History of Cranbury

Middlesex County, New Jersey

Cranbury still has that old village flavor.

1664 – King Charles II of England granted to his brother James, the Duke of York, land stretching from New York to Delaware. Cranbury became part of the colony of East New Jersey, which had been granted to Sir George Carteret by the Duke of York.

1680 – the earliest settlers arrive. The settlement was situated on an Indian Trail

1683 – Sir Gordon purchased half of the tract of land south of Cranberry Brook from Thomas Cooper.

1697  --  the date chosen to represent the founding of the Village of Cranbury.

1698 – a land deed of sale between Josiah Prickett and John Harrison.

1703 – Philip French purchased the tract north of Cranberry Brook and west of George's Road (now Main Street).

1720 – John Rochead purchased the Sir Gordon tract from Gordon’s son, Robert Gordon.

1734 – Philip French sold his land to Noah Burton. Later, Noah Burton sold the land to Samuel Leonard. After that the land passed to Peter Wyckoff.

1736 – Thomas Grubbs bought 4.5 acres of the original Sir Gordon land from Rochead. Grubbs built a gristmill on the Cranberry Brook in the same year.

1740  --  the First Presbyterian Church built. 

1741 – Grubbs conveyed his 4.5 acres to John Collins.

The origin of the town name is unknown.

18th century maps – the town name appears as Cranberry and Cranberry Town.

1745 – Baptist Church built. In 1785 it moved to Hightstown.

1745-1746 – the legendary David Brainerd preached and ministered to the Lenape Indians of the area. (Note Brainerd Lake.)

1745 – the Baptist Church founded with John Hight (Hightstown) as one of the 17 original members.

1748 – the first Baptist meeting house was built on property occupied later by the Spice Mill.

as early as 1750   -- a post house built and managed by John Predmore. (Later on the site was the United State Hotel and then the Cranbury Inn.)

1778 (June 25 and 26) --  Dr. Hezekiah Stites entertained the Marquis de Lafayette and Alexander Hamilton in his home on Main Street.

1778 (June 26)  --  Gen. George Washington paid Dr. Stites $9 dollars when American troops camped near Cranberry Brook before they fought in the Battle of Monmouth two days later. 

1780  -- Peter Perrine built a dwelling. It became the United States Hotel and then the Cranbury Inn.

1785 – the Baptist congregation moved to Hightstown.

1788 – the Baptist church building sold to Dr.Stites and moved. Joseph Fish built a new Greek Revival style church.

1789 – President George Washington ordered Christopher Colles to map the road through Cranberry Tcwn. The map shows seven buildings north and eighteen buildings south of the Cranbury Brook.

1795  --  death of Dr. Stites.

1808  --  Captain Timothy Horner bought the Peter Perrine dwelling and converted it into the United States Hotel. 

1820  --  Rev. Symmes C. Henry installed as the fifth pastor of the First Presbyterian Church.

1825 – Robert McChesney purchased fourteen acres of woodland along North Main Street from Bunker Hill to Plainsboro Road.

1838 – the Second Presbyterian Church founded.

1839  --  the First Presbyterian Church rebuilt again.

prior to 1845  --  William M. Carson's Tavern built.  (It later became the American Hotel.)

1848  --  the United Methodist Church built. 

1850 – Sophia Bunker Heron gave one acre of land once owned by McChesney (called the Heron Tract of Prospect Avenue) for the Bunker Hill School.

1857 – Rev. Joseph G. Symmes said that the correct spelling of the town name was Cranbury and the suggestion was followed. (In Old English "bury" (burh) could be spelled bury, bery, or berry.)  He caught a cold while conducting a funeral service and died at the age of 60.

1863 (November 27)  --  Corporal Alfred Carman killed at the Battle of Locust Grove, Virginia.

1864 (June 1)  --  death of Lt. Marcus Aurelius Stults at the Battle of Cold Harbor, Virginia. 

1865  --  John S. Davison established his American Mills: Tea, Coffee & Spices business.  Later Davison formed a partnership with John S. Silvers.  The mill became known as the Spice Mill.

1869 – the town and brook were renamed Cranbury.

