Jersey City knows something about bouncing back. With property values rising steadily, a steady influx of retail stores, trendy restaurants and the arrival of some of the corporate world's heaviest heavyweights, Jersey City has become a magnet for families, young professionals and others looking for a safe place to live that's exciting, yet stable. Such was not always, the case, however; Jersey City has survived harsh colonial conditions, stock market crashes, and the onus of not being Manhattan. But as time passes, the area continues to thrive.
The Dawn of America
From its earliest days, Jersey City has been no stranger to struggle. Originally settled by the Delaware Indians, the area that is now Jersey City was colonized in 1630 by Michael Pauw, a member of the Amsterdam Chamber—the group created by the United Netherlands Company that claimed New Netherlands (a.k.a. New York) as its own. Pauw originally named the colony Pavonia, after himself.
The first official settlement, Communipaw, covered an area from what is now Johnston Avenue to Caven Point. One of the area's first houses was built there in 1633 for colony superintendent Jan Evertsen Bout. Between 1638 and 1647, the fledgling community endured its first experience with the rise-and-fall theme that would characterize so much of its future—the colony suffered a massacre at the hands of the Native American population, who had been mistreated by the colony's governor.
By the mid-1600s, the city was home to New Jersey's first church and school, housed in a large log cabin. Later in that century, the colony changed hands from England to the Netherlands and back to England again. For the next century and a half, the area grew in size, bringing neighboring colonies into its fold. In 1838, Jersey City became its own municipality, breaking off from Bergen County, and welcoming its first mayor, Dudley Gregory.
In the 1800s, the city's rail lines made it a hub of import and export. One railway tale put Jersey City in the annals of asterisked history. During Abraham Lincoln's presidency, Lincoln's grown son Robert fell on the tracks at a Jersey City rail station. A bystander pulled him back onto the platform, saving him from certain injury. The helping hand belonged (ironically enough) to Edwin Booth—brother of future Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth. Also in the late 1800s, Robert Fulton opened a steamship factory in the region, supplying the ferries that made Manhattan less of an island and gave suburbs easier access to the big city.