Remembering the Past: Remembering Raritan Township

By Diane Norek Harrison

EDISON-Before being named Edison Township, it was called Raritan Township. This is from material when we knew it as Raritan Township. This township, formed from portions of Woodbridge and Piscataway townships on March 17, 1870, derives its name from the river that constitutes its southern boundary, and which took its title from the Indian tribe that dwelled in the hills and vales along its bank. The Indian word, Raritan, means “forked river,” and refers to the two streams that united to form it. The township is generally described as equal portions of Woodbridge, and Piscataway townships, bordering on the Raritan river, and extending back there from about three miles, the boundaries being: On the north by the Union county line, on the east by Woodbridge township, on the south by Raritan river, and on the west by Piscataway township. This territory has, therefore, practically the same history, in its earliest days, as the above-mentioned townships. The pioneer settlers were the Stelles, Martins, Campbell, Bonhams, Dunns, Dunhams, Edgars, Comptons, Tappens, Thornalls, Hamptons, Ackens, Laings, Kellys, Ayres, Freemans, Bloomfields, Paynes, Robins, Mundy, Carmans, Rowlans, Laforges and others.

The village of Piscatawaytown (formerly a part of that township), is the earliest settlement, dating back to 1668, and described as three miles from New Brunswick, one mile from the Raritan river and on the turnpike road from that city to Woodbridge, and contains an Episcopal church, a Baptist chapel, a store and some twelve dwellings. It was an old Indian village, and was once the seat of justice for Middlesex and Somerset counties, the courts being held alternately at that place and at Woodbridge. Stelton, about four miles from New Brunswick on the Pennsylvania railroad, was settled by the Stelles in 1668. Bonhamtown, five miles northeast from New Brunswick, was named for Nicholas Bonham, who was one of the first settlers.

Would love to hear your memories or see more past material for Raritan/Edison Township! Graduation time is coming. Do you have memories or past material from your graduation, class nights, class trips, school plays, etc. from grammar or high school? Have summer fun memories or past material for any of the towns and want to share? Looking for anything from the past for the area. Please let me know in your correspondence if you want your name used in my column as the contributor of the information.

If you have your own memories or past material for Carteret, Edison, Metuchen, Perth Amboy, Sayreville, South Amboy or Woodbridge you can email me at or send “copies” of your material to me at CMD Media P.O. Box 1061 Rahway, NJ 07065.

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