Life Among the Early Settlers of Acquackanonk

The Bulletin of the Passaic County Historical Society, November 1962

Mr. Thomas Rudyard, Deputy Governor of the Province of New Jersey 1682-1683, described the life of the few inhabitants then living in the area of old Acquackanonk in a report to the twelve proprietors of East Jersey.

Rudyard stated that the people were generally sober, industrious and professing Christianity, wise in their generation, courteous in their behavior and respectful to those in office.

cowsPork and beef were selling at two cents a pound, fish and fowl were plentiful.  Wheat sold for four shillings and Indian wheat for two shillings and six pence a bushel.  There was cider a-plenty which sold for one penny a quart and a good drink made of water and molasses for about two shillings a barrel as wholesome as your eight shillings beer in England.  There was to be had good venison at eighteen cents per quarter, eggs at three pence a dozen.   Grapes, walnuts, peaches, strawberries and many other things were plentiful in the woods nearby.

The richer farmers, who settled hereabouts, kept from eight to ten servants each, both men and women.  Each farmer kept from ten to thirty cows, several oxen and a large number of horses which were allowed to scatter about the country during the summer.  Only those which were required for farm work were kept in their stables.  Great herds of  swine roamed in the woods although the flocks of sheep were usually kept near the farm yards due to the wolves which frequented the woods which had a plentiful supply of oak, chestnut, walnut, ash, poplar, fir and red cedar.

The soil hereabouts was fertile which produced plentiful crops including good flax and b__w-quailhemp which were spun and manufactured into cloth.  The country is well stocked with deer, conies, and wild fowl of various sorts, says Rudyard.  There is an abundance of wild turkeys, pigeons, partridge, plover, quail, swans, geese, and ducks.  Delicious fruits are produced in an abundance such as grapes, plums, mulberries, apricots, peaches, pears, apples, quinces and watermelons.

The early settlers of this county led comfortable lives.  The kitchen was the family room for here was the large fireplace.  The furniture was handmade from logs taken from the farm, dressed at the sawmill and seasoned until the cabinet maker made his visit.  The tanner, the shoemaker and the cooper as well as the distiller made their rounds of the neighborhood in the same manner as the cabinetmaker where they usually were given employment wherever they stopped.

The men usually made their own head gear – usually straw hats for summer and coon skins caps for the winter.  The women carded, spun, wove and dyed their flax, wool and hemp.  Some housewives made the garments needed for the family while others employed the seamstresses who traveled from family to family. Dyeing was an art known and practices by the housewife.  Trees and plants supplied the materials for the dyes.  For a brownish red color, the bark of the white oak was used; hickory bark or peach leaves produced a good yellow; maple bark was used for a rich, dark purple; the bark and hulls of the black walnut produced a seal-brown while green walnuts mixed with sumac berries produced a very good black.