Early attempts by the Dutch to settle in Bergen County were unsuccessful; but in 1660, settlers returned to the western shores of the Hudson and created the first permanent European settlement in the territory we now call New Jersey.
The origin of the name of Bergen County is clouded in mystery; some believe the name of the county derives from this earliest settlement, Bergen. However other sources claim that earliest settlement was named after Bergen, Norway. Still others point to Bergen op Zoom in the Netherlands; and some believe the name was taken from the Dutch word meaning “hill” or “place of safety.” One of the earliest settlers of New Amsterdam (now New York City) was Hans Hansen Bergen, a native of Norway who arrived here in 1633; some say it was named after him.
Although no one is sure of the source of its name, there is no question about its location; Bergen County is located at the northeastern corner of New Jersey. It’s bordered by Rockland County, New York to the north; by Manhattan and the Bronx in New York City, as well as by Westchester County, New York, across the Hudson River to the east; and within New Jersey, by Hudson County as well as a small border with Essex County to the south, and by Passaic County to the west.
The Dutch are long gone; however Bergen County now houses another large immigrant group: the Korean American community, which is concentrated along the Hudson River, especially in the area near the George Washington Bridge. Their Bergen County presence represents over half the state’s Korean population.
The per capita Korean American population of Bergen County, 6.3 percent by the 2010 US Census, is the highest of any county in the United States. Eight of the nation’s top ten municipalities by percentage of Korean population are located in Bergen County, including Palisades Park, Leonia, Fort Lee, Ridgefield, Closter, Norwood, Edgewater, and Englewood Cliffs.
Indian Americans — not American Indians — represent the second-largest Asian ethnic group in Bergen County, with slightly larger numbers than the Filipino and Chinese communities. Within the county’s Indian population is a prominent Malayali community.