History of Bridgewater Township, New Jersey
Bridgewater is a township in Somerset County, New Jersey, with a population of around 45,000. It’s a place with a rich past that witnessed many defining moments in American history.
The origins of Bridgewater Township
The area which is now known as Bridgewater Township originally was purchased from the Native American tribe of Lenape. On April 4, 1749, George II, King of Great Britain and Ireland, issued a Royal charter describing the boundaries of the territory and giving it the name of Bridgewater, after the town Bridgwater in the county of Somerset in England. On February 21, 1798, the Township Act was passed by New Jersey Legislature, incorporating Bridgewater as one of 104 original townships in New Jersey. In its early days, the area was settled by Dutch, English, and Scott-Irish.
Bridgewater in US history
Bridgewater witnessed many historical events that formed the United States of America, including the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) and the Civil war (1861–1865).
General George Washington stayed near Bridgewater with the Continental Army at the Middlebrook encampment twice during the Revolutionary War. Almost 10 000 officers were housed in the encampment in 1777 and later in 1778-1779. George Washington stayed in Bridgewater a few times and visited a party on March 17, 1779, at the Van Veghten House, which served as headquarters for Quartermaster Nathanael Greene at the time.
Bridgetown is also known for being the very first place to fly the Betsy Ross’s flag in celebration of 13 colonies declaring their independence from England on September 3, 1777. Since 1889, there’s a tradition to fly the Thirteen Star flag in commemoration of this event, with ceremonial changing of the flag and reading of the Declaration of Independence.
Later, in the nineteenth century, some parts of the township were taken to form other townships and boroughs, as the population grew and concentrated in different areas around Bridgewater. Thus, Warren Township came into existence on March 5, 1806. Branchburg Township was formed on April 5, 1845. Somerville borough separated on March 25, 1863. Raritan borough was formed on April 3, 1868, with Bound Brook borough following suit a year later on March 24, 1869.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the rapid growth of the population prompted housing development in Bridgewater Township. After World War II, industrial parks and research centers started blossoming, however, Bridgewater remained predominantly a farming community well into the 1960s. That was bound to change in the 1970s when many residents started moving out from larger cities and settling in Bridgewater. Thus the population grew in numbers, as well as in nature. With the influx of residents, primarily working in financial and pharmaceutical industries, as well as telecommunications, and iPhone repair shops. Bridgewater developed into a suburban community. There are still traces of its rural past in the northwestern part of the township.
Today, Bridgewater is a diverse and thriving community, which shows steady growth and development. Particularly this is due to its popularity with commuters to New York City, who want to stay close to the business capital of the US and still get to enjoy the benefits of raising their family in a smaller suburban neighborhood.