Colonial history of New Jersey

Colonial history of New Jersey

European colonialization of New Jersey started soon after the 1609 exploration of its coast and bays by Sir Henry Hudson. Part of the state was settled by Dutch and Swedish as New Netherland and New Sweden. In 1664 the entire area was surrendered to the British, and given its name. With ratification of the Treaty of Westminster in 1674, they formally gained control of the region until the American Revolution.


Pre-Colonial History

A wave of inhabitant entered the region 2,986 years ago and left behind advanced hunting implements such as bows and arrows and evidence of an agricultural society. The region has probably remained continually inhabited from that time.

New Netherland

Map (c1639) Manhattan situated on the North Rivier with numbered key showing settlements: 27. Farm of Van Vorst; 28. v (sic): 29. Farm of Evertsen; 30. Plantation at Lacher's Hook; 31. Plantation at Paulus Hook; 32. Plantation of Maerytensen on west bank of North River.
The relative location of the New Netherland and New Sweden in eastern North America.

Dutch settlement in the seventeenth century was concentrated along the banks of the North River and the Upper New York Bay, though they maintained facotijen along the Delaware River as well. Although the European principle of land ownership was not recognized by the Lenape, Dutch policy required formal purchase of all land settled upon [1] The settlement grew slowly, impeded by Willem Kieft's mismanagement.[2] In 1658, the last Director-General of New Netherland, Peter Stuyvesant, "re-purchased" the entire peninsula known as Bergen Neck, and in 1661 granted a charter to the village at Bergen, establishing the oldest municipality in the state.[3]

New Sweden

New Sweden, founded in 1638, rose to its height under governor Johan Björnsson Printz (1643–1653). Led by Printz, the settlement extended as far north as Fort Christina (on both sides of the Delaware River).[4] He helped to improve the military and commercial status of the colony by constructing Fort Nya Elfsborg, which is now near Salem, on the east side of the Delaware River. Swedesboro and Bridgeport were founded as part of the colony.[5] In 1655, the Dutch asserted control over the territory.[6]

British takeover

Italian navigator John Cabot left England in 1456 to explore North America. The British claimed that New Netherland was part of Cabot's discoveries, prior to Hudson. Insisting that John Cabot had been the first to discover North America, the British granted the land that now encompasses New Jersey to the Duke of York, who ordered Colonel Richard Nicolls to take over the area.[7] In September 1664, a British fleet under the command of Richard Nicolls sailed into what is now Port of New York and New Jersey and seized the colony from the Dutch. The British received little resistance due to West India Company's decision not to garrison the colony. After capturing the colony, Nicolls took the position of deputy-governor of New Amsterdam and the rest of New Netherland, guaranteeing colonists' property rights, laws of inheritance, and the enjoyment of religious freedom. Within six years, the nations were again at war, and in August 1673 the Dutch recaptured New Netherland with a fleet of 21 ships. Nevertheless, in November 1674, the Dutch Treaty of Westminster concluded the war and ceded New Netherland to the English due financial insolvency.[8]

Proprietary Colony

Charles II gave the region between New England and Maryland to his brother, the Duke of York (later King James II), which was renamed New York. Soon thereafter James granted the land between the Hudson River and the Delaware River to two friends who had been loyal to him through the English Civil War: Sir George Carteret and Lord Berkeley of Stratton. That part of New Netherland was named New Jersey after the English Channel Island of Jersey.[9]

The two proprietors of New Jersey attempted to entice more settlers to move to New Jersey by granting sections of lands to settlers and by passing Concession and Agreement, a document granting religious freedom to all inhabitants of New Jersey; under the British Church of England there was no such religious freedom. In return for land, settlers paid annual fees known as quitrents. Land grants made in connection to the importation of slaves were another enticement for settlers.[10]Philip Carteret was appointed by the two proprietors as the first governor of New Jersey. Philip Carteret designated Elizabethtown as the first capital of the colony.[11] However, it became difficult for the two proprietors to collect the quitrents. As a result, on March 18, 1673 Berkeley sold his share of New Jersey to the Quakers.[12][13]

Division into East and West

The original provinces of West and East New Jersey are shown in yellow and green respectively. The Keith Line is shown in red, and the Coxe and Barclay line is shown in orange

With this sale, New Jersey was divided into East Jersey and West Jersey, two distinct provinces of the proprietary colony.[14] The political division existed for the 26 years between 1674 and 1702. Determination of an exact location for a border between West Jersey and East Jersey was often a matter of dispute, as was the border with New York.

