History of The Mill
Fulcard Van Nordstrand advertises for sale a gristmill with 2 pair of grist stones, a fulling mill and a press house standing on a constant stream with 2 dwelling houses on 112 acres of land, 3 miles from New Brunswick, on the northwest bank of the Lawrence Brook. This is the earliest written documentation of a mill in Milltown.
The mill is purchased by Ferdinand Schuurman. During this year, British troops raid the mill and capture 2 local militiamen, Ferdinand's nephew James Schuurman and his cousin John Thompson. They were temporarily held in New Brunswick and then transferred to the Sugar House Prison in upstate New York. They managed to escape and made their way to Morristown.
Ferdinand Schuurman dies and his mill is operated by his widow Eleanor and his son Abraham.
Abraham sells the mill to Tunis Quick of Hunterdon County.
Quick sells the mill to Nicholas Van Brundt. Van Brundt builds a new fulling mill.
Van Brundt sells the mill to John Bennett.
Bennett leases and then sells the mill to Christian Van Nortwick.
Van Nortwick leases the mill to Timothy Enixon.
Jacob Bergen of Somerset acquires the property from Van Nortwick. The settlement becomes known as Bergen's Mill.
Bergen constructs a new fulling mill and press house on the site and advertises his services in a local newspaper. In his ad, Bergen refers to the settlement as Milltown. This is the earliest written documentation of the settlement being known as Milltown.
Jacob Bergen dies and his family resumes operation of the mill.
The mill ceases operation, apparently due to a fire. Christopher Meyer acquires the property and The Meyer Rubber Company is formed.
A fire destroys the factory and Meyer's home. John R. Ford finances a new factory under the name of Ford & Co.
A second fire again destroys the factory.
The factory is rebuilt and with the issuance of stocks becomes known as The Ford Rubber Co.
The company again becomes The Meyer Rubber Co. with Christopher Meyer as president.
The Meyer Rubber Company ceases operations.
During this period The India Rubber Co. operated the site for a short time and was then succeeded by The International Rubber Co.
The International Rubber Co. is taken over by The Michelin Tire Company. Many buildings are constructed, largely as it appears today.
Michelin builds 53 bungalows in town, which would later increase to 200, to help improve living conditions for their employees. During it's peak years, Michelin would employ more than 2000 men and women.
Due to the depression, Michelin ceases operations in Milltown and moves back to France.
After Michelin's departure, several firms have resided in the former Michelin factory. They include Chicopee of J&J, Heidingsfeld Printing Co., Algro Knitting Mills and Alphaduct Wire
116 South Main Street
What's in A Name?
It is to the past that we must look for the history written in the streets.
There exist some clues to the history of the community and its times, in the names of the streets:
Six presidents of the United States have been enshrined in this manner. In addition to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, they are Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland, Woodrow Wilson and John F. Kennedy.
All in a cluster near the southern edge of the borough are five short avenues commemorating the names and deeds of commanders of Allied armies in World War I, they are: American General John J. Pershing, English Field Marshall Douglas Haig, and three Frenchmen; Ferdinand Foch was the supreme commander of all allied armies, Field Marshall Joseph Joffre, and Commander in Chief Henri Petain. Later Petain tumbled from his pedestal of honor in World War II, after being convicted of working with the enemy against France. For decades after the war, no attempt was made in Milltown to dishonor him by removing his name from the street that bears it. However in 2010, a petition with over 250 signatures from Milltown residents urged that the street be renamed because of Petain’s role in collaborating with Hitler’s Nazi Germany during World War II and his role in France’s horrific Holocaust history.
Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette is honored with a street adjacent to those bearing the names of leaders in two other American wars. They are General Winfield Scott, the hero of the War with Mexico, and Civil War General William Sherman.
Casualties of war also produced several street names in town.
(George) Moetz Drive
(William) Carina Drive
(Joseph) DeBonis Drive
(Gilbert) Mathison Place
(William) Benhardt Drive
(Julian) Desmet Drive
(Henry) Potter Place
(John) Fisher Drive
(Leigh) Pardun Avenue
(George) Renoux Drive
(Michael) Starodub Drive
(Brian) Clayton Court
(George) Hye Court.
Some other notables that should not be overlooked include: Dr. Ferdinand Riva, one of the first councilmen and later a mayor. John Ford, who made money available to rebuild the Meyer Rubber Company plant after it was destroyed by fire
Two Richter brothers, Charles and John, lent their name to that street. Another brother, Conrad, and his son, Walter, later became mayors.
The names of Booream and Van Liew, two of the early great landholders, have been inextricably bound since Maria Van Liew married Henry Booream several generations ago. Garretson Circle also pays its tribute. It was designated for the son of Garret Booream, father and grandfather of two former mayors.
Other early settlers in Milltown include the Kuhlthau, Vanderbilt and Richter families.
And finally, a curious coincidence. Three Milltown streets in the name of one individual. Kearney Yarnell Kuhlthau spent most of his life in Milltown. Though Kuhlthau Avenue and Yarnell Avenue can be linked to him, Kearney Drive however has no connection to him or his family.
History of Milltown
Jacob Bergen constructs a grist mill on the banks of Lawrence Brook to serve farmers in the area. This is the origin of a settlement known at the time as Bergen's Mill, that would later become Milltown. The community claims a population of 25, the grist mill, a tavern and several houses.
