Perhaps 10,000 Lenni Lenapes occupied New Jersey at the time of European contact. Like many Woodlands peoples, the Lenni Lenape lived in semipermanent agricultural villages and spent part of the year hunting, fishing, and trading.
In the early 1600s, New Jersey Indians began trading with Dutch and Swedish outposts along the Delaware and Hudson Rivers. But even prior to the appearance of European traders along the Delaware, disease and war with the Iroquois of upstate New York decimated their population. Many Lenni Lenapes responded to these pressures on their population by joining other native nations and tribes in Pennsylvania and New York. The colony’s European population had swelled to nearly 14,000 by 1700, placing further pressure on the native population. The Lenni Lenape continued to sell land often under duress and to move out of the colony in hopes of incorporating themselves into other tribes and consolidating their power. By 1763, fewer than 1,000 Native Americans lived in New Jersey.
Close proximity to Pennsylvania and New York shaped European settlement patterns in East and West Jersey. Many Quakers called West Jersey home, as did small enclaves of Dutch, Swedish, and Finnish settlers, remnants of the brief period of Dutch and Swedish colonization along the lower Delaware. Beginning in the 1720s, after entering the colonies at the port of Philadelphia, significant numbers of Germans and Scots-Irish Presbyterians settled in