By A. Thornton Bishop, Chairman, Planning Board
The Sunday Sun, April 28, 1946
A Moment in Retrospect -- 1640 - 1895
One reason why we cannot dwell for long on Teaneck's past history is because the identity of its territory was lost in the vast acreage of farm land which characterized northern Jersey until about 1920. The history of Teaneck is absorbed in, the history of Bergen County; and the early beginnings of both merge and almost disappear in the complicated root system of the different nationalities of colonists.
One fact which may be accepted with confidence is that the settlers who first came to bargain with the Indians for their homesteads were inspired by the same desire one experiences today - to escape from the hurler-burly or life in a big city.
Most of the small settlements which sprang into life within the radius of a few miles from New Amsterdam were the result of the "suburban" fever. Few have been able to retain this charming characteristic throughout the centuries. It has been the good fortune of Teaneck that the area which now comprises it remained in its pastoral state until such time as a body of its citizens could determine for themselves the character of community they wanted it to be.
Residents Still "Bartering" in New York
Although as a Township, it is enjoying what may be referred to as its "first growth," it seems that it has ever been the destiny of its residents to barter their wares in the metropolis east of the Hudson River. This is true, at least, with a large number of them. Today, the wares are, for the most part, personal services, but more than 200 years ago they were the crops produced by the settlers in greater abundance than were required for the family and local needs. New Amsterdam made as ready a market then as New York does today.
When the Dutch went suburban, they were attracted to the western side of the Hudson; and many settled as early as on the rolling slopes of the Palisades that stretched toward the west, and on the fertile bottom land of the river valleys. Captain David Petersen De Vries, one of the earlier settlers in New Netherlands, conducted large parties of substantial families, which had more recently arrived from Holland; to Staten Island and, later, to the district around Tappan. For this new colony, called Vriesendael, De Vries purchased the land from the Indians. In 1641 another settlement was established at Hackensack.
According to an old record, land between the Overpeck Creek and the Hackensack River was transferred to Sarah Kiersted by Chief Oratam, of the Achkinheschacky (Hackensacky) tribe. Land grants in those days were subject to the fortunes, good or otherwise, of their holders to retain them against the intrusion by subjects of a different sovereign. Therefore, we find that regardless of the confirmation of this grant by the Netherlands government, the same tract was granted by the British authorities a few years after the occupation of New Amsterdam in 1664, to a Captain John Berry.
Indians Mostly Friendly
The settlers found the Indian tribes friendly and helpful, and peace prevailed except when the Indians, nursing some grievance against the Dutch, took to the warpath. Frequently, their grievances were well founded.
Dealing with the Indians of the neighborhood called for sagacity and tact on the part of the government, but William Kieft, who began his administration of New Netherlands as Director General in 1638, had neither tact nor sagacity in such matters. The Indians, who occupied the whole area from the Delaware River to the Connecticut including both banks of the lower Hudson, belonged. to the Algonquin family. These tribes had suffered defeat and humiliation by the Iroquois, to whom they were compelled to pay tribute. History records no enmity as bitter and deadly as that which persisted between the Algonquins and the Iroquois. The fact that the Dutch had entered into a treaty of friendship with the Iroquois didn't help much. Furthermore, under the policy of Director Kieft, the Iroquois were supplied with firearms, and when the Algonquins became offended and protested, Kieft hit upon another bright idea. He strengthened the defenses of New Amsterdam and regarded it as a protection to the Indians as well as to the white men; therefore, he felt that the Indians should be grateful and pay for their share of the protection -- that they should be taxed. Collectors sent to the Tappans for corn, furs, and wampum were disappointed with their reception.
"Incident" Starts Hostilities
An incident which occurred in 1643 near Hackensack helped to intensify the situation. An Indian, who had been plied with brandy by some of the more irresponsible Dutch, winged an arrow into a settler who was thatching the roof of a house. The chiefs of the murderer's tribe offered a liberal payment in wampum to the widow, which De Vries sought Kieft to sanction and so put an end to the affair, but the revengeful Kieft made the unfortunate incident the beginning of' reprisals against the Indians throughout the entire area.
Oratam, a wise and peace-loving chief, initiated many of the settlements between Jersey settles and the Indians, and sought to control the distribution of the "fire water" that aggravated much of the trouble. In this he received the support of the Dutch authorities.
Cattle belonging to the settlers strayed into the cornfields of the Indians, ruining their crops, and when the dark-skinned brethren killed a few of the animals, the tension mounted. As the farms of the Dutch increased in number, the Indians became discouraged and moved away peaceably to the north and west.
The English Take Over
Following the occupation of New Amsterdam by the English, Sir George Carteret and Lord Berkeley of Stratton were made the grantees of the entire area now the State of New Jersey. The province was named after the island of Jersey, the home of the Carterets. The form of government established offered most liberal terms for purchasing of land, and entire religious liberty was promised. The result of this was an immediate influx of settlers from New England, especially from the town in the Republic of New Haven, where the Puritan theocracy was most dominant. Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 sent large numbers from France1 to England, and many of these French Huguenots found their way to the settlement in eastern New Jersey where they mingled with the Dutch and English.
The succession of political circumstances which followed accounted for a further migration of sects and nationalities to this district. Even before the German Palatinate prince was chosen by the Act of Settlement to succeed Queen Anne to the throne of England, thousands of Palatine peasants were invited by British statesmen to flee the religious persecutions in the Rhine valley and ship to England from whence they might go to America. More than 30,000 crossed in the years 1708 and 1709, settling along the coast, but principally in Pennsylvania. Ulster Presbyterians began to come over in large numbers about 1720. Other sects included the Lutherans, Mennonites, and the Dunkers. Despite this influx, the character of the northern Jersey district remained Dutch.
Part in the Revolution
The ground which lies between the Hudson River and the Hackensack played an interesting part in the retreat of General George Washington's little army from Fort Lee to the west. Lord Cornwallis had crossed the Hudson further north with a force of approximately 6,000, and according to scouts for the Continental troops, was proceeding south along the Palisades to capture Fort Lee. The only bridge that spanned the Hackensack was at the northwest corner of Teaneck, and was known as New Bridge. It had been built in 1770 to replace the Old Bridge that was located at the place now known as River Edge.
The fact that Cornwallis' position was closer to the crossing than was Washington's presented a grave threat to the American Army, which numbered hardly half of the British. Evacuating Fort Lee in a hurry, leaving large quantities of stores behind, the Continentals followed a course in eluding Cornwallis that must have traversed the district, now Teaneck, on their way to New Bridge Road, the crossing, and safety. The bridge was then destroyed and, on the following day Washington crossed the Passaic River and began his march through New Jersey toward the banks of the Raritan at new Brunswick.