My District – New Jersey Legislative District 18 :
East Brunswick, Edison, Helmetta, Highland Park, Metuchen,
South Plainfield & South River
Once part of Raritan Township, Edison derives its present name from Thomas Alva Edison; the municipality was the site of Edison’s industrial research laboratory at Menlo Park established in 1876, where Edison invented over 400 patented items including the phonograph, the electric railway and the incandescent lamp.
The small borough of Helmetta, with only 2,178 residents in the 2010 Census, also has one of the more interesting histories in New Jersey, with many of its buildings now on the state and national registers of historic places for their significance as a typical nineteenth century “factory town”. The town was the site of the factory of the George W. Helme Company’s General Cigar and Tobacco Company, which continued to operate making snuff and other tobacco products until 1993.
The area today known as East Brunswick was incorporated in 1860 from parts of North Brunswick and Monroe townships, including the community of Old Bridge. Originally a farming community a suburban settlement started in the 1930s with improved road access. Large scale housing and road construction, especially after World War II, transformed East Brunswick into a more suburban community.
In the 1840s, Highland Park was mostly agricultural and belonged to Raritan Township, but by the 1870s, (due to disagreements over the allocation of public funds and services), Highland Park was annexed from what is now Edison. Industrial development in Highland Park took off during the 19th and 20th centuries included such businesses as Johnson & Johnson. The borough is the birthplace of the Band-Aid and Flako Products packaged mixes for baked goods. However, the industrial nature of the borough decreased by the 1960s when the family owned shops that Highland Park is known for began to spring up.
In its early history, the borough of Metuchen was inhabited by Native Americans and the borough actually got its name from their chief called “Matouchin.” Originally a part of Woodbridge, Metuchen was little more than a dozen buildings surrounding Main Street. By the turn of the 20th century though, the borough thrived as a commercial and cultural cornerstone in its region attracting artists and intellects- thus its nickname “The Brainy Borough.”
South River, named after the river on its Eastern border, is formerly known as Washington back when it was a part of East Brunswick. South River became a well-known stop along the Raritan River Railroad at the turn of the 20th century and remained a major freight station until that facility burned down in 1969 and was never rebuilt.
The land that became South Plainfield was included in the Elizabethtown Purchase which also included what is now Piscataway, Woodbridge, New Brunswick, Spotswood, Millstone, Princeton and Cranbury. The most intriguing history of South Plainfield is its connection to George Washington and the Revolutionary War. Washington and his men were in Piscataway in 1776 and 1777 and passed through South Plainfield while on their way to the high vantage point of Washington Rock where they could see British troop movements and escape the advances made by General Cornwallis. South Plainfield separated itself from Piscataway in 1926, but the borough did not see much success in its early history due to the Great Depression. It is now mostly suburban and has grown to a population of 23,000.