Know Your Town, Nutley: Early History

By Jesse K. Bartel

The natural wilderness which was once Nutley was first disturbed by the tread of the Lenape Indians on their eastward migration from the west of the Mississippi.

Legend does not tell us how many years or centuries this migration consumed nor how long the noble and dignified Hackensacks, a band of the Lenape tribe, had been settled in the Nutley area before the arrival of the first white men.

We do know that when Robert Treat and a group of Connecticut Puritans disembarked at the mouth of the Passaic River in 1666, believing that their title to the land had been secured by East Jersey's Royal Governor Carteret, the Hackensacks appeared on the beach and made it clear that no titles had been cleared with them.

The land purchase which these Puritan settlers of Newark made from the Indians and the English proprietors included the land on which Nutley is situated.

Going north on the Passaic River, Newark's northern boundary (now Nutley's northern boundary) was the Third, or Yantacaw River, where it emptied into the Passaic.

The Dutch had also made a settlement on the Passaic River, just north of the Third River at Acquanckanonck (Passaic), coming by the way of Hackensack and Bergen. There were Dutch residents in Acquanckanonck as early as 1640.

They were more at home with the countryside and the Indians than the transplanted Puritans and soon took up farmland and large land holdings all over what was later Essex County, including the Nutley area.

Along the Passaic they settled as far south as Second River (Belleville). 

According to one authority there were several mills on the Third River in 1679; another states that Second River had a "considerable" population as early as 1682.

The land titles of the Dutch for the Nutley and Belleville area included much of the land in the Newark purchase, but the Newarkers had apparently little interest in the land as no conflict seems to have arisen; in fact there seems to have been almost no dealings of any kind between the English and the Dutch here in the early 18th century although they were associated in civil and political relations as members of the same town and county.

According to Aaron Lloyd, writing in 1887, there is only one reference in the Newark Town Records to the Dutch at Second River (those at the Third River were simply Second River out-of-towners in those days), and not until 1743 when it was agreed that the "Inhabitants of second River and the body of the Town of Newark shall act in all affairs relating to the Poor separately and severally by themselves." 

However, several local families had members who were active in the county government in Newark; notably, the Van Giesens, the Van Ripers and the Speers.

Prominent among the Dutch settlers at Second and Third Rivers were branches of the families of Vreeland, Van Riper, Van Giesen, Van Dyck, Van Winckle, Speer, Wouter, King, Joralemon, Riker, Coeyman and Cadmus.

An enterprising early resident was John Bradbury, a miller, who had come to Newark from England with his wife and six children about 1679.

In 1698 he acquired two tracks of land, one in Acquanckanonck and another bounded on the north by the Third River, along which he operated more than one mill.

In order to eliminate competition he applied for and received a patent to the river as far up as the tide flowed.

He built a bridge over the Third River and thereby was excused from road work on the King's Highway from Newark when it was being built in 1707.

He died a wealthy man, in 1740, in a large stone house on the westerly side of River Road, south of Kingsland Road.

As late as 1756 we have this description of Second River by a Newarker: "About three miles distant to the northward of Newark there is a compact village of 300 inhabitants, chiefly Dutch, who speak English but tolerably well, there being no schoolmaster among them..." 

Mr. Samuel Brown, educated at Yale, was the first English schoolmaster; he was employed at about this date.

The Dutch farmers led healthy, happy, and prosperous lives here. The families were large, most having as many as eight children, and they were sociable.

Their church at Second River was an important part of their lives and they also commonly walked over Schuyler's Hill and through the salt meadows to the mother church at Bergen.

At the time of the Revolution the Dutch had few ties with the British and were, in general, strong patriots. They underwent great hardship from the looting and stealing of the British army.


Excerpted from Early History by Jesse K. Bartel

Know Your Town NUTLEY New Jersey - prepared as a community service by the League of Women Voters of the Nutley Area.

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