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Traveling Facilities - Country Roads

The first ferry legally established on the North River connecting the New Jersey shore with that of Manhattan Island, was the Communipaw ferry which was erected in 1661 at the foot of Communipaw Avenue, Jersey City, with William Jansen in charge.1

The increase in population along Bergen Neck in 1750 was thought to warrant the erection of a public ferry between Bergen Point and Staten Island, so on September 15 of that year, Jacob Corsen established a ferry which landed within a short distance of the present slip on this side. The boat was a small open scow, and was propelled by oars.

On June 18, 1764, the Jersey City ferry was established.2 It was started as an important part of the new stage route to Philadelphia via a road connecting Jersey City and Bergen Point.

The following notice appeared at that time in the New York "Mercury" under date of July 2, 1764:

"A Ferry is established and kept across the Kill von Kull and that boats constantly attend for that Purpose, at a Place belonging to John Beck, and commonly called Mooddses, situate near the Dutch Church on Staten Island, from whence Passengers are transported directly across to Bergen Point, from which place there is a five mile Road leading directly to the said Powless's Hook; so that a short, safe, easy and convenient way is fixed by Means of these two Ferries, for all Travelers passing to the City of New York, from any of the Southern Governments."

These stages were first "set up'3 in 1764 and did a thriving business. The vehicle was a covered Jersey wagon without springs. Three days were usually consumed in dragging it to Philadelphia, and it was modestly called a "Flying Machine." In 1772, however, time was reduced to one and one-half days.

Anthony White, who owned the land where the Latourette House now stands, petitioned the Governor of New York in July, 1764, for exclusive right to ferry across the "Kill van Corle."* The petition was not granted. In 1765, Michael Van Tuyl was the proprietor of the ferry.4

The travel to the south was afterwards turned to a new route made over the meadows on the line of the Newark Plank Road. This caused the Bergen Point ferry to gradually decline and soon suspend operation.

In more recent years, John Goodheart, who lived on the shore, ferried people across in a skiff for a considerable time. Nicholas Cubberly also conveyed passengers over whenever requested. A horse boat was plying on it between 1840 and 1850.

About 1863 a slip was built at the foot of Avenue C, on the Kills, and a boat put upon the ferry. It continued in operation for a few months, and was then destroyed by fire.

In March, 1868, "The Bergen Point and Staten Island Ferry Co." was incorporated, but never gave sign of much life. Walter H. Frazer attempted to revive it in 1869, but after two weeks' experience, he abandoned the idea. After a few years traffic was greater and it began to boom. "The Port Richmond and Bergen Point Ferry Co." took hold of it, and now the Public Service Corporation has obtained control and has recently made considerable improvements.

It is not known at what time the first road from Bergen to Bergen Point was laid. Some time previous to 1743 a King's Highway was laid from Bergen Town to Bergen Point along Newark Bay. This road was very sandy and ran partly through a swamp. It was vacated when, on October 10, 1764, a King's Highway was laid from Hendrick Sickle's barn to a point opposite the Dutch church on Staten Island. This new road became a part of the great stage route between New York and Philadelphia. Evidently, this road was not constructed in such a manner as to meet the requirements of travel, for on September 12, 1766, a road four rods wide was laid from "the Southwest Point of Bergen (Bergen Point) aforesaid along up Newark Bay," and from thence over to Paulus Hoeck.5

This new road ran along the west side of Bayonne about three hundred yards from the Newark Bay shore, through the picnic grounds in Pamrapo, where it joined the old King's Highway. It was commonly called the "Shore Road," and was the main road to these parts for about thirty years. A portion of it can still be seen.

On June 29, 1796, another road was laid to Bergen Point. It entered Bayonne at the junction of what is now Avenue C and the Morris Canal,6 went west, and then through the woods between the present Speedway and Avenue C, thence southward to what is now Avenue D and Thirty-second Street, and from there in a direct line to the Point. It was a familiar sight to see the old Vanderbilt stage coach, surrounded by a cloud of dust, jogging along on its way to Staten Island.

A half century ago, Avenue D was simply a miry country road. The old plank sidewalks were little better than the road, and the folks had to wade ankle deep through the mud. Cow-hide boots were a necessity. Teams were drawn with difficulty and when stuck hub deep in the mud were hauled out by extra oxen. The Plank Road Company was afterward formed (about 1856) and constructed a plank road running over the old middle road laid sixty years before. This road was one-half planks and one-half dirt, and toll was collected for travel thereon. One toll-gate stood on the site of Fifty-second Street.

At this time Fifth and Eighth Streets were mere cowpaths. Grand Street was called "Niggers' Lane." The old Hook Road leading to Constable's Hook was at times entirely submerged by water from the Kill and New York Bay, and it was a difficult matter, if not a dangerous undertaking, to cross.

The first public means of conveyance to Jersey City was a two-horse stage operated by George Anderson, early as 1848-50. This started at what is now Twenty-fifth Street. Anderson brought the mail from Jersey City to Mullaney's post-office in Pamrapo.7

In later years, the only public conveyance to Jersey City and New York was Jacob Mersallie's stage line, or by boat from Bergen Point. The "Red Jacket," "Kills" and "Wyoming" landed at a dock then situated at the foot of Avenue D, to take on passengers for New York. The ride on the stage was rather long and tiresome, and a bleak one in winter. In the summer, however, it was most delightful, especially along the old Plank Road, which wound around through the woods most of the way.

The Jersey City and Bergen Railroad Company was incorporated March 15, 1859. The Greenville and Ocean Avenue line terminated at the old car barns in Greenville later on. By an ordinance passed in August, 1885, the company was authorized by the City of Bayonne to "lay tracks in certain streets and avenues and to run horse cars thereon only." The franchise also granted the laying of tracks for a branch line on East Twenty-second Street. The main line extended up Avenue C over its present route to the Kill von Kull. The cars were small, were pulled by mules, and were in charge of one man, who acted as both driver and conductor. These cars were called "dinkeys." A slight improvement was added by the use of horses in place of the slow, stubborn mules. However, it took about two hours to travel from ferry to ferry. In 1888, the Fifth Street line was added.

The Central R. R. of N. J. for many years terminated at Elizabethport. In 1860 an act was passed authorizing the company to build a bridge to Bergen Point and to extend the road to Jersey City.

This extension was completed and opened for travel August 1, 1864. Eighth Street, the main station, was erected, that locality being the most populated section at the time.

The Dummy Road was built about 1864. This road began just west of the Latourette House at Bergen Point, and ran through private property between Avenues C and D to where Garrett's Hotel now is, at Thirty-second Street, where it crossed the old Plank Road and continued north, close to what is now Avenue D, thence to the Junction in Greenville. Here passengers for Jersey City and New York would have to change for the horse car to convey them to the ferry. The Dummy was one car, with the engine at one end of it. The time of travel was from one and one-half to five hours one way, according to how the engine felt. The fare was twenty-five cents.

In the "Evening Journal" under date of Friday, March 26, 1869, the writer finds this: "The complaints of the dummy travel continue. Yesterday the dummy, in charge of Mr. Whiteneck, broke down in multitudinous localities. Passengers were obliged to walk in considerable mud."

This road was not a success, and ceased operations in 1870. The old barns may yet be seen at Bergen Point.
A franchise authorizing the Jersey City and Bergen Railroad Company to use electric motors as the propelling power of its cars, and to erect poles and string the necessary wires there from, was granted August 16, 1893. After this the horse car was abandoned by the establishment of the trolley system, the traffic on which steadily increased and the road improved upon considerably to meet the requirements.

At a meeting of the Common Council, held on July 1, 1902, the North Jersey Railroad Company (who at that time controlled the trolley system) filed a petition for a franchise to operate a trolley line on Avenues A and B and to transfer its system from Avenue C to Avenue D. The granting of these privileges, while meeting with favor by the Board of Trade and most business men, was for some reason never acted upon, and the petition was finally withdrawn.

The trolley service has been under control of the Consolidated Traction Company, North Jersey Street Railway Company, and at present is under control of the Public Service Corporation. The trolley service to-day shows a marked improvement over ten years ago. Large, modern cars are run under five-minute head-way.

The Central Railroad now has five stations, and trains are frequent for the accommodation of commuters.


1. Winfield's History of Hudson County.
2. Dunlap's History of New York.
3. New York Colonial MSS.
4. Winfield's History of Hudson County.
5. Winfield*s History of Hudson County.
6. The stone supports of an old bridge at this place mark the site of this road. A section of it running from Forty-seventh to Fifty-first Streets is still in existence.
7. Mullaney's store is still standing on the old Plank Road at Centre Street.


Source: First History of Bayonne, New Jersey, by Royden Page Whitcomb, Published by R. P. Whitcomb, 24 East 37TH Street, Bayonne, N. J., 1904.

 

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