The Lenape Indians were the first inhabitants of the Franklin Lakes area. They made their winter camp near Buttermilk Falls and fished in what is now called Franklin Lake. Franklin Lakes was "discovered" by Dutch settlers making their way up the Hudson River Valley and Franklin Township was founded in 1722. The original homes of the township were built of sandstone and fieldstone and 14 of these buildings still stand today.
In the 19th century, mills were a major source of income for the town. By 1876, the township had approximately 100 residences, 5 mills, a tannery, 3 schools, a blacksmith, a church, 2 hotels, a store and 2 railroad depots. In the 20th century, estates and mansions were built and "gentleman farmers" of great wealth came to the area, many using the town as a summer retreat. Several homes from this period are still standing, including the Bartholf-Hughes House, the Post-Terhune House, and the Atterbury-Brockhurst home. In 1922 Franklin Lakes separated from Franklin Township and incorporated.
In 1695, a group of Dutch settlers paid the Sachems of the Pompton and Minsi Indian tribes for the land that is now Oakland. The Indians called the area Ramapaugh meaning "river of many round ponds." The Dutch, following suit, called the area De Panne or "The Ponds." By 1710, there were only 10 families at The Ponds. Travel to the area was difficult - at least a day and a half journey from Hackensack along Indian trails.
During the Revolutionary War, Ramapo Valley Road through Oakland was a very important connection to West Point. Couriers with letters, commands, maps and battle plans used the route. George Washington sent messengers along the road with false documents to mislead the British, should they be intercepted. In 1835, the first bridge across the Ramapo River was built. The New Jersey Midland Railroad was built in 1869, making Oakland more accessible and allowing products to be more easily marketed. In 1870, the town's name was changed from The Ponds to Oakland. Tourists, vacationers, hunters, fishermen and hikers came to use the river, beaches, ponds and forest. In 1902 Oakland was incorporated and elected its first mayor and council.
Bergen County was formed in 1683 and was one of the four original New Jersey counties. It is one of the top five wealthiest counties in the country and consistently rates in the top ten healthiest places to live in the United States. The county has the lowest tax rate in New Jersey and, statewide, has the greatest percentage of jobs and businesses.
The county is rich in culture. The John Harms Center of the Arts is Bergen County's largest theatre. Music, dance, family shows, nationally recognized performers and holiday productions are featured here. The 70-year-old Bergen County Players perform at the Little Firehouse Theatre in Oradell. For revivals of hit Broadway shows, visit the American State Playhouse. The Saddle River Valley Cultural Center is housed in a 160-year-old church. Productions for children, adults and families are mounted here in a small intimate theatre. The Center also offers classes in dance, music, and acting. The New Jersey Ballet, Symphony Orchestra and Repertory Opera perform in Bergen County and around the state.
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