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© The City of Hackensack, 1976

































Bicentennial Committee Gordon A. Sieck, Chairman Eleanor Menditto Gene Credell William Messina Tina Galimi, Recording Secretary Barbara Montgomery Lynne Hurwitz, Medallion Chair Dorothy Morley Ouliet Jacobs, Historic Location Chairman Julius Ostromecki Margaret Killian Deual C. Rice Janet Kramer Dock Russell Terry Lark, Book Chair-ma-??

John Shine Mrs. O.A. LaVoie Edward Szatanski, Parade Chairman S. David Laveton Marius Sznajderman Warren Martinek, July 4th Celebration Chairman George B. Wolfe, Esq.

Hildegard K. Wynkoop Honorary Bicentennial Committee Members Theresa B. Zabriskie Horace F. Banta, Esq.

George F. Plympton, Esq.

Frances Korn Ethel Hoyt Mayor and Council as of July 4th, 1976, "Our Nation's 200th Birthday" Michael J. D'Arminio, Mayor Kazmier Wysocki, Deputy Mayor Howard Gregory, Councilman George Holman, Councilman Frank C. Zisa, Councilman Joseph J. Squillace, City Manager Carl Padavano, Superintendent of Schools Foreword The attempt to put into writing the history of a city now over 300 years old was undertaken with high ideals and a desire to detail much of the story of this area so rich in Revolutionary War history.

An area close to New York, the port of entry for people from all over the globe, seeking a better life, has thousands of interesting personal histories which could never be compressed into a small volume.

Instead, an attempt has been made to describe how each ethnic group came to be a part of the Hackensack Story. For whatever is not covered to the satisfaction of any person, or any group, we must apologize.

We anticipated in the short, volunteer life of your Bicentennial Committee that we could create what would be a small miracle. Larger ones take longer.

Why publish then? If we can look forward to encouraging others to become involved, digging into microfilmed newspapers in our library, finding old letters in their attics, delving into the "whys" of life in Hackensack as an immigrant, etc., then this small start may be a seed from which to grow. We want to know one another better. This was Hackensack.

We are Hackensack. Where will we lead it?

–  –  –

Conclusion Credits Chapter 1 In the beginning...

History tells us that the first known European exploration of what is now New Jersey began with Henry Hudson's arrival in Delaware Bay in August, 1609. Three hundred sixty-seven years seem like a long time ago since the visit of the Half Moon until one considers that the area had been occupied by animals - and humans - for a long time.

"An event which took place at Polifly Road in January, 1962, indicates that what is now Hackensack has been a place for life for countless centuries. In what proved to be the beginning of a strange adventure, two Hackensack boys, John Versace and Jimmy DiFranco made a strange discovery. While looking for ice safe for skating, they examined some new ditches near their homes. They found a tooth - and quite a tooth it was - half as long as a football! Then they came upon- two similar teeth nearby. Fortunately, they had recently learned in their Junior High School science class what should be done if they found anything scientifically interesting.

The next day they took their discovery to Richard Straubel, their science teacher, who recognized the uniqueness of the teeth. He immediately telephoned the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The next day the three took their find to Dr. Edwin H. Colbert, Chairman of the Museum's Department of Vertebrate Paleontology, which studies fossil remains of extinct, back-boned animals.

The youths described the ditches, created by construction crews building the Interstate Route 80, where the teeth were found.

Dr. Colbert ordered that the teeth be immediately treated with preservatives to prevent deterioration resulting from exposure to the air. He then took John Versace, Jimmy DiFranco and Mr. Straubel to a mural in the Museum showing American mastodons in a habitat very similar to the ancient "Lake Hackensack" site. The elephantine creatures, source of these teeth, had lived there ten to twelve thousand years ago during the ice age.

The last known glacier retreated from this area 17,000 years ago, its melting ice created Lake Hackensack. This lake reached from what is now Perth Amboy, N.J., to the present vicinity of Haverstraw, N.Y. Lake Hackensack may have been there for 4,000 years before eventually draining into the Atlantic Ocean, leaving the Hackensack River. The Hackensack River, which meets the ocean tides at the.meadowlands near Newark Bay, can therefore be attributed to the glacial age.

The boys' experience paralleled those of earlier times. In 1712, the Minister of Boston's Second Church, Cotton Mather, had written a letter about a four-pound tooth, believed to have belonged to a prehistoric giant, found in Albany, New York.

Ben Franklin, upon examining a mastodon tooth, correctly determined that the shape of the tooth indicated that it came from an animal which did not eat meat, rather than from a human. Science proved that mastodons were vegetarians.

The Polifly Road explorations continued for a period of years. The discovery involved more than the fascinating 'digs' for the mastodon, for bones of smaller animals also were found. It produced more scientific knowledge of the ice age Lake Hackensack. In time the boys became friendly with George Whitaker in charge of the dig for the Museum of Natural History. They learned to appreciate the great patience necessary for an archaeologist as more scientific knowledge of the ice age Lake Hackensack was acquired. The searcher found evidence of human beings, while the condition of the skulls and bones indicated that the bones had been broken by other humans, who were warlike. It was estimated the skulls dated from about 1740 B.C. To learn other interesting details of the discovery, read Georgianna Ensign's "The Hunt for the Mastodon". The remains of the Hackensack mastodon are on display in the Bergen Community Museum. Were the persons whose skulls were found ancestors of Hackensack's own Indian Chief, Oratam? To answer this question, we need to know more about his tribe.

