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A Guide To Its Present And Past
Compiled and Written by the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration for the State of New Jersey
American Guide Series

Originally published in 1939
Some of this information may no longer be current and in that case is presented for historical interest only.

Edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

Jersey City
Part 3

The site of Jersey City was first important as a North Jersey gateway for the Dutch traders who settled Manhattan. That relationship was expanded when the settlers began bringing their farm products to New York. Probably the first permanent settlement was made shortly after 1629, when Michael Pauw bought a tract from the Indians. Under the colonization plan of the Dutch West India Company he was required to settle fifty persons on the land. Cornelius Van Vorst, sent by Pauw to establish a plantation named Pavonia, enjoyed civil and judicial power, and enough prosperity to entertain the directors general of New Netherland. The house that he built in 1633 is supposed to have stood near the present corner of Fourth and Henderson Streets. Later Michael Paulez (or Paulusen), the company's overseer of trade with the Indians, occupied a house at Paulus Hook.

Dissatisfied with the feudal patroon system, the company bought out Pauw in 1634 for about $10,000 and built two houses at Pavonia; another was erected at Communipau (Pauw's community). After 1638 the company's officers obtained grants from Director General Kieft.

Unscrupulous trade practices against the Indians, plus Kieft's demand for tribute and his subsequent massacre of innocent Raritans, resulted in bloody reprisals by both sides. When peace was declared in 1645 only the Van Vorst manor had escaped destruction. Ten years later the Indians raided the settlement again after another provocative act. Governor Stuyvesant refused to permit settlement until 1660, when he granted a petition on condition that the colonists live in a fortified community. The first court was established in 1661.

The village of Bergen was laid out as an 800-foot square surrounded by a log palisade. Two streets, now Academy Street and Bergen Avenue, intersected to form a public square, today known as Bergen Square. Within a year the settlement was large enough to require regular communication with New Amsterdam, and William Jansen began operating a rowboat ferry three times a week. For cattle and other cargo a flat-bottomed sloop was used. In 1662 the settlement hired a combination voorleser (sermon reader) and schoolmaster, being unable to afford an ordained minister.


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