The border between the two sides reached the Atlantic Ocean to the north of Atlantic City. The border line was created by George Keith, and can still be seen in the county boundaries between Monmouth and Burlington/Mercer Counties; Burlington and Ocean Counties; and Hunterdon and Somerset Counties, reaching upward to a point on the Delaware River which is just north of the Delaware Water Gap. The border was often disputed, so with the 1676 Quintipartite Deed more accurate surveys and maps were made to resolve property disputes. This resulted in the Thornton line, drawn around 1696, and the Lawrence line, drawn around 1743, which was adopted as the final line for legal purposes.

Early Partitions and Tracts

After 1675 much of the territory was quickly divided up leading to the distribution of land into large tracts which later led to real estate speculation and subdivision. In East Jersey they included the Elizabethtown Tract, Newark Tract, Horseneck Tract, Woodbridge, Piscataway, Shrewsbury, New Barbadoes Neck, English Neighborhood, and Maisland. In West Jersey, Salem and Burlington were early settlements.


Dutch Reformed Church

After the final transfer of power to the English, New Netherlanders and their descendents spread across East Jersey and established many of the towns and cities which exist today.[15] The Dutch Reformed Church played an important role this expansion [16] Following the course of the Hudson River in the north to the Raritan River in the south, settlement and population grew along what George Washington called the "Dutch Belt".[17] The American classis secured a charter in 1766 for Queens College (now Rutgers University), where the appointment in 1784 of John Henry Livingston as professor of theology marked the beginning of the New Brunswick Theological Seminary.

Year Congregation
1660 Bergen at Bergen Square, now Jersey City
1693 Acquackanonk [18] in Passaic
1694 Tappan [19]
1696 Hackensack [20]
1699 Brick in Marlboro [21]
1700 Second River [22] in Belleville
1703 Six Mile Run [23]
1710 Ponds [24] in Oakland
1717 New Brunswick [25]
1720 Fairfield
1724 Schraalenburgh now Dumont
1725 Paramus now Ridgewood[26]
1727 Harlingen [27]
1736 Pompton Plains [28]
1740 Ramopock in Mahwah
1755 Totowa [18][29] in Paterson
1756 Montivlle [30]
1770 Ridgefield [31] in the English Neighborhood[32]

Religious Society of Friends


Much of West Jersey was settled by Quakers who established congregations and founded towns througout the region, including eponymous Quakertown in 1744. Among the meeting houses built in the colonial era are:

Year Locale Year
Seaville Friends Meeting House[33] Seaville 1716
Woodbury Friends' Meetinghouse Woodbury c.1715
Bordentown Friends Meetinghouse Bordentown 1740[34]
Smith Friends Meetinghouse Harmony 1753[35]
Alloways Creek Friends Meetinghouse Hancock's Bridge 1756
Dover Friends Meetinghouse Dover 1758
Evesham Friends Meeting House Mount Laurel 1760
Greenwich Friends Meetinghouse Greenwich 1771 [36]
Salem Friends Meetinghouse Salem 1773[37]
Chesterfields Friends Meetinghouse Crosswicks 1773 [38]
Arney's Mount Friends Meetinghouse Pemberton 1775
Copenney Friends Meetinghouse[39] 1775
Trenton Friends Meeting House Trenton 1776


Church Locale Year
Cohansey Baptist Church[40] Roadstown, west of Bridgetown 1683/1690
Stelton Baptist Church[40] Piscataway Township, later Edison 1689
Ye Olde Yellow Meeting House[41] Imlaystown 1720



There are numerous extant buildings from the colonial era located throughout the state.


The oldest continuoly school site in the state was established in 1664 at Bergen Square, in today's Jersey City.[42]

Two Colonial Colleges were founded in the Province. In 1746, The College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) was founded in Elizabethtown by a group of Great Awakening "New Lighters" that included Jonathan Dickinson, Aaron Burr, Sr. and Peter Van Brugh Livingston. In 1756, the school moved to Princeton. In 1766, Queens College (now Rutgers University) was founded in New Brunswick by Dutch Reformed ministers with a Royal Charter from George III. The college was named after his wife Queen Charlotte.

