In 1694, Arent Schuyler, a young surveyor, miner and land speculator, was sent into north-western New Jersey to investigate rumors that the French were trying to incite the local Lenni-Lenape Native Americans to rebel against the English. Schuyler found no evidence of a rebellion, but discovered a rich fertile valley where the Lenni-Lenape grew a variety of crops. Schuyler reported his findings to the English and then convinced Major Anthony Brockholst, Samuel Bayard, Samuel Berry, Hendrick and David Mandeville, George Ryerson and John Mead to invest in the purchase of the land he referred to as the Pompton Valley. The seven chose Schuyler to be negotiator with the Lenape for the rights to the area. Samuel Bayard purchased 5,000 acres  from the East Jersey Company on November 11, 1695, in what was then known as New Barbadoes Township in Bergen County.

In 1710, this same area became part of Saddle River Township in Bergen County. By 1837, the residents of Wayne found themselves in Manchester Township in the newly formed Passaic County. Finally, on April 12, 1847, the first Wayne Township organization meeting was held at the Henry Casey House on the Paterson-Hamburg Turnpike. The citizens voted to name the town after American Revolutionary War General Anthony Wayne. The first mayor, called the Chairman of the Township Committee until 1962, was William S. Hogencamp.

Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, Wayne remained a farming community. The Morris Canal ran through the southwestern part of Wayne, carrying produce to market and coal from Pennsylvania. The canal was replaced by the railroad at the end of the 19th century. In the early 20th century, Wayne grew as a vacation retreat for wealthy New Yorkers. In the summer, visitors came from Manhattan and Brooklyn to live in the summer bungalows and enjoy the rivers.

After World War II, many summer bungalows were converted to year-round residences to accommodate factory workers and farmland was converted to residential living. As Wayne grew, it adopted its current form of government in 1962. Modern highways, including New Jersey Route 23, U.S. Route 46, and Interstate 80 made Wayne easily accessible, and several national firms have located here.

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