When Captain Robert Treat and his Company from New Haven rode into Newark Bay on a morning in the middle of May, 1666, they were prepared to stay. They had with them, as Treat set down,
"..their families, their beloved Pastor, their church records, communion service, their deacons, and their household goods, their old men and whitehaired women.."
In fact, they had everything they needed to make "a final attempt to establish the Kingdom of God on earth."
Treat and his committee had cleared their coming with Governor Carteret. He was given a letter by Carteret to be presented to the Indian Sachem of the Hackensacks, a tribe of the Lenape family, to the effect that the settlers had the right to settle.
This letter was supposed to quiet title to the Indians' claim and was the act of warranty from the Governor as required under the "Grants and Concessions."
Why Treat did not have this letter with him, or whether he had lost it or mislaid it, does not appear in the record, but he was unable to produce it to the natives. When the ships anchored the newcomers immediately started to land some of their goods and people. The Indians ordered them off.
As neither side, probably, could understand the other's language too well, there must have been a great shouting and gesticulating on both sides.
"Get off our land" the Chief shouted."
"It's our land, we bought it from Governor Carteret," the white leaders in effect replied, but the Indians then became so excited that the New Havenites began to reload their goods onto the ship. Captain Treat tells the story in his own words:
"No sooner was the company present got on the Place and landed some of their Goods, then I with some others was by some of the Hackensack Indians warned off the ground and they seemed troubled and angry that we landed any of our Goods there, tho' first we had told them that we had the Governor's orders, but they replied that the land was theirs and it was unpurchased; and therefore we put our goods on board the vessel and acquainted the Governor with the matter."
Whatever the upshot of the conference with the Governor was, Captain Treat decided to deal with the Indians directly. They were honest men and decided to meet the Indian claims honestly. They returned to the future Newark by ship and began their negotiations. Robert Treat took with him Samuel Edsall who had been living for some time at Bergen Neck and knew the Lenape language, so could act as interpreter, and with a few other men they journeyed to the headquarters of the tribe at Hackensack. Oraton was the Grand Sachem of the Hackensacks, and one, Perro, was his righthand man.
It takes only a little imagination to reconstruct the scene. The place was a tribal village near Hackensack. Treat wrote that they were amazed at the well-tended gardens of the Indians which they saw there. For the ceremonial of the discussion a campfire was prepared and the pipes laid out for smoking. The women passed bowls of food. Indians go about their business slowly and deliberately and much preliminary politeness had to be gone through before the real business began. Next to Treat were seated his interpreter, Samuel Edsall, then his trusted friends, Obadia Bruen, Michael (or Micah) Tompkins, Samuel Kitchell, John Browne, Robert Denison, Edward Burrowes, and Richard Fletcher. On the side of Oraton were Perro, John Capteen, a Dutchman, the interpreter engaged by the Indians, who was evidently their trusted friend, and the wisemen selected by Chief Oraton, Wapamuck, Harish, Sescom, Mamustone, Peter Wamesame, Wekaprokikan, Chesanakrus, (sometimes written as Cackmackque or Cackmakrue) and Perawac. The spelling of these names is undoubtedly phoenetic.
These are the men who signed the deeds and are presumed to have been present at the negotiations.
The deal was not consummated that day in Hackensack. Other meetings were arranged. Many more pipes had to be smoked, more food eaten, perhaps more beere enjoyed before the final day, July 11th and the place of signing in New Ark were agreed upon.
Chief Oraton, from all that has come down to us firsthand, was a great and good old man who would have been a leader no matter in what age, or in what nation, he may have been born. He met the white man as an equal. He neither cringed before him nor tried to threaten him. He recognized the newcomer's superior tools and instruments and sought them for his own people. He grew to hate alcohol and saw its potential dangers for his tribe.
He begged the settlers not to give it to his people freely, but tried, vainly to regulate its use. He has been jestingly called "America's First Prohibition Agent" so often did he report to the white man's leaders infractions of his rules against giving drink to his people too recklessly.
