Archeologists have traced human life in northern New Jersey back to 8640
BC, when an aboriginal tribe of Algonquin stock, the Lenni Lenape, which
translates to "Original People", migrated here from west of
the Mississippi. They called what is now New Jersey "Scheyichbi,"
meaning, "Land along the water." A sub-tribe of the Lenni Lenape,
the Wolf tribe, settled in Sussex County and was know as the "Munsee"
(or Minisinks), which translates to "People of the Stone Country."
The Lenni Lenapes were later called "Delaware" by early white
settlers. The Delaware consisted of two other sub-tribes: the "Unami"
(turtle) and the "Unalachtigo" (turkey). The Munsee lived in
the mountainous northern region of the state and were the most war-like
due to the necessity of self-defense against raiding Iroquois from New
While most Munsee settled in the Minisink area of Delaware, some lived
along the Wallkill River, which runs through Ogdensburg and Franklin.
They called the river "Twischsawkin" and they settled along
it in relatively unprotected housing, and for short periods of time, in
order to elude the raiding Iroquois.
Eventually, when game, fish and forageable fruit showed signs of depletion,
most of the Munsee migrated to Oklahoma and Canada.
In the early 1600s the Dutch came down the Wallkill to settle in the
Franklin/Ogdensburg area. They named the river after the River Wall in
the Netherlands. On the heels of the Dutch were the English and the French
Huguenots. The Huguenots came circa 1685, using many Indian trails that
crossed this area. The Dutch began trading with the remaining Munsee along
the Delaware and its tributaries.
the real reason the Dutch were so anxious to come to the Ogdensburg area
was to find the rich ore deposits that they heard about. They were puzzled
over the ore deposit and never realized that an oxide later to be called
zincite (composed primarily of zinc, coupled
with oxygen) was in fact relatively free of other heavy metals such as
lead, cadmium and copper (usually found in other zinc ore deposits). As
a result, their attempts at mining the ore failed.
The Franklin-Sterling Hill areas had adequate water for farming and forging,
much good agricultural land, abundant forests and wildlife, and the metal
ores were exposed at the surface. So it was only a matter of time before
another wave of settlers moved into the area to exploit the ore deposits.
In the mid-1740s, miners came to the area, wresting metal from the rocks.
Farmers soon followed and they set up symbiotic communities, one group
creating farming and cooking implements of iron, the other group feeding
Over the following two centuries, a great number of very talented men
would develop mines in the area, first in search of iron, then zinc.