New Jersey

Early Settlers

First Inhabitants

Archeologists have traced human life in northern New Jersey back to 8640 BC, when an aboriginal tribe of Algonquin stock, the Lenni Lenape, which translates to "Original People", migrated here from west of the Mississippi. They called what is now New Jersey "Scheyichbi," meaning, "Land along the water." A sub-tribe of the Lenni Lenape, the Wolf tribe, settled in Sussex County and was know as the "Munsee" (or Minisinks), which translates to "People of the Stone Country."

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The Lenni Lenapes were later called "Delaware" by early white settlers. The Delaware consisted of two other sub-tribes: the "Unami" (turtle) and the "Unalachtigo" (turkey). The Munsee lived in the mountainous northern region of the state and were the most war-like due to the necessity of self-defense against raiding Iroquois from New York.

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While most Munsee settled in the Minisink area of Delaware, some lived along the Wallkill River, which runs through Ogdensburg and Franklin. They called the river "Twischsawkin" and they settled along it in relatively unprotected housing, and for short periods of time, in order to elude the raiding Iroquois.

Eventually, when game, fish and forageable fruit showed signs of depletion, most of the Munsee migrated to Oklahoma and Canada.

White Settlers

In the early 1600s the Dutch came down the Wallkill to settle in the Franklin/Ogdensburg area. They named the river after the River Wall in the Netherlands. On the heels of the Dutch were the English and the French Huguenots. The Huguenots came circa 1685, using many Indian trails that crossed this area. The Dutch began trading with the remaining Munsee along the Delaware and its tributaries.

But the real reason the Dutch were so anxious to come to the Ogdensburg area was to find the rich ore deposits that they heard about. They were puzzled over the ore deposit and never realized that an oxide later to be called zincite (composed primarily of zinc, coupled with oxygen) was in fact relatively free of other heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and copper (usually found in other zinc ore deposits). As a result, their attempts at mining the ore failed.

The Franklin-Sterling Hill areas had adequate water for farming and forging, much good agricultural land, abundant forests and wildlife, and the metal ores were exposed at the surface. So it was only a matter of time before another wave of settlers moved into the area to exploit the ore deposits.

In the mid-1740s, miners came to the area, wresting metal from the rocks. Farmers soon followed and they set up symbiotic communities, one group creating farming and cooking implements of iron, the other group feeding everyone.

Over the following two centuries, a great number of very talented men would develop mines in the area, first in search of iron, then zinc.