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The Historical Society of
Hudson County.

Organized January 17, 1908.


Pre side 7it :

Vice Presidents :
2d-J0HN W. HECK.

Treasurer : Librarian :


Corresponding Secretary: Recording Secretary :


Board of Governors :
W. D. Forbes Mr. J. Currie

Otto Ortel J. H. Hornblower, M.D.

Wm. J. Davis Alex. McLean

DeWitt Van Buskirk David R. Daley

j. j. voorhees.

From Free Public Library :
B. F. Stowe Dr. Gordon K. Dickinson,



The Society

ho I


Paper read before "The Hudson County Historical Society"

by the Rev. Cornelius Brett, D. D.

Friday evening, March 27, 1908.

^^/TTEOLOGICALLY, Hudson County lies at the southern
V^ end of the deep valley of the Hudson River and Lake
Champlain. So deep is this valley, that a rise of 150 feet in
the sea-level would cut off New England from the rest of the
continent, making it a great island. This valley was once the
bed of an immense glacier of an average depth of 2,000 feet.
It denuded the ridges of earth and disintegrated rocks, deposit-
ing mud and gravel." For this beginning of Hudson County
in the long, long ages before man arrived, or the first Dutch
gutteral was uttered, I am indebted to a member of this soci-
ety, our fellow citizen Alexander McLean, who assisted Prof.
Cook, the learned State Geologist, in his explorations and

Topographically, our County is the smallest in the State,
covering less than 75 square miles of highland and lowland,
rock soil and swamp. Geographically, it includes the land ly-
ing between the Hudson and the Passaic, between the lower
limits of the Palisades and Kill von Kull. Politically, the
County was in 1840 set off from old Bergen County, which or-
iginally extended from the Kill to the New York State line.
The northern portion retains the name Bergen, to which it
has no right; while the new County was baptised Hudson, af-
ter the river which washes the eastern shore.

The aborigines of New Jersey belong to the great Algon-
quin family, whose branches reached from the frozen shores of
Hudson Bay to the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. The na-
tion spreading their wigwams over our now familiar hills and
plains was the Lenni Lenape. The name is said to mean "our
men," or the "original Indian." The people are described as
of moderate stature, properly shaped, dark-eyed, black-haired,
wearing the all-too-familiar scalp-lock, their bodies usually an-
ointed with animals' oil or stained symbolically with mineral
or vegetable dyes. Among the men there were many who ap-
proached physical perfection, the women in youth being statu-


esque rather than beautiful. The tribes lived in villages, but
wigwam sites were frequently changed as the nomads sought
new hunting and fishing grounds. They lived in the midst of
squalor, usually upon maize, beans and roasted nuts, but when
the supply could be obtained, devoured the fish from bays and
rivers and the abundant game of the forests. Local option
was not an issue at their council fires, for intoxicating drink
was unknown until introduced by the whites. The rudest form
of tribal government prevailed ; but as compared with other
tribes, the Lenni Lenape seem to have been remarkably peace-
ful. Their relics of arrow-heads and rude implements of stone
and sun-baked pottery are still found in the hills of Essex and
the valley of the Raritan.

It may be a shock to historical prejudices to announce that
Henry Hudson did not discover the river which bears his name.
John Fiske remarks "the student of history gets accustomed
to finding that the beginnings of things were earlier than
had been supposed." Attracted by the fisheries on the New-
foundland banks, sailors from southern Europe, as well as Nor-
mandy and Brittany, arrived in large numbers. They found
fish more abundant than gold, and became practical in their
adaptation of the unknown treasures of the New World. From
time to time these fishing boats entered the mouths of the large
rivers, and there are traces in maps and log books of their pres-
ence in our own magnificent harbor. On the 17th of January,
1524, Giovanni de Verrazano, in command of a single ship.
La Dauphine, set sail from the Madeira Islands, determined, if
possible, to reach Cathay. About the middle of April he ar-
rived at Sandy Hook, which he called Cape St. Mary. The
neighboring hillsides were alive with peering savages. He was
not deceived, as Hudson was, by the delusion of a northwest
passage through the Hudson River, for he likens the upper bay
to a beautiful lake and tells of the steep hills between which
"una grandissima riviera" (a very great river), emptied into
the bay. Canoes filled with red men, brave in paint and feath-
ers, darted hither and thither. On his departure from the
harbor, he seems to have discovered Coney Island, to which he
gave the name "Angouleme," in honor of Duke Francis, af-
terward Francis the First of France. He cruised along the
southern shore of Long Island, gathering wampum at Rocka-
way Bay, almost circumnavigated the island, called Block Island


"Louise," after the king's mother, and gave to Point Judith
(the familiar torture of passengers on the Fall River Line) the
name of Cape St. Francis.

