This 4 part series "Bergen County’s Townships and Municipalities" appeared originally in "The Archivist."
Part 2  Part 3  Part 4
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Bergen County’s Townships and Municipalities

Part 1

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
Townships of Bergen and Hackensack Formed in 1693

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 Township of Bergen consisted of the area from Constable Hook to the present northern boundary of Hudson County.

 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 settlements of Acquackanonk and New Barbadoes had been originally designated as a township by the Township Act of 1893 and was then included in Essex County.  This township was  defined as “...all of the land on the Pissiack River above the third River and from the mouth of the said river northward to the line of the province, including all the land in New Barbadoes Neck between the Hackensack and Pissiack Rivers, and thence to the partition of the province.”

 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.

Part 2