, an act under which New Jersey was divided into four counties: Bergen, Essex, Middlesex, and Monmouth. Bergen County, as then defined, contained "all the settlements between Hudson's River and the Hackensack River, beginning at Constable's Hook and so to extend to the uppermost bounds of the Province, northward between the said rivers with the seat of government at the town of Bergen." (see Map No. 1.) Essex County comprised "all the settlements between the west side of the Hackensack River and the parting line between Woodbridge and Elizabethtown, and northward to the utmost bounds of the Province." By this division the greater part of the present County of Bergen fell within the limits of Essex County, where it remained until 1709-10.

This division into counties caused great dissatisfaction among the people, particularly in Northern New Jersey. They complained that the counties were too large, that the distance between their homes and the county seat was too long, and that traveling such long dis-

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tances, over the worst of roads, in all sorts of weather, interfered with their pursuits and subjected them to great expense and bodily discomfort. Sheriffs found it difficult to summon and compel the attendance of jurymen and witnesses. The administration of justice and the transaction of all other public business were seriously retarded. From every part of the province petitions came pouring into the colonial assembly, sometimes accompanied by delegations of indignant citizens. For several years the assembly stood out against these numerous complains and petitions, but in the end it was passed and approved directing a redivision. By the terms of this act the boundaries of Bergen County were fixed as follows:

"Beginning at Constable's Hook, so up along the bay to Hudson's River, to the partition point between new Jersey and the Province of New York; thence along the line and the line between East and West New Jersey to the Pequannock and Passaic Rivers; thence down the Pequannock and Passaic Rivers to the sound; and so following the sound to Constable's Hook where it begins." (See Map No. 2.)

In the northwestern part of the county, as above described, was included the County of Passaic, and on the 22d of February, 1840, all that part of it lying south of the original north bounds of the "Town and Corporation of Bergen," together with a considerable area of territory west of the Hackensack River known as New Barbadoes Neck, were, by legislative enactment, erected into the County of Hudson. A part of this was annexed to Bergen County in 1852, leaving the boundaries of Bergen and Hudson Counties as they are to-day. (See Map No. 3.)

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This site last updated: 3 FEBRUARY 2007