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. Local land acquisition began in the 1690s, with prominent individuals such as William Penn and David Lyell (both of "Penn-Lyle Road"), and others buying thousands of acres of land. Before that, the area was the sole territory of the indigenous Leni Lenape. 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).
In 1731, the area was known as New Windsor Township and it included East Windsor, Princeton Township, Princeton Borough, Highstown, Robbinsville and portions of Millstone and Monroe Township. In 1737 much of 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 1853, 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
- Scudders Mills/Aqueduct: At the confluence of the Millston River and Carnegie Lake
- Princeton Basin: Where Alexander Road cross the Delaware and Raritan Canal
A seventh hamlet, Princeton Junction, was established in 1865 when the train station was situated in West Windsor. West Windsor is home to more than 25,000 citizens today. 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 may date back to earlier than the 1750s (probably the 1730s or 1740s, based on maps and deeds) 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.
In 2019, the Historical Society of West Windsor created a website/online history museum dedicated to our town's rich history. Visitors can discover historic sites and villages, explore West Windsor's development over the generations, and learn about upcoming community projects and events and how to become involved.