Christopher Meyer introduces the industrial era to Bergen's Mill with the Meyer Rubber Co.
Fire destroys the rubber factory and Meyer's home, leaving him penniless. John Ford advances Meyer the money to rebuild. It is in this period of time that the name Bergen's Mill begins to be replaced with Milltown, most likely stemming from people saying they are "going to the mill in town."
Phillip Kuhlthau, the first in a great wave of German immigrants, arrives in Milltown from New York City. German peasants suffering from poverty and general hardship seek a new life in new surroundings. Kuhlthau is among those to flee after his village of Oberzell experiences great hardship. After three years of working at the rubber mill, he returns to Germany to tell of the opportunity that abounds in America, leading friends and family to Milltown.
Milltown Library Association organizes to make books available to the public. A great number of books written in German are purchased for the large German-speaking population.
Kuhlthau, in the role he assumes as leader of the German wave of immigrants, makes a provision for their final resting place with the formation of Van Liew Cemetery Association.
The first official school, called District No. 28, is constructed.
December 12 - The Federal Government establishes Milltown's first post office.
Phone service comes to town. Meyer Rubber Works and NJ Rubber Shoe Works are the first customers.
October 9 - Citizens approve secession from North Brunswick. On Oct. 22, a special election is conducted to form a Borough Commission and to set town boundaries.
March 4 - A Board of Commissioners to lead the town is chosen, and they are sworn in on March 16.
June 9 - The first formal complaint is brought before the commissioners. Boys playing ball in the neighborhood of Clay and Church are making too much noise.
July 4 - The first passenger train of the Raritan River Railroad Company, operating between New Brunswick and South Amboy via Milltown, is given its first run.
November 2 - Brunswick Traction Co. runs a car line through Milltown for trolley service. In 1928, trolley service is replaced with buses.
Meyer Rubber Co. ceases operations.
April 20 - The State Legislature repeals an act relating to the form of government utilized by Milltown. An act approved by the Legislature on April 21 sets up the borough as it is now. The borough adopts May 7 as its birthday, for this is the day the Commission meets and takes care of business under the new form of government. The first regular police officers are appointed.
Electric service finally reaches Milltown.
Russell Playing Card Co. opens.
Michelin Tire Co. arrives, to which much of the growth of the borough is attributed as well as the second wave of immigration. A large number of workers and their families come from France.
February 22 - The Milltown Fire Department is organized with a charter membership of 83 men.
The Parent-Teacher Public Library of Milltown is organized. On Oct. 28 the library opens in the Joyce Kilmer School, across the street from the current library building.
Michelin Tire Company closes its doors, affecting the community psychologically and financially. Milltown depended on the company for "wages, entertainment and support." It doesn't help matters that this is the time of the Great Depression. Most of the French workers return to their homeland.
Russell Playing Card Co. moves to Ohio after acquisition by the United States Playing Card Co.
October 22 - The Milltown Rescue Squad is organized. Nineteen men gather in the firehouse.
December 9 - An ordinance introduced by the Borough Council establishes the Milltown Police Department.
A new library organization, calling itself the Milltown Public Library Association Inc., forms to work on bringing the library into a bigger building.
May 9 - The Milltown Historical Society is founded.
September 22 - The new Milltown Public Library opens.
Milltown's Library becomes municipalized, allowing for more funding.
November 1 - www.MilltownNJ.org debuts.
MFD's 1921 American LaFrance
The First National Bank of Milltown
A truck hit by a train on Main Street, in the 1920's. The building in the background is the Rinky Dink.
Postcard dated 1911
Milltown by the Numbers
- Population (year 2000): 7,000
- Males: 3,377 (48.2%)
- Females: 3,623 (51.8%)
- Land area: 1.6 square miles Zip code: 08850 Median resident age: 39.9 years Median household income: $68,429 Median house value: $178,400
- Races in Milltown:
- White Non-Hispanic (91.5%)
- Hispanic (3.7%)
- Chinese (1.6%)
- Other race (1.2%)
- Two or more races (1.0%)
- Asian Indian (0.8%)
- Black (0.8%)
- Italian (27.5%)
- Irish (22.5%)
- German (22.2%)
- Polish (14.0%)
- English (7.9%)
- Hungarian (7.5%)
- For population 25 years and over:
- High school or higher: 86.9%
- Bachelor's degree or higher: 27.2%
- Graduate or professional degree: 7.4%
- Unemployed: 3.7%
- Mean travel time to work: 26.4 minutes
- Never married: 26.4%
- Now married: 57.7%
- Separated: 1.6%
- Widowed: 7.4%
- Divorced: 7.0%
- Crime in Milltown (2001):
- 1 murder (14.3 per 100,000)
- 0 rapes (0.0 per 100,000)
- 2 robberies (28.6 per 100,000)
- 2 assaults (28.6 per 100,000)
- 8 burglaries (114.3 per 100,000)
- 86 larceny counts (1228.6 per 100,000)
- 3 auto thefts (42.9 per 100,000)
- crime index = 89.1 (higher means more crime, US average = 330.6)
- Milltown compared to New Jersey state average:
- Median household income above state average.
- Median household value above state average.
- Hispanic race population percentage above state average.
- Median age above state average.
- Foreign-born population percentage significantly above state average.
- Renting percentage significantly below state average.
- Length of stay since moving in significantly above state average.
- Number of rooms per house above state average.
- House age above state average.
- Number of college students below state average.
- Population density above state average