Bogota Tercentenary 1664-1964

















From 1693 to 1871, Bogota and the surrounding country from the Hackensack to the Hudson Rivers formed part of the “Old Hackensack Township.”


The Hackensack River, which forms Bogota’s western boundary, was a primary mode of travel for the several Indian villages camped along its shores.  The heading tribe was known as the Lenni-Lenapes.  White men, in time, migrated farther and farther up the river to exchange their goods for the Indian handiwork.  With his coming, the first problems of communication arose.  Sign language, satisfactory for simple trading, was inadequate for the settling of disputes, granting of land rights and similar controversies.  Finally, a white woman, Sarah Kierstede, mastered the language of the Indian and acted as interpreter.


Early maps show Fort Lee Road as an Indian trail starting at the Hackensack River and crossing the meadows to the Hudson River.  As the settlers increased in number, their herds of cattle were driven to market and the trail was sufficiently widened by their hoofs to accommodate the wagon trains bearing goods and farm produce to the large cities.  This road later became the through route for the United States mail from the interior of the country to Boston and New York.  Other footpaths followed the course of the river, one of which became the River Road we know today.


The fertile land on the eastern side of the Hackensack River drew the early Dutch farmers who tilled the soil and added their harvests to the mounting trade of the community travel east and west increased.  The crossing of the Hackensack, once easily made by a rider swimming his horse, was found too difficult for lumbering and heavily laden wagons.  For many years a ferry or barge sufficed until 1793 when a drawbridge was built and the mounting tide of traffic moved on its way unhindered.


Clay pits were discovered on the bank of the river so that the brick industry added its products to the trade flowing from the thriving little settlement.  Toward the middle of the nineteenth century the productivity of the section became apparent to the railroad so that in 1869 the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railroad laid its tracks through Bogota.  In 1892 the West Shore Railroad was started.


In 1871, the Ridgefield Township was set off from the Old Hackensack Township and Bogota was in the Ridgefield Township until 1894.


Early in 1894, the legislature passed a new Borough Act which wiped out former subsidiary school districts, and made each township a separate district. Taxpayers were obliged to pay, pro rata, existing debts of the old districts besides all future debts of the township for school purposes. Exempt from this provision of tax were boroughs, towns, villages, and cities: consequently, twenty-six boroughs were formed between January 23 and December 18, 1894.  The Borough Act permitted portions of townships to incorporate separately.



During the latter part of October 1894, a meeting of citizens, residing within the proposed Borough limits was called for a general discussion of the project.  A decided majority of the citizens were in favor of incorporation.  A committee was appointed.  The results of the work of the committee was the ordering by Court of an election to be held November 14, 1894 so that the legal voters within the proposed limits might cast their ballots for or against the incorporation Fifty-seven votes were cast, of which thirty-eight votes were for incorporation and nineteen against.


The decision having been made to incorporate, preparations were made for the election of the Borough officers.  A primary was held. January 10, 1895 for the purpose of nominating the Borough officers.  The election took place January 15, 1895.  The Borough Council, duly elected, held its first meeting January 23, 1895.  The Mayor and Councilmen took the oath of office, a Borough Clerk was appointed, and the organization of the Borough Government was completed.


On March 12, 1895, the newly elected Borough Council appointed a Marshal to keep law and order.  Several burglaries wore committed and West Shore freight cars were opened and entered, which spurred the Council to appoint a Vigilante Committee.  This group of thirty-five marshals made Bogota an unhealthy place for vagrants and criminally inclined.  Saturday night was the big night to round up any tramps sleeping in haylofts of Borough barns.  Flanked by severa1 marshals, the prisoner was marched off to the lockup - -the Mayor’s icehouse.  The next morning he was arraigned. If the offense was serious, he was taken to Hackensack for trial and held in the County Jail.  If he were a tramp, he was given breakfast and hot coffee at the Mayor’s expense and ordered to leave town.  In January 1908, a salaried marshal went on part-time duty replacing the fee-for-each-arrest system which had been in effect.


In the little rural village of Bogota in the early days of the Gay Nineties there were only about 23 homes and 10 farmhouses.  These homes were located principally on Larch Avenue and River Road, between Munn Avenue and Fort Lee Road.


The people who lived in these homes, in those early years, were men and women of vision and venture, labor and sacrifice.  They were sun-tanned, raw-boned farmers, hard-headed business men, and even white collared Bogotans.   They had their jobs, their dreams, their families and they had their fun.  The young­sters gathered walnuts and chestnuts, picked wild mushrooms, hunted Indian relics in the sand piles and skated or swam in the Hackensack River. Families visited, held weekly cottage prayer meetings at different homes, went boating, crabbing, fishing or rabbit hunting.  Those in love courted on front porches or in lamplit parlors or in the buggy.  Of course the children had their three “R’s” but they had to go to Hackensack to get them.


The real social life of Bogota actually began when the Bogota Boat Club was organized in 1895.  Many barn dances took place there, euchre and ping pong were enjoyed, afternoon teas were givn by the ladies, bazaars were held and the Labor ay Regatta was something no native would dare say he missed.


Prior to 1898, there was a population of less than four hundred, one banking institution, The Bogota Building and Loan Association; three industries, The Bogota Water and Light (which furnished no light), The Riverside Planning Mill, and The Bogota Paper Company.  In April 1898, the Bergen Traction Company was granted a franchise to run a trolley terminating at River Road.  This trolley connected with Leonia, Englewood, Fort Lee, and the 125th Street Ferry.  Throngs, both young and old, from New York took advantage of open trolley rides on hot summer evenings.


Expansion in the development of homes started almost immediately.  The gas main and electric cable from Hackensack was completed in 1900; cesspools disappeared, sewers had been installed.  The Larch Avenue Grammar School, now the Municipal Building, was erected, even though only two of the five rooms were occupied on September 25, 1899.  People no longer have to worship God in their homes alone; there was the Bogart Memorial Church on Larch Avenue.


The first fire company was formed in 1901 with twenty-three members.  These men proudly pulled on the sidewalks its two-wheeled carriage, properly equipped with 450 feet of hose and two nozzles and costing $185.  Firemen were summoned by hammering an old alarm tire at 235 River Road.


Bogota’s Public Library had its origin in the Bogota Book Club, founded in February 1909 by ten young women of the Borough who realized the need for such a project.  Meeting in their own homes every other week, the young women built up the nucleus of a library by assessing themselves twenty cents apiece at each meeting.  With the funds obtained in this manner, two books were purchased each meeting for ninety-eight cents a volume.  Five years later in 1914, a meeting was held for the purpose of forming a Library Association.  In February 1915, a real start was given the Library when a collection day was held and more than one thousand books were donated by citizens of Bogota.  The Mayor and Council cooperated by giving the Association the use of two rooms in the Borough Hall.


The foregoing is a bird’s-eye view of the early beginnings of Bogota.  Through the years, we have grown larger in homes, population, industry, schools, churches and municipal services.  We, Bogotans, are proud of our mile-square community.






The 1990 Census figures list the population of Bogota as 7,824.