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Overview of New Jersey,  

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New Jersey Overview

New Jersey

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

New Jersey is a state in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern regions of the United States. It is the fourth smallest, the tenth most populous, and the most densely populated state in the US. The state is named after the British island of Jersey in the English Channel. It is bordered on the north by New York, on the east by the Atlantic Ocean, on the southwest by Delaware, and on the west by Pennsylvania. Parts of New Jersey lie within the metropolitan areas of New York, Philadelphia, and the Delaware Valley.

Inhabited by Native Americans for more than 11,000 years, the area was settled by the Swedes and Dutch. The British later seized control of the region, which was granted to Sir George Carteret and John Berkeley, 1st Baron Berkeley of Stratton as the colony of New Jersey. New Jersey was an important site during the American Revolutionary War; several decisive battles were fought there. Later, working-class cities such as Paterson helped to drive the Industrial Revolution in the nineteenth century. New Jersey's position at the center of the BosWash megalopolis, between Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., fueled its rapid growth through the suburban boom of the 1950s and beyond.


New Jersey is bordered on the north and northeast by New York; on the east by the Atlantic Ocean; on the south and southwest by Delaware; and on the west by Pennsylvania. The western border of New Jersey is largely defined by the Delaware River. Because of its dense population and because most communities of northern New Jersey do not have the widespread reservoir system of neighboring Greater New York City, the slightest dry season leads to drought warnings; but because there are many streams and rivers close to these communities, the slightest above average rainfall causes frequent flooding as many parts of Northern New Jersey are part of a flood plain. It is also at the center of the Boston to Washington megalopolis.

New Jersey is broadly divided into three geographic regions: North Jersey, Central Jersey, and South Jersey. North Jersey lies within New York City's general sphere of influence (i.e. largely within the New York metropolitan area), and many residents commute to the city to work. Central Jersey is a largely suburban area. South Jersey is within Philadelphia, Pennsylvania's general sphere of influence, and most of it is included in the Delaware Valley. Such geographic definitions are loosely defined, however, and there is often dispute over where one region begins and another ends. Some people do not consider Central Jersey to exist at all, but most believe it is a separate geographic and cultural area from the North and South.


New Jersey has a temperate climate, with warm/hot summers and cool/cold winters. During the hurricane season, tropical cyclones can hit New Jersey, though it is unusual for them to travel this far up the east coast. During the winter months, Nor'easters can dump up to two feet of snow at once.

The temperatures vary greatly from the northernmost part of New Jersey to the southernmost part of New Jersey. For example, these are the average high and low temperatures for Cape May, NJ and Sussex, NJ:


Some claim there is evidence suggesting that people have inhabited New Jersey since 10,500 BC. This would have been a post Ice age culture consisting of traveling hunters. However, the Europeans were the first to document the land. New Jersey's first European presence was not until the year 1497, when Italian explorer John Cabot first saw New Jersey while sailing up the coast. "Florentine, Giovanni da Verrazano, reportedly visited the coast in 1524" but neither of these men are considered New Jersey's discoverer (McCormick 3). Cabot failed to explore the land and Verrazano left no record supporting his claim.

Sir Henry Hudson is the explorer generally credited with having discovered New Jersey in 1609. On September 4, 1609 he dropped anchor in Cape May and took a crew of 20 men for a week of exploration. He didn't leave any European culture behind, but he did document his discovery very well. New Jersey's first taste of European personality came from Captain Cornelius Jacobsen Mey. In "1620 he sailed up the Delaware, and in 1624 he erected Fort Nassau at the Mouth of Timber Creek" (Pomfret 5b). He explored the greater Delaware Bay area and confirmed that the land was good for planting. He declared it as ready for colonization and named Cape May in his own honor.

Europeans agreed that the land was good for planting, but they felt discontent towards the inhabitants. The Lenni-Lenape tribe occupied New Jersey at this time. The Europeans found them strange and uncivilized; while in fact that couldn't have been further from the truth. The Lenni-Lenape Native Americans tribe was part of the greater Algonquin nation. The tribe was well organized into "three groups, which were geographic distributed" (Worton 27). These sub-tribes each had a sub-chief or sakima. The sub-tribes each had their respective names, "the Minsi, or the people of the stony country in the north; the Unami, or the people down the river in the central portion; and Unilachitgo or the people who leave near the ocean in the south" (ibid 27). The Unami sakima was normally thought to be the chief of the whole Lenni-Lenape tribe. The tribe was in fact so well organized that it had a network of trails resembling the locations of many of our modern-day highways. They were also the leading force of peace within the nation. The tribe was frequently asked to serve as intermediaries to settle inter-tribal conflicts.

It was their contact with the early Dutch traders that would be the beginning of the end for the Lenni-Lenape. In 1638, a company of Swedes and ethnic Finns, under the supervision of Dutch political and commercial interests, set sail for the New World. They sailed across the North Atlantic, south along the New Jersey Coast, then into the Delaware Bay and up the Delaware River to Wilmington. They began to settle both sides of the Delaware at a site not far from what would become Salem. A fort named Old Fort Elfsborg became the central hub for trade. The Scandinavian influence prevails today as linguists theorize that certain speech patterns in Southern New Jersey area are traceable to the mixed and changing Swedish-English vocabulary.

Colonial era

Much of New Jersey was claimed by the Dutch. The Dutch colony of New Netherland consisted of parts of modern New York (Nieuw Amsterdam) and New Jersey. Although the European principle of land ownership was not recognized by the Lenape, Dutch policy required formal purchase of all land settled upon, and the first such purchase was of Manhattan, by Peter Minuit.

The entire region became a territory of England in 1664, when a British fleet under the command of Colonel Richard Nicolls sailed into what is today New York Harbor and took over the colony, against extremely little resistance.

During the English Civil War the Channel Isle of Jersey remained loyal to the Crown and gave sanctuary to the King. It was from the Royal Square in St. Helier that Charles II of England was first proclaimed King in 1649, following the execution of his father, Charles I. The North American lands were divided by Charles II, who gave his brother, the Duke of York (later King James II) the region between New England and Maryland as a proprietary colony (as opposed to a royal colony). James then granted the land between the Hudson River and the Delaware River (the land that would become New Jersey) to two friends who had remained loyal through the English Civil War: Sir George Carteret and Lord Berkeley of Stratton.

Settlement for the first 10 years of English rule was in the Hudson River region and came primarily from New England. On March 18, 1673, Berkeley sold his half of the colony to Quakers in England (with William Penn acting as trustee for a time), who settled the Delaware Valley region as a Quaker colony. New Jersey was governed as two distinct provinces, West Jersey and East Jersey, for the 28 years between 1674 and 1702. In 1702, the two provinces were united under a royal, rather than a proprietary, governor.

Revolutionary War era

New Jersey was one of the thirteen colonies that revolted against British rule in the American Revolution. The New Jersey Constitution of 1776 was passed July 2, 1776, just two days before the Second Continental Congress declared American Independence from Britain.
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