Roselle Park - History
When colonists came to the New World, some settled between the Hudson and
Delaware Rivers, in what is now New Jersey. A subtribe of Algonquin Indians
who called themselves Leni Lenape, meaning "men among men" were the primary
inhabitants until then. One of three subtribes of the Leni Lenape, known
as Unami or Turtle tribe, had a smaller kingdom called Raritans or Wawitane
and these are the Indians that occupied what is now known as Union County.
Although no evidence of an Indian village site has been found within Roselle
Park boundaries, it is believed that the original, meandering Westfield Avenue,
also known to be part of the Old York Road, was an Indian Trail. The Lenape
criss-crossed New Jersey and left a network of such trails, which became
colonial roads and later, highways.
After decades of efforts to unsettle Indians in the region west of Staten
Island, in 1651, early Dutch colonists purchased from them all of the land
lying between the Raritan River and the Passaic and extending indefinitely
inland. The Dutch, who had named a large portion of the east coast New
Netherland, were unsuccessful in settling this area. The English ousted the
Dutch in 1664, and colonized what is now Union County. This settlement was
named Elizabeth Town, after the wife of the proprietor, Sir George
The first record of settlement within the present Roselle Park properties
was by Samuel Williams, a Memorialist, in 1700, with his son, Joseph. Samuel's
father, Matthew Williams, had settled in Wethersfield, Connecticut and his
brother settled at Newark, New Jersey. Samuel was born in 1653, and married
Esther, a daughter of Nathaniel Wheeler of Newark. When he died in 1706,
he left five sons and three daughters. Settling on the meandering road to
the West Fields the family gave their name to this community, "Williams
Roselle Park is boundried on the east by Galloping Hill Road of Revolutionary
War fame. Scouts with messages to and from George Washington in Morristown
and Governor Livingston in Elizabeth Town continually galloped along this
artery. It is believed to be the route that British columns advanced to the
Battle of Connecticut Farms in June of 1780, battling along the way with
The son of General William Crane was bayoneted by the British near Galloping
Hill Road and West Fields Road, now Colonial Road. A monument erected on
the site was dedicated by the D.A.R. in 1913. The militia are memorialized
on that monument with words of praise from General Washington. The "Hospital
Oak" which offered shelter to Washington's troops on Galloping Hill Road
was near that tragic encounter on the edge of what is now Roselle Park.
Roselle Park's initial surge of residential and commercial development can
be traced to the installment of railroads throughout the community. The Central,
Lehigh Valley and Rahway Valley lines long served the commuting population.
In 1839, the first railroad began regular routes from Elizabethtown to
Plainfield, and soon a stop at Mulford Station, named in honor of a prominent
family, was scheduled, where Union Road crossed the tracks to Roselle. The
stop was moved to Chestnut street about 30 years later and named Roselle
in honor of the railroad president's good friend, John Pierre Roselle.
Union Township was set off from Elizabeth Town in 1808; Union County was
set off from Essex County in 1857. While still part of Union Township, this
area became known as North Roselle during the late 1800's. A committee of
independent leaders formed in 1900 to negotiate a separate identity for the
borough. Services such as sewer, safety, road maintenance, and education
which had been neglected at the south end of Union Township, needed immediate
On March 22, 1901, by an act of legislature of the State of New Jersey, Roselle
Park was successfully incorporated. A resident named Mr. Keddie suggested
the name. Roselle Park's first election brought in the borough's first governing
officials: John Cummings, Mayor; and Paul Hochart, Alfred Atkins, John Hemann,
Robert Gordon, Emery L. Lillibridge, and Charles Potter, Councilmen. The
first project they accomplished was the installation of Roselle Park's first
sewer system. This administration created the first Police Department with
the appointment of Simon Birmingham.
A sub-station of the Elizabeth post office was soon started, housed in the
grocery store of Charles E. Stone, on Westfield Avenue. Stone's Store was
the first store in the world lighted by electricity, wired by Thomas A. Edison
in the mid-1890s.
In 1901 the first Board of Health in Roselle Park was organized, and in 1902
a system of numbering houses was undertaken. One by one, ordinances were
passed mapping and naming the streets.
A small, two-room structure was erected in 1860 at Westfield Avenue near Walnut Street, and called Cedar Grove District School No. 4. By 1875, another school was built on Colfax Avenue about 200 feet west of Chestnut Street, and called District School No. 25. In 1890, a wing was added to No. 25 and it was renamed Livingston School, in honor of one of New Jersey's first governors. When Roselle Park became a separate school district in May of 1901, enrollment was 350 students. Immediately another schoolhouse was built on Webster and Willow Avenues and named Lincoln School.
In 1871, a small company of men and women organized the Community Methodist
Episcopal Church. They moved onto donated property at the corner of Grant
Avenue and Chestnut Street and built a chapel in 1899. A large Italian Catholic
population immigrated to Roselle Park's western half of the borough, and
in 1907 built the early Church of Assumption on Westfield Avenue between
Fatioute Avenue and Coolidge Place. The newer Church of the Assumption dominates
the corner of Westfield Avenue and what is now Chiego Place, renamed for
Reverend Chiego several years ago.
Roselle Park had two newspapers, the "Spectator" first published in 1916,
which many years later became the "Roselle Park Leader", and the "Home News"
which was established in 1926 and no longer exists.
The Borough Hall was constructed on Chestnut Street in 1915 and housed the
Fire Department, the Police Department, administrative offices, and a courtroom.
Residents thrilled to the movies and talkies shown in the theatre which occupied
its top floor. The hall was often used for special occasions and meetings.
The Borough Hall was demolished in 1992 and offices were relocated to 110
East Westfield Avenue.
The Roselle Park Trust Company was organized in 1920. In 1923, citizens began
a library at Borough Hall with donated books and volunteers. The first library
lasted for one year, but in 1930, the predecessor of the present library
was launched with 1,000 books. In a year, the inventory was up to 2,000,
and registered members were 1419 by nine months. One of the projects sponsored
by the library was the Adult Education School, which has endured.
The Marconi Wireless Telegraph Station located in the Aldene section at the
site of the present Romerovski Bros. factory in 1913. Gugliermo Marconi
manufactured wireless equipment that was valuable to war communications during
the First World War. On that site later, WDY became the first regularly broadcast
radio station in 1921. Eddie Cantor made his radio debut in Roselle Park
An impressive number of home boys served in World War I as well as in World
War II, Korea and Vietnam. A World War Memorial was erected in 1924 at the
corner of Chestnut Street and Clay Avenue.
Roselle Park continues in its original tradition, a spirited community of
many volunteers supporting their borough's needs, creating a better community
for all. Organizations are too numerous to mention here. The First Aid Squad
parent and student groups, scouts, sport clubs, senior citizens groups,
historical society, Rotary Club, Police Auxiliary, church organizations,
etc. are the heroes of the history of Roselle Park.
Roselle Park celebrated its 75th Anniversary during 1976 during the Nation's
Bicentennial with gala festivities. In 2001, the borough invites all its
residents, their friends and families to participate in Roselle Park's 100th
This compilation of Roselle Park's history was prepared by Pat Pagnetti of the Roselle Park Historical Society. To obtain more information on the unique history of Roselle Park, write:
P.O. Box 135
Roselle Park, NJ 07204