History of Jamaica, Borough of Queens, NYC

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Jamaica derives its name from the Jameco tribe of Indians whose main village was at the southern end of Baisley's Pond, or Nassau Lake as it is now called. A charter for the town was granted to fifteen English families in 1650 by Governor Peter Stuyvesant acting for the States General of Holland and the Dutch West India Company.

The first settlement was made in that year around Beaver Pond, which was full of Beaver in those days, and the Beaver skins were the principal money of the colony.

Each man was granted a house-lot within the stockade, a plantation lot for farming, a wood lot for fire-wood, and a salt meadow lot for hay for cattle and horses.

The town grew rapidly, many people coming from the Eastern end of Long island, Connecticut, and what is now Kings County.

Jamaica village, or Rustdorp, as the Hollanders called it, was the center of a thriving agricultural community; New York was considered as being far away in those days. Jamaica Avenue was an old Indian trail and the only means of access to Brooklyn and New York. In Colonial days, the courts for the whole colony were held in Jamaica.

Very early the settlers realized the value of Jamaica Bay, and numerous docks or landings, as they were called, were built and much of the traffic and commerce with the outside world was carried on by means of boats. Some of these landings still exist.

Long before the Revolutionary War the town was noted for horse racing, one of the favorite tracks being around Beaver Pond. Churches were established at an early date, the Presbyterian in 1662, which is the oldest Presbyterian Church in the United States; the Dutch Reform in 1695; the Episcopal in 1701. Education was fostered from an early period; Daniel Whitehead left a legacy to the town in 1705 for the creation of a Latin school. In 1787 Union Hall Academy for boys, and Union Hall Seminary for girls were chartered and these became noted throughout North and South America.

The first great step forward was the granting of a charter to the Brooklyn, Flatbush, and Jamaica Turnpike Company, which company improved the highway, over which all the traffic of the island for miles east of Jamaica passed.

The next great step in progress was the granting of a charter to the Brooklyn and Jamaica Railroad Company which built its Railroad from Jamaica to South Ferry.

In 1855 the Brooklyn and Jamaica Plank Road Company was chartered and the old turnpike taken over and made a Plank Road. In 1866 the Jamaica and East new York Horse Car Company, was chartered and it built a horse car line from Jamaica to East New York on the Plank Road where it connected with the horse car lines on Fulton Avenue and Broadway in East New York.

In 1870 the South Side Railroad was built from Long island City through Jamaica to Babylon. Previously the Long Island Railroad had laid its line from Jamaica to Long Island City.

Still Jamaica remained an agricultural community although many people whose business was in New York had moved to Jamaica, it being an especially desirable place of residence.

About 1890 two things occurred which started Jamaica on a course of phenomenal growth in population which has continued with increasing energy to the present day. Mr. F. W. Dunton started a strong crusade for good roads. About the same time electric traction was perfected and trolley cars took the place of horse cars, so that today the business and professional man, the mechanic, and laborer can reside in Jamaica and at small cost and in a short time reach his place of business.


Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: History of Jamaica, Borough of Queens, NYC
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


Survey of Jamaica : borough of Queens, New York City.
New York: Jamaica Board of Trade, 1920 Anonymous
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