Hackensack Mastodon Chapter II About the Indians...

The Indians referred to as the Delawares by the English settlers called themselves Lenni Lenapes, meaning the original people, men among men, or men of a kind.

Over the centuries the Hackensack Indians, part of the Lenni Lenape tribe, migrated from northwestern Asia by pushing eastward across the Bering Strait, climbing over the Rocky Mountains and on toward the Great Water (Lake Superior). After crossing over the Mississippi River, they journeyed on until they reached their home in the Atlantic Coastal Region.

The Lenni Lenape Indians were divided into four groups, the Raritans, Ackensacks, Pomptons and Tappeans; all were roving tribes with no boundary lines. Settling in our area were the Achkinheshcky Indians -- (simplified - as Hackensack). They were primarily peaceful, quiet and industrious. North of the present day Fort Lee Road, along the bank of the Overpeck Creek,they built their major settlement. They also established a large settlement at Communipaw, now known as Jersey City, a convenient location for trading with the Dutch or making war on Manhattan, depending upon relations with the Dutch at a given time. These areas also were close enough to afford vacations on the shore of Staten Island, where the Indians swam, dug clams and collected shells for wampum.

According to early settlers, "The Delawares had no writing system and employed only the most primitive methods of recording special events by the use of wampum and bark markings. They preserved their history by depending on the trained memories of their chiefs." New Jersey's climate is not suitable for preservation of organic material, for the earth is too acidic to permit the survival of anything but stone, pottery or bone artifacts. This is why much of what is known of the Lenni Lenape comes from the writings of missionaries who lived with them in the 1700s. We learn that the Indians often settled along fresh water streams away from the mighty Delaware River, as turbulent winds along its banks made living conditions unpleasant. These more sheltered areas also provided better hunting and fishing. Many fish, such as shad or herring, were easily netted when they entered the tributary streams to spawn, while the fertile upstream lands were also conducive to agriculture.

Each village was a government unto itself, having a Chief with counselors who contributed to decision making. However, the woman of the Delawares was the authority in her own home and had some say in village affairs as well. Within a village most families were related to one another and spoke a language understood by other Delaware groups Their homes varied from one-room bark huts, used primarily for sleeping, to huts or wigwams in a round shape with a dome-shaped roof. Others were oblong with a ridge pole and a sloped roof.

All had a hole in the roof as a chimney for the fire constantly smoldering on the earthen floor.

There were no windows and the single opening was a doorway covered with a flap of animal skins. Furniture was fashioned from tree limbs covered with animal skins, with steps along the walls used as seats and beds.

The Indians never considered themselves to be the owners of the land they lived on. They simply "borrowed" land for the time they needed it, because they had too great a respect of nature to regard water and soil as personal possessions.

When weather permitted, the Lenni Lenapes gathered at an outdoor fire in front of their hut.

There they made their simple utensils using clay for pots, wood for bowls, stones for knives and clam shells for spoons. Usually a family ate out of one pot, extracting food with their fingers.

Some meat and vegetables were skewered on sticks and roasted over the hot embers.

To preserve food for winter, they dug pits, lined them with straw then arranged corn, beans, nuts and other perishables in them. The pit was then covered with bark. They also dried corn on the cob and hung the ears by their husks across the ceiling pole, along with other vegetables, roots, and herbs used for medicine. Their clothing was simple, consisting of animal skins, feathers and plant fibers sewn together with tough grass, using sharp bones to make holes in the hides and stone knives to cut and shape the skins. The tribes suffered from the same viruses, colds, aches and pains that we do today and they did some interesting doctoring to cure them. Indians believed that all ills came from evil demons which entered their bodies. When they were sick they asked the medicine man to frighten those demons away. The medicine man would arrive dressed in a grotesque costume and wearing a hideous mask to terrorize the demons. First he would engage in wild and unusual dance movements to drive out the bad spirits and then he would prescribe medicine made from herbs, roots and barks, in accordance with old tribal recipes. If this did not work he would resort to the ultimate treatment, the sweat lodge. William Penn in the 17th Century described this rugged treatment undertaken in mid-winter, by his Indian

friend Tenoughan, who was suffering from fever and aches:

“While he was stripped to his breech-cloth his squaw prepared a sweat-bath, made by setting several hot stones inside a small hut, (the sweat lodge) built like an oven. Tenoughan crept inside, where he perspired freely for half an hour, singing all the while at the top of his lungs, while his wife was busy chopping a hole in the ice in the nearby river...Then out of the hut he crawled, dripping with sweat to the river and dunked himself two or three times in the icy water.

He returned to the wigwam and lay down beside the fire. When he was dry he went about his duties, evidently entirely recovered."

Religion was a major factor in Indian society, permeating every aspect of life. All animals and even inanimate things in nature were respected as being part of the Great Spirit's guiding force.

The medicine man was part of their religion, since healing was the work of spirits, working through the medicinal herbs. In time the white settlers learned to respect some of the cures of the medicine man.

The tribes also were extremely generous and hospitable. They shared their homes and knowledge. It was not in the extreme for an Indian host to offer his wife or his daughter to a visitor as an expression of generosity.

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