Ewing Township History
Chief Justice Charles Ewing
(Born 1780 ~ died 1832)
Historic map of
Ewing Township, 1875
by Everts & Stewart
The General Motors plant during World War II produced Avenger planes for the war effort.
Although Ewing Township was officially established in 1834, the history of the region ranges back thousands of years. The earliest inhabitants of the land area today known as Ewing Township were the Lenape Indians. These migratory people ranged throughout New Jersey along the banks of the Delaware River, and the township’s many creeks provided rich natural resources for hunting, fishing, pottery-making, and simple farming. The Lenape Indians were the original owners of the land, but by 1801, more than a century after the arrival of the first settlers, they had sold virtually all of their land to the settlers and moved from the area.
Permanent settlement of Ewing Township began about 1675. Most of this land was within the 30,000 acre tract acquired by Adlord Bowde for Daniel Coxe in 1688, and Coxe’s agents began subdividing and selling the land. At this time it was part of Hopewell Township, and continued under that name until the City of Trenton was established in 1719. From 1719 until 1834, the area was named Trenton Township. On February 22, 1834, the name was changed from Trenton Township to Ewing Township in honor of Charles Ewing, who was posthumously honored for his work as Chief Justice of the New Jersey State Supreme Court from 1824-1832. Today Ewing Township occupies a total area of 15.6 square miles (9,960 acres).
Ewing was settled by a mixture of European and American colonists. Emigrants from Long Island and the East Jersey Province were largely of English and Scotch ancestry, with a sprinkling of Welsh, Dutch and French Huguenots. Other English families came from Burlington County and the New England colonies.
In the early years of settlement, Ewing was chiefly a woodland area; however, after the Revolution, Ewing embarked upon a long period of agricultural growth and activity. In 1844, historians Barber and Howe described the township as having some of the richest soil in New Jersey. Early development was in the form of small hamlets scattered throughout the township: including Birmingham (now known as West Trenton), Ewing, Ewingville, and Greensburg (now Wilburtha). Most of these hamlets were located on the main transportation routes through the township; on roads such as Scotch Road or Pennington Road, on the Delaware & Raritan Canal, and near ferries across the Delaware River.
By the early 20th century, Trenton had become a major industrial center, and the population of the city rapidly increased. The areas of Ewing adjacent to Trenton began to take on urban characteristics, absorbing the population overflow from the city. Many Trenton residents discovered the advantages of living in Ewing, and the township began to change from an agricultural to a residential community. Trains and streetcars enabled people to live farther from the center of Trenton. Areas such as Homecrest, Prospect Heights, Prospect Park, and Weber Park were established near the borders of the City of Trenton, some of the earliest “suburban” developments in Ewing.
Despite the early development of the streetcar suburbs, Ewing grew slowly in the first quarter of the 20th century. By 1920 the population of the township stood at 3,500. The area remained predominantly rural in nature until just prior to World War II, when new industries began a long period of growth and development for the township. With the construction of the General Motors plant in 1938 and the employment opportunities that accompanied it, new communities such as Glendale and Fernwood began to be built.
By 1940, only 20 years later, the township’s population had almost tripled to 10,146. Important industries were attracted to the area by the proximity of the Reading Railroad. Companies such as Homasote, Roller Bearing, Winner Manufacturing, Nassau China, and Heath Lumber benefited from this major transportation system, and some even installed spurs connecting to the main rail line. During World War II, factories in the area devoted themselves wholeheartedly to the war effort. General Motors became Eastern Aircraft, and made a critical contribution to the war effort through the production of the Navy Avenger Torpedo Bomber. Assemblies from other plants on the East Coast were transported via the Reading Railroad to the Ewing plant, where they joined Ewing-fabricated sections in final assembly. Bombers off the line were sent to the Skillman (now Trenton-Mercer) airport, where they were tested before delivery to the navy.
After World War II, Ewing Township grew rapidly, reflected by the construction of a variety of housing, including Parkway Village, Moss Homes, Wynnwood Manor and Fleetwood Village. Later subdivisions included Hampton Hill, Hillwood Manor, Sherbrooke, Hickory Hills and Village on the Green.
By 1960, the population of the township had grown to 26,828. Through the years, the State of New Jersey has established a number of important institutions in Ewing Township. These include the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital, The College of New Jersey (formerly Trenton State College), Marie Katzenbach New Jersey School for the Deaf, and the State Department of Transportation complex. Another significant governmental installation was the Naval Air Warfare Center on Parkway Avenue, which developed many major aeronautical defense weapons, such as the cruise missile, for the US Navy.
Today Ewing has become an ethnically and socially diverse community of residents. According to the 2010 census, the population of the township stood at 35,790, and is expected to rise to 38,200 by 2040. The economy of the township is strongly rooted in government, light manufacturing and education. With easy access to both Philadelphia and New York, the township remains a viable business center. It continues to function as a corridor for the vital components of air, rail and land transportation, including the Trenton-Mercer Airport and Interstate 295.
Under the initiative of the Mayor-Council form of government, established in 1995, the township continues to review and define several areas for redevelopment and community renewal. This initiative will maximize the potential for future growth, and help the township meet the challenges of the 21st century. Ewing remains a vital community in Mercer County and Central New Jersey for growth, opportunity and progress; and although much changed from its agrarian roots, its character remains intact for future generations in neighborhoods, people, and special places.