American History and Genealogy Project


Bayonne City Becomes a Town

1857 - 1860

Act to Lay Out Streets - School Improvements - Bayomie Set Off as a Township- Origin of Name - Township Government - General Description

We next come to a period of great importance in the erection of what is now Bayonne City.

An act had been passed by the Legislature, and approved March 16, 1857, "authorizing the appointment of commissioners to lay out and map streets, avenues and squares in that part of Bergen Township south of the Morris Canal in Hudson County," and the Commissioners thus appointed were Andrew D. Mellick, Jacob A. Van Horn, Jacob M. Vreeland, Hartman Vreeland and Egbert Wauters, who were required to complete their work within two years from the passage of the act. By a supplement to this act, approved April 7, 1868, Hiram Van Buskirk, Solon Humphreys, Henry Meigs, Jr., John Combes and Erastus Randall were appointed Commissioners, and their powers were prescribed "to cease on the first day of May, eighteen hundred and seventy-three."

On May 25, 1857, a plot of ground fronting on Dodge and Fifth Streets, containing about 13¾ city lots, was procured from Rosewell Graves for the site of a school house, and a Building Committee, duly appointed, was directed to build and furnish a district school house thereon, the cost of which, including the lots, was not to exceed three thousand dollars. By the report of the Treasurer of the Board of School Trustees, dated March 4, 1860, it was shown that the new building and furniture for District School No. S cost $2,190.86, and 13¾ lots of ground occupied, $831.50; total cost, $3,025.36.1

This building for many years was known as the First Ward school house and is now located on Dodge Street in rear of No. 4 brick school, near its old site. About one hundred scholars attended, and there were two teachers. It was used for a time as a police station for the Fourth Ward, and later converted into a dwelling house.

On March 15, 1861, by an act of Legislature, the Township of Bayonne was set off from the town of Bergen. The same year, Albert M. Zabriskie was appointed the first Chosen Freeholder of Bayonne.

There has been some doubt as to the signification of the word naming the locality. It may have derived its name from Bayonne in France, being pronounced Bã-yon'. There is a story that French Huguenots settled here some time before New Amsterdam was settled. They are said to have remained about a year. This, however, is probably some old fireside legend, without a particle of truth in it. The author has searched, but can find nothing to give this story foundation. He is also told that when Erastus Randall, E. C. Bramhall and B. F. Woolsey bought the land owned by Jasper and William Cadmus, for real estate speculation, they called it Bayonne by reason of its touching the borders and being on the shores of two bays, Newark and New York, hence Bay-on, or on the bays. This, in all probability, is the real origin of the name.

Township Government

The first elected Committeemen of the Township of Bayonne held their first meeting for the transaction of business April 13, 1861, at the house of H. B. Beaty, in Centreville.* Present, Hartman Vreeland, Ebenezer G. Ferris, William L. Beaumont, De Witt C. Morris, Peter Vreeland, Hiram Van Buskirk, Clerk. Hartman Vreeland was elected chairman, and William Beaumont Treasurer; there being, at the election, a tie vote for Committee-man between Jacob A. Van Horn and De Witt C. Morris, Mr. Van Horn declined serving and De Witt C. Morris was appointed as a member of the Committee by a unanimous vote of the Board.2

At the time of Bayonne being erected into a township, it was composed of Saltersville3 (now the Third Ward), Centreville, Bergen Point and Constable's Hook. About this time, there were only three stores in this entire section. One was kept by Michael Mullaney at Saltersville. Another was in Centerville, and kept by Hansan Carragan. Robert A. Ansart was proprietor of the third, located at Bergen Point. Later, G. D. L. Zabriski opened a country store on the old Plank Road opposite the La Tourette House stables. These stores kept a supply of every-thing from a wooden button up, including hardware, tinware, dry goods, boots, shoes, clothing and tobacco. Apple jack was sold at twenty-five cents a bottle. A post-office was in most of these stores, and the folks would congregate to get their mail and gossip about the oyster war. A two-horse express carried the mail to and from New York each day. '

A bucket company was the only means of fire protection.

On First Street there stood an edifice, originally designed for a lecture hall and during many years serving as a school house. This was the first school in Bergen Point. It was east of the residence of Sheriff Garretson. The Bergen Point Lyceum met at this hall for several seasons. This was an institution organized to promote mutual instruction among the members, the ordinary exercises consisting of debates and lectures. Straw rides, sleighing parties, corn husking parties and singing classes occupied the time of the younger set. These elements were centralized at the La Tourette House, especially during the summer.

Bayonne was indeed a farmer's paradise; flourishing farms here and there; men and boys working in the fields; cows in the pastures, feeding; fields of waving corn, with a bay on either side; birds singing merrily in the woods; the occasional bark of a dog; the neigh of a horse; the crow of a rooster; the rattle of milk cans; a "Gee-up" and "Ho" these were the things that confronted one when traveling along the old Plank Road in days of yore. Bergen Point was "the town," and the section north of Fourteenth Street, which was two-thirds woods, was the "country," in which there were scattered a few houses.

At this period school was also held in the old frame building which stands in the rear of Hudson Engine House on Avenue D. The teacher received $400 per year! In 1855, Brooks, father of Police Inspector Brooks of New York, was the teacher. John E. Andrus (now Mayor of Yonkers) taught this school a few years later. Another school stood at Avenue E and Grand and Centre Streets. At the close of 1861 the township could boast of three district schools, three teachers and 596 pupils.

Fish's Lane, in Pamrapo, received its name from Captain Robert Fish, who lived there. His house is still standing. He built the tower on it to get out of reach of the mosquitoes.

 1.. Named so for reason of its being in a central location.
2. First Directory and Manual of Bayonne.
3. Saltersville was named after David Salter, who lived at and erected a number of houses in Pamrapo.

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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