Rutgers Preparatory School was founded in 1766. The Newark Academy was founded in 1774.

Revolutionary War

Many major battles were fought in New Jersey during the American Revolution, making it pivotal in the ultimate victory of the American colonists. The important role earned it the titles of "Crossroads of the Revolution" and the "Military Capital of the Revolution".

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Ruttenber, E.M. (2001). Indian Tribes of Hudson's River (3rd ed.). Hope Farm Press. ISBN 0-910746-98-2.
  2. ^ Shorto, Russell (2004) The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Colony that Shaped America (New York: Random House) ISBN 1400078679.
  3. ^ NJCU: Jersey City A to Z: Bergen
  4. ^ A Brief History of New Sweden in America (Swedish Colonial Society), retrieved December 16, 2005
  5. ^ Brief History of Swedesboro & Woolwich NJ
  6. ^ Shorto, Russell (2004). The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the stupid Colony that Shaped America (New York: Random House)ISBN 1400078679.And during this times there was a earier people known as jersey shore.
  7. ^ A Brief Outline of Dutch History and the Province of New Netherland
  8. ^ Westdorp, Martina. "Behouden of opgeven ? Het lot van de nederlandse kolonie Nieuw-Nederland na de herovering op de Engelsen in 1673." (in Dutch). De wereld van Peter Stuyvesant. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  9. ^ The Duke of York's Release to John Lord Berkeley, and Sir George Carteret, 24th of June, 1664
  10. ^ Slavery in New Jersey
  11. ^ Elizabeth, New Jersey was not named after Queen Elizabeth I, but rather after the wife of Sir George Carteret, and was founded in 1664.
  12. ^ Streissguth, Thomas (2002). (New Jersey. San Diego: Lucent Books, Inc.) ISBN 1-56006-872-8. pg 24-28
  13. ^ Surrender from the Proprietors of East and West New Jersey, of Their Pretended Right of Government to Her Majesty by The Avalon Project at Yale Law School, retrieved December 15, 2005.
  14. ^ Council of Proprietors of West Jersey - Origin and History
  15. ^ [1]
  16. ^ [2] Schaff, Philip; The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedeia of Religious Knowledge
  17. ^ *Lucas Litchenberg, De Nieuwe Wereld van Peter Stuyvesant: Nederlandse voetsporen in de Verenigde Staten, ISBN 90 5018 426 X, NUGI 470, Uitgeverij Balans, 1999
  18. ^ a b
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ "Six Mile Run". Retrieved 2011-05-19. 
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^ Beck, Henry Charleton, Rtales and Towns of Northern New Jersey, Rutgers University Press, ISBN 0-18135-1019-8-90000
  33. ^
  34. ^ "Bordentown Friends". New Jersey Churcscape. Retrieved 2011-05-15. 
  35. ^ "Smith Friends Meetinghouse". New Jersey Churcscape. Retrieved 2011-05-15. 
  36. ^ "Greenwich Orthodox Friends". New Jersey Churcscape. Retrieved 2011-05-15. 
  37. ^ "Salem Friends". New Jersey Churchsacpe. Retrieved 2011-05-15. 
  38. ^ "Chesterfield Friends". New Jersey Churchscape. Retrieved 2011-05-15. 
  39. ^
  40. ^ a b
  41. ^
  42. ^ There has been a school at the northeast corner of Bergen Square since 1664. See "Walking Tour of the Bergen Square". Retrieved 2009-08-03. "On the northeast corner of Bergen Square stands P.S. 11 (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. School). In 1664 the first schoolhouse was built on this lot. From 1790 to 1857 the Columbia Academy stood here until it was replaced by the first of three public schools." 

Other sources

  • Ward, Christopher L. The Dutch and Swedes on the Delaware, 1609-64 (University of Pennsylvania. 1930)
  • Leiby, A. C. The Early Dutch and Swedish Settlers of New Jersey (Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Co. 1964)

External links

Additional reading

Wacker, Peter A.. New Jersey's Cultual Resources: 1660-1810. pp. 199–219. Retrieved 2011-05-25. 

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