Hoboken's earliest days Before becoming a city, 'Hobuck' went through several incarnations
by :Leonard A. Luizzi City historian
Sep 13, 2005 | 997 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Editor's note: This column is the first in what will be a year-long series exploring the history of Hoboken as it celebrates its 150th anniversary. If you would like to contribute or respond to this series, please contact Christopher Zinsli at gateway@hudsonreporter.com.

This year, Hoboken will reach the milestone of the 150th anniversary of its incorporation as a city. However, the history of Hoboken goes back much farther than 1855.

The Lenapes, a branch of the Delaware tribe of Native Americans who settled the area near modern-day Hoboken, called the land "Hobocan Hackingh." It is believed that the Lenapes made their pipes from the soapstone they found at Castle Point. "Hobocan Hackingh" to the Lenapes means "land of the tobacco pipe."

On October 2, 1609, Henry Hudson anchored his ship, the Half Moon, in what is now Weehawken Cove. Robert Juet, Hudson's first mate, wrote in the ship's log, "[W]e saw a good piece of ground ... that looked of the color of white green." The rock of which Juet wrote makes up Castle Point in Hoboken; nowhere else along the Hudson River exists a white-green rock formation.

In the first recorded deed for the land, three Native Americans who claimed ownership made a deal with Michael Paauw, the director of the Dutch West India Company. The deal was made on July 12, 1630.

The Dutch name for Hoboken was "Hoebuck," which means "high bluff" - Castle Point comes to mind.

The first European settler of Hoboken was Hendrick Van Vorst, a member of the Van Vorst family who settled in what is now Jersey City. Van Vorst farmed the land but did not live here. After Van Vorst's death, the farm was leased to Aert T. Van Putten, who built the first house in Hoboken. He also built a small brew house, which was the first in America. During a Native American uprising in 1643, Van Putten was killed, and his house was burned down. The brewery was not destroyed.

Castle Point grows

In 1663 Nicholas Varlett acquired a land grant from the Dutch Governor Peter Stuyvesant. Varlett had married Stuyvesant's sister, Anna, who was the widow of Samuel Bayard. The land was passed to William Bayard, grandson of Anna Stuyvesant and Samuel Bayard.

William Bayard had a fine mansion that stood on Castle Point, with beautiful gardens, fine orchards, rolling farmland, fishing for shad, and plenty of oyster beds.

Bayard spent summers entertaining at his farm. In 1775 the delegates from Massachusetts to the Continental Congress visited him at Hoboken. At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, Bayard was a Patriot. However, with the capture of New York City by the British in 1776, he decided the American cause was a losing one. He defected to the British side, becoming a colonel in the King's Army.

In 1778 Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee raided Bayard's farm, carrying off most of the cattle. Two years later, a party of Patriots burned all the buildings on the farm.

The New York Gazette of Aug. 28, 1780, contained this news item: "The Rebels on Saturday burnt Col. William Bayard's new home and barn, on the north end of Hobuck, and destroyed all the forage and timber."

After the Revolutionary War, Bayard's estate was confiscated and sold at public auction in 1784. It was then purchased by Col. John Stevens, Treasurer of the State of New Jersey, for $90,000.

The Stevens name is still associated with the city of Hoboken more than 220 years later, and the Stevens Institute of Technology is located on Castle Point.

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