A Short History of New Jersey – from The Official Website for The State of New Jersey
Delaware IndiansThe first people to live on the land now known as New Jersey were the Delaware Indians. They lived here starting at least 10,000 years ago. Anywhere from 8,000 to 20,000 Delaware Indians lived in the area when the first Europeans arrived. Their name means “original people” or “genuine people.” They spoke an Algonquian dialect.
Though they were considered one tribe, the Delaware Indians didn’t act as one unified group. Instead, they lived in small communities made up mostly of extended family members. The men would hunt or fish during the day. Depending on the season they might search for clams off the Jersey shore or hunt in the woods. The women worked in the gardens. They grew squash, beans, sweet potatoes, and corn.
When the first explorers came, the Delaware Indians lived in parts of Delaware, New Jersey, and eastern Pennsylvania. Europeans called them the Delaware Indians.
Around 1524, Giovanni de Verrazano became the first European to explore New Jersey. He sailed along the coast and anchored off Sandy Hook. The colonial history of New Jersey started after Henry Hudson sailed through Newark Bay in 1609. Although Hudson was British, he worked for the Netherlands, so he claimed the land for the Dutch. It was called New Netherlands.
Small trading colonies sprang up where the present towns of Hoboken and Jersey City are located. The Dutch, Swedes, and Finns were the first European settlers in New Jersey. Bergen, founded in 1660, was New Jersey’s first permanent European settlement.
In 1664 the Dutch lost New Netherlands when the British took control of the land and added it to their colonies. They divided the land in half and gave control to two proprietors: Sir George Carteret (who was in charge of the east side) and Lord John Berkley (who was in charge of the west side). The land was officially named New Jersey after the Isle of Jersey in the English Channel. Carteret had been governor of the Isle of Jersey.
Berkeley and Carteret sold the land at low prices and allowed the settlers to have political and religious freedom. As a result, New Jersey was more ethnically diverse than many other colonies. Primarily a rural society, the colony grew to have about 100,000 people.
Eventually, governing power was transferred back to England. For many years, New Jersey shared a royal governor with New York. The governorship was finally split in 1738 when New Jersey got its own governor, Lewis Morris.
To read about NJ from the Revolution on visit: A Short History of New Jersey
(note: I was going to write this all up myself but a small bit of sun poising has basically floored me today – Amelia)