Before the area known as Maplewood officially became Maplewood, it was the home of the Lenape tribes of Algonquian Native Americans. Robert Treat, looking at the land, found several of the tribes’ trails. These trails led to the migration of other groups and families to the township and later becoming the major roadways into the town.
It was 1675 when the first European settlers arrived in the area. The group consisted of Dutch, English and French Puritans, who first settled in parts around Long Island, Hempstead and Stamford, Connecticut. They attained land from the Native Americans that followed the three trails now known as South Orange Avenue, Ridgewood Road and Springfield Avenue.
The trails led to the foundation of three distinct communities that would later become South Orange and Maplewood. People coming from Newark trail (now called South Orange Avenue) would settle in the area known as South Orange village.
Six families – Ball, Brown, Freeman, Gildersleeve, Pierson and Smith – traveled the now-Ridgewood Road and settled farms around its center, later called Jefferson Village after Thomas Jefferson. There were also orchards and mills established.
There were about 30 families living in the area by the mid-1810s. Though most people were Presbyterian, the first church to be built was for Baptists. It was used until 1846 and was left to ruin until the Methodist Episcopal Church restored it in 1858 for its own congregation.
Many who traveled the now Springfield Avenue settled on the hillcrest that is now an intersection for Springfield and Tuscan Avenues. The village was called North Farms. As time passed, the community was known as a Hilton section and was a place for stagecoaches to stop between Morristown and Newark (formerly known as Paulus Hook). It eventually became a place to do some light manufacturing and trading.
In 1830, North Farms residents decided to change its name to Middleville and again to Hilton in 1880 when a post office was permitted to set up shop.
Seth Boyden, an American inventor, moved to then Middletown for his retirement. However, he came up with several agricultural products that included berries. He created a hybrid strawberry called the Hilton strawberry. Boyden also developed the first steam engines for the area, which serviced the railway through the town.
Middletown, which is where the “Canfield” and “Harrison” apple varieties grow, became well-known for orchards and the industries it provided, such as the rum distilleries and cider mills.
North Farms and Jefferson Village became districts of the Township of Newark, NJ in 1802.
Since the three established communities had their own distinct “government,” they had their own school association.
In 1814, South Orange founded its Columbian School that would later be called Columbia High School.
Here’s Colombia High School at 17 Parker Ave on a map.
In 1817, North Farms came up with the North Farms Association. In 1818, Jefferson Association was founded in Jefferson Village.
The state of New Jersey would later introduce public education through the School Law in 1867. Its appointed county superintendent combined all three districts into a single one, “the South Orange-Maplewood School District.” The district hired its first permanent teacher, a New York resident named James Ricalton. He set the standards for education that continues within the district today.
Schools then lead to farms, which were divided into parcels to make way for residential housing (later becoming known as a commuter suburb). The 1920s saw the most growth for the area – in terms of both residents and buildings.
Here are a few other schools in the Maplewood area:
To get to Clinton Elementary School located at 17 Parker Ave, from Columbia High School, do the following. Another elementary school is Jefferson Elementary School at 518 Ridgewood Rd. You can get there from Clinton Elementary here.
Morris and Essex Railroad extended its railway from Newark to the area in the late 1830s. John Shedden, a land investor, would build the Jefferson Village railroad station he called Maplewood. The name was a mixture of Jefferson Village, Hilton and sections of Springfield.
Now, Maplewood was first founded as South Orange Township in April 1861, which included parts of the Town of Orange (Clinton Township). The parts taken established the South Orange village, which became completely independent in March 1904. In November 1922, the area making up the township would now officially be called Maplewood.
The 1990 census revealed that township, located in Essex County, had nearly 22,000 people, but in 2010, the township saw a growth of nearly 2,000 people (sitting at 23,867).
Our office is located at 20 Valley Street. #340 in South Orange. For directions from the Jefferson Elementary School, follow this map.
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