The Changing Landscape of North Brunswick

IMAGES FROM NORTH BRUNSWICK: A Township History by Ruth Mihalenko 1977 (available in the North Brunswick Public Library)

HISTORCAL MAP OF NORTH BRUNSWICK TOWNSHIP 1876 courtesy of Rutgers Special Collections
NORTH BRUNSWICK TOWNSHIP ELECTION DISTRICTS 1967 courtesy of Rutgers Special Collections

USGS topographic quads mid 1950s NEW BRUNSWICK MONMOUTH JUNCTION courtesy of Rutgers Geography Department

1940 Census website NJ.12-85 (122 MB pdf) NJ.12-86 (94 MB pdf) NJ.12-87 (122 MB pdf) NJ.12-88 (14 MB pdf) NJ.12-89 (63 MB pdf)


Voices of North Brunswick Pamphlet - 1971 Republican campaign material (pdf) Record label (pdf) Recording (MP3)


1910 Panorama of New Brunswick with North Brunswick on the horizon


Edited excerpts from NORTH BRUNSWICK: A Township History by Ruth Mihalenko 1977

"We all know of the immigration here of the earliest Bodine, Nicholas the blacksmith around 1683, and the gradual designation of the area around the current Georges-Hermann-Milltown Roads center as Bodine's (or the modern Berdine's) Corner. Another family, the Adamses, came here about the same time and settled in the southern area off the present Route 130. The area known as Maple Meade was formerly known as "Mapletown" in honor of the Maple family, another group of early settlers.

Other early settlers were, John and Jeremiah Voorhees, James Bennit, John Ryder, Cornelius Tunison, Cornelius de Hart, the Rev. Ira Condict, the Booream family, and Harle Farmer. The first permanent settlement came in 1761.

The aptness of the name "North Brunswick" has proven a puzzle to many modern historians, since the township is actually situated south of New Brunswick and west of East Brunswick. However, during the early part of the 19th century, the area was commonly referred to as the "north ward of New Brunswick" and the township is located north of the earlier organized Township of South Brunswick.

The section of town adjacent to the Trenton-New Brunswick Turnpike area (now Livingston Avenue) near How Lane was once Livingston Park, a small hamlet named in honor of William Livingston, first governor after New Jersey became a state. The land had been inherited by Henry Haw (How) who had it surveyed into lots and offered for sale at low prices. Much of this same area off Livingston Avenue near How Lane also came to be known by the nickname of "frogtown" due to the dampness caused by drainage problems and the numbers of frogs which supposedly thrived in the resulting wet atmosphere.

It was the development of three main thoroughfares through the township which had the most profound affect on North Brunswick's development, however. The present-day Route 27 is on the approximate site of an original Indian path extending from present-day New Brunswick to the falls of the Delaware River, on which site Trenton now stands. References to this path are found as far back as 1675. The first part of the 19th century has been deemed "the turnpike era" in New Jersey due to attempts to remedy the poor conditions of travel which were available until then and to meet the urgent need for additional road links with the expanding frontier.

At first, factions within the state favored the raising of money by lotteries, but toll roads gained support quickly. In 1804, the Trenton and New Brunswick Company was formed. The land, which included the roadway through North Brunswick, was relatively flat and surveyors were able to lay out a straight route. This forerunner of current-day Route 1 was an interesting exception to road practices at that time: It was an entirely new route in an era when most companies were only putting existing roads into good repair.

The very word "turnpike" indicates a road where tolls are charged and the name is derived from the "pike" or bar which was suspended across the road where the tolls were collected. Charges on the Trenton-New Brunswick Turnpike were for carriages: one cent a mile for each horse up to four and 2 cents for additional horses; half a cent for a horse and rider; half a cent per mile for a dozen calves, sheep or hogs, and one cent per mile for a dozen cattle, mules or horses. It was general policy not to charge tolls to those on their way to church or to local farmers going about their business. The entire section of Route 1 was taken over by the state in 1928.

Another important part of the history of North Brunswick took place along what is now Route 130. The original road was a dirt path known as Georges Road. Its name was changed to Old Georges Road in the mid-1880s when a new road was cut out nearby, thus straightening some of the dangerous curves. The portion extending southward from the traffic circle became Route 130 in the 1950s during a reorganization to have one name for the roadway extending all the way to its southern end past Camden.

Controversy has always surrounded the intersection of Routes 1 and 130 since almost the dawn of the automotive age. The area contained the 20-acre farm of Charles and Mary Yorston. In the late 1930s, the Yorstons sold off eight of their acres to the state for the construction of the superhighway and the new traffic circle.

Periodically, the state and the citizens have called for the erection of an overpass at the site to eliminate cross traffic and to facilitate turns, but efforts by the state in the '60s and '70s were thwarted, and on-grade improvements to ease traffic problems were completed, instead, in 1977. It is predicted that population and traffic growth will force an overpass within the next ten years. At one point, the Township Committee had suggested that the circle be named in Alfred Yorston's honor, for the years of service by him and his family, but no official action was ever taken. Yorston is best remembered for his work in removing the 520 bodies from the New Brunswick Presbyterian Church's cemetery to Van Liew Cemetery to make way for new construction, for his around-the-clock service during the 1918 deadly influenza epidemic, and for his service in connection with the autopsy involving the infamous Hall-Mills murder in neighboring Franklin Township.

By far the greatest impact on industrial growth within North Brunswick, as well as in the entire area of Middlesex County, was made by the mills. As early as 1750, water power from the Lawrence Brook had been harnessed to provide energy for the operation of a variety of mills (grist, snuff, saw, fulling) along its banks. In these days of concern over air pollution and the safeguarding of health, the mills would have seemed to be dangerous places. The air was described as "yellow" from the floating particles escaping during the grinding process. North Brunswick was also the site of an early copper mining industry. It was during the early part of the 1800s when the mine was opened on the property of Isaac Williamson, whose farm was located on the outskirts of Jersey Avenue. Another more modern short-lived industry began in the 1920s when a stone quarry was opened off Route 130 on land adjoining the Middlesex county Workhouse.

Along with the mills, most of the early industries established before the turn of the century have disappeared, including a brewery and the Unexcelled Fireworks Company, scene of several spectacular fires.

The most complete history of any North Brunswick school is provide by Mary Delaney in her booklet "Livingston Park School: Its History and Record 1896-1961" and its facts can be referred to as characteristic among all the early schools.

In the late 19th century, the need was felt for a school in the vicinity of Livingston Park mainly because children could not attend other distant schools on a regular basis due to the lack of good roads. Land for this first school was donated by George Mettler and the actual building was constructed by men of the community. It had one room with a pot-bellied stove for heat, more often than not overheating those students sitting close and freezing those in the corners. There was a water pail in the corner, often brought from nearby streams by the children themselves, with a tin dipper for drinking, and outdoor sanitary facilities. Most students provided their own textbooks. By 1922, enrollment at Livingston Park had grown to make double sessions necessary and the Board of Education decided to build a second room. At this time, also, the communal dipper was abandoned. In February of 1928, the school was destroyed by fire. A new four-room building was completed in 1930. A new building adjacent to this one was opened in 1964, currently housing grades K though 6."

MAP OF NORTH BRUNSWICK TOWNSHIP ca.1917 courtesy of Rutgers Special Collections.

Many of the names and places in Ruth Mihalenko's 1977 book, NORTH BRUNSWICK: A Township History, can be seen on the map.

Comments, suggestions, and additional images are welcome.

Contact info for Mike Siegel can be found at