New Jersey's early history is both bewildering and fascinating. What follows is a brief overview of that history. For further information please consult the Bibliography.
Elizabethtown- Elizabeth, New Jersey today, is the oldest English settlement in New Jersey.
Prior to the founding of Elizabethtown in 1664, there were attempts made by both the Dutch and Swedish to establish settlements in New Jersey. The first attempt was made by the Dutch in 1630 when Pavonia (Jersey City) was settled. New Amsterdam (Manhattan) had been founded by the Dutch in 1614 as a result of Henry Hudson's exploration of the area in 1609. Poor treatment of the Indians by the Dutch incited Indian attacks making Dutch efforts to establish settlements west of New York difficult.
The Lenni-Lenape Indians ("original people") inhabited New Jersey at this time. They were part of the Algonquian nation and linguistic stock, and were often referred to as the Delaware Indians. "Scheyichbi" was the Indian name for New Jersey. Linguists have translated it to mean "LongLand, Water". There were three Lenni-Lenape tribes in New Jersey:
Minsi- the northern tribe
Unami- the central tribe
Unitachtigo- the southern tribe.
Overall, the Lenni-Lenape were peaceful Indians.
Sweden had been experiencing a prosperous period under Gustavus II at the time when the Dutch began to take an interest in America. Shortly after Pavonia was founded, the Swedish settled New Sweden(near Salem, NJ) in an attempt to dispute Dutch control of the Delaware. The Dutch, under Peter Stuyvesant, capturedNew Jersey in 1665, ending Sweden's claim in New Jersey.
The first proposal of English speaking people for settling New Jersey came in 1660. Governor Stuyvesant received a petition from parties in Huntington and Jamaica (Long Island) which included the following request:
"whither or no that place upon the mayne land which is called Arther Cull be free from any engagement: secondly if free, then whither or no he will be pleased to grant it to a Company of honest men that may decide to sit doune ther to make a plantation under his government."
Governor Stuyvesant invited the petitioners to see the land and assured them that the Dutch were pleased to receive a proposal for colonization. Religious freedom would be granted to the settlers by the Dutch.
While this was happening, a Puritan group from the New Haven Colony, under Robert Treat, became interested in New Jersey for religious reasons and the economic opportunities offered by a newfound wilderness.
England had actually claimed the lands along the coast (including present-day New Jersey) based on John Cabot's discovery and exploration of the eastern coast of North America in 1497. English interest in colonization really grew with the restoration of the Stuart Monarchy in 1660.
In 1664, England, under King Charles II, captured New Amsterdam and New Jersey from the Dutch. The outnumbered Dutch were forced to surrender to the English. Charles II then granted to his brother, James, the Duke of York, all the lands from the west bank of the Connecticut River to the eastern shores of the Delaware River.
New Amsterdam was renamed "New York"after the Duke of York.
Colonel Robert Nicolls was appointed as the first deputy governor of New Jersey by the Duke of York. He named what is now New Jersey, "Albania", also in honor of James who was the Duke of Albany in addition to New York.
Nicolls was soon approached by a delegation from Jamaica, Long Island, who explained how they had been attempting to colonize New Jersey under the Dutch. They now sought permission from Nicolls to purchase from the Indians Achter Kol- the land west of Staten Island, which later became Elizabethtown. The petition was dated September 26, 1664. Nicolls had been ordered to colonize the lands as fast as possible so he granted their request:
"I do consent unto the proposals and shall give the undertakers all due encouragement in so good a work".
The lands bought by the petitioners became known as the Elizabethtown Purchase. It is important to note that this arrangement was approved by the Indians. The Deed was signed by Mattano and two other sachems (Indian political leaders) on Staten Island on October 28, 1664. (This Deed is now part of the collection of the New Jersey Historical Society.)
Upon entering the land, the purchasers agreed to pay the Indians 20 fathoms (1 fathom = 6 feet) of trading cloth, 2 coats, 2 guns, 2 kettles, 10 bars of lead and 20 handfuls of powder. It is still uncertain whether the Indians really understood that they were selling their land or just permitting the use of it. We'll probably never know for sure. One year after their arrival, the colonists were to pay the Indians 400 fathoms of white wampum (154 Pounds Sterling). This amount was in fact paid in 1665.
The colonists had purchased a total of 500,000 acres. The boundaries included all of present-day UnionCounty and much of Morris and SomersetCounties.
Governor Nicolls granted the settlers the blessings of a free government so they would be encouraged to colonize. This included freedom of religion, town government with a free choice of officers and the right to vote and hold office. Also, the Duke of York's government would not tax any property for five years.
The first settlement of Elizabethtown took place on November 24, 1664 with the landing of the founding fathers. All of the settlers from Long Island and Connecticut carne as "Associators" (or "Associates"), stockholders in the undertaking who were entitled to a full share in the division of the land. They drew lots for their town plots. The first recorded Town Meeting took place on February 19, 1666.
