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1666 – The Founding of Newark

Newark was founded by conservative Puritans, chiefly from three towns in the New Haven Colony. The increasingly tolerant views of religious freedom (especially tolerance for Quakers, whom Puritans were intolerant), and the merger of the New Haven Colony in 1662 with the more religiously tolerant Connecticut Colony, combined with the English ouster of the Dutch in 1664 from New Amsterdam, set the stage for a band of Pilgrims from Branford, Guilford and Milford to seek lands in the new English province of New Jersey.

In 1666, Captain Robert Treat, after scouting several locations, successfully completed arrangements with Governor Carteret to settle a plantation on the Passaic River, in the northern section of what was known as the Elizabethtown purchase. He bore a letter to be presented to the chief Hackensack Indian Sachems; however, when the first settlers arrived they were warned off by the Indians who disputed their claims of ownership. Carteret refused to negotiate with the Indians, claiming that the area had been purchased as part of Elizabethtown. 

Left to their own devices, some of the others went up to the Hackensack [the village and headquarters of the local tribe of Lenni Lenape] to treat with the Indian proprietors for the land lying on the West Bank of the Passaic River. Treat, through Samuel Edsal, an interpreter of the Lenni Lenape tongue and land-owner in Bergen Neck, negotiated with the Indian proprietors a deed of sale for the land. The price paid was fifty double hand of gun powder, one hundred bars of lead, twenty axes, twenty coats, ten guns, twenty pistols, ten kettles, ten swords, four blankets, four barrels of beer, ten pair of breeches, fifty knives, twenty hoes, eight hundred and fifty fathoms of wampum, twenty ankers (about ten gallons of wine) of liquors and ten troopers’ coats. 

The natives who signed the document with marks or individual totems were: Wapamuck, Harish, Captamin, Seasson, Manustome, Peter Wamesane, Wekamuck, Cackmackque and Perawae. The settlers who signed were Michael (Micah) Tompkins, Samuel Kitchell, John Browne and Robert Denison. The natives probably felt this was a good bargain, since it provided knives, guns, axes and other goods useful in their lives.

Plaques commemorating the signing by the Indians and Associates of the title for Newark - Founders Monument, Fairmount Cemetery.


It is storied that Elizabeth Swaine, daughter of Captain Samuel Swain, a leader among the settlers was the first to be assisted to the land in May 1666, by Josiah Ward who she later married. After Ward’s death she married David Ogden. The land was described as rich and the river and bay teaming with seafood. Forests of oak, chestnut, hickory, elm, maple (including sugar maple) provided for energy and building material. White cedar swamp occupied much of what are now the Hackensack meadowlands. Fresh water was at hand. Salt hay meadows provided for easy grazing of cattle. Deer, elk, beaver, otters, fox and wolves were plentiful. Wolves were the only animals to cause concern.

A committee, which included Capatian Robert Treat, Samuel Swaine, Samuel Kitchell, Michael Tomkins, Mr. Morris, Sergt. Richard Beckly, Richard Harrison, Thomas Blatchley, Edward Riggs, Stephen Freeman and Thomas Johnson were charged with distribution of home lot (six acres) and to act on behalf of those who would come by June of the next year. Additional uplands east of the home lots and partition of the marsh or meadow were made in January 1669, with a further division of salt meadow in February 1670, and uplands in May 1673.

Unlike the other early East Jersey settlements, which embraced the freedom and diversity of religion granted in Berkeley and Carteret’s Concessions and Agreements, the settlers of Newark following the practices from their New Haven towns and established Newark as a theocracy, in which the Church (the Word of God shall be the only Rule attended unto in ordering the affairs of Government) and State (that free burgesses shall be chosen from Church members, and they shall choose magistrates and officers among themselves to share the power to transacting all public civil affairs of plantation). The Branford group led by their pastor, Rev Abraham Pierson, drew up Fundamental Agreements setting forth the religious foundation for the town, which was agreed to by each who would join in the venture. Only those who were members of the Congregational Church could own or inherit land, hold office or enjoy civil liberties and privileges. Provision was also made to remove any person from the town who would subvert us from the true religion. However, the Fundamental Agreements were only rigidly enforced for about fifteen years.  

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