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  • Sue Tryforos, Borough Historian

In The Beginning

For this year's Quasquicentennial Celebration, The Rock Recorder Blog will post a chronological (as much as possible) history of Glen Rock, NJ. My main source for framing this series is an unpublished manuscript in the Glen Rock Historical & Preservation Society's archive, which was written by George Hubschmitt. This is Part #1 of the series.

The natives of New Jersey were the Delawares or Lenape, known to themselves as the "true people". Family ties were strong among the Lenape. Home was the wik-i-up. Unlike the teepee of the Plains peoples, this was a little more substantial. It was a covering of tree bark over bent boughs. At the top of the roof was a small hole for the escape of smoke. In inclement weather, an animal skin covered the entrance opening.

We are indebted to the Lenape for their unending search for and preparation of food, including maize, beans, pumpkin and squash. With cornmeal laboriously ground with a hand pestle, they created hominy or what was then known as samp. Tobacco and sunflowers were also cultivated. The men were hunters, providing meat and fish for their community and pelts for trade.

Lenape Fishing Scene

The Lenape's decorative art found outlet in the boring and polishing of wampum. The barks of trees and the husks of nuts provided dyes for coloring materials. To the women fell the task of preparing and tanning the hides of deer, bear, elk, beaver and other fur-bearing animals for clothing and household needs. Dresses were sometimes made from the feathers of the wild turkey or the eagle.

When death came, the Lenape laid the remains of their loved ones in the sandy earth across the stream. Sometimes, in severe winter weather, burials were made beneath the floors of the wigwams.

Thus life followed an almost undisturbed pattern from one generation to another. As time passed, events were occurring in Europe that would affect the future of these native peoples. Men in the Old World were dreaming of faster, safer routes than the ones they knew to the Orient. In 1609 Henry Hudson, searching for the elusive Northwest Passage on behalf of the Dutch, sailed into a bay and then into a river that now bear his name.

In 1613 the first European habitation was built on the present Manhattan Island by the Dutch. In 1624 more Dutch arrived to form a colony. The first white settlers in New Jersey were the Dutch, Swedes and Finns. By 1630 the Dutch had established a permanent settlement at Bergen, now Jersey City. From here, settlers would spread north and west with a few hardy souls reaching the area of the Saddle River. The natives and early settlers of the area avoided serious conflict, for the most part, by stressing trade, respecting cultural differences and intermarrying (there were few females among the earliest settlers).

In 1664, this area together with the New York colony was held by the British, with territory granted by the Crown to Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret. Carteret assumed control of East Jersey and Berkeley disposed of his interest of West Jersey to the Quakers.

The influence of the Dutch in northern New Jersey continued through many generations. From them we inherited a love of religious freedom and spiritual obligation; a devotion to industry; love of and duty to country; a desire for personal freedom and faith in family ties. They also brought slaves with them into New Jersey to help work the land.

There were tensions between the Lenape and the European settlers but, in general, land purchases were secured by gift, trade, barter or payment. The last claim for the Lenape was settled in 1800 when Wilted Grass (also known as Bartholomew S. Calvin), a Continental Army veteran, relinquished all of the natives' claims for the sum of $2,000.00. In 1758 the first Reservation in the United States was established at Indian Mills, Burlington County, New Jersey.

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