1869-1897  --  Rev. Joseph S. Van Dyke (1832-1914) became pastor of the Cranbury Second Presbyterian Church.

1869-1904  -- the old Carson's Tavern now the American Hotel.  (It later became the Temperance Inn.)

1872 (March 7) – Cranbury Township officially created and organized as a separate political subdivision of Middlesex County. It picked up parts of South Brunswick and Monroe Townships.

1876 map – according to the map, the African Methodist Church was located south of the village.

1877-1914  -- local merchant James W. Goodwin organized and then conducted Goodwin's Band for some 37 years.

1882 – the African Methodist Church building was converted into a dwelling.

c. 1890 photo  --  photo of Enid Walker (1879-1968) as a young girl with her bike.  She became the first Cranbury female to go away to college.  She became a teacher in Yonkers, NY, but returned to Cranbury after her retirement.

1890  --  founding of the Cranbury WCTU (Women's Christian Temperance Union).  

1896  --  Cranbury Elementary School built.

1896  --  the first telephone installed connected the Spice Mill to Cranbury Station. 

1896  --  the Middlesex Creamery built off Monroe Street.   

1900  -- the first automobile drove through Cranbury. 

c. 1900 photos   --  the photos show the operation of the ice business. 

turn of the 20th century  --  Brainerd Lake was the center for outings.  Uncovered boats could be rented for ten center per hour. 

1902  --  rural mail delivery began in Cranbury.

1902  --  Nelson F. Clayton had a drugstore beloved for its soda fountain. 

1904  -- the American Hotel became the Temperance Inn. 

1907  --  dedication of the drinking fountain (provided by the Cranbury WCTU) at Brainerd Lake.  The fountain had 3 different drinking levels, for dogs, horses and humans.

1908-1937  -- local physician Dr. Benjamin Van Dyke rebuilt the house at 85 North Main Street where he had been born in 1877 and made the place both his residence and office until his retirement in 1937.

c. 1908 photo  --  "Gideon" Applegate shown on a winter's day delivering milk via a "woodie" (i.e., a long wooden sled).

1910  --  Harry Scott moved the Temperance Inn to the corner of Maplewood Avenue and the future Scott Avenue and turned it into a boarding house and a public library. 

1910  --  Charles C. Groves purchased Frank A. Brown's insurance business. He took many photos of Cranbury. 

1910  --  James O'Neil opened a general store carrying groceries on North Main Street.

1913  --  Holman Jordan purchased the Middlesex Creamery, but it only lasted several more years. 

1914  -- death of band conductor James W. Goodwin.

1915  --  serious typhoid fever epidemic originated from a a farm worker carrier on the Schenk dairy farm adjacent to the lakeside Silvers' home. 

1915-1931  -- a band stand was erected over the Brainerd Lake dam.  Goodwin's Band often played here on Saturday evenings. 

1920  --  "Judge" Joseph T. Wincklhofer purchased the United States Hotel and converted it into the Cranbury Inn.

early 1920s  --  dance held outdoors during the summer at the Cranbury Inn Dance Pavilion.

1931-1991  -- Dr. Gerald H. Miller was a general practitioner in Cranbury. 

1935 – the First and Second Presbyterian Church congregations joined and the Second Church sanctuary razed.

mid-1930s  --  elephant parade up North Main Street to advertise that the circus was in town.

1941 (December 7)  -- Cranbury resident George Earle was stationed at Pearl Harbor.

1940s  --  Frank Brasch delivered milk door to door from his milk truck.

1946  --  Spencer Perrine hosted a meeting of the New Jersey White Potato Growers Association at his Route 130 farm. 

1950  --  death of Dr. Benjamin S. Van Dyke.

1970  --  African-American Agnes Wilson elected to the board of education (the first black candidate to run for public office in Cranbury).

1979 – Cranbury entered on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places.

1979 – Cranbury entered on the National Register of Historic Places.

1997 – Cranbury celebrated its 300th anniversary.


Welcome to Cranbury, New Jersey: History of Cranbury.  http://www.cranburylions.org/history/earlhist.htm

Peggy S. Brennan and Frank J. Brennan Jr.  1995.  Images of America: Cranbury.  Charleston, SC: Arcadia Press.