The Lenni Lenape Indians are noted as the original settlers of current-day Old Bridge, until the mid-1600s when the Dutch and British began to settle in the area. In 1664 the region came under the control of the English, and by 1682 the boundaries were defined for the newly created Middlesex County. Within the county, South Amboy Township was formed in 1684 and maintained its boundaries until 1869 when a portion was separated in order to establish Madison Township. The name Madison Township remained in use until 1975 when it was changed to the Township of Old Bridge.
Initially, the area was primarily comprised of farms. The Raritan River and Bay were heavily used for water transportation and commercial trading until the arrival of the railroad in the early- to mid-1800s. In addition to its economic draw, the area was a popular recreational destination and the host of various local outings.
These attractive features spurred a gradual growth in population, which stood at 1,662 in 1880. Today the town is home to over 70,000 residents and is recognized as the third-largest municipality in Middlesex County, one of the largest counties in the state and was named as a contender for the title of one of the best places to live in the United States by Money Magazine.
The Madison Township Historical Society was formed in 1964 and remains dedicated to finding, preserving and interpreting the history of Old Bridge Township and the state of New Jersey. The historical society currently operates the Thomas Warne Historical Museum and Library, which is located in a 19th century one-room schoolhouse on a portion of land originally purchased by Thomas Warne, one of the original proprietors of the Raritan Bay Area, in 1682.
For more information on the Madison Township Historical Society and its museum library, visit www.thomas-warne-museum.com.
The Cottrell homestead is a landmark in Old Bridge. It was built in 1831 and still stands today on the northeast corner of County Route 516 and Cottrell Road. The Cottrells owned 150 acres of apple orchard that was located across the street from their home. Across from the cold-storage building on the southwest corner of Cottrell Road and Route 516 (where Rite Aid is now located), the family built the New Jersey Apple Growers, Inc. distillery. It was at this distillery that they pressed the apples into cider and distilled the brandy in large vats. The brandy would age in barrels in a government warehouse that was located on the Cottrell’s property. The Cottrell’s produced apple brandy for 20 years on the farm and sold it wholesale to distributors under the name Browntown. w