One of the fastest growing suburban areas in central Middlesex county is East Brunswick Township. Located inland south of the Raritan River, it runs parallel to the South River on its easterly and southern side and is bordered by the Farrington Lake on its westerly side.
The earliest arrivals of white men to this area during the sixteenth century were people of Scottish, English, Dutch and German origin. For reasons of economic, religion or adventure, the new settlers endeavored to establish a different way of life in this area. The first settlers made their land deals directly with the Indians. Several of the first landowners were Thomas Lawrence, Cornelius Longfield, David Mudie and John and Asher Bissett. Since the most suitable form of transportation was by way of water, the original pioneers established themselves adjacent to the river routes. The first settlement in the northern area of East Brunswick was the vast plantation and home of Thomas Lawrence along the stream that now bears his name.
Farther south, nestled in the southern area of the township is the location
of the current Historic District of Old Bridge. It is bordered on two sides
by the South River, by Chestnut Hill Cemetery on the north and by Route 18
and Old Bridge Turnpike on the west. Due to its favorable geographical position,
located on the navigable part of the South River, it attracted settlers as
early as 1685. The village of Old Bridge, in East Brunswick, became the center
of an industrious community of people whose lives were representative of
the 18th and 19th centuries in Middlesex
The third important area in East Brunswick developed around the Riva Avenue
section. The earliest plantation owner in this section was the DeHart family.
This prolific family had arrived from Holland, then moved to New England,
Princeton and eventually spread to South Brunswick and North Brunswick. The
location of the current Bicentennial Park in East Brunswick is on the precise
location where the homestead of Abraham DeHart was situated.
These widely separated settlements represent the perimeter of the present
community of East Brunswick. However, the original lands also included the
villages now known as Helmetta, South River, Spotswood and Milltown. All
were part of the larger area of North Brunswick and Monroe. In 1860 the Township
of East Brunswick withdrew from North Brunswick and was formally incorporated.
Between 1870-1908 the other communities withdrew from East Brunswick, except
what is now Old Bridge Historic District.
The growth of industry in the 19th Century East Brunswick was
facilitated by an abundance of raw material-such as fresh fruits and vegetables,
wood for building, ships and firewood, clay for pottery and bricks; proximity
to large markets north in New York and south in Philadelphia; and relatively
inexpensive transportation-boat, stage-coaches and the earliest railroads.
These factors were important to the stimulation of other related industrial
and commercial enterprises, such as wood sawing mills, fanning and snuff
mills, a distillery, docks, warehouses, and shipbuilding.
Combined with its active economic life, the community of East Brunswick
flourished with educational and cultural activity. One of the first public
schools and a highly respected private educational institution, Miss Conover's
School, was located in the Old Bride section during the early part of the
19th Century. In addition, a number of artists and authors of
international repute, among others, the noted painter, James Crawford Thom
and authoress of childrens' books, Henrietta Christian Wright, resided in
the Historic District. The first library in East Brunswick was established
on Main Street.
For more than a century East Brunswick was governed by the township committee
type of government. In 1965 the township voted a convert to the Mayor-Council
form of government.
Today, East Brunswick stands as an example of the evolution of a number of
small disparate communities into a major municipal complex with more than
40,000 residents. The Township includes eight elementary schools, a middle
school, a junior high school and a high school. Attendance at twenty-four
houses of worship accounts for a great diversity of religious preferences.
The new Public Library dedicated in 1976 is a fine example of an all-encompassing
library facility serving the needs of a growing community. It has been designated
as an area library for southern Middlesex County. In addition, the township
maintains approximately 137 miles of roads, and has developed 14 areas into
community parks and one forest area. There are also facilities for golf,
tennis, soccer and other sports.
More recently, the area has ben culturally enriched by the creation of the
East Brunswick Museum located in the Historic District and dedicated to
preserving the heritage and culture of the area; and Playhouse 22, which
has become the permanent residence of the East Brunswick Community
East Brunswick now faces the greatest challenge in its history. Rampant development emphasizes the need to preserve those historic landmarks which best exemplify our heritage. The East Brunswick Historical Society has devoted itself to the task and has succeeded in placing the Historic District of Old Bridge on the New Jersey State Register (September, 1975) and on the National Register (June, 1977). It is the first township in Middlesex County to have received this distinction.