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Millburn: 1857 - 1957
The Indians and the First White Men

By the Millburn Centennial Committee

Originally appeared in 1957
This Web version, copyright 2004

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The first known inhabitants of this land, finally tamed by fire, water, and ice were the Lenape Indians, a subdivision of the Munsee or Minsi tribe of the Algonquin Group. Their totem was the wolf.

The Lenapes had their tribal headquarters on Minisink Island in the Delaware, and in their journeyings to the salt coastal waters formed the Minisink Trail. Two branches of this trail met and crossed in what appears, from a study of the early maps, to have been the present center of Millburn. It is generally believed that they crossed the Passaic River in the vicinity of Short Hills and came to the Millburn cross roads via the present Parsonage Hill Road and Old Short Hills Road.

A persistent legend records that they built canoes on the canoe brook and when the spring freshets came, paddled them to the Passaic River and down to the great bay at Newark.

The first white men in this area were probably Dutch prospectors, under the auspices of the Dutch West India Company, seeking metals in the hills and bargaining with the Indians for furs. Men from Sweden also came to New Jersey, but from 1655 when New Netherlands conquered New Sweden, until 1664, the whole of New Jersey was absolutely under Dutch control.

However, in 1664, Charles II of Britain, with high-handed generosity, made a grant of a large tract, embracing all of New Jersey, to his brother James, Duke of York, and pre- pared to fight the Dutch who thereupon entered into a negotiated surrender.

James' grantees, John, Lord Berkeley, and Sir George Carteret, who seem to have been the first real estate developers, so well extolled their land, in a remarkable brochure, "Grants and Concessions," which they scattered through New England and abroad, that settlers soon began to arrive from Long Island and Connecticut, as well as from England, and settled in Elizabethtown and New Ark in numbers. "Grants and Concessions", sometimes called "The Magna Charta of New Jersey," promised to men and women religious freedom, land owner- ship, right of assembly, and most of the other civil rights which today form the basis of New Jersey's legal code.

Naturally, the Indians resented these new arrivals in New Ark and attempted to drive them off, but later peace was made and claims honestly met. A legal purchase, paid for in articles of value, agreed to by the Indians, was signed by all parties on July 11, 1666/ 1667. By this deed, all lands

hounded and limited with the Bay eastward and the great River Pesayak northward, to the great Creke or River in the Meadow, running to the head of the Cove, and from thence bareing a westerly line for the south bound, which said Great Creek is com- monly called and known by the name Weequachick on the West line backwards in the Country to the foot of the great mountaine called Watchung ... the said Mountaine as wee are informed hath one large branch of the Elizabethtown River running near the above said foot of the mountaine ...
became the property of the inhabitants of New Ark.

In 1677 another deed supplementing the first one, provided that the lands purchased by the inhabitants of New Ark should run "to the top of the great mountaine Watchung." A third deed, made in March 1701/1702 included all land

to the northward o f Newark within the compass o f the Passaick River, and so south- wardly into the Minisink Path; viz., all lands as yet not purchased from the heathen.
Fishing and hunting rights were reserved to the Indians in these deeds, and were not extinguished until 1832 when they were purchased from the remnants of the Lenape Tribe by the New Jersey Legislature for $2,000.

A small area in the southwest corner of the lands described in the first deed is now part of Millburn, and the second deed extended the Newark holdings from Springfield Avenue, near Millburn, to Passaic County.

Two years before the Newark settlement, however, in September, 1664/1665, four men from Jamaica, Long Island, acting for themselves and about eighty associates, had also purchased from the Indians, lands from the Raritan River to Newark Bay, and "west into the country twice the length as it is broad," and founded what was to become the settlement of Elizabethtown. This purchase apparently included part of Millburn also.

It would take too long to describe here the legal complications which arose over this purchase, and the long struggle between the Proprietors and settlers. As Millburn was the outgrowth of both Elizabethtown and New Ark the backgrounds of both are here briefly considered. In 1709 Millburn definitely became part of Elizabethtown.


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