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by Howard Prosnitz, Staff Writer, Teaneck Suburbanite, July 5, 2006, p. 3
This is the second part of a series on Teaneck's history based on interviews with municipal historian Larry Robertson. The concentration in this article is on the Revolutionary War.
In 1742, New Bridge Road at the north end of the township became Teaneck's first business district. The bridge, at the time of southernmost crossing over the river, began to serve the stagecoach which ran from Hoboken to Hackensack.
The area was then known as New Bridge Village and was a part of Hackensack Township, said Robertson. Colonial law required that every village have an inn to accommodate travelers. Other business that grew up along New Bridge Road included a general store, a post office and a furniture factory.
The business district flourished peacefully for some 30 years until, with the coming of the Revolutionary War, Teaneck became a bloody battleground.
"It was a hellhole," said Robertson. "It was so called neutral ground and both sides raided it for food, timber and other supplies, which is why almost every house was destroyed."
One of Teaneck's most significant chapters in Revolutionary War history occurred on Nov. 20, 1776 when the 6,000 man garrison at Fort Lee fled a large force of British and German troops that had ferried across the Hudson River to Alpine.
Some of the American tropps escaped down Cedar Lane, but the majority followed a route to New Bridge Road.
"When the Americans got there it was about five in the afternoon and it was raining," said Robertson. "They didn't have enough explosives to blow up the bridge so they ripped the deck off. But the beams remained and they did not have enough tools to dismantle them," said Robertson.
Part of the militia took positions in the attics of the commercial buildings on the north side of the road. The rest crossed the bridge and hid themselves in the weeds on the other side of the river.
"When thy British arrived it was pitch dark," siad Robertson. "They began to cross the river on the narrow beams with the rest of the regiment behind. When they reached the middle of the bridge the snipers opened fire."
The American troops did sufficient damage to discourage the British from following that night. Unfortunately, said Robertson, the Americans ran out of ammunition. The snipers were eventually captured and died in a prison ship in the New York Harbor.
Black slaves were effectively recruited to fight on the British side. Abraham Von Buskirk, a colonial doctor who lived in what is today Brett Park, joined the colonial militia when the Revolutionary War broke out.
"It looked like he was going to be part of the patriot side but he had secretly applied for a commission in the British army and it came through and he was made a Lieutenant Colonel," said Robertson.
Von Buskirk founded the Fourt Battalion of New Jersey Volunteers, which fought on the British side.
The battalion was racially integrated as a result of Von Buskirk's efforts.
"The British struck with the black slaves," said Robertson. "They said, 'If you fight for us you will get your freedom and you will have the best clothes and shoes you ever had in your life, three square meals a day and you get to keep your weapon when you leave the army.'"
Von Buskirk also promised the black slaves the opportunity to remain in the British Army if the British were successful.
"So a lot of black people joined the Fourth Battalion New Jersey Volunteers under Von Buskirk," said Roberston.
When the British lost the war, they, nevertheless, honored the service of their black volunteers.
"They said to them, 'You can't stay here because something is going to happen to you.' They gave them a choice of taking them either to the Caribbean or to Canada," said Robertson.
Most of the balck volunteers from Teaneck chose Canade, and the British settled them in Nova Scotia.
To this day, the town of Digby, Nova Scotia has a large black population, unusual for a Canadian town, and many of the residents have Bergen County Dutch Surnames, Robertson said.
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