All this came later, however, when the business at hand had long been disposed of, and the Indian's land had been exchanged for the white man's goods. We do not know how many times they met and discussed and argued in those days of May and June, 1666, but finally the terms were agreed on:
"For and in consideration of the following goods: 50 double hands of powder, 100 barrs of lead, 20 axes, 20 coates, 10 guns, 20 pistols, 10 kettles, 10 swords, 4 blankets, 4 barrels of beere, 10 pairs breeches, 50 knives, 20 howes (hoes?), 850 fathom of wampum, 2 ankors of liquers, or something equivalent, and 3 troopers coates"
the land purchase could be arranged. The Indians had undoubtedly been observing the settlers in Elizabeth or Bergen County and had some acquaintance with White man's goods. The double hands of powder means as much powder as can be held in two hands placed together. The Indians until the white man came had no iron, or tools of any metal, so that great value was placed by them on knives, hoes, and kettles, as well as firearms and ammunition.
For this consideration, a deed was promised to the Inhabitants of Newark conveying land described as follows:
"bounded and limited with the bay eastward and the great River Pesayak northward, to the great Creke or River in the meadow, running to the head of the Cove, and from thence bareing a westerly line for the south bound, which said great Creek is commonly called and known by the name Weequachick on the west line backwards in the Country to the foote of the great Mountaine called Watchung, being as is judged about seven or eight miles from Pesayak Towne, the said mountaine as wee are informed hath one branch of Elizabethtown River running near the above said foot of the Mountaine."
The deed was signed by all parties on July 11, 1666/1667.
A small area in the southwest corner of this first deed is now part of Millburn. The description also included the present Newark, Orange, East Orange, South Orange, West Orange, Glen Ridge, Montclair, Bloomfield, Belleville, Irvington, and Livingston. In his book, "Indian Trails and City Streets" by Edward S. Rankin, C.E. (1928), Mr. Rankin computed the articles to be worth about $700.00, which today would buy an inch of land on Broad Street, Newark. However, Mr. Rankin compares this price with prices paid for other land elsewhere in the Colonies, including the famous $24.00 paid for Manhattan Island by the Dutch, and concludes that the Hackensack Indians received the best purchase price of any like deal made.
The Conference at which this deal was finally consummated on July 11, 1666, was held at the head of the cove of the bound creek, (or creke, as Treat's scrivener seemed to prefer spelling it), so that in present day terms the deed was signed somewhere in the middle of Weequahic Park.
The Bound Creek was an important feature of bygone times. It was the last remnant of the ancient Hudson River, which in the days of prehistory, had broken away from its former channel near Sparkhill, New York, and surged through upper New Jersey, until finally it had forced its way through the Hobart Gap in the short hills to the sea at Newark. It is said to have been the boundary between the Hackensack and Raritan Tribes, and it was also the natural boundary line set up between New Ark and Elizabethtown by the first colonists, besides figuring prominently in the lawsuit between Newark and Elizabeth to establish their boundaries. Part of it still forms the boundary line between Essex and Union Counties, and may be found on any map. Now, however, most of it, after it leaves Weequahick Lake flows, rather ignominously, considering its past glory, through underground conduits to the meadows south of the Airport, where it meanders to the Bay, looking more like a drainage ditch than a river, and few suspect that sailing ships once sailed up its deep channel to their wharves about 500 feet north of the present Meeker Avenue. On its opposite shore ships carrying goods to Elizabeth were unloaded.
"Watchung" in Lenape language, means "the high place", or "the hilly spot", and Passaic, or Pachseyink, means "in the valley", so that if one says that Millburn lies between the Watchungs and the Passaic he is conveying the idea that it lies between the high place, and the valley, which is a fairly accurate description of its location.
Either the colonists were land hungry, or they had no idea of how much land they had actually bought, for we find on March 13, 1667, that the residents of Newark again bargained for another deed.
The Newarkers did well. For 2 guns, 3 coates and 13 kans of rum they acquired practically all of the South Mountain Reservation and another piece of Millburn, ark other territory.
But they still wanted more land. At a town meeting in Newark on October 2, 1699, it was agreed that they would endeavor to make a purchase of a tract of land lying north of our bounds to the south branch of the River Passaic being all the lands yet
"unpurchased of the heathen, and such of the town as do contribute to the purchasing of said land shall have their proportion according to their contribution."
