The Bronck family was a wealthy family living on many of the Harlem river’s surrounding acres. Jonas Bronck, the family patriarch, was a narcissistic man and wanted to name everything after himself. Thus, around 1639, the river became Bronck’s river. Once the Bronck’s started croaking and immigrants other than Swedes (Irish, German, Italian, Jewish….) settled more heavily in the area, the river retained it’s name. But, the Dutch realized it was easier to write an ‘x’ instead of “ck’s” (did they also invent “thanx”?!) and still have it indicate the possessive, so Bronck’s river, the Bronck river, became the Bronx.
Now, this only referred to the river, but in 1874, a huge area around the river became annexed into New York and was referred to as the Annexed District of the Bronx because the mighty river was the eastern border of the territory. Those aforementioned settlers hung around and weren’t quite as smart as the Dutch, and just plain forgot that the Bronx was a river and took the name to mean the whole territory. That territory became a borough, and it stuck. So ‘the’ just sort of happened.
The Village of Breuckelen was also named by the Dutch, but it didn’t refer to a river, and therefore didn’t take ‘the’ as part of its name. I guess the Gowanus just didn’t cut it…but just imagine…
Note to self: I’ll have to show Grandma how to use Google.