Sunday, October 23, 2011

South Orange Borders IV


Back to the beginning.

Early American Boundaries

The map:

At the establishment of the independent State of New Jersey in 1776, the civil divisions of the former British colony were continued as state divisions. The map area was entirely in Essex County, and contained only two municipalities: the Township of Newark and the Township of Elizabeth. Their names are shown along the boundary line, which was partly the same as the present-day boundary of Essex and Union Counties, but continued west, shown dashed, through what is now Millburn.

Four new townships were established in the area in a twenty-year period.

First, parts of Elizabeth and Newark (about two-thirds from Elizabeth) were taken to form Springfield in 1794. It included all of modern Springfield and Millburn, and parts of modern Livingston, West Orange, Maplewood, Cranford, and Summit. The boundary within Maplewood ran along the East Branch of the Rahway and then along a line from Pierson's Mill over the mountain to Keene's Mill on the West Branch. We considered last time the importance of the long-forgotten Keene's Mill as a boundary landmark. The Springfield boundary in 1794 turned at Keene's Mill and ran another line northeast to Northfield Avenue, which it followed to the Passaic River.

A few years later the remaining area of the map was then divided between Orange, 1806, and Union, 1808, following the colonial Newark and Elizabeth boundary. More than 200 years later that line is still the Maplewood and Union boundary. All of modern South Orange and more than half of Maplewood was within the Township of Orange.

The story would be simpler if the Township of South Orange was then created from parts of Orange and Springfield, but as we saw while working backward, there was an intermediate step. A township called Clinton was formed in 1834 from the southern part of Orange and smaller portions of Union, Newark, and Elizabeth, splitting the settlement of South Orange for 27 years. As a result South Orange was actually formed from the western part of Clinton and smaller parts of Orange and Millburn (ex Springfield). The rest of Clinton would later become Irvington and part of Newark.

Livingston, formed in 1813, is beyond the South Orange story, but it's interesting to see that its southern boundary started at Keene's Mill, which raised the significance of that point from just a bend in the Springfield line to a real landmark. (This is no longer the southeast corner of Livingston, because a strip of Livingston was taken later into Fairmount and then West Orange. The current southeast corner is at Old Short Hills Road, near the left edge of our map.)

Colonial Boundaries

Let's bring this a conclusion. The map:

Newark and Elizabeth were both formed as townships in 1693 by an act of the General Assembly of the Colony of East New Jersey. It was at that time, on one date, that townships were created for the first time within the colony. The boundary between Newark and Elizabeth was "from the mouth of the Bound Creek, and from thence to Bound-Hill, and from thence Northwest to the Partition Line of the Province". The line "Northwest" was not officially surveyed until 1713. Based on that survey and later documented changes, the line was not perfectly straight. It followed the modern county line in the Irvington and Maplewood area (shown in blue on the map), and then ran through Millburn to Chatham Bridge. The Passaic River in that area was the "Partition Line" between the two colonies of East and West New Jersey.

Let's start at the beginning, to see how we got to 1693.

South boundary of Newark

Permission to establish Elizabeth was granted, as Elizabeth-Town, in 1664, the year England acquired the former New Netherlands. Its north boundary was to run from the mouth of the Passaic River "west into the Countery". But the local Lenape tribes had a boundary at Bound Creek, so the subsequent English purchase from the Raritans actually ran only up to Bound Creek, which (hidden under Port Newark and Newark Liberty Airport) is still the north boundary of Elizabeth.

Permission to settle at Newark was granted two years later, and its founders purchased land from the Hackensacks in 1667. The south boundary was correctly set at the Hackensacks' own boundary:
...the great Creke or River in the meadow running to the head of the Cove, and from thence bareing a West Line for the South bounds Wh said Great Creke is Commonly Called and Known by the name Weequachick, on the West Line backwards into the Country to the foot of the great Mountaine called Watchung...
Some historians take the "West Line" as literally running due west. I doubt that that was the intended meaning. The "foot of the great Mountaine called Watchung" sounds to me like the south end of the ridge at Millburn. A line running to that location is closer to west by northwest.

At any rate the leaders of Newark and Elizabeth a year later settled on where their common boundary was.
It is Consented unto that the Centre, or place agreed upon by the said Agents of the Towns for to Begin the Dividing Bounds, is from the Top of a Little round Hill, named Divident Hill ; and from Thence to run up a North West Line, into the Country.
I've shown the "North West Line" on the map with the comment "speculative". This line is shown on some historical maps of New Jersey including one by John Snyder. My opinion, once again, is that the direction stated should not be taken as precise. Rather I think that this is still the west by northwest line to the end of the mountain at Millburn. The significant part of the agreement of 1668 was to place the border at Bound Creek and not any farther north. The line to the mountain sounds to me like the same line as the Newark purchase.

The line was described again as running "Northwest" in 1693 when the townships were created.

The line was finally surveyed and marked in 1713. Again it is described as starting "where a black Cherry tree Markd with ye Letters N on the one side & E on the other Stands under a Steep Hill", evidently Divident Hill, and running along a line of marked trees, about 30 degrees north of west, to "ye South End of ye Mountain call'd Watchung". The marked trees all had N for Newark and E for Elizabeth on the appropriate sides. The surveyed line was not supposed to be a new boundary but just an official marking of the line described in 1693 and 1668.

West boundary of Newark

The western boundary of the Newark purchase from the Hackensacks in 1667 was "the foot of the Great Mountaine", which I show on the map as a line just below the 200 foot contour, where the slope becomes steeper.

Ten years later the settlers purchased an additional strip of land to move the boundary to the top of the ridge. The survey of 1713 also places the boundary of Newark at the top of the ridge.

The description of the Township of Newark in 1693 has it running west the to Passaic River, and the land from the top of the ridge west to the river was purchased from the Hackensacks in 1702, so why was this portion not included in the township as surveyed in 1713? Even John Snyder, in his careful research for The Story of New Jersey's Civil Boundaries, does not have an answer for this one. But it's clear that for most of the eighteenth century, the Township of Newark was approximately the same area as all of modern Essex County.


This brings us back up to the first map above. The westernmost parts of Newark were separated in in 1794 and 1798 to form Caldwell and Springfield respectively, and then a closer portion was separated to form Orange. Part of Orange was separated to Clinton, and then parts of Clinton and Orange and Millburn (ex Springfield) were taken to form South Orange. Part of the Township of South Orange became the Village of South Orange within the township. Another part of the Township separated to become Vailsburg, which was then annexed to Newark. The village became independent of the township, and the township changed its name to Maplewood. Q E D.

Next time: Something not about South Orange.


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