In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
In 1666 Puritans sought new land to fix.
Columbus, charting a shortcut to the Indies came looking for gold and spices. His was largely a business trip, for which he was to receive 10% of everything found. Robert Treat, Jasper Crane and the other settlers who sailed into Newark Bay came for religious reasons. They had left Connecticut, where worldliness and “Godlessness” trampled their Puritan beliefs. Newark was to be a new and shining theocracy where church and government were to be one.
Columbus of course did not “discover” America nor that the world was not flat, and he found less wealth than he sought. Nor were the Puritans able to create a sustainable shining theocracy. Both the Italian captain and the strict theocrats were bold individuals who left their mark on history.
Newark has a plaque on the ground where the Puritans landed (next to NJPAC) and the original settlers and their intentions are memorialized on plaques at the entrance to the Robert Treat Hotel. Columbus has his very own holiday, much appreciated by those who do not have to work today.
However, let’s not forget that both left a sad legacy of injustice toward the inhabitants they met. Columbus kidnapped about 25 Hispaniola natives to Spain, most dying in route. He tricked the natives and supported their enslavement. Newark’s first inhabitants – The Lenape Indians – on the shore when the settlers arrived were also tricked and mistreated. As John Cunningham recounts in his book NEWARK, “Gradually the Lenape Indians disappeared. They died from diseases of the newcomers – particularly smallpox – and were pushed out of their fishing and hunting grounds. The last of them accepted a reservation in Burlington County in 1758. The few who remained in 1802 joined others of their tribe then living at Lake Oneida, NY.”