In 1525, the Spanish Captain Estevan Gomez calls the Hud-
son River "The River of the Steep Hills," and probably pur-
chased some furs from the Mohawks of northern New York. In
1542, a Frenchman, Allefonsce, approached New York Harbor
through Long Island Sound, and a few phrases in his descrip-
tive letter indicate that he encountered the dangerous currents
at Hell Gate.

On certain old maps, immediately after Verrazano's
voyage in 1527, there began to appear the name of "Nor-
umbega. '' The maps were, of course, rude suggestions of the
outlines of sea and shore, without any attempt at measurement
or triangulation. This strange name seems to be applied to
three things:

ist. A spacious territory over which the name is written

and. A river somewhere in that territory.

3rd. A town or village somewhere upon that river.

There is no difficulty in locating the territory, for it is
what may be roughly described as equivalent to New England.
But concerning the river there has been a wide difference of
opinion, and concerning the origin of the name, to quote from
Fiske, "there has been much broad guessing.'' The historians
of Maine have claimed the Penobscot River as the original Nor-
umbega. Bostonians, who are given to claiming everything in
sight, imagine that the Charles River was intended. Why should
the people of New Jersey be less ambitious? We certainly have as
much v/arrant as any other claimant for the assertion that the
river of Norumbega was the Hudson and that the town was an
original settlement on Manhattan Island, which had been swept
away before the coming of the Dutch.

We therefore begin our history of Hudson County by the
claim that the familiar name of Bergen is the oldest title given
by early explorers to any part of the North Atlantic seaboard
which has held its place unto the living present. I fortify my
claim by an extract from John Fiske :

"The name is evidently connected with Verrezano's voy-
age, and the Hudson River is the only one which in his letter
he speaks of entering. He describes the Hudson as a very

broad river running- between small, steep hills, which indicates
that he may have gone up as far as SpUyten Duyvil. Now, if
this was really the River of Norumbega, visited and described
by this party of Frenchmen, it is fair to ask if the name may
not be some French epithet mutilated and disguised in its pil-
c^rimage among the map makers. Might not the map name
'Norumbega' be simply a Low Latin corruption of 'Anormee
Berge?' In sixteenth century French, that means 'Grand Scarp'
and where could one find a better epithet for the majestic lines
of clifTs that we call the palisades? A feature so unusual and
so striking, that no one could hardly fail to select it for descrip-
tion. The river Nornmbega, then, is simply the river of the
Grand Scarp. It is in favor of this view that on some old maps
the name occurs as 'Norumberg' and 'Anorumberga. " One
hundred and forty years later, the founders of the first perma-
ment settlement in New Jersey revived the ancient name, and,
giving the Dutch ending to the French "Berge," they called
the Grand Scarp by the familiar name "Bergen," which, for
nearly 250 years, has been honored by our fathers and our-

These early explorers must not, however, be allowed to
snatch the laurels from the brow of Henry Hudson. When he
discovered the magnificent harbor of New York, and the lordly
river which bears his name, it was virtually a fresh discovery.
All traces of the Nornmbega and the French had vanished.
No relic had been left behind by Florentine or Spaniard,
while the English claims to the territory were so vague and
undefined that Europe never acknowledged them. Moreover,
the colonization of the New Netherlands was the direct result
of Hudson's voyage.

