The Borough of North Arlington has turned 125. And while the pandemic caused muted celebrations for the milestone anniversary, Mayor Daniel H. Pronti and the entire borough council took time to mark the quasquicentennial (yes, we had to look up what a 125th anniversary is called, and apparently the term comes from an engineer at Vanderbilt University who coined the term in 1961) with a gigantic birthday cake Friday, May 6, in front of Borough Hall.
Various other dignitaries and residents joined the mayor and council for the celebration.
SOME NA HISTORY
The borough dates back long before its March 9, 1896 birthday. So we set out to find a little information about its past, and fortunately, found it all on the borough’s website. But not everyone checks the “history” section on municipal websites — so we bring you snippets, today, for a refresher (or for the first time.)
Editor’s note: The snippets that follow were written by the borough, but some has been edited for grammar, style and brevity’s sake.
Included as part of Hudson County when it was created in 1840, the Borough of North Arlington rejoined Bergen County in 1852. It encompasses approximately 2.6 square miles of the county’s most southern reach, with the Passaic River forming its western border with Essex County.
In the 1750’s, it was the site of the first working steam engine in America, used to pump water from a copper mine located there. Bergen County was established in December 1682 (formed March 7, 1683), when the Assembly of East Jersey divided the province into four original counties: Bergen, Essex, Middlesex and Monmouth.
It originally included the area that is today Hudson County, and part of the area that is today Passaic County.
On Oct. 31, 1693, Bergen County was divided into Bergen and Hackensack Townships. On Jan. 21, 1710, New Barbadoes Township was transferred from Essex County to Bergen and became its county seat. On Feb. 7, 1837, part of Bergen County’s area was transferred to form Passaic County.
When the first Europeans arrived in New Jersey, they found the “Delaware People,” also known as the Leni-Lenape Indians. The Lenape are believed to have descended from one group of the Paleo-Indians who came across Siberia to the Seward Peninsula in Alaska about 30,000 years ago.
Their name, Leni-Lenape, has a variety of translations which include “original people,” “real people” or “common people.”
The early Lenape were a loose confederation of independent communities living mainly in the Delaware River Valley. North Arlington, during the 17th and early 18th centuries, was nothing more than a route Dutch travelers took to get from one place to the other.
There were many Dutch settlers all across what is now New Jersey and New York.
The area was first settled by the Dutch as part of New Amsterdam. After the English takeover in the early 1700s, the American Revolution took place in the latter part of that century. Italian, Polish and Irish immigrants were subsequently drawn to the area throughout its later history to create a strong, dynamic and ethnically diverse place to live and work.
Today, the populace of North Arlington is representative of nationalities and backgrounds from all over the world, which makes the borough the “All-American” community it is today.
The copper mine played an important role in the history of the area that was to become North Arlington. An old servant, who was plowing not far from the first homestead, which is still standing in a modernized condition, turned up a heavy green stone, and, wondering at its oddity, took it to his what would then be called “master.”
Schuyler sent it to New York to be analyzed, and it was found to contain a large percentage of copper. This find opened up a great source of wealth to the family. Like the good fairy in the tale, Schuyler told his servant to wish for three things that were possible, and he would procure them for him. The poor old servant asked, first, that he might always live with his master; secondly, that he might have all the tobacco he could smoke; and thirdly, that he might have a gaudy banyan or dressing-gown, like his master’s …Oh, ask for something of value, Schuyler said to him, so the story goes; and the black man, after hesitating a few minutes, replied, “Well, give me a little more tobacco.”
Located under a residential area of North Arlington, it is believed to be the oldest mine in the America, opened about 1719. Ore was packed in barrels and shipped to England for smelting due to restrictions on smelting in the colonies. It had the first steam engine, imported from England, used to pump a mine in North America.
March 12, 1755, is the date of the first reported use of the steam engine — in North Arlington. In 1748, John Schuyler’s copper mine near Passaic was shut down by flooding. So Schuyler paid the English engine-maker Jonathan Hornblower £1,000 to ship him a “fire engine” and a crew of mechanics to set it up.
The engine arrived five years later, in 1753, along with Hornblower’s son, Josiah, and his crew. When Josiah got the machine up and running two years after that, Schuyler hired him to run the engine and the mine as well.
The engine did well enough for five years. Then, it was badly damaged in a fire.
Josiah got it running again, but only until another fire ruined it in 1768. This time, it stayed ruined, through the American Revolution. An aging Hornblower made another repair in 1793, and this time the old engine kept pumping well into the 19th century.
NORTH ARLINGTON IS ‘BORN’
On March 9, 1896, application was made to the court for formation of yet another borough, this one, to be known as North Arlington, taking in the southern portion of Union Township. On Monday, March 26, 1896, borough advocates won the election in North Arlington with 46 votes in favor and none opposed.
The new borough adjoined the northern limits of Kearny Township, the Belleville Turnpike and Saw Mill Creek, forming the boundary between Hudson and Bergen counties.
The new borough contained about 400 residents, within about 2 square miles of territory. Politically, the population was about evenly divided, but the first election of borough officials was to be a nonpartisan affair.
In 2017, Time magazine named North Arlington the No. 1 place in America to raise a family.
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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.