The Washington Spring: A Bergen County, NJ Historic Site
Van Saun County Park
216 Forest Avenue
Paramus/River Edge, NJ 07652
*Located in Van Saun Park at the entrance.
The Washington Spring, a 1/2 area within Van Saun County Park, is associated with General George Washington and the movement of his Continental Army through this area of Bergen County during the Revolutionary War.
The hollow between hills known as “Slukup” until it was changed to the more pleasant-sounding “Spring Valley” in 1832. In the Dutch Frisan language “slukup” described a boggy area. The local Banta family was from Friesland in northern Holland and one of the area’s earliest settlers. Natural springs feed the streams in this area that flow through Van Saun Pond and eventually into the Hackensack River. The park’s land was part of 300 acres owned by Albert Zabriske in 1686. In 1695, he sold 224 acres to Jacob Van Saun of New York City.
The road to Slukup, now Howland Avenue, served as the border between Jacob Van Saun’s farm to the south and son-in-law Christian Dederer’s farm to the north. Hendrick C. Banta, who owned a cider mill in the Steenrapie area (River Edge), lived west of the Mill Creek that flows through the park.
On September 4, 1780, General Washington moved the troops of the Continental army, numbering approximately 14,000 into a strategic encampment west of the Hackensack River between New Bridge in the south and Kinderkamack to the north in Steenrapie. They were part of the defense to challenge the British military stronghold on Manhattan and prevent any intervention with the landing of allied French troops in Rhode Island. Hendrick Banta reportedly sold a barrel of cider to these troops “every other day”. His 10 year old son, Cornelius, reportedly saw General Washington on his horse three times. During one of these sightings the General was watering his horse at the spring, giving rise to the name “Washington Spring”.
On September 17th, General Washington, General Knox and the Marquis de Lafayette, who was headquartered at the northern end of the encampment in the area known as “Soldier Hill” in Oradell, left for Hartford, Connecticut to meet the recently arrived French commanding officers. The rest of the Continental Army decamped on September 20th.
The Bergen County Park Commission was created in November 1946 and in 1987 because the Division of Parks. Recreation and Cultural Affairs. Van Saun Park, whose 140 acres include Washington Spring, was created in 1957. Also, within the park is the Bergen Zoological Park, that opened in 1960. Open year round during park hours and is surrounded by accessible pathways.
The Spring area, which is right off the parking lot leading to the zoo, is beautifully landscaped with benches, pathways and flowering plants like azaleas, rhododendrons and flowering trees. In the early spring, the look around the Spring is quite colorful and picturesque. It is a nice way to spend the afternoon, walking quietly around the paths and see where the General once watered his horse. The entrance of the Spring is under plants but becomes a stream further down. Another part of the great history of Revolutionary War and the part New Jersey played in winning the war.
*Disclaimer: this information is taken directly from the Bergen County Division of Cultural & Historic Affairs pamphlet. The Spring is part of Van Saun Park as you drive in and watch for the signs. It really is a beautifully landscaped part of the park and its historical influence in the war should not be missed. (2015 Bergen County division of Cultural and Historic Affairs. The Bergen County Division of Cultural & Historic Affairs received an operating grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State.