Founding of Elizabeth 

Purchasing the Land

On October 28, 1664, the Indians of Staten Island sold to John Bailey, Daniel Denton and Luke Watson, a tract of land lying between the Raritan River and the Passaic River, extending westward from Newark Bay. The tract extended about 34 miles between the two rivers and about 17 miles westward from Newark Bay, comprising 500,000 acres. It included what is now the City of Elizabeth.

The purchase price was payable in one year after the territory was occupied, indicating that even this small sum was difficult to meet in those early days.

The purchase price was:

  • Four hundred fathoms of white wampum
  • Ten bars of lead
  • Twenty fathoms of trading cloth
  • Twenty handfuls of powder
  • Two "made" coats
  • Two guns
  • Two kettles

Permission to Purchase

Permission to purchase from the Indians was granted by Colonel Richard Nicolls who was Governor of all the territories in North America. Colonel Nicolls was Governor by virtue of appointment by the then Duke of York, who had been granted the territories in North America by King Charles the Second of England.

The deed of conveyance from the Indians was delivered on December 1, 1664 to John Baker, John Ogden, John Bailey and Luke Watson (Denton having sold his interest to Baker and Ogden). The four grantees took possession of the tract by building at least four houses before April 1665 and thus the settlement and development of Elizabeth began.

The Name Elizabethtown

Colonel Nicolls and Governor Carteret worked together, despite the confusion as to ownership of the land and developed the new town which they called Elizabethtown, probably so named in honor of Elizabeth, the wife of Sir George Carteret. Houses were constructed by the settlers and also a church where the First Presbyterian Church now stands on Broad Street next to the Courthouse. Governor Carteret made Elizabethtown the capital of the province of New Jersey and the first legislature met here on May 30, 1668.

Ownership of the Land

Neither Governor Nicolls nor the purchasers knew that on June 24, 1664, the Duke of York had conveyed to Lord John Berkeley and Sir George Carteret the tract of land known as New Jersey. Berkeley and Carteret commissioned Philip Carteret, a relative of Sir George, as Governor of New Jersey and he arrived in August 1665 with a group of settlers and servants.

Ensuing years brought much litigation in the courts and riots over the ownership of the land, which was never judicially settled.

An Act to Establish the City of Elizabeth

Eventually the Legislature of New Jersey granted a Charter to the City of Elizabeth on March 13, 1855. Elizabeth became a City by the provisions of an Act of the Legislature entitled "An Act to Establish the City of Elizabeth" approved March 13, 1855. On March 22, 1855, an election was held to adopt or reject the new charter. The result of the election showing 561 in favor of adoption and 19 against, was reported to the old Boro Board on March 27, 1855, so that Elizabeth did not officially become a City until that date. At that meeting the City was divided into three wards and provisions were made for the first election under the new charter.

The First Mayor

On April 9, 1855, the first election under the new charter was held and on April 16, 1855 the result of such election was reported to the Boro Board and Elias Darby was declared elected as first Mayor of the City of Elizabeth.

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