Chatham, New Jersey Overview


Chatham Borough and Chatham Township are quiet, carefully developed, residential communities located in north-central New Jersey near Exit 7 of Route 24. Located 25 west of New York City on the southern edge of Morris County, Chatham's neighboring communities are Summit, New Providence, Berkeley Heights, Long Hill, Harding, Madison, Florham Park, and Livingston. Chatham Borough and Chatham Township share a common heritage and both are often referred to by their shared name, Chatham.

Chatham consists of may fine homes, townhouses, garden apartments, and condominiums and offers suburban attractiveness as well as efficient railroad, bus, and highway commuting to New York City and surrounding metropolitan North Jersey. The downtown borough area offers many specialty shops.

There are excellent shopping facilities available nearby in Livingston, Short Hills, Summit, Morristown and, locally, at Hickory Tree in the Township and in the center of Chatham Borough.

Cultural opportunities include historical, art, garden and musical groups, as well as the facilities and programs of neighboring Drew and Fairleigh Dickinson universities. The Chatham Regional school system consistently ranks highly and the Library of the Chathams is a valuable resource to the residents.

Many outdoor recreational facilities are accessible to residents, such as, the National Wildlife Preserve (The Great Swamp) and the Morristown National Historical Park.

Many major USA corporations have located their headquarters or major facilities near Chatham, including AT&T, Exxon ,BellCore, Prudential, Lucent Technologies, American Home Products, Schering-Plough, Atlantic Mutual, Novartis, and others. There are also hundreds of excellent small businesses in the area serving the residents of the Chathams.

History of Chathams

As the melting Wisconsin Glacier slowly retreated north 20,000 years ago, it left behind Lake Passaic in the curves of the Watchung Mountains. The land that is now Chatham was at the bottom of that lake, nearly 160 feet below the surface. The only visible sign of what would become Chatham was a long island formed by the top of the hill at Fairmount Avenue.

Lake Passaic drained into the sea when an ice cap melted. The Passaic River slowly made its winding path through the marshlands. Eventually the land became habitable, roamed by mastodons and other prehistoric animals.

Early Settlers

Six or seven thousand years ago, the first people to settle in the area were the Minsi group of the Lenni Lenape ("Original People") Indians. It is believed that the Lenape migrated from Canada and possibly Siberia in search of a warmer climate.

While traveling in the area, the Lenape forded the Passaic River at a shallow point east of Chatham at a place they called "the Crossing of the Fishawack in the Valley of the Great Watchung." "Fishawack" and "Passaic are two versions of the many ways early settlers tried to spell the name they heard the Indians call the river.

In 1680 Sir George Carteret paid the Minsi the equivalent of $55 for land that included the present area of Chatham. The area was named Chatham in 1773 in honor of the English Prime Minister, Sir William Pitt, Earl of Chatham. Chatham citizens were staunch revolutionaries during the revolutionary war and troops were active in the area. After the revolutionary war, in 1801, the Morris Turnpike was built connecting Elizabeth to Morristown through Springfield and Chatham. The Morris and Essex Railroad came to Chatham in 1837. Chatham became a center of the rose growing industry in the 1870's and 80's. The years between the Civil War and World War I were a period of quiet living and simple pleasures. Chatham's reputation as a fine, healthy place to live brought a community of bustling tourist trade. The trains that brought vacationers to Chatham also transported residents to city jobs. At the beginning of the 1900's, there were about 1,800 residents living th Chatham Borough and about 500 in the Township. In 1996, there are about 17,500 people living in the Chathams.

Evolution of the Government

Morris County had been carved out of Hunterdon County in 1738, due to increasing population in Hunterdon. In 1740 Morris County Courts convened and divided the county into three townships: Morris, Hanover, and Pequannock. The New Jersey Legislature created Chatham Township from parts of Morris, Hanover, Florham Park, Madison and Chatham. As Chatham Borough grew, the township form of government proved inadequate. The borough seceded from Chatham Township and incorporated as a borough in 1897. Chatham Borough is celebrating its Centennial in 1997. Madison and Florham Park also seceded leaving Chatham Township at its present geographic size in 1900. Chatham Township has maintained its "committee" form of government since its founding in 1806.



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