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The Unique and Surprising History of Princeton

The Unique and Surprising History of Princeton
Princeton History BookEven though Princeton was established as a borough in 2013, its history as a community goes back hundreds of years. Before European settlers arrived on the scene, the Lenni Lenape Native Americans inhabited the region. It is believed that the very first building constructed in the Princeton area was by Henry Greenland in 1683. He built his home and a tavern on the Kings Highway that ran through the area. Whenever you have a drink in Princeton, you can thank Henry Greenland because it was his idea first.

From Quakers to College
After Henry Greenland, Quakers moved into the area and established a grist mill and the community began to thrive. It didn’t take long for the little settlement to eclipse Stoney Brook, but it wasn’t until 1734 that the name Princeton became common. Princeton received a Presbyterian influence and prominence when the College of New Jersey moved to town in 1756 and erected Nassau Hall. 

The Declaration of Independence
Two signers of the Declaration of Independence, Richard Stockton and John Witherspoon lived in Princeton. The two streets you see in downtown, Stockton and Witherspoon, are named after these amazing patriots.  

The Battle of Princeton
Princeton has a unique history as being a turning point battle during the revolutionary war. On January 3, 1777 the revolutionary forces repulsed a British attack in Trenton. With troop morale high, the American militia waited for nighttime and then attacked the British Forces in Princeton. The battle would have failed if it wasn’t for General George Washington, who rallied the troops. The battle became a victory after British soldiers, who had taken refuge in Nassau Hall, surrendered. Though the battle was a minor one for British forces, it was vital to the American cause. Because of the success at Princeton, morale for the American soldiers was high and enlistment for the American Army increased significantly. Next time you see an American flag fluttering in town, you can thank the Battle of Princeton. 

State Seal
After the Battle of Princeton, the state of New Jersey held its first legislature and they decided upon the New Jersey State seal. They also decided on a Governor and the organization of State government. The three plows in the shield honor the State’s agricultural heritage, while the forward facing helmet denotes sovereignty. 


Published March 28, 2016 in Living in New Jersey