Franklin Township is a township in Somerset County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the township's population was 62,300, reflecting an increase of 11,397 (+22.4%) from the 50,903 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 8,123 (+19.0%) from the 42,780 counted in the 1990 Census.
Traditionally a farming community, it has become a fast-growing suburb with massive development in the later 20th and 21st centuries as a diverse blend of races, religions and cultures. In 2008, Franklin Township ranked #5 on Money magazine's list of America's Top 100 Best Places to Live.
What is now Franklin Township was originally formed circa 1745 as Eastern precinct. Franklin Township was incorporