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Chronicling Bygone Days

The year 2019 commemorates the 150th anniversary of our township. On March 2, 1869, the 22nd Governor of the State of New Jersey, Theodore Fitz Randolph, approved Chapter 72 of the Laws of 1869. This law was “An Act to create from the Township of South Amboy, in the Country of Middlesex, a new township, to be called the Township of Madison.”

Thus, the history of our town begins and our separation from South Amboy Township is finalized. The Matawan Journal newspaper will begin publishing six months later, and record the local area history of not only Matawan, but also Madison Township.

The first meeting of the new township council took place at the Cheesequake Inn on the site, now occupied by the Pine Tavern in what was then known as the Jacksonville area. Inn owner Robert L. Skillman was then reimbursed $6 for that day’s expenses $9 for dinners and suppers of judges and for the new clerk of Madison Township.

In 1964, The Madison Township Historical Society was incorporated and the town’s historical society begins and continues to serve the Old Bridge Township community today. The local Madison-American newspaper issue of March 1, 1969, which was published out of Laurence Harbor, reported on the centennial celebration events. Madison Township Day was part of the centennial celebrations that were held in 1969. Events included a skit by the local councilmen reenacting the first meeting of the township council on March 2, 1869. It was presented at a free square dance held at Saint Bernadette Church in Madison Park.

The paper also reported that Madison Township Historical Society members Alva Martin and Marion Smith-Lambertson were the emblem design winners for their new municipal seal for the Centennial slogan of “Madison Township – A Glorious Future – A Historical Past.”

Other events held during town’s centennial celebration were a parade, queen contest and Madison Township Day at Freehold Race Track. The deed to the town’s only U.S. National Historic Place, the Cedar Grove School, will be given to the Madison Historical Society from the Board of Education to mark this momentous event. The town later changed its name to Old Bridge Township due to a public referendum held in 1975. But at its core, it will always be Madison Township, the town that was originally named to honor President James Madison.

Deep historic roots

Madison Township’s name changed to Old Bridge Township in 1976, but the history of the Township dates back some 300 years.

Madison Township was once part of the extensive Township of South Amboy and, earlier, part of the South Ward of Perth Amboy Township. South Amboy Township was established in 1685 as one of the largest governing bodies of its kind as part of the British Colony of East Jersey. One hundred fifty years later, South Amboy Township began to break up into smaller townships – Monroe in 1838, Madison in 1869 and Sayreville in 1876.

This area was settled by the English, Scotch, French Huguenot and a few Irish and Dutch settlers. Most early landowners were property speculators and bought the land for quick resale and profit. The many mill streams within the town’s boundaries were used to great advantage as soon as the first pioneers settled.

The early discoveries of the fine stoneware clay along the banks of the Cheesequake Creek opened up the clay industry for both Middlesex County and the state.

The beach front on the Raritan Bay, from Cheesequake Creek to Whale Creek, was patrolled by the 2nd Regiment Middlesex County during the American Revolution. Because our extensive frontier faced the British, a constant guard and communications system was set up for the duration of the war.

Thus, the Old Bridge Township area had a vastly different development and population than the rest of Middlesex County. Its isolation by the great Raritan River, its poor soil conditions and its use and abuse by proprietors, give this area a unique history.

The Thomas Warne Museum, home of the Madison-Old Bridge Township Historical Society, is open to the public free of charge, Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m., and Monday through Friday by appointment only. School trips and group tours are welcome by reservation. The museum also maintains a library of local genealogical and historical records for those researching their family connections.

For more information, call the museum at (732) 566‑2108 or visit www.thomas-warne-museum.com.