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How New Brunswick Was Born


From the mid-17th century to present day, New Brunswick is full of rich history, facts and details, places and structures, and the many people who contributed to its prominent growth over these many decades. Along the way there are multitudes of interesting facts, pertinent stories, recorded historical data, and even legends — all of which may or may not be preserved in historical annals.

In the 1600s…
During the last half of the 17th century, the area that was to become metropolitan New Brunswick was no more than a Native American village in a dense cedar forest with some swampland along the Raritan River.  The first recorded European inhabitant of the area was a man named Daniel Cooper, who resided near the present site of the Albany Street bridge approach. Mr. Cooper operated the ferry that was later purchased by John Inian.

In 1681, John Inian purchased two lots from the Leni-Lenape containing one mile of riverfront and two miles deep, or 1280 acres.  This was the first purchase of land in what is now the City of New Brunswick. It had been referred to by the Indians simply as "River." 

At a point in the 1690s, the area became known as Prigmore’s Swamp, locally named after John Prigmore (or Pridmore) who lived along the banks. Our visionary pioneers settled and grew the area alongside a river that fostered trade and commerce, with a port that would soon be thriving with people, activity, taverns and inns.

In the 1700s…
When settler John Inian envisioned an expanding and useful transit system, he purchased ferry rights on the river, and around 1713, Prigmore’s Swamp became Inian’s Ferry. In 1724 the town was renamed New Brunswick in honor of King George I, the Duke of Brunswick.

The City was then incorporated on December 30, 1730, two weeks before New York City incorporated. During the 1730s there was a large Dutch immigration from Albany, New York, settling on what would later be named “Albany Street.” New Brunswick became an important crossroads between Philadelphia/Trenton and New York City. George Washington, Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and John Adams are just a few of our prominent leaders and innovators who made history here before, during, and after the Revolutionary War.

New Brunswick re-chartered in 1784, and reconstruction of the City began in the aftermath of the Revolution. The city government organized with a Mayor, a Recorder, and a Common Council. Committees were named to take care of the poor, to look after the city water wells and street lighting, and to report on drains and fire protection.

In 1792, after a rivalry with Perth Amboy for the construction of a county court house, New Brunswick offered to contribute 300 pounds sterling toward a new building, and thus, New Brunswick became the County seat.

Want to know what happens next?
Check often in our History Corner to learn more fascinating and fun facts about our City’s history and growth, including …

  • New Brunswick’s role in the Revolutionary War
  • The birth of the college that became Rutgers University
  • The very first college football game
  • The growth of culture and entertainment in the City
  • The significance of the Opera House Pharmacy on George Street, and its many implications
  • The growth of remarkable and fervent worship
  • The influence of healthcare companies in the structuring and success of the City
  • The revitalization of New Brunswick through the 20th century

New Brunswick’s Historical Organizations
New Brunswick currently has two organizations that are devoted to the preservation of its history, and programming to learn more about related activities, fairs and festivals, lectures, and other events.

Click Here for information about the New Brunswick Historical Association (preservation) and the New Brunswick Historical Society (programming).