The History of Roselle Park, New Jersey
When colonists came to the New World, some settled between the Hudson and Delaware Rivers, in what is now New Jersey. A subtribe of Algonquin Indians who called themselves Leni Lenape, meaning "men among men" were the primary inhabitants until then. One of three subtribes of the Leni Lenape, known as Unami or Turtle tribe, had a smaller kingdom called Raritans or Wawitane and these are the Indians that occupied what is now known as Union County. Although no evidence of an Indian village site has been found within Roselle Park boundaries, it is believed that the original, meandering Westfield Avenue, also known to be part of the Old York Road, was an Indian Trail. The Lenape criss-crossed New Jersey and left a network of such trails, which became colonial roads and later, highways.
After decades of efforts to unsettle Indians in the region west of Staten Island, in 1651, early Dutch colonists purchased from them all of the land lying between the Raritan River and the Passaic and extending indefinitely inland. The Dutch, who had named a large portion of the east coast New Netherland, were unsuccessful in settling this area. The English ousted the Dutch in 1664, and colonized what is now Union County. This settlement was named Elizabeth Town, after the wife of the proprietor, Sir George Cartaret.
The first record of settlement within the present Roselle Park properties was by Samuel Williams, a Memorialist, in 1700, with his son, Joseph. Samuel's father, Matthew Williams, had settled in Wethersfield, Connecticut and his brother settled at Newark, New Jersey. Samuel was born in 1653, and married Esther, a daughter of Nathaniel Wheeler of Newark. When he died in 1706, he left five sons and three daughters. Settling on the meandering road to the West Fields the family gave their name to this community, "Williams Farms."
Roselle Park is boundried on the east by Galloping Hill Road of Revolutionary War fame. Scouts with messages to and from George Washington in Morristown and Governor Livingston in Elizabeth Town continually galloped along this artery. It is believed to be the route that British columns advanced to the Battle of Connecticut Farms in June of 1780, battling along the way with militia men.
The son of General William Crane was bayoneted by the British near Galloping Hill Road and West Fields Road, now Colonial Road. A monument erected on the site was dedicated by the D.A.R. in 1913. The militia are memorialized on that monument with words of praise from General Washington. The "Hospital Oak" which offered shelter to Washington's troops on Galloping Hill Road was near that tragic encounter on the edge of what is now Roselle Park.
Roselle Park's initial surge of residential and commercial development can be traced to the installment of railroads throughout the community. The Central, Lehigh Valley and Rahway Valley lines long served the commuting population. In 1839, the first railroad began regular routes from Elizabethtown to Plainfield, and soon a stop at Mulford Station, named in honor of a prominent family, was scheduled, where Union Road crossed the tracks to Roselle. The stop was moved to Chestnut street about 30 years later and named Roselle in honor of the railroad president's good friend, John Pierre Roselle.
Union Township was set off from Elizabeth Town in 1808; Union County was set off from Essex County in 1857. While still part of Union Township, this area became known as North Roselle during the late 1800's. A committee of independent leaders formed in 1900 to negotiate a separate identity for the borough. Services such as sewer, safety, road maintenance, and education which had been neglected at the south end of Union Township, needed immediate attention.
On March 22, 1901, by an act of legislature of the State of New Jersey, Roselle Park was successfully incorporated. A resident named Mr. Keddie suggested the name. Roselle Park's first election brought in the borough's first governing officials: John Cummings, Mayor; and Paul Hochart, Alfred Atkins, John Hemann, Robert Gordon, Emery L. Lillibridge, and Charles Potter, Councilmen. The first project they accomplished was the installation of Roselle Park's first sewer system. This administration created the first Police Department with the appointment of Simon Birmingham.
A sub-station of the Elizabeth post office was soon started, housed in the grocery store of Charles E. Stone, on Westfield Avenue. Stone's Store was the first store in the world lighted by electricity, wired by Thomas A. Edison in the mid-1890s.
In 1901 the first Board of Health in Roselle Park was organized, and in 1902 a system of numbering houses was undertaken. One by one, ordinances were passed mapping and naming the streets.
