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The History of Milltown

Jacob Bergen constructs a grist mill on the banks of Lawrence Brook to serve farmers in the area. This is the origin of a settlement known at the time as Bergen’s Mill, that would later become Milltown. The community claims a population of 25, the grist mill, a tavern and several houses.

Christopher Meyer introduces the industrial era to Bergen’s Mill with the Meyer Rubber Co.

Fire destroys the rubber factory and Meyer’s home, leaving him penniless. John Ford advances Meyer the money to rebuild. It is in this period of time that the name Bergen’s Mill begins to be replaced with Milltown, most likely stemming from people saying they are “going to the mill in town.”

Phillip Kuhlthau, the first in a great wave of German immigrants, arrives in Milltown from New York City. German peasants suffering from poverty and general hardship seek a new life in new surroundings. Kuhlthau is among those to flee after his village of Oberzell experiences great hardship. After three years of working at the rubber mill, he returns to Germany to tell of the opportunity that abounds in America, leading friends and family to Milltown.

Milltown Library Association organizes to make books available to the public. A great number of books written in German are purchased for the large German-speaking population.

Kuhlthau, in the role he assumes as leader of the German wave of immigrants, makes a provision for their final resting place with the formation of Van Liew Cemetery Association.

The first official school, called District No. 28, is constructed.

December 12 – The Federal Government establishes Milltown’s first post office.

Phone service comes to town. Meyer Rubber Works and NJ Rubber Shoe Works are the first customers.

October 9 – Citizens approve secession from North Brunswick. On Oct. 22, a special election is conducted to form a Borough Commission and to set town boundaries.

March 4 – A Board of Commissioners to lead the town is chosen, and they are sworn in on March 16.

June 9 – The first formal complaint is brought before the commissioners. Boys playing ball in the neighborhood of Clay and Church are making too much noise.

July 4 – The first passenger train of the Raritan River Railroad Company, operating between New Brunswick and South Amboy via Milltown, is given its first run.

November 2 – Brunswick Traction Co. runs a car line through Milltown for trolley service. In 1928, trolley service is replaced with buses.

Meyer Rubber Co. ceases operations.
April 20 – The State Legislature repeals an act relating to the form of government utilized by Milltown. An act approved by the Legislature on April 21 sets up the borough as it is now. The borough adopts May 7 as its birthday, for this is the day the Commission meets and takes care of business under the new form of government. The first regular police officers are appointed.

Electric service finally reaches Milltown.

Russell Playing Card Co. opens.

Michelin Tire Co. arrives, to which much of the growth of the borough is attributed as well as the second wave of immigration. A large number of workers and their families come from France.

February 22 – The Milltown Fire Department is organized with a charter membership of 83 men.

The Parent-Teacher Public Library of Milltown is organized. On Oct. 28 the library opens in the Joyce Kilmer School, across the street from the current library building.

Michelin Tire Company closes its doors, affecting the community psychologically and financially. Milltown depended on the company for “wages, entertainment and support.” It doesn’t help matters that this is the time of the Great Depression. Most of the French workers return to their homeland.

Russell Playing Card Co. moves to Ohio after acquisition by the United States Playing Card Co.

October 22 – The Milltown Rescue Squad is organized. Nineteen men gather in the firehouse.

December 9 – An ordinance introduced by the Borough Council establishes the Milltown Police Department.

A new library organization, calling itself the Milltown Public Library Association Inc., forms to work on bringing the library into a bigger building.

May 9 – The Milltown Historical Society is founded.

September 22 – The new Milltown Public Library opens.

Milltown’s Library becomes municipalized, allowing for more funding.

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