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A classic town for modern families

History of Westfield

The original inhabitants of Westfield were the Lenni-Lenape Native Americans. Many of our parks and neighborhoods remain named after them, including Mindowaskin Park, Tamaques Park, Lenape Park and the Indian Forest residential section. The Lenape natives originally traded large portions of the land to early Dutch settlers between 1633 and 1655 but the Dutch failed to colonize the area. The English were destined to succeed.

In 1664, the Duke of York in England granted to his friends Lord John Berkeley and Sir George Carteret a portion of land between the Hudson and Delaware rivers. Carteret called it New Jersey after the isle of Jersey off the coast of England where he grew up.

Before the land grant was realized, Richard Nicolis, Governor of NY, bought land (Perth Amboy, Woodbridge, Rahway, Union, Springfield and Westfield) from the Native Americans. This land cost 2 coats, ten bars of lead, two guns, two kettles, twenty handfuls of gun powder, and 400 fathoms of wampum. The Natives believed they were selling hunting rights where the Colonists understood it as a land transfer (the idea being unknown to the Natives). John Baker was one of the parties of the transaction and got the land of Greater Westfield. His house was where the Municipal Building now sits and was the site of a tannery.

Elizabethtown became the first seat of government in NJ. The “West Fields” of Elizabethtown (or the Baker tract of land) was what Westfield was referred to in the early Colonial times. The Village of Westfield was established in 1720 and contained only a Tavern and general store (besides farmsteads). It incorporated as a town in 1794.

Among the early settlers of Westfield were families whose names are associated with streets and places in the town today, including Lambertsmill Rd., Cory Pl., Clark St. and Clark Memorial Park, Elmer St., Ripley Pl., Baker Ave., Scudder Rd., Ludlow Pl., Downer St. and Davis Ct. The Presbyterian Church of Westfield (originally The Presbyterian Church in the West Fields of Elizabethtown) was established in 1728 and its historic cemetary (the burial grounds of The Presbyterian Church) contains veterens of the Revolutionary War.

Today Westfield is a town in Union County, New Jersey. As of the 2010 US Census, the town population was 30,316. The population increased by 672 (+2.3%) from the 29,644 counted in the 2000 Census.

The town has an active Historical Society, which owns and operated two historic sites in Westfield -- The Reeve History & Cultural Resource Center and the Miller-Cory House Museum, both located on Mountain Ave.

Westfield is proud of its history and the historic sites which have been preserved for future generations, including its award winning downtown.

 

RESOURCES

Westfield Historical Society

Miller Cory House

Early Westfield Chronology

The Emergence of the West Fields

Historic Walking Tour

The Birth of a Town: Westfield, New Jersey 1900-1903* by Marcie R. Horowitz