Watchung New Jersey
The History of
Watchung New Jersey
Around 1670, a group of Dutch settlers was traveling from the Amboys up an old Indian trail which is now Somerset Street. They were under the leadership of Captain Michaelson. The Watchung tribe of the Lenni-Lenape Indians was traveling the same trail for their summer trip to the ocean to fish and collect shells for wampum.
During the night the settlers were camped near what is now the center of the Borough. Deer Prong, an advance scout for Chief One Feather's tribe, was shot when he surprised a sentry. During the skirmish, Captain Michaelson was captured and was to be burned at the stake. Princess Wetumpka, who was traveling with the Dutch, and had some years ago saved the life of Chief One Feather, intervened and saved the life of Captain Michaelson. The Indians befriended the Dutch and allowed them to settle in the valley. The legend ends with the full tribal ceremony marriage of the Princess and Chief.
In the 1900s, Watchung was a semi-rural community of about 3,000 inhabitants. This was an extremely small number in comparison of the larger New Jersey cities of Plainfield and Somerville.
Watchung was incorporated as a borough by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature on May 23, 1926, from portions of North Plainfield Township (now Green Brook Township) based on the results of a referendum held on April 20, 1926.
Rumor has it that after the 1938 radio broadcast of the H.G. Wells novel “War of The Worlds” when many listeners took the reading of the war drama as fact. During the radio show a wave of mass hysteria swept through the country, including Watchung, causing many residents to flee their homes to escape a ‘gas raid from Mars.” As a precaution, National Guard troops were stationed around the hills in Watchung to protect its citizens from space invaders.
From then to now...
The Borough of Watchung was organized on April 20, 1926 and covers an area of approximately 6.2 square miles. Watchung was settled in the early eighteenth century and grew slowly until recent years. In 1960 the population was 3,312 and in 2000 it was 5,613. There have been quite a few of notable personalities who have called Watchung home. James Maxine Dupont, the founder and chairman of Thermoplastics Inc. was a longtime resident of Watchung up until his death in 1991 at the age of 79. Dupont was an avid collector of meteorites. His collection was formed from the mid-1950s until 1991. It was acknowledged at the time to be the largest and most important private meteorite collection worldwide, containing over 1,700 specimens. After his death his collection was transferred to the Planetary Studies Foundation in Illinois.