2011-06-02 / Front Page

Birth of a town


Ever wonder how a place, a township, a borough, a school, a park, a lake, a river, a bridge or a street got its name?

Greater Media Newspapers recently delved into this topic to find answers to questions such as how the Dayton section of South Brunswick Township.

Many names of New Jersey towns and locales have been derived from the language of the Lenni Lenape Indians, who occupied the area during the 16th and 17th centuries.

The Dutch were the first Europeans to explore New Netherland (New Jersey). The Swedes were the next settlers. Next came the English, who changed the name to New Jersey after the English Channel island where the Carterets lived. Capt. Philip Carteret was appointed governor of East Jersey in 1665.

Walter Stochel, president of the Edison and Metuchen Historical Society, said localities or places are usually named after railroad stops or stations, families that owned the land, famous people who passed away, businesses in the area, and developers.

“When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, many places that were being built were named after him, including the JFK Medical Center in Edison, the JFK Memorial High School in Iselin, and the JFK Airport in New York,” said Stochel.

North and South Brunswick were once the South Ward of New Brunswick and the North Ward of New Brunswick. Later “Ward” was dropped from a map; North and South Brunswick are both south of New Brunswick.

According to “North Brunswick: A Township History” by Ruth Mihalenko, North Brunswick’s first settler was Nicholas Bodine, the blacksmith who settled near Georges, Hermann and Milltown roads (Bodine’s Corner). Other early families and settlers were the Voorhees, Bennits, Ryders, Tunisons, Booreams, Farmers, Cornelius de Hart and the Rev. Ira Condict.

The area around How Lane was named for Henry Haw (How). Livingston Avenue was known as Livingston Park and was named for William Livingston, the first governor of New Jersey (when it became a state). It was also known as Frogtown because it was swampy and had many frogs.

Route 1 was a toll road called the Trenton New Brunswick Turnpike or the straight turnpike. Tolls were 1 cent for each horse up to four horses and 2 cents for each additional horse, half a cent for a horse and rider, half a cent per mile for a dozen calves, sheep or hogs, and 1 cent per mile for a dozen cattle, mules or horses.

Route 130 was a dirt path known as Georges Road. In the mid-1880s it was called Old Georges Road.

South Brunswick originally included Plainsboro and parts of Cranbury. South Brunswick was basically farmland with small villages located on major transportation routes. It was incorporated in 1798.

Kingston was on King’s Highway (Route 27) and the Millstone River. There were many taverns and mills.

Dayton was originally known as The Cross Roads. In 1866, the named was changed to Dayton in honor of William L. Dayton, an attorney for the Freehold and Jamesburg Agricultural Railroad.

Deans was on the Lawrence Brook and Georges Road. They built dams on the brook and created Deans Pond.

Monmouth Junction was the junction of the New York division of the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Rocky Hill Railroad, and the Jamesburg and Freehold Railroad.

Kendall Park was built in the 1950s as a suburban housing development.

Stochel said it will be interesting to see what names will be used as the 21st century moves forward. “Maybe something like Googleville,” he said.

A high school in Plainfield in February 2010 changed its name from Plainfield Academy for Academic & Civic Development to Barack Obama Academy after the current president.

Stochel said a trend after World War II in Edison named streets after military servicemen who were killed.

“This is happening to this day,” he said. Sources for this story include municipal websites, the Images of America books, and “Metuchen Centennial Chronicle 1900- 2000.”

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