Urban Dwellers In Plainsfield, Pennsylvania Essay, Research Paper
Urban Dwellers in Plainfield, Philadelphia
Plainfield’s earliest settlers, like many others who pioneered this country, were seeking religious and political freedoms denied them in their own countries. By 1685,
seven families (whose name identify them as “all good Scots”) established farms along the Cedar Brook. But long before the arrival of the first settlers, Indians had frequented the area in their travels between the Hudson and Delaware rivers. Those living in the Plainfield area were the Watchungs, part of the Lenni-Lenape tribe. They encamped along the Green Brook and in the areas of the Watchung and Park avenues, and Grant and Clinton avenues. The trails they marked out hundreds of years ago ran through the heart of our city. When the railroad was built in the 1800’s, it followed that old Indian cut-off to the sea. The new settlement was named Milltown, a reference to the gristmill, which was built in 1760 on the Green Brook, near what is now Watchung Avenue. In 1788, the Quakers moved their Friends Meeting House from the original site near what is today the Plainfield Country Club, to the corner of Watchung Avenue and East Third Street where it remains as one of the historical landmarks of the city. Although the Plainfield area was mostly open farmland with a population of only about 50, it was considered of sufficient military importance during the Revolutionary period to warrant a large militia post.
On April 1, 1800, a post office was established and the name of the growing community (pop. 215) was changed to Plainfield, appropriate to the gently rolling fields
of the area. Plainfield at this time consisted of one Presbyterian church, one Baptist and one Methodist church, two Friend’s meeting houses (Hick site and Orthodox), two grist mills, one saw mill, four stores, thirteen master hatters, who manufacture about $74,000 worth of hats annually; five master tailors, employing 70 hands, which work for the southern market; a fire engine, and company, a mutual insurance company. As with many other urban communities, Plainfield’s growth followed completion of the railroad in 1838 when service was provided between Elizabethtown and Plainfield. The traveler reached New York by boarding a boat at Elizabethport. With improvement t of railway service, Plainfield became a commuter town for New York. Many urban dwellers that came to spend their summers and vacations “in the country” stayed to build their homes there. By the late 1860’s some wooded residences were being converted into stores. The block from Somerset Street to Grove Street on West Front Street boasted one brick building in 1869, but no lighted or paved streets. By 1884, the railroad had greatly changed Plainfield. The grist mill and farm life were being replaced by industries such as hats, clothing, carriages, printing and other manufacturing. In the post-Civil War period, two major changes took place in Plainfield’s appearance. Use of macadam upgraded the main streets and the main business section began to shift from the North Avenue area to Front Street between Cherry Street (now Park Avenue) and Peace Street (now Watchung Avenue). Originally a part of Elizabeth and Westfield townships, Plainfield became it own township on March 4, 1847. In 1862 Western Union opened a branch office and by 1883 the first telephone pole station was established. The Plainfield Gas Light Company opened its plant in 1860 and the Plainfield Electric Light Company started business in 1886. Public Service Corporation of New Jersey was organized in May 1903 and became the Public Service Electric and Gas Company, which serve the city today.
In conclusion, urbanization in the revolution era for Plainfield has grown and changed dramatically. The revolution has affected many different areas and Plainfield is just one example of this.