During the American Revolution, a ferry proved important to the Patriot cause prior to and during the Battle of Fort Washington in 1776. Etienne Burdett, a merchant of Huguenot parentage who settled in Manhattan, bought several hundred acres of property on the shore of the Hudson River near Fort Lee, New Jersey.

Ferry landing in Fort Lee, NJThe family-run ferry service started in 1758. Burdett established a trading post and built his home, a gambrel-roofed structure, at a forest clearing at the foot of a gorge on what is now River Road in Edgewater. This house stood at the site until 1899. From the colonial period to the present, this particular section of Fort Lee was known by various names such as Tillie Tudlem, Tillie Toodlem, Fort Lee Park, Pleasant Valley and Burdett’s Landing.

A road connecting the ferry landing to the top of the palisades was to become known as the Hackensack Turnpike. This route is presently known as Hudson Terrace and connected with Main Street in Fort Lee.

Originally, the ferry was used for the transporting of goods and passengers on a type of sailing boat called periougas. It was one of the major connecting points for the farmers who brought their products from the inland towns of New Jersey to New York City.

The ferry had passed through the family and was doing well. During the American Revolution, Peter Burdett (Etienne’s bother) had become an ardent patriot and operated the ferry for the American Army as a supply line and communications network. His wife was well known to cook flapjacks for General Washington and his staff officers when they were in the area of the Burdett ferry and landing prior to the fall of New York. This story was related to the public by Peter’s grandson T. Fletcher Burdett, a Fort Lee resident in 1900.

Burdett’s Ferry had the distinction of being involved in two military engagements during the siege of New York. The first was on August 18, 1776, and the second was on October 27, 1776. Both occasions were against the British ships HMS Rose and HMS Phoenix, both of which sustained damage.

Burdett’s Ferry was pressed into service by the Continental Army to serve as a vital link between Fort Lee and Fort Washington. In the last days before the Battle of Fort Washington on November 16, 1776, there had been much activity between the forts. There was a meeting between General Washington and his senior officers in the middle of the Hudson River the night before the battle.

The last time the ferry was used was to transport Captain Gooch to Fort Washington to deliver a letter from General Washington to Colonel Robert Magaw, the commanding officer of the beleaguered fort. Unfortunately, the message was never received due to the heat of battle and the fort being surrounded by the British troops advancing from the south and Hessians from the north. Captain Gooch barely made it back to the boat he used and returned safely to Fort Lee to report the incident to Washington.

In time Burdett’s Ferry was no longer needed. It was replaced by other ferry routes that plied the Hudson River in the 19th and 20th centuries.


Good morning. I am a direct ancestor of the Bourdette (Burdette) family. I am presently writing a young adult novel concerning the family ferry and would like to be in contact with anyone who has information concerning the family and the ferry. Thanks for your help. Thom Schwarz

Posted by: Thom Schwarz | November 4, 2005 10:54 AM

Mr. Schwarz, I am a direct descendant of the Burdett family and my name is Paul Fletcher Burdett III. My father is Paul Fletcher Burdett Jr. and my grandfather is Paul Fletcher Burdett Sr. I am 16 years old and my family would love to be of any service to you concerning the ferry. Please contact us at pfburdettjr@aol.com.

Posted by: Paul Fletcher Burdett III | November 9, 2005 7:59 PM

I’m working on a book about the history of the Hudson River crossings. Although the book’s primary focus is the river’s bridges and tunnels, I’m trying to provide proper context for that material by telling what I can about the ferries that preceded (and were displaced by) the bridges and tunnels. If you can tell me anything about Burdette’s Bridge beyond what is reported on this most informative website, I’d be extremely grateful. Thanks. Don Wolf, Somers,NY

Posted by: don wolf | May 5, 2006 1:08 PM

Interesting story regarding the Burdett Ferry. Any male Burdett descendants, please consider participating in our Burdett DNA project. This exciting new project will assist all Burdett descendants in finding the many ‘Burdett’ origins. www.burdettdna.org

Posted by: Andrew Burdett | January 21, 2007 4:04 PM

Peter Burdett was my fifth great Grandfather on my Dad’s side. I am wondering how and if we are related to the Burdetts from Tenn and Virginia. Also would like to know about Rachel, Peter’s wife my fifth great grandmother. I found out on the internet that she was of Indian descent from the Lenape Tribe and would like to find out more info on her. Please email me with any info on thr Burdetts. Thanks,

Posted by: Carla Hoy | December 10, 2007 9:53 AM

Good morning all, Computer problems are seemingly as prevalent as computer successes. I have had a difficult connecting with and staying connected with you all. My research about the family continues, as does my writing of a young adult novel about the third week of November, 1776, and the family’s involvement. I’d be most grateful if you all would contact me (thomapl@Yahoo.com) so that we might continue this interesting, fun quest. Respectfully, Thom Schwarz 231 Gretna Road Pleasant Valley NY 12569

Posted by: Thom Schwarz | March 4, 2008 11:59 AM

My name is David Francis Burdett, and I was born in Glen Ridge, NJ on 9 June 1923. My father was John Lloyd Burdett; he was born in Leonia or Fort Lee, NJ in October 1880. His father Francis Burdett who lived in New York City and later in several places in New Jersey. That is where my knowledge ends, but I believe my family descended from Etienne Bourdette who appeared in the Fort Lee area of New Jersey before the American Revolution. Any help in finding my family ties before Francis Burdett or the Burdetts of the Fort Lee area would be much appreciated.

Posted by: David F. Burdett | April 4, 2008 1:21 PM

Carla Hoy, I read your article at the Fortlee.com website under history. It states at the end that you recopied the information. I was interested in learning more about this. I find the subject of the Burdett ferry interesting and would like to learn more. Thank you.

Posted by: Andrew Allen | March 7, 2009 3:13 PM

realy enjoyed reading this bit of history, I did not even think a ferry had been created in the year 1776, amazing when you think of the parts of NY now.

Posted by: gavelect | April 23, 2009 7:24 AM

Burdett’s Ferry

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