History of the Town of Kearny
On March 14, 1867, the NJ Legislature approved an Act creating the “ Township of Kearny”, an area that already had played a substantial part in the early history of NJ.
The 9.3 square mile area of this new Township had been part of the original Crown Grant of 30,000 acres obtained by Major William Sandford of Barbadoes Island on July 4, 1668. Major Sandford named it “New Barbadoes Neck” after his old home. As was the custom of the times, the Major paid Chief Tantaqua of the Hackensack Indians 20 English Pounds Sterling for all their reserve rights and titles. It would seem these transactions made Major Sandford Kearny’s first citizen and founder.
When Sandford died in 1708, his friend Major Nathaniel Kingsland took over the upper western tract of the Grant. In 1710 he sold it for 300 English Pounds Sterling to Captain Arent Schuyler, a former Dutch trader and Indian Agent. The new purchase included present-day Kearny, North Arlington, Lyndhurst and Kingsland.
Shortly after Schuyler’s purchase of his new homestead, a peculiar green stone was uncovered. It was sent to England for analysis and he learned that that it contained 80% copper. His opening of a copper mine brought the first steam engine to America from England; it was used to pump out the deep mine shaft. The engine was secretly delivered by its engineer, Josiah Hornblower. The engine and mines were destroyed by fire in 1772 and remained idle for some years.
Schuyler Mansion played a role during the Revolutionary War Era. When Lord Howe of England took possession of New York Harbor, the nearness of Schuyler Mansion drew many of his officers. They generally traveled over a road that today is referred to as the Belleville Turnpike. It was originally made of cedar logs from the nearby swamps in 1759.
During September 1777, General Henry Clinton, head of the British Expeditionary Forces in America, selected Schuyler Mansion for his headquarters during one of his more important raiding operations which included the famed Battle of Second River. The Mansion stood until 1924, a period of 214 years, when it was torn down by a land development company.
In the middle 1800’s, Kearny was the upper, or northern, section of the Township of Harrison. A prominent citizen and resident of the upper section, General N. M. Halsted, felt it was impossible under these political conditions for his section to obtain proper recognition. He engaged an energetic campaign for an independent township. He succeeded when the NJ Legislature of 1867 on March 14 th, adopted “an act creating the Township of Kearny”. The town was named to honor Major General Phil Kearny, Commander of the NJ Forces in the Civil War and the late resident of well-known “Belle Grove”, locally called Kearny Castle.
On April 8, 1867, the first election of town officers was held. Every office in the new Township had to be filled. General N. M. Halsted was elected Chairman. The first official seat of Government was three rooms in the old Lodi Hotel, on the northeast corner of Schuyler and Harrison Avenues.
In the early 1870’s, Kearny erected its first Town Hall, on the corner of Kearny and Woodland Avenues, the present site of the Knox Presbyterian Church Parish Hall. This served as a Town Hall, Court House, and Schoolhouse. When the town’s growth demanded larger quarters, the present Kearny Town Hall, built of Indiana Limestone, was erected in 1909. It is located in almost the exact center of own.
The Minute Book of the Township states on August 16, 1870, the first step toward establishing Kearny’s present public school system was taken. The first schoolhouse was housed in the Town Hall built at Kearny and Woodland Avenues.
The early influx and development of industry in Kearny dates back to 1875 when the Clark Thread Company of Scotland extended its activities to this country by erecting two large mills in Kearny, and adding two others in 1890. These mills brought to Kearny thousands of Scotch immigrants.
In 1876, the Mile End Thread Mills started operating, giving employment to several hundred operators.
In 1883, the Marshall Flax Spinning Company of England erected a large plant in Kearny, known as the Linen Thread Company. Their need for experienced flax spinners brought an influx of workers from other sections of the British Isles. Families of those early textile workers were the nucleus of Kearny’s present population.
The Puraline Manufacturing Company, later called the Arlington Company, which became a subsidiary of E. I. DuPont de Nemours Company, had purchased a large tract of land east of the Arlington Station on the Erie Railroad extending well out, north of the railroad embankment, into the meadowland.
In 1887, Sir Michael Nairn established the Nairn Linoleum Company, now the Congoleum Nairn Company of Kearny, giving further impetus to local industrial growth.
In 1902, the Lovell-Dressel Company, manufacturers of marine and railway lamps and fixtures, located in Kearny adjacent to the Erie Railroad.
Other industries which located in Kearny include: Swift & Company, Koppers Company, Theobald Industries, Western Electric Co., Standard Tool & Manufacturing, Wilkata Box Company, Harris Steel Company, and L & R Manufacturing.
In 1899, Kearny was Incorporated as a Town, thereby increasing at that time the number of towns in the State of NJ to 16.