Bordentown Township

Burlington County, NJ

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Township History

The Township of Bordentown [†] was established in 1852. Its boundaries included the areas of what is known today as Bordentown Township, the City of Bordentown, and Fieldsboro Borough. Bordentown City separated from the township in 1867 and Fieldsboro Borough separated from the township in 1894. In 1849, the Borough of Bordentown was established within the Township of Chesterfield. It was formed from areas of Chesterfield and Mansfield townships and took its name from Joseph Borden (1687-1765), one of the original settlers of the Bordentown region.

Initially, the Bordentown area was called Farnsworth's Landing, named after Thomas Farnsworth, one of the original settlers of the area. Thomas Farnsworth, an English Quaker, first settled between Crosswicks Creek and Black's Creek in 1682, where the Delaware River meets Crosswicks Creek. He relocated from the downstream community of Burlington, New Jersey. At the time of Farnsworth's arrival there were approximately twenty-three farms already located along Black's Creek.

Thirty-six years later, in 1717, Joseph Borden arrived in the well-established Farnsworth's Landing. He very quickly acquired the majority of the land where Bordentown City is located today. In 1931 Bordentown Township expanded its borders north by annexing the piece of land bounded by Crosswicks Creek, Grovesville Road, and Hogback Road. Today, Bordentown Township occupies a total area of 9.31 square miles. Of this amount, 8.54 square miles is land, including marshland, and 0.77 square miles is water.

There were nearly 6,000 residents living in the Bordentown region during the 1870s. This large population was mainly due to the railroad and a Civil War era boom. From this point forward, the region felt a steady decline in population. In 1940, Bordentown Township had a population of 1,095, while the City of Bordentown had a population of 4,223. Suburbanization hit the Bordentown region in the 1950s. In 1950, both the population of the township and the city increased. Up until 1952, Bordentown Township was primarily rural. In 1960, however, the population of Bordentown Township skyrocketed, surpassing the population of the City of Bordentown. Since this time, the population of the township has steadily increased while the population of the city has steadily decreased. According to the 2000 census, Bordentown Township had a population of 8,380, while the City of Bordentown had a population of 3,969.

Prior to the arrival of English settlers, Native Americans occupied much of Burlington County. Recent archaeological finds show that humans have been present on the land within township boundaries for approximately 10,500 years. Early Native American communities relied on the township's natural resources until the arrival of Europeans. Indeed, most pre-European settlements were associated with stream corridors. Indian villages are known to have existed beside the Hamilton-Trenton marsh along the bluffs from 3,000 B.C.-100 A.D. They practiced primitive agriculture in the area from 350 A.D. The Lenape Indians were the original owners of the land, but by 1801, nearly a century after the arrival of the first settlers, they had sold virtually all of their land to the settlers and moved from the area.

Bordentown Township and the City of Bordentown have a rich history. During the course of the Revolutionary War, English troops often occupied the area. Moreover, the Bordentown region was home to many notable figures. According to a bicentennial history of Bordentown, Bordentown 1682-1976, "Bordentown, aside from being an active waterfront community, was a fashionable and aristocratic resort town to which many of Philadelphia's finest families traveled." Francis Hopkinson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence; Thomas Paine, a famous American journalist and writer; Clara Barton, founder of the Red Cross and the first free public school in Bordentown; and Joseph Bonaparte, the eldest brother of Napoleon and the ex- king of Naples and Spain; all resided in the City of Bordentown.

Throughout Bordentown's history, gristmills and brick making were important to the local economy. One particular mill, Dunns Mill, has a history spanning nearly 200 years, beginning in 1708, when Francis Davenport built the mill on Blacks Creek. From this point on, ownership of the mill changed hands numerous times. Both Samuel Farnsworth and Joseph Borden owned the mill at various points. However, in 1875, Martin Luther Dunn purchased it. The mill burned down in 1901 and was never rebuilt, but the land the mill occupied remained in the Dunn family until 1982. Today, all that remains is the foundation of the mill, on Blacks Creek off of Dunns Mill Road. Several remains of the clay pits used for brick making can also still be seen in the township, most notably along Rising Sun Road and along Dunns Mill Road.

Bordentown is conveniently located between Philadelphia and New York. As a result of its location, the township became a major 19th century transportation center. In 1831, the Camden and Amboy steam-powered railroad made its debut in Bordentown, and in 1834, the Delaware- Raritan Canal opened. In the 1870s a riverboat operated between Philadelphia and Bordentown. In addition, a stagecoach, the Bordentown and New York Stage, carried passengers and the mail from Bordentown to a point just outside of New York. The Pennsylvania Railroad leased the railroad and the canal in 1871 and immediately began to close the canal, which by 1932 was completely closed. The railroad continued for another thirty years, ending its passenger service in 1963, although it continued to be used for freight. Forty years later, New Jersey Transit restored passenger service on the line, which is now called the River LINE and links Trenton and Camden.

During the late 19th century, trolley lines were created between Trenton, Bordentown, and Camden. However, in 1923, due to a trolley strike, bus service began running. Bus service eventually replaced trolley service in 1932. Today, buses have lost their importance because of the population's dependency on automobiles. Bordentown Township's services have become increasingly sophisticated. In 1962, the township built a sanitary sewage collection and treatment system, now managed by the Bordentown Sewerage Authority. A full-time Bordentown Township police force was established in 1972. In 1953, Bordentown Township, along with the City of Bordentown, built their first joint elementary school. Prior to 1953, Bordentown Township had a sending agreement with the City of Bordentown. Additionally, in 1965, the first regional high school was constructed, and in 1982 a regional school district was formed.

After World War II, highways were built and the trucking industry began to replace railroad transport of both goods and people. Bordentown Township was primarily rural until the early 1950s. However, in the 1950s the New Jersey Turnpike was built and in the 1960s the construction of Interstate 295 began to bring major changes to Bordentown. Numerous housing developments began to be constructed on land previously used for farming.

Today, Interstate 295 and the New Jersey State Turnpike intersect Bordentown Township. By automobile, it takes approximately forty-five minutes to get to Philadelphia and sixty minutes to arrive in New York City. Presently, Bordentown Township is home to a wide array of people with a diverse set of occupations reflecting today's 21st century service and light manufacturing economies. Automobile transportation corridors provide the framework for land uses today. Many township residents commute throughout the region for employment. Bordentown Township has become a community with a substantial mix of industrial, commercial, and residential uses.

Environmental Resource Inventory for the Township of Bordentown, 2020, www.dvrpc.org, accessed October, 2020.


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