The absorption of the French in their own internal strug-
gles diminished their enthusiasm for discovery and coloniza-
tion. Spain had ceased to be the mistress of the Atlantic.
Meanwhile the English and the Dutch were coming to their
own as the recognized sea-kings of the age. The Muscovy
Company was incorporated in England in February, 1555. Its
object was the discovery of a northeastern passage to the In-
dies, and incidentally trading with Russia on the way. One
of its founders was a Henry Hudson, an alderman of London.
His grandson bore his name and carried his arms. We are
told that a warm friendship existed between Hudson and that

famous Captain John Smith, who did such noble service in the
colony at Jamestown. He first appears in history as the com-
mander of an expedition to the northeast in 1607. Of the man
himself we know very little. Diedrich Knickerbocker is the
only historian who has ever ventured to describe his personal
appearance. He tells us that Hudson had learned to smoke to-
bacco under Sir Walter Raleigh, and is said to have been the
first who introduced the fragrant weed into Holland, which made
him the most popular man in the Low Countries. "He was a short,
square, brawny old gentleman with a double chin, a massive
mouth, and a broad copper nose which was supposed, in those
days, to have acquired its fiery hue from the constant neigh-
borhood of the tobacco pipe. He wore a true Andrea Ferrara
tucked in his leather belt, and a commodore's cocked hat on
one side of his head. He was remarkable for always jerking
up his breeches when he gave out orders, and his voice sound-
ed not unlike the brattling of a tin trumpet, owing to the num-
ber of hard northwesters which he had swallowed in the course
of his seafaring. His mate was a certain Master Robert Juet
(some pronounced it Chewit), because he was the first man
who ever chewed tobacco."

On the 4th of April, 1609, Hudson sailed out of the Zuy-
der Zee in the service of the East India Company. It was not
an uncommon thing, at that time, for explorers of renown to
pass from one service to another. His vessel was the Half
Moon. It couid not have been heavier than eighty tons. One
historian says that it was twenty tons smaller. It was known
as the Vlie Boat, in Holland, because it was built to sail on the
river Vlie. Its crew consisted of less than twenty souls, half
English, half Dutch. The general instruction given by the
company was that the Half Moon should not sail south of 60"^
and that an attempt should be made to discover the northwest
passage to the far-off Indies. Hudson disobeyed his orders by
cruising up and down the Atlantic seaboard until, on the 3rd
of September, he anchored off Sandy Hook. Even though 85
years before, Verrazano had looked upon the same beautiful
prospect, and French mariners had followed him to bring back
to Europe furs in exchange for beads, we look upon this little
yacht, riding at anchor in the great ship channel that forms the
gateway to the harbor of New York, as the pioneer of that
civilization which has come to claim for its own the great me-

tropolis of the western world, destined to be within a century
the mosc populous city on the globe. Hudson's log has been
lost, but fortunately the private memoranda of his mate are in
the archives of the Hague. He shows his appreciation of the
beautiful when he says : "It is a very good land to fall in with and
a very pleasant land to see." To the south stretched the long
strip of sand now occupied by the defenders of our city, and the
heights of Navesink rose invitingly before him. The great
horseshoe of green, broken again by the sparkling waters of
the Raritan and the di.stant heights of Staten Island, bounded
the prospect towards the north. The natives seemed friendly.
They were clad in loose but well-dressed skins, and the women
wore ornaments of yellow copper. They were ready to ex-
change green tobacco for knives and beads and brought sam-
ples of their maize and hemp. They also laid upon the deck
of the Half Moon huge yellow spheres which the Dutch called
the vine apple, and for the first time Europeans knew the value of
the American pumpkin as an addition to their dietary. Pump-
kin pies were probably to come later, when Dutch dairies had
been established. But that such huge fruits could be so de-
licious, was a surprise to the hungry navigators, content for so
many months with hardtack and salt meats. One of the Indian
names for the Hudson River was "The place for the pelicans,"
and all early explorers tell us that the island of Manhattan
was at times white with swans. Seals in large numbers came
half way up the bay. Robyn's Reef, familiar to those who
cross the ferr}^ to Staten Island as the site of the lighthouse
whence at night comes the beautiful flash, derived its name
from the seals which covered it, robyn being the Dutch name
for seal. Tradition says that a whale once came up as far as
Cohoes, a town on the river above the head of present steam-
boat navigation.

Speaking of names, few rivers have ever boasted of so
many as our Hudson, for beside the Indian titles, the Dutch
called it The Great River, and to distinguish it from the Dela-
ware, The North River. At one time it is called Mauritius, in
honor of Prince Maurice of Orange, while from the west bank
and the east bank came in succession the names. The River
of Pavonia and the River of Manhattan. It was, however,
reserved for the English, on their conquest, to give the name
and the title of the explorer himself, who, although he sailed

under the Dutch flag, was an Englishman by birth.

