Exploration and Early Conveyance
From writings by Elsie Peters
This history of Wanaque is reconstructed from documents and recorded facts. In 1498, John Cabot sailed off the coast, giving England claim to what is now called New Jersey. King Charles II of England owned much of America and in March 1664 granted the region between the Hudson and Delaware Rivers to his brother, James, Duke of York.
In June 1664, James, Duke of York conveyed the land to two court friends who had stood by the monarchy during the Cromwellian Revolution, namely John Lord Berkely and Sir George Carteret as tribute to their stout defense of the Isle of Jersey when King Charles had fled there in 1649.
The grant carried with it the right to govern and the document of lease and release of the property called it “Nova Caesaria” or New Jersey. Lord Berkely and Sir George Carteret, being friends, divided the present in half. The area was divided, under the 1664 terms, Sir George Carteret taking Eastern New Jersey and Lord Berkely, West New Jersey with no definite dividing line. Actually, faulty navigating by the surveyers who paced out the dividing line gave Lord Berkely almost twice as much land as Sir Carteret but both were dead by the time this came to light.
In 1674, Lord Berkely sold his half of New Jersey to John Fenwick in trust for Edward Bylinge.
In 1676, agreement was reached on “East New Jersey – West New Jersey Division” in the Quinitipartite Deed, so called because it was signed by five men: William Penn, Gawen Lawrie, Nicholas Lucas, and Edward Byllinge for West New Jersey and Sir George Carteret for East New Jersey. The line of division, roughly from Little Egg Harbor to the Delaware Water Gap, gave West New Jersey approximately 60 percent of the land area. When Sir Carteret died, his widow, Lady Elizabeth (who had not seen New Jersey), auctioned off East New Jersey. The area of some 4,000 square miles was sold for 3,400 pounds ($17,000) to a group of 12 bidders that included William Penn. They eventually divided the land into 98 equal shares, established themselves as the Proprietors of East New Jersey, and set about selling the land. Revenue from sales was split among the shareholders according to their shares. Due to inaccurate surveys (some made at night with the aid of flaming tar barrels toward which surveyors walked at night to pace off the boundary lines), changes in compass bearings, and oversight, all the pieces of owned land in New Jersey did not add up to the whole. Since the Proprietors once owned all of the State, they figured that the missing pieces belonged to them. So did the courts. Any pieces of land which did not show a valid claim belonged to the Proprietors. This understanding kept the Proprietors in business until 1998 when, after 314 years, the oldest continuously operated corporation in the United States was dissolved by a New Jersey court. The Board was not chartered by the State, as its origin predated the charter of New Jersey. Its remaining assets were sold to the State of New Jersey or donated to the State Archives in Trenton.
The first conveyance of land within the limits of the present Passaic County was the transfer, by the Indian chief Captahan Peter, of the Indian title to a nine mile island lying in the Passaic River. He conveyed the island to Hartman Michielson (Vreeland) on April 4, 1678.
The first European settlers in the area now called Passaic County were almost entirely of Dutch descent, most of them being second generation natives from Long Island and New York. Scattered Dutch settlers lived along the west side of the Hudson River throughout the 1630’s, but relentless Indian raids in 1643 drove them across the River to New Amsterdam. They returned, only to flee again in 1655 during another Indian raiding period. Both the 1643 and 1655 Indian uprisings were provoked by unfair Dutch treatment of the natives. The Lenape, who were originally strong and healthy, readily succumbed to the white man’s diseases. Their number was further reduced as colonial settlements became larger and more numerous. The Indians, unable to compete with the increasing population of colonists, were forced westward.
In 1682, fourteen Dutch families acquired the Acquananonk Tract, comprising most of present Clifton, Passaic and Paterson. By 1711, all of modern Passaic County had been purchased and by 1730 most portions of it had been settled by German and Dutch farmers. Such were the early days of European settlement in the New World. Though this land of shining waters and verdant hills had been home to people for some 10,000 years, one age was ending as a new age, with its possibilities, challenges and hopes, was beginning.