There are 565 towns and hundreds of communities in New Jersey. How you ever wondered just how they got their names? Well, in 1938, a group of writers with the New Jersey Writers’ Project, attempted to catalogue the names of over 900 places in New Jersey. A lot of the information submitted was legendary, some contradictory, and in many cases not available. The project became a mixture of history, legend, and lore. Sometimes it was impossible to determine exactly how a place got its name. But as far-fetched as a story may have been, it still gave some insight into a place’s history and character. So here we go:
- The Borough of Dunellen, Middlesex County: supposedly named after a train passenger Ellen who took too long using the outhouse when early trains would stop to refill engine boilers. Before leaving, the engineers yelled “Done, Ellen” to get her out of the latrine.
- The City of Orange (East Orange, South Orange, and West Orange), Essex County: named after the birthplace of King William III who was king of England when the town was founded. He was also the Prince of Orange.
- Avalon, Atlantic County: named after the place where King Arthur’s sword Excalibur was forged in Arthurian legend.
- The Bass River and Bass River Township, Burlington County: named after Jeremiah Bass, Colonial Governor of New Jersey in the late 1690s.
- Basking Ridge, Somerset County: named due to a ridge where animals basked in the sun according to a 1938 WPA report.
- The Borough of Bogota, Bergen County: named after the Bogert family who owned much of the land in the late 1600s, along with the Banta family. Bogota may be a combination of the two family names.
- Brielle, Monmouth County: named by one of the developers who first settled the town who thought the area reminded him of the Dutch river town Brielle.
- The City of Brigantine, Atlantic County: named after a type of two-masted sailing ship known as Brigantines common in the 17th and 18th A ship of this type floundered in 1710 near the island and town that now bear its name.
- The Borough of Califon, Hunterdon County: legend says it was named after California because a local mill owner made a cattle feed the color of California gold.
- Hoboken, Hudson County: the name is derived from the Native American word “Hopokan” which means “a pipe for smoking.”
Whether history, legend, or lore, it makes for some interesting interpretations. You can come to your own conclusions. Perhaps you might investigate how and why you received the name you did. Or, come to think about it, maybe not.
What do you think?