Three days after his arrival Hudson dispatched a dory
with John Coleman in command of four rowers. They found
the shores on both sides pleasant with grass and flowers, and a
little removed from the shore they noted that great oaks cov-
ered the hills. The Indians taught them the value of sea food
and brought them fish of great variety and abundance. Lob-
sters six feet long, such as we never see in market nowadays,
are described by the chronicler; and for the first time a Eu-
ropean tasted an American oyster. We read of ambrosia re-
served for the gods, but what must have been the gastronomic
surprise of these white men as the copper-colored savages
opened blue-point and saddle-rock, and they learned the exquis-
ite flavor of oysters on the half shell, without our modern dread
of typhoid fever! Would that Charles Lamb might have told
this story as he has told of the discovery of crackle by the
Chinese! Coleman and his party made their way to the mouth
of Kill von Kull, that is, the Kill, or River, of the Bay. They
seem to have entered the Kill and rowed as far as Newark
Bay, which they called Achter Coll (The Back Bay), to distin-
guish it from the harbor or the front. The news of the ar-
rival had meanwhile reached the Island of Manhattan, whose
tribes were not so friendly as those of New Jersey, and canoes
filled with braves in war paint and feathers put foi-th for the
first battle with their conquerors. The little crew beat off their
assailants, but not until a poisoned arrow had wounded their
captain, who .soon after died. The Dutchmen made their
first landing in New Jersey to lay their comrade beneath the
sands of the Hook. He was the first of many martyrs to per-
ish, in the cause of advancing civilization, in our now populous
Middle States вАФ the first white man to be buried in the soil of
our own New Jersey. The Society of Colonial Wars is pro-
posing, as part of the ter centennial of 1909, to commemorate
this tragedy by marking John Coleman's grave.

On the nth of September, the Half Moon weighed anchor
and made her way to the north of the Kill, and on the next day
stood off our own Communipaw. On the 13th, invited by the
prospect of finding the passage to the East Indies and cover-
ing the captain with glory as the great explorer of all time,
the Half Moon began the ascent of the Hudson River. A
day's sail brought them to Stony Point, to be celebrated in af-


ter years by the mad exploit of Anthony Wayne. On the zad,
as the lead showed little more than a fathom of water, the cap-
tain was forced to the disappointing conclusion that he w^as
sailmg- on a river whose shallows and narrows dissolved his
day-dream of a navigable channel opening towards the spice
groves of the Indies. We wonder whether the crew were too
sorrowful to give their captain the laugh, as another disap-
pointed boat-load did at Ha Ha Bay on the Saguenay. On the
return voyage the Half Moon was attacked by the enraged sav-
ages near the northern point of Manhattan Island. There was
no loss of life, but the vessel took refuge in a harbor on the
Jersey shore, just to the north of what is now known as Castle
Point. From the diary of Juet, we have the first description
of our county:

"Within a while after" (that is, after the attack by the In-
dians, on the second day of October, 1609) "we got down two
leagues beyond that place and anchored in a bay clear from all
danger of them on the other side of the river, where we saw a
good piece of ground, and hard by it there was a cliff that
looked of the colour of white-green, as though it was either a
copper or silver mine, and I think it to be one of them by the
trees that grow upon it, for they are all burned, and the other
places are green as grass."

We recognize in this an accurate word picture of Castle
Point, on which are situated the mansions of the Stevens fam-
ily. On the fourth of October the Half Moon was back again
in the harbor and immediately set sail for Europe. Hudson
confessed his failure and disappointment, but, on the other
hand, told such wonderful stories of the abundant game on the
mountains overlooking the river, that the Netherlands were
stirred with enthusiasm.

The year 1609, memorable for Hudson's great discovery,
closed the contest between Spain and the Netherlands. Spain
reluctantly acknowledged what had long been an accomplished
fact, the independence of the Dutch provinces. The acknowl-
edgment, it is true, only took the form of a truce which was
to last twelve years. But those hardy Dutchmen knew full
well that Spain could never recover her advantage, and that
the cause of civil and religious liberty had triumphed in the
Low Countries. During the next four years, private enter-
prise sent out seven small ships to exchange the skins of

beaver, otter, and mink, so valuable in northern Europe, for
blue g-lass beads and stripes of red cotton.

