Sussex County, New Jersey
The County of Sussex (also known as Sussex County) is the northernmost county in the State of New Jersey. The county was founded on 8 June 1753, by an order of Jonathan Belcher (1689-1757), Royal Governor of New Jersey (1747-1757) and his council, from portions of Morris County. It originally contained all the land north and west of the Musconetcong River, including the area of the present-day Warren County (created from the southwestern half of Sussex County on November 20, 1824). At present, it is the fourth largest county in New Jersey by area. The county seat of Sussex County is the Town of Newton.
Though lacking much historical evidence, local tradition asserts that in the 1650s, Dutch adventurers from New Amsterdam started mines in the now-defunct Pahaquarry Township, building the Old Mine Road to transport copper ore to Esopus on the Hudson River. Sources indicate that first settlement by European colonists began circa 1690-1710, by Dutch settlers from New York along the Delaware River, and in the decades subsequent, Palatine Germans via Philadelphia, and English colonists from New England, Long Island, Newark, and Salem County, New Jersey.
Early industry and commerce chiefly centered around agriculture, iron mining, shifting during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to focus on several factories and the mining of zinc. Today, Sussex County features a mix of rural farmland, forests and suburban development at the western extent of the New York metropolitan area. Though agriculture (chiefly dairy farming) is on the decline and because the county hosts little light industry, Sussex County is considered a "bedroom community" as most residents commute to neighboring counties (Bergen, Essex and Morris Counties) or to New York City for work.
As of the 2000 Federal decennial census, 144,166 persons resided in Sussex County of which nearly 95% were white. Sussex County is the 91st richest county in the United States with its per capita income being $26,992.
Origin of the county's name
Sussex, in England, was notable historically as one of the seven kingdoms of the Heptarchy (A.D. 500–850), which were later unified under Egbert of Wessex (c. 770–839) into the Kingdom of England.
With the boundary between the Provinces of East Jersey and West Jersey undefined, the land area that became Sussex County was first, briefly, under the auspices of Essex County when it was established in 1682. After the settling of the border with the Keith Line (1687) and the subsequent Coxe-Barclay Line (1688), this area was under the control of the West Jersey Proprietors and given to Burlington County when it was established in 1696. Burlington County ceded all the lands north of the Assunpink Creek to Hunterdon County in 1711. In 1739, Hunterdon County cede the land north of the Musconetcong River—comprising the present-day Morris, Sussex and Warren Counties—to form Morris County.
In the years following the creation of Morris County, the area north and west of the Musconetcong River grew in population to several hundred settlers. Given the lack of roads and the long, arduous journey to attend to the courts, government and other business at Morristown, the county's seat, the residents of this area petitioned the provincial government to erect a new county.On 8 June 1753, Royal Governor Jonathan Belcher and his Council ordered the creation of the County of Sussex by the following boundaries:
"That all and singular, the lands and upper parts of said Morris County northwest of Muskonetkong river, BEGINNING at the mouth of said river, where it empties itself into Delaware river, and running up said Muskonetkong river, to the head of the great pond; from thence to the line that divides the province of New-York and said New-Jersey; thence along the said line to Delaware river aforesaid; thence down the same to the mouth of Muskonetkong…”
At this time, Sussex County consisted of four municipalities that were founded before the establishment of the county: Walpack (1731), Newtown (1751), Hardwick (1751) and Greenwich Townships (1738). These townships would, over the next two hundred years, be carved into the twenty-four municipalities that comprise present-day Sussex County, and the twenty-two in present-day Warren County.
The first county seat was established on the lands of Jonathan Pettit, a local justice-of-the-peace and tavernkeeper in present-day Johnsonburg in Frelinghuysen Township, then part of Hardwick Township. At the first meeting of the Board of Chosen Freeholders in 1754, monies were appropriated for the construction of a jail which was built from logs. This caused the village to be known as Log Gaol. Disputes between Pettit and the early county freeholders lead to the courts and county government to be held elsewhere in the subsequent years, including at the taverns of Thomas Woolverton (1719-1760) and Henry Hairlocker (1715-1777) in Newtown Township. In 1761, the Provincial Legislature and Royal Governor Josiah Hardy authorized the construction of a courthouse and jail on the Newton Township lands of Jonathan Hampton (1720-1777), a surveyor and merchant from Elizabethtown, one half-mile (0.85 km) from the tavern of Henry Hairlocker. This site, which became known as Sussex Court House, is presently the Town of Newton.
In 1824, heeding the petitions of the southern residents of Sussex County, the State Legislature ordered a line drawn across the county from the mouth of the Flat Brook (where it enters the Delaware River) in Walpack Township, through the village of Yellow Frame in then Hardwick Township to a point on the county's eastern boundary, the Musconetcong River. The lands south of this line were ceded on 20 November 1824 to form Warren County, named for American Revolutionary War hero, Doctor Joseph Warren (1741-1775) who died leading American troops at the Battle of Bunker Hill on 17 June 1775.