Hackensack has been around for more than three centuries. It started out Lenni Lenape Native American and then the Dutch showed up in 1693. About our name: It means, literally, “mouth of a river,” in the language of the Achkinheshcky tribe. (There’s a name that makes “Hackensack” seem pretty normal, right?).
At first, the Dutch did well living alongside the Native Americans. They dealt fairly with chief Oratam and began to put down some serious roots. The doors of the Dutch Reformed Church (aka Old Church on the Green) opened in 1696, giving folks a place to meet and a center of town to build around. The whole area belonged to Essex County until 1709, when Bergen was enlarged and Hackensack claimed the title of county seat.
Enter the British in the mid-17th century, and things began to unravel. Hackensack became what is politely called “an area of unrest” from then until the end of the American Revolution. Also, Washington slept here. During his retreat from Fort Lee via New Bridge Landing, his HQ was in the center of town in a camp on the Green.
After the war and through the 19th century, Hackensack boomed: by 1834, 150 houses, 1,000 residents, three churches, and two academies. Six years later: 2,631 residents.
Still very Dutch though, even with the mix of French, Scots, Germans, and English. We were even speaking mostly “Jersey Dutch” until around 1850 and attending a Dutch church on Sundays. Then in 1850 the Northern Valley Railroad was built, for commuting to Englewood or even New York City.
We welcomed people from everywhere between 1820 and 1920. Before 1883, most came from England, Scotland, Holland, France, and Scandinavia. In the second wave (1890-1920): Italy, Ireland, Poland, Greece, Russia, and other countries. But the town wasn’t done. A third wave began in the 1960s from Colombia and Ecuador. And today, Hackensack boasts lots of folks from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Spain, Venezuela, Mexico, and Costa Rica. We’re 45,000 strong in Downtown Hackensack!