The History of Greenwich Township, New Jersey
As residents of Greenwich Township, we should be proud of our area’s role in American History. The land that we currently live on once belong to a group of early Native Americans, known as the Lenni-Lenape, a subdivision of the Algonquin Indians. In 1677, John Cook, Greenwich’s earliest settler purchased 1,111 acres of land from this tribe. Mr. Cook constructed a home, along with a mill on his property. It was this same mill along with other local ones that would be responsible for the feed and flour supplied to the Continental army while encamped in Morristown, New Jersey during our Revolutionary War.
The earliest families of our community came from different and remote areas of the world. They had ethnic backgrounds such as English, Scotch, Scotch-Irish, German, Dutch and Welsh. Family names of these early settlers were Maxwell, Stewart, Kennedy, Ramsey, McCullough, Kell, Smith, Creveling, Bidleman, Fines, Hulshizer, Carpenter, Cline, Hances, Young, Boyer, Hagawout, Beaver, Sharpensteins, Pursell, Hunt, Hixon, Davis, Hamlin, Carter, Green, Barber, Bulman, Hughes and Hyndshaw.
Many notables passed though our township. David Brainerd, “The Missionary to the American Indians” preached at the Old Greenwich Presbyterian Church. Local legend has it that Chigachook, the hero in James Fenimore Cooper’s novel; “The Last of the Mohicans” was buried under a tree in the Old Greenwich cemetery.
Several of our former residents fought in the Revolutionary War. One was Lt. Thomas Stewart whom the hamlet of Stewartsville is named after. Stewart was assigned to Valley Forge and eventually became George Washington’s secretary. The “Father of our Country” attended the Stewart’s wedding. Upon completion of his military responsibilities, he became one of the state’s first civil engineers, surveying most of the farms in Warren County.
Another was General William “Scotch Willie” Maxwell. While born in Tyrone, Ireland, he lived in Greenwich Township for the majority of his life. He was promoted to Brigadier General on October 23, 1776. Maxwell led the First New Jersey Regiment during the American Revolution.
Then there was Major General John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg, who preached at The Old Straw Lutheran Church. History cites that he stepped from the pulpit while at the Shenandoah, Virginia Church to lead the 8th Virginian Regiment of the Continental Army. He would become a Pennsylvania Senator and would hold numerous political positions.
Greenwich Township has also been at the center of early transportation history, such as the Morris Canal, the old New Brunswick Pike, which is now Route 173, an old stagecoach route and the first cement highway in the state of New Jersey, which is located on Route 57. The cement came from Edison Portland Cement, which operated in New Village. It was the brainchild of Thomas Edison, who was a frequent visitor of Stewartsville and once celebrated his birthday in the Fulmer Hotel on our town’s square. It was also noted that Edison would visit school children at the old school on North Main Street.
The Greenwich Historical Commission was organized in August 1984 for the purpose of studying and preserving the heritage of the township and its ancestors. The Society has several items of interest for sale which includes “Through the Years,” a pictorial history of Stewartsville and surrounding areas, a book on Greenwich trivia and Cats Meow items.
The Historical Commission meets on the second Tuesday of each month at 7:00 P.M. in the Municipal Building.