The Lenni Lenape, or Delaware, Indians occupied New Jersey and parts of Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York an estimated several centuries before the Europeans arrived. Historians and geographers believe that the Indian population was about 6,000, or about twelve to thirty inhabitants per 100 square miles. The peaceful Unami and Unalachtigo tribes lived in the central and southern portions, respectively.  The Unalachtigos lived in semi-permanent villages in what is today Salem, Cumberland, and Cape May counties. Permanent villages were few, but they served as important cultural centers. The Lenape founded most of these settlements along major waterways, especially the Delaware River. Three such centers are known to have existed; the one in South Jersey was on the Cohansey River near Bridgeton. 
The Indian domicile was the single-family wigwam dispersed around the Big House, a ceremonial structure. Three types of wigwams existed: a circular floor plan with a dome-shaped roof, a rectangular floor plan with an arched roof, and a rectangular floor plan with a gable roof. This framework was secured by saplings tied crosswise over the upright poles. The more permanent dwellings were covered with shingles made from chestnut, elm, cedar or other bark, while the temporary dwellings were covered with woven mats.  The Indian village contained other structures, including a "sweathouse," or sauna, as well as gardens and cylindrical pits in which food was stored inside the wigwam.
The Lenape practiced tree girdling and slash-and-burn techniques to clear land to raise corn, squash, beans, rice, sunflowers, cranberries, blueberries, and tobacco; many of these were domesticated by the Indians and later adopted by the Europeans.  The Indians not only provided the first Europeans with proof of fertile soil, but their trails provided travel routes. As white settlements increased, however, the Indians were perceived as a growing obstacle. White prejudice, in conjunction with Indian inability to accept private-land ownership, eventually led to the latter's westward migration.  Before their departure west, many Lenapes lived on Brotherton Reservation, the first in the United States, established in 1762 in Burlington County. The Indians were provided with European-style houses, a school, store, meeting house, and a gristmill. 
In the late eighteenth century, the Lenape remained briefly on the reservation before moving to New York state. By 1822, only forty direct Lenape descendants remained in the area, and they moved to land purchased by New Jersey in Green Bay, Wisconsin (then part of Michigan Territory). This transaction marked the end of New Jersey's ties with the Lenape Indians until recently. Today, Bridgeton hosts a cultural center where visitors can learn about Lenape heritage. 
Dutch, British, and Scottish pamphleteers encouraged settlers to voyage to the New World in the seventeenth century. The Dutchthe first to arrive in the 1620soffered the most realistic assessment of the difficulties associated with finding adequate food, shelter, and other basic settlement needs. At that time they owned a considerable portion of North Jersey and New York, then called the New Netherlands. 
The early seventeenth century also saw Swedish and British settlers arrive, and thus by the 1630s, competition erupted among these three nations for control over the colony. More Swedes arrived in 1635 and attempted to set up a colony near Wilmington, Delaware; the Dutch made the same claim. Meanwhile, fifty English families sailed from England to settle near Varchens Kill (Salem River), which was then part of New Amsterdam (Figs. 2-3).
Conflicting loyalty led the Swedes to construct Fort Elfsborg in 1643 in Salem County; historians disagree, however, whether it was built on the Delaware River side or the Bay side of Elsinboro point.  The Swedish effort to gain control of the area was shattered when mosquitoes forced them to abandon the fort in 1652.
Despite their failure to establish a permanent colony, the Swedes contributed to colonial American architecture. "However, their numbers were so small and their impact so ephemeral that most of the elements were decorative rather than definitive."  One original structure attributed to a Swedish origin is the Caesar Hoskins Cabin in Mauricetown.  The exact date of construction is unknown, but local historians suggest 1680-1714. In Hancock's Bridge, the Cedar Plank House (ca. 1701), is typical of a Swedish log cabin (Fig. 4).
South Jerseyans have re-created an example of this heritage based on written literature and artifacts. In Bridgeton, a Swedish log village was erected in 1988 based on American records, archeological findings, and Swedish building technology. Several local historians have also attempted to reconstruct models of the Swedes' Fort Elfsborg; a replica is found in the Salem County Courthouse. Today, the Swedish presence in colonial South Jersey is represented by the aforementioned cabins and the reconstruction in the Bridgeton municipal park.
The first successful white settlement in South Jersey was established in 1675 by the British. In 1660 King Charles II gave to John Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret the colony of New JerseyEast and West, the approximate size of the state today. Thirteen years later John Fenwick, a major in Cromwell's army and a newly converted Quaker, purchased from Berkeley a tract of land that would become West Jersey for £1,000. Fenwick soon was ensnared in a land dispute when Quaker colleague Edward Byllynge claimed Fenwick acquired the land using his money.
The defiant Fenwick, along with a group of fellow Quakers, voyaged to the New World aboard the GRIFFIN, landing near Salem on 23 September 1675.  That year Fenwick bought hunting and occupancy rights to land that included Salem and Cumberland counties from the Lenni Lenape Indians in exchange for English goods. Fenwick and thirteen Indian chiefs are popularly alleged to have signed the agreement under the oak tree in Salem's Quaker cemetery. Escape to the New World, however, did not end the problems for Fenwick: Byllynge and two other creditors sought compensation, so Fenwick asked William Penn to arbitrate. Penn met with Carteret to legitimize Fenwick's holdings, which resulted in the Quintipartite Agreement dividing the colony into West Jersey and East Jersey. The division ran from Little Egg Harbor, north of present Atlantic City, to the upper Delaware.  In addition, Penn declared that Fenwick did not "own more than one-tenth of the whole of West Jersey, and that the other nine-tenths went to the hitherto defrauded creditors and Byllynge." 
Despite Penn's intervention and the agreement, Fenwick still faced creditors and disagreement over the boundaries. Governor Andross of New York jailed him for his claim to West Jersey. In 1682 he sold all of West Jersey to William Penn except for 6,000 acres called Fenwick's Grove, which lies in the present-day Mannington Township, Salem County. Fenwick died the following year, but the colonists continued to be plagued by ownership disputes. As more settlers arrived, however, pressure on the proprietors and governors increased to determine, finally, the borders. Matters were complicated by squatters and land riots.  By 1702, Royal Governor Edward, the Lord Cornbury, reunited East and West Jersey under his leadership.