Lenape: 12,000 Years of Jersey Shore History
There are people who called our coastal area home a very long time before the folks in Monmouth Beach did — the Native American Indians of Monmouth County.
This is according to the book, Monmouth … Our Indian Heritage, researched and written by George H. Moss, Jr. (1923-2009), the former Monmouth County historian. His 1991 book tells the story of Indian life in our shore area in an educational and entertaining manner.
The Indians of New Jersey in general, and Monmouth County in particular, were the Lenape. The origins of their tribe still dot our area — locales like Port-au-Peck, Navesink, Rumson, Matawan, Takanassee, and Wanamassa to name few.
The first recorded European observation of New Jersey Lenape Indians was by Giovanni da Verrazzano when he was exploring the New York Harbor-Sandy Hook area in 1524. In September 1609, explorer Henry Hudson and his crew landed in our area. While many people think that the history of the Indians starts when the Europeans first permanently settled in America in the early 1600s, the Indian legacy goes much further back.
In actuality, using radiocarbon dating methods on artifacts such as spear points and tools, archeologists have been able to trace the Indian population of Monmouth County back 12,000 years. Just consider, the ancient pyramids of Egypt in Giza were built about 4,500 years ago. Adept at fishing (favoring shellfish), hunting, farming and trading, the Lenape were known as peaceful people who welcomed others to their homelands.
“Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons of the earth.”
About 7,000 native Indians were living in New Jersey in 1600, however, by the time of the American Revolution, there were fewer than 60. “All the largely autonomous bands of Native Americans living on the North Jersey Shore in those times were part of the wider Lenape group, which extended over all of New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, northern Delaware and southeastern New York,” according to Paul Boyd (1940-2011), an Atlantic Highlands historian whose research covers the Lenape in Monmouth County during the 1600s.
“Their links include common language, similar community set-up, and social inter-relationships and loose political association between groups. In Monmouth County, there were a number of localized bands — Navesink, Ramezonk, Topanemus, Wickatunk, Chingarora — but they were all Lenape,” said Boyd.
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Note: For shore history lovers, the work of George Moss is worth further review. The Rumson resident was a prolific researcher and author on Monmouth County history. Other fine books of his include:
Double Exposure: Early Stereographic Views of Historic Monmouth County, New Jersey, and Their Relationship to Pioneer Photography (1971), Through Two Lenses: Early Stereographic Views of New Jersey (1859-1889) from the Collection of George H. Moss Jr. (1974), Another Look: At Nauvoo to the Hook (1990), Steamboat to the Shore: A Pictorial History of the Steamboat Era in Monmouth County, New Jersey (1991), Double Exposure Two: Stereographic Views of the Jersey Shore (1859 to 1910) and Their Relationship to Pioneer Photography (1995), Those Innocent Years, 1898-1914: Images of the Jersey Shore from the Pach Photographic Collection (1997), Victorian Summers at the Grand Hotels of Long Branch, New Jersey (2000), and Twice Told Tales Reflections of Monmouth County’s Past (2002).