The heart of the citizen of New Jersey swells with pride
as he reads the veracious history by the aforementioned Died-
rich Knickerbocker, which maintains that the colonization of
the Western Shore of the Hudson River was affected before
the first huts v/ere built on Manhattan We find Knickerbocker
guilty of an anachronism in a description of the ship which
brought over the colonists. He says:

"She was named Goede Vrouzv, in compliment of the wife
of the President of the West India Company," but, as we shall
find, the West India Company was not organized until 1618,
and by that time a palisaded fort had heen erected and a little
colony of rude huts gathered around it on Manhattan Island.

Knickerbocker is, however, minute in his description of the
ship: "She was of the most approved Dutch construction, made
by the ablest ship carpenters of Amsterdam, who, it is well
known, always model their ships after the fair forms of their
country-women. Accordingly it was 100 feet in the beam, 100
feet in the keel, and 100 feet from the bottom of the stern post
to the taffrail. Like the beauteous model, who was declared
to be the greatest belle in Amsterdam, it was full in the bands,
with a pair of enormous cat-heads, with a copper bottom, and
withal a prodigious poop. For a figurehead they bore the
goodly image of St. Nicholas."

After a prosperous voyage from Holland, they came to
anchor under Gibbet Island. This was the early name of what
is now Ellis Island, because, in early colonial days, criminals
were carried thither for execution. Here they looked upon
the little Indian village, which even at that time bore the name
of Communipaw.

A boat was immediately dispatched to enter into a treaty
with the Indians, but the Indians were so terribly frightened at
the tremendous and uncouth sound of the Low Dutch language,
that they one and all took to their heels, scampered over Ber-
gen hills, and buried themselves in the marshes, where they
all miserably perished to a man, their bones being collected
and decently covered by the Tammany Society of that day,
formed that singular mound called Rattlesnake Hill, which
rises out of the centre of the salt marshes, a little to the left of
the Newark causeway. Finding the place deserted, the crew


of the ship landed on the shore and founded the settlement
which they called by the old Indian name.

From Communipaw the colonists set out one day to found
the more important colony on Manhattan Island, and for this
reason Knickerbocker gravely asserts that "Communipaw was
the egg from which was hatched the mighty city of New York."

Washington Irving seems to have been particularly at-
tracted towards the Communipaw of his day. Writing just a
century ago, he asserts, from his own experience, that on a
clear summer evening you may hear from the Battery of New
York the obstreperous peals of broad-mouthed laughter of the
Dutch negroes.

"As to the honest burghers of Communipaw, like wise
men and sound philosophers, they never looked beyond their
pipes, nor troubled their heads about any affairs out of their
immediate neighborhood. They lived in profound and envi-
able ignorance of all the troubles, anxieties, and revolutions of
this distasteful climate. I am even told that many among them
do verily believe that Holland, of which they have heard so
much from tradition, is situated somewhere on Long Island;
that Spiking Devil and the Narrows are the two ends of the
world; that the country is still under the dominion of their
High Mightiness; and the city of New York still goes by the
name of New Amsterdam. The traits of the original settlers
are handed down inviolate from father to son. The broad-
brimmed hat and broad-skirted coat continue from generation
to generation. The language likewise continues unadulterated
by barbarous innovations, and so critically correct is the village
schoolmaster in his dialect, that his reading of a Low Dutch
Psalm has much the same effect on the nerves as the filing of
a hand-saw."

Irving further tells how two famous relics were preserved
in one of their farmhouses from generation to generation. One
was Governor Wouter Van Twiller's hat, and another was
Governor Kieft's shoe. These had gathered the dust of a
century, when, in a spasm of house-cleaning, one of the Dutch
mothers swept them out. The shoe she swept into the bay,
where it speedily became covered with oysters, and the famous
"Governor's Foot" brand was developed. The hat fell into
the garden and was speedily enfoliated by a growing cabbage,
which variety, known as the "Governor's Head," soon became


famous in the markets of New York.

Going back to the early days, he tells us that a brisk trade
in furs was soon opened and the burghers of Communipaw
grew rich, because the Dutchman's hand on the scale always

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