Bounded by the Hackensack and Passaic rivers to the west, Newark Bay to the southwest, Kill Van Kull to the south, and Upper New York Bay and the Hudson River to the east, Hudson County is known as the Gateway to America as Ellis Island and Liberty Island lie within the county’s waters which extend to the New York state line.
Hudson County was the territory of the Lenni-Lenape Indians when English explorer, Henry Hudson, visited in 1609. The region was settled by Dutch, Flemish, Walloon, and Huguenot. Relations were tenuous with the Lenni-Lenape and eventually led to Kieft’s War (also known as Wappinger), which is considered to be one of the first genocides of Native Americans by Europeans. In 1661, after negotiations between New Netherland and the Lenni-Lenape, a charter was granted for a new village at the site of present-day Bergen Square, establishing what is considered to be the oldest self-governing municipality in New Jersey. The British gained control of the area in 1664, and the area officially became part of the British colony of East Jersey in 1675.
During the American Revolution, the Battle of Paulus Hook, a surprise raid on a British fortification in 1779, was seen as a victory and morale booster for revolutionary forces. Further north, Weehawken became notorious for duels, including the nation’s most famous between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr in 1804. Many streets in downtown Jersey City are named after military figures including Mercer, Greene, Wayne, and Varick. During the nineteenth century, Hudson County played an integral role in the Underground Railroad, with four routes converging in Jersey City.
In 1840, Hudson County, named after the famous English explorer, was created. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Hudson County experienced intense industrial, commercial, and residential growth. Construction, first of ports, and later railroad terminals, in Jersey City, Bayonne, Hoboken, and Weehawken, fueled much of the development. Hoboken Terminal, a National Historic Landmark originally built in 1907 by the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad, is the only one of five major rail/ferry terminals that once dotted the waterfront still in operation. The Morris Canal, early steam railroads, and the development of the harbors, stimulated further growth. Today, Hudson County is linked to New York City by the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, one of the nation’s busiest transportation complexes.
Today, Hudson County stretches 62 miles, smallest area of any county in New Jersey, and is the most densely populated. Popular heritage destinations include Liberty State Park, home to the Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal which played a crucial role in immigration, with many newly arrived departing the station to embark on their lives in America.; and Ellis Island, home to the National Museum of Immigration, located in the main building of the former immigration station complex and the location of the largest public health hospital at the time, where immigrants who arrived sick or infirm were treated. Explore all that Hudson County and the surrounding region has to offer for a glimpse of the valuable contributions not only to New Jersey, but also to American history.