A small, two-room structure was erected in 1860 at Westfield Avenue near Walnut Street, and called Cedar Grove District School No. 4. By 1875, another school was built on Colfax Avenue about 200 feet west of Chestnut Street, and called District School No. 25. In 1890, a wing was added to No. 25 and it was renamed Livingston School, in honor of one of New Jersey's first governors. When Roselle Park became a separate school district in May of 1901, enrollment was 350 students. Immediately another schoolhouse was built on Webster and Willow Avenues and named Lincoln School.
Although it was considered by many to be foolish, a high school was built in 1907, and occupied in 1909. Magie Avenue School was soon outgrown as the east side flourished and the rural areas were developed. Sherman School was built on Grant Avenue between Sherman and Sheridan Avenues in 1912, and expanded in 1928. A new high school was built on Locust Street in 1916 and the old high school was renamed Robert Gordon School after one of the first Councilmen and former Board of Education member. This building is distinctive in that it is the first poured concrete building, created by an experimental process invented by Thomas Edison. A new high school that was built in 1931 became the Middle School when the current, modern High School was constructed on Webster Avenue. As the west end of the borough grew, so did the need for more education buildings. Aldene School, which was built in 1921 to replace the aging Lincoln School, which became a factory. The name Aldene came from the first name of Alden Condict, son of Silas Condict, an owner of substantial real estate in western Roselle. The name Aldene came to identify the west end sections of the twin boroughs and their railroad station.
In 1871, a small company of men and women organized the Community Methodist Episcopal Church. They moved onto donated property at the corner of Grant Avenue and Chestnut Street and built a chapel in 1899. A large Italian Catholic population immigrated to Roselle Park's western half of the borough, and in 1907 built the early Church of Assumption on Westfield Avenue between Fatioute Avenue and Coolidge Place. The newer Church of the Assumption dominates the corner of Westfield Avenue and what is now Chiego Place, renamed for Reverend Chiego several years ago.
Roselle Park had two newspapers, the "Spectator" first published in 1916, which many years later became the "Roselle Park Leader", and the "Home News" which was established in 1926 and no longer exists.
The Borough Hall was constructed on Chestnut Street in 1915 and housed the Fire Department, the Police Department, administrative offices, and a courtroom. Residents thrilled to the movies and talkies shown in the theatre which occupied its top floor. The hall was often used for special occasions and meetings. The Borough Hall was demolished in 1992 and offices were relocated to 110 East Westfield Avenue.
The Roselle Park Trust Company was organized in 1920. In 1923, citizens began a library at Borough Hall with donated books and volunteers. The first library lasted for one year, but in 1930, the predecessor of the present library was launched with 1,000 books. In a year, the inventory was up to 2,000, and registered members were 1419 by nine months. One of the projects sponsored by the library was the Adult Education School, which has endured.
The Marconi Wireless Telegraph Station located in the Aldene section at the site of the present Romerovski Bros. factory in 1913. Gugliermo Marconi manufactured wireless equipment that was valuable to war communications during the First World War. On that site later, WDY became the first regularly broadcast radio station in 1921. Eddie Cantor made his radio debut in Roselle Park over WDY.
An impressive number of home boys served in World War I as well as in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. A World War Memorial was erected in 1924 at the corner of Chestnut Street and Clay Avenue.
Roselle Park continues in its original tradition, a spirited community of many volunteers supporting their borough's needs, creating a better community for all. Organizations are too numerous to mention here. The First Aid Squad, parent and student groups, scouts, sport clubs, senior citizens groups, historical society, Rotary Club, Police Auxiliary, church organizations, etc. are the heroes of the history of Roselle Park.
Roselle Park celebrated its 75th Anniversary during 1976 during the Nation's Bicentennial with gala festivities. In 2001, the borough and all its residents, their friends and families participated in Roselle Park's 100th Anniversary.
This compilation of Roselle Park's history was prepared by Pat Pagnetti of the Roselle Park Historical Society. To obtain more information on the unique history of Roselle Park, write: