Township of West Windsor
The Township of West Windsor lies centrally on the eastern border of Mercer County. It is surrounded by Princeton Township to the north, by Plainsboro Township and East Windsor Townships to the east, by Robbinsville Township to the south, and Hamilton and Lawrence Townships to the west. The West Windsor area was originally explored in 1634 by an English captain by the name of Thomas Yong as part of the Delaware Bay. During Yong’s stay, he met and traded with Lenni Lenape Indians that inhabited the area. The indigenous people were hunters, fishers, and agriculturalists. Evidence of their existence continues to be found in discoveries of weapons and domestic tools along the banks of the Assunpink (a small waterway named by them).
West Windsor was initially established in 1682 when William Penn signed a treaty with the Lenni Lenape. In 1731, the area was known as New Windsor Township and it included Princeton Township, Princeton Borough, and East Windsor. In 1737, the area was sold by Penn’s heirs to the Schenk and Covenhoven families who were Dutch farmers. In 1751, it became the Township of Windsor. Princeton was its downtown and was a part of West Windsor during the formation of Princeton University and the revolutionary war. In 1797, West Windsor Township became incorporated and then included only a portion of Princeton Township and Princeton Borough.
In 1838, Mercer County was established and in 1855, the current borders for West Windsor were defined containing 26.84 miles. Today, West Windsor can still identify the six farming villages that were a part of the area:
- Clarksville – at the intersection of Route One and Quakerbridge Roads
- Dutch Neck – at the intersection of Village and South Mill Roads
- Edinburg – at the intersection of Old Trenton and Edinburg Roads
- Grovers Mill – at the intersection of Cranbury and Clarksville Roads
- Penns Neck – on either side of Washington Road east of Route One
- Port Windsor/Mercer – at the end of Quakerbridge Road at the Delaware Canal
A seventh hamlet, Princeton Junction, was established in 1865 when the train station was situated in West Windsor. Today, West Windsor is home to approximately 25,000 citizens. For historical maps of the Mercer County area: http://mapmaker.rutgers.edu/MERCER_COUNTY/MercerCounty.html
Each of the seven villages has its own history and evolution over the years but one village, Grovers Mill, deserves particular mention. While the Grovers Mill pond was frequently visited by presidents Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson, friends of the Grover family, the most famous visitors were the fictional
Martians from the Orson Welles produced radio drama based on the book The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. In this drama, the audience was told that an alien spacecraft had landed on a farm near Grovers Mill, located in West Windsor. Many people, believing the newscast was real, were driven into hysteria. Today there is a monument installed near Grovers Mill Pond at Van Nest Park to commemorate the radio broadcast.
Founded in 1983, The Historical Society of West Windsor documents the history of the Township of West Windsor and preserves aspects of what life was like in the farming past of West Windsor. They maintain the Schenck Farmstead which dates back to the 1750s and is located on Southfield Road opposite the Cranbury Golf course. This was a gift of Max Zaitz to the West Windsor Historical Society in 1995.
From the fall of 2009 to the spring of 2011, a Boy Scout named Paul Ligeti planned and undertook an Eagle Project concerning the history of West Windsor Township. This project, his “Interpretive Historic Bike Trail Eagle Project,” is a permanent trail – a self-guided tour- that utilizes existing roads and bike lanes to give the best possible route for anyone interested in cycling and the history of West Windsor. To learn more about the trail, and to access the tour, please visit www.wwhistoricbiker.weebly.com. On this website, you will find a wealth of information concerning the general history of the township, the actual bike route, and many pages that tie in with the project, including a photo gallery of many of the town’s historic sites.