South Brunswick Township was incorporated by an act of the State Legislature in 1798. The 18th century character of South Brunswick was that of a rural agricultural township with small clustered settlements located on major transportation routes. The early settlers took advantage of fertile soils and favorable growing conditions.
The rural nature of the Township continued throughout the 19th century, with increases in commercial and residential growth and development coinciding with the introduction of new transportation routes. The Straight Turnpike, now Route 1, was constructed in 1804.
In 1872, the Legislature first reduced the size of South Brunswick with the creation of the separate Township of Cranbury from the southern portion of South Brunswick. In 1885, it redefined and enlarged the boundaries of Cranbury, and in 1919, the size of South Brunswick was further reduced with the formation of Plainsboro Township. The present boundaries of South Brunswick date back to this last change.
Kingston’s location on the Lenape Assunpink Trail where it crossed the Millstone River was the prime factor in its early prominence. Kingston was by far the most active and important village, being situated on both the heavily traveled King’s Road and Milestone River, combining commercial activities of both mills and taverns.
Dayton was first known simply as The Cross Roads, where James Whitlock built a tavern on Georges Road around 1750. Early enterprises included a brick manufacturer and large nursery. In 1866, the name was changed from Cross Roads to Dayton, in honor of William L. Dayton, an attorney for the Freehold and Jamesburg Agricultural Railroad. Dayton had helped settle disputes arising from the location of a railroad right-of-way. He was later a U.S. Senator, Vice Presidential nominee, and Minister to France. The nature of its business establishments – farm implements, tow hay dealers, a general store, a nursery and a harness maker, attests to its agricultural identity.
Deans originated from its location on both Crosswicknung Trail (Georges Road) and Lawrence Brook. Dams were built on the brook, creating Deans Pond.
Monmouth Junction was created as the junction of three rail branches, the New York division of Pennsylvania Railroad, the Rocky Hill and the Jamesburg and Freehold.
Twentieth century South Brunswick has seen extensive transformation with the impact of American industrial technology. The New Brunswick and Trenton Fast Line began operation in 1900, a trolley line running parallel to the Old Straight Turnpike of 1804 (Route 1), intersecting George’s Road just north of the Five Corners intersection in Dayton. This trolley provided daily passenger and freight service, stopping at a local crossroads. The New Jersey Turnpike opened in 1951, again roughly parallel to Route 1, on the eastern edge of the Township. One typical effect of the Turnpike was the transformation of the agricultural area on the southeast corner of South Brunswick to that of a burgeoning industrial development.
With increased mobility and a growing population, the suburban style residential development was born after the Second World War and Kendall Park was begun in the 1950’s. Kendall Park is located right off Route 27, the old Indian trail and major thoroughfare of earlier centuries.
In 1980, the Township population approached 18,000. In 1990, this figure reached 25,792 and today South Brunswick has over 33,400 residents. In short, since the early 1900’s, the town has matured from a tranquil and rustic farming community to a vibrant, diverse and active suburban town. While South Brunswick has been growing rapidly, much of the town’s 42 square miles remain undeveloped and there are still significant amounts of wetlands, woodlands and open space within the community.
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