Between 1674 and 1702, the province of West New Jersey was owned and governed by a group of men collectively known as the West Jersey Proprietors. The first proprietors were two Quakers, Edward Byllynge and John Fenwick, who acquired rights to half of New Jersey in 1674 from John, Lord Berkeley. Berkeley, along with Sir George Carteret, had been granted the colony in its entirety by James, Duke of York, the brother of King Charles II of England ten years earlier. Following the bankruptcy of Byllynge, control of his share in the enterprise passed to three trustees - William Penn, Gawen Lawrie and Nicholas Lucas.
The Proprietors drew up the "Concessions and Agreements," a historic framework for government and settlement in the new province, and began to sell shares in the colony. Internal conflict developed almost immediately, since Fenwick wanted to create an independent settlement on his share of the colony, while Byllynge and his trustees preferred a single unified colonizing effort. Fenwick planted the first settlement at Salem in 1675; the other proprietors sent out their first colonists in 1677 and focused their settlement efforts further upstream along the Delaware around the village that later became the City of Burlington and the capital of West Jersey.
In the final years of the 17th century, in both West and East Jersey, friction began to build over the form and control of government between the colonists and the proprietors, many of whom, including the Provincial Governors, remained living in England. In 1702, as a solution to this unrest, the power of government passed to the Crown and the Royal Colony of New Jersey was created. The proprietorships have endured down to the present day, however, and they have been passed down through families and in some cases sold along with parcels of land. The proprietors of West Jersey still hold legal title to any unclaimed land discovered in the state and they have met in Burlington every April since 1688.
Links to learn more - New Jersey State Archives, Trenton; West Jersey Proprietors Office, Burlington