Excerpt from the book Four Chapters of Paterson History
by Charles A. Shriner
copyright 1919

In the early days this part of New Jersey all the ground now covered by the city of Paterson was in the township of Acquackanonk and this township was in Essex county. Paterson was the first put on the map as a township in 1831 as part of Essex county. On February 7, 1837, the lawmakers of New Jersey passed a law which created the county of Passaic by taking the township of Acquackanonk from Essex county and a large part of the township of Saddle River from Bergen county.

The City of Paterson

When Paterson became a township the people here were very poor and money was so scarce that even a rich man of those days would be considered poor today. Some idea of what money was worth in those days may be gained from the fact that the counsel of the township, Daniel Barkalow, one of the most prominent lawyers Passaic county produced, was satisfied with a salary of ten dollars for a whole year’s work. The voters every year decided how much money should be spent for various branches of government, until 1849 when it was decided not to spend another dollar for any purpose. There was no money for the poor, for the streets, for the schools or for anything else. The poor master had paid ten dollars a year rent for the poor house and had received one dollar a week for the board of each of the poor; the authorities sold the poor house. The township owned what was known as the “town lot”, over four and seven-tenths aces at what is now Broadway and East Eighteenth street; this was sold for eight hundred dollars. At the regular election in 1850 the voters again decided in favor of no taxes; a special election was held and the result was the same; everything seemed at a standstill when another election was called and the voters agreed to spend fifty dollars for the support of the poor for one year and they would not agree to give a dollar for any other purpose. What little money was used for government came from the pockets of men who were willing to loan it to the township and trust to the honor of the people to pay it back some time in the future.

But there came a time for a change, for there was more work, the factories being busy. The people decided in 1851 by vote of 772 to 330 to change the township into a city and the government passed into the hands of a council, the president of which was pretty much what the mayor became in after years.There were three wards and there boundaries were very simple. All of Paterson lying east of Main street and north of Market street was the East ward; all west of Main street and north of Market street was the West ward and the rest of the city was the South ward. In 1854 the city reached out and added what is now the First and Second wards of the city, excepting the land lying north of Totowa avenue and west of Oldham brook; this strip was added the following year and the whole made into the North ward. The Fifth was made the same year by taking from the South ward all east of Cross and Marshall streets. The title of the government was changed to ” The Mayor and Alderman of the City of Paterson,” and large leather badges were provided for the aldermen; these badges indicated the ward the bearer represented and were in use for a number of years. In 1869 the city took enough real estate from the township of Acquackanonk to make the city’s southerly line Crooks avenue and the westerly line West Twenty-Seventh street.

The legislature of 1907 provided that a mayor of Paterson should appoint Commissioners of Finance, of Public Works and of Police and Fire. The Board of Finance divides up the money received from taxpayers among various branches of the city government and looks after the money interests of the city; without the approval of the Board of Finance no bills, excepting those of the Board of Education, can be paid. The Board of Public Works looks after the public buildings, the streets and such matters.