Although the Duke of York had appointed Nicolls as the governor of both New York and New Jersey, he actually granted the lands of New Jersey to Sir George Carteret and Lord John Berkeley. With that they acquired the right for profit and full governing authority.
"New Jersey" was named for the British Isle of Jersey by the Duke of York in recognition of Carteret's defense of the island against the Cromwellians during the British Civil War, which had temporarily removed the Stuarts from power in the 1640's. After the Restoration George became a court favorite of Charles II.
Berkeley and Carteret, now the Proprietors of New Jersey, were not aware of Nicolls' land grants at first. Long disputes were to follow between the Proprietors and the Elizabethtown Associators over the validity of their land grants.
Philip Carteret, a distant cousin of George, was appointed governor of New Jersey in 1665 by Berkeley and Carteret. Elizabethtown" was now the capital of New Jersey and named in honor of Elizabeth Carteret, the wife of Sir George Carteret.
Having encountered financial problems, Lord John Berkeley sold his portion and in 1676 the Quintipartite Deed was signed dividing New Jersey into two provinces - East and West. The dividing line extended from little Egg Harbor to the northwestern most point inNew Jersey.
New Jersey would now be a proprietary province run by a proprietary government. Non-acceptance of proprietary rule followed as it was a government forced on the settlers. The Proprietors did grant the settlers the rights of English freemen in a liberal charter called "The Concessions and Agreements of the Land of Proprietors of the Province of New Jersey". Among the Quakers who purchased the ands which became West Jersey was William Penn.
East Jersey continued under the ownership of Sir George Carteret until his death in 1682 when his lands were put up for public sale. There would eventually be twenty-four East Jersey Proprietors. (Note: The Board of Proprietors of the eastern division of New Jersey still exists today and is one of America's oldest continuously operated businesses. The Proprietary House still stands in Perth Amboy.)
Philip Carteret prompted many clashes between the Proprietors and Associators. First, he announced that 1/7 of all the land within any settlement was to be reserved for the Proprietors. Second, he demanded “Quitrents"- fixed rent payable to the Proprietors of 1/2 penny per acre. Third, he attempted to take over control of town affairs and meetings, and fourth, he began to disregard the claims of the Associators and even declared them illegal as revealed in his statement of July 31, 1674:
"For such as pretend to a right of proprietary to land and government within our Province, by virtue of any patents from Governor Colonel Richard Nicols, as they ignorantly assert, we utterly disown any such thing".
He further warned that the people had one year to get their land patented by the Governor or it would be confiscated and sold by the Proprietors.
After the death of Philip Carteret, East Jersey was purchased by a group of Proprietors in Great Britain.
In 1696, the Associators asked to be annexed to New York with a transfer of government from the Proprietors to the Crown in a petition which outlined their grievances under the rule of the Proprietors. They asked that Elizabethtown be placed "under the civil government of your Majesty's province of New York". New York supported the proposal feeling that only with the union of New York and New Jersey could New York protect its trade and commerce.
The Proprietors soon realized they had no choice but to give up the governorship of New Jersey or else have it taken from them by the King. The transfer became final in 1702.
All of the land west of the Elizabethtown settlements to the foot of the WatchungMountains was surveyed between late 1699 and early 1700. It included 17,000 acres which was divided into 171 one-hundred acre plots. This marked the beginning of the settlements of Westfield (the West Fields of Elizabethtown), Connecticut Farms (Union) and Springfield. The Associators numbered about 120 at this time. Those interested in this survey became known as the Clinker Lot Right Men.
Growing interest in the lands beyond the first range of the Watchungs grew yearly and by 1735, the second generation of Associators had died and new names were being added to the group. Included was a Samuel Miller. He was the grandfather of our Samuel Miller who built the Miller-Cory House.
The Borough of Elizabethtown was created in 1738, encompassing most of what is UnionCounty today.
The Disputes between the Elizabethtown Associators and the Proprietors became well known throughout the colonies. Benjamin Franklin was said to favor Elizabethtown.
It was not until after the Revolutionary War though, that the problem was finally resolved. The State of New Jersey adopted a policy of acknowledging deeds from either the Proprietors or Associators whenever people had been long established.
The Elizabethtown Associators remained steadfast in their long struggle to protect their land titles.
Click here for a map of early boundaries and permanent settlements in New Jersey.
For further reference:
As We Were - The Story of Old Elizabethtown by Theodore Thayer
Land and People: A Cultural Geography of Pre-Industrial New Jersey:
Origins and Patterns by Peter O. Wacker
New Jersey - America's Main Roadby John.T. Cunningham
New Jersey from Colony to State: 1609 - 1789by RichardP.McCormickMuseum of Early Trades and Crafts,Madison, NJ
The New Jersey Historical Society,Newark, NJ
Written by the Miller-Cory Education Committee - 6/85- all rights reserved