This was called the "Horseneck Purchase" because of its shape, and included the present Caldwell and vicinity. Deed for this land was finally signed in 1702.
All fishing and hunting rights in these deeds were reserved to the Indians.
Two years before the Newark purchase Elizabethtown settlers had received their deed from the Indians before they left home in Long Island, as they had been instructed to do by Colonel Nicholls.
The deed to the Elizabeth property was dated October 28, 1664, and covered
"One parcel of land bounded on the south by a River, commonly called The Raritans River and on the East by the River which Parts Staten Island and the Main, and To Run Northward up after cull Bay Kill we come at the first River which sets westward out of the said Bay aforesaid And to run west into the Country Twice the Length as it is Broad from the North to the South of the aforementioned Bounds, Together with the Lands, Meadows, woods, waters, fields, fenns, fishings, fowlings... with all Gaines, Profitts and Advantages arising upon the said lands..."
"The consideration of the deed was "twenty fathom of Trading Cloath, Two made Coats, Two Guns, Two Kettles, Ten Bars of Lead, Twenty Handfulls of Powder"
rather a bargain price for what has been estimated to be a half a million acres of land. Then the Settlers knocked 70 fathoms of wampum off the purchase price to pay for Watson's oxen which Indians were supposed to have killed. However, from some points of view the consideration was plenty, considering that under English law the Indians had no right to sell the land in the first place, and secondly, the deed was approved by Colonel Nicholls who had no authority to approve it, so that the Associates and their descendants and heirs spent the next hundred years trying to straighten out their titles.
Some part of the future Millburn was included in this deed, and also some part of the Newark holdings, from which arose the great legal battle between the two communities, the bill in Chancery filed on June 13, 1745. No decision was ever given, and no attempt was made to define accurate boundaries until 1880 when the Essex County Freeholders applied to the United States Supreme Court under a Statute then in force for the appointment of Commissioners to locate the line between Newark and Elizabeth. Our old friend "Bound Creek" figured prominently in all these proceedings.
In 1693 the General Assembly defined the bounds of the town of Elizabeth to be from the Rahway River, Woodbridge, to the partition line between the two Provinces, and from the south of Bound Brook, and then to a point on a hill, (now in Weequahic Park near Lyons and Elizabeth Avenues), and then northwest to the partition line of the Province. This would include all of the present Union County, portions of Essex, Somerset, Hunterdon, Morris, Warren, and Sussex Counties, including Morristown, Stanhope, Schooley's Mountain, and Newton. (Hatfield's "History of the City of Elizabeth," p. 240).
The boundaries of Essex County defined in 1682 by the Legislature had included the above land and all the land between the west side of the Hackensack River and Woodbridge, and westward and northward to the utmost bounds of the Province. Elizabeth remained in Essex County until 1857 when Union County was created.
On the whole, though, New Jersey may well be proud of its first dealings with the Indians in respect to land. It was one of the few places in the country where claims were honestly met, and paid for in articles of value, agreed to freely on both sides.
An interesting sequel to these transactions occurred in 1832. We mentioned that fishing and hunting rights were reserved to the Indians in the Newark deed. Bartholomew S. Calvin was a fullblooded Lenape Indian of the Delaware tribe, although he had been educated at Princeton University, and had become a school teacher. In 1832 he petitioned the New Jersey Legislature to buy from the Lenapes the fishing and hunting rights which the Indians had reserved in the Newark deed. The remnants of the tribe living in Green Bay, Michigan, were in desperate circumstances, and the money was badly needed for their use. The petition presented by Calvin was granted and $2,000.00 was paid him for his people.
In his letter thanking the Legislature for their action, Calvin wrote:
"Not a drop of our blood have you spilled in battle, not an acre of our land have you taken without our consent. These facts speak for themselves and need no comment. They place the character of New Jersey in full relief and are a bright example to those States within whose territorial limits our brethern still remain. Nothing save benisons can fall upon her from the representatives of the Lenni-Lenape."
"The Passaic Valley,
New Jersey", by John Whitehead (1901)