Bergen County’s Townships and Municipalities
Compiled by Arnold Lang
Today, Bergen County is comprised of 70 municipalities - of these, there are 56 boroughs, 3 cities, 2 villages, and 9 townships. However, about 100 years ago, most of these did not exist. Previous to 1885, Bergen County was divided into sprawling townships, such as: Hackensack, New Barbadoes, Franklin, Harrington, Saddle River, Lodi, Washington, Hohokus, Union, Midland, Ridgefield, Palisades, Englewood, Ridgewood, and Orvil. This may present problems for those researching old vital records and deeds.
This article is the first in a series that will describe the history of Bergen County from the original two townships to the establishment of the existing 70 municipalities. A goal is to show the boundaries of the older townships in relation to the boundary lines of the existing municipalities. This may be especially helpful in understanding the deeds abstracted by Pat Wardell which begin in this issue of The Archivist.
Bergen’s Beginning - 1682 to 1709
The East Jersey Legislature created the states first counties in 1675 mainly to provide “judicial districts” for the courts. A court was set up in the town of Bergen and two courts were held each year. Names were not given to the counties until seven years later when the counties of Bergen, Essex, Middlesex, and Monmouth were named by the Legislature.
So Bergen County came into being in 1682. The County then included all of the land between the Hackensack River and the Hudson River, extending from Constable Hook on the south to the province line (boundary with New York) on the north.
In 1693, an act defining boundaries of townships was passed
by the General Assembly. Bergen County was then divided into
two townships; Bergen and Hackensack.
The remainder was defined as; “The Township of Hacksack (sic) shall include all that land between the Hackinsack and Hudson’s Rivers that extends from the Corporation town of bounds of Bergen to the Partition line of the Province.” (Note that this “partition line” was in dispute with New York for many years as shown by the map.) New Barbadoes Township is added in 1710
The county was greatly increased in size in 1710 when
the Township of New Barbadoes was broken off from Essex County and added
to Bergen County. This extended the county west beyond the Passaic
river and added the whole territory between the Hackensack and Passiac
Rivers from Newark Bay northward to the boundary with New York State and
also west to the boundary line of Sussex County. (This included the
city of Passaic).
The map shows Bergen County in 1710 after New Barbadoes was added. At that time the community of Hackensack, located in New Barbadoes Township, was made the county seat “....because it was a thriving village more centrally located then the other ......” The courts were then moved there from Bergen Town.
Bergen County remained in this configuration for six years. Then in 1716, Saddle River Township was broken out of New Barbadoes Township. That was the beginning of many changes to be described in the next issue of The Archivist.