Overview of Franklin Township’s History

colonialDownload a map of Franklin Township here.


The history of Franklin Township and the Raritan Valley was largely influenced by the Dutch settlers who started to buy land here in the late 1600s. They were all Dutch farmers from Brooklyn. Believe or not, all the open farmland in Brooklyn was taken by 1701. A custom evolved among the immigrant Dutch farmers that each son should have his own farm—something that was not the case in the Netherlands as there is no open land there. After a great number of trees were cut down this area became prime farmland.  The Dutch farmers had more land to clear than they could possibly do in their lifetime. The first farms were fairly small.

There have been some questions as to where the name “Franklin” came from. Some say it was in honor of Benjamin Franklin, an outspoken advocate of American independence. He was the father of William Franklin, who was the last Royal Governor of New Jersey, governing from 1762 to 1776. The British considered him a fine example of a colonial governor, but he was not admired by American English colonialists as he did not approve of the American Revolution. He was arrested by the New Jersey militia immediately after war was declared. He was sent to a Connecticut jail where was badly mistreated. During the war he was exchanged for an Englishman and lived the remainder of his life in England.  In 1998 William B. Brahms was commissioned by the Franklin Township Library, to write a history of Franklin Township.  In chapter 12, he wrote “The first documented use of the name Franklin Township was its incorporation in 1798. After the American Revolution, anti-Loyalists sentiment was very strong in New Jersey. William Franklin was a Loyalist so it is extremely unlikely that it would be named for an enemy in 1798,



Franklin Township was very much a part of Revolutionary War history and the scene of many raiding parties along Route 27, then known as the King’s Highway. In fact, two British generals, Cornwallis and DeHeister, tried to lure General Washington into battle on the plains of Middlebush and East Millstone. But Washington kept his troops up on Chimney Rock, just north of Franklin, until the British withdrew. Several of the prosperous Middlebush farms were destroyed by the British soldiers during their retreat. Washington’s wrote his farewell address to his army was written in a house in Little Rocky Hill in 1783.



One of the earliest and important economic developments for Franklin Township was the building of the Delaware-Raritan Canal in 1834. It was a twenty-two-mile continuous water route from New York to Philadelphia runs along the western border of the Township. During the Civil War, up to 200,000 tons of freight was hauled by mule and horse-drawn barges, creating an economic boom for the area. The building of the railroads led to the decline of this once successful mode of transportation. Today the canal is the source of drinking water and provides recreation for area residents and visitors to the “Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park.” For more information about Franklin Township, please visit the town’s official Web site at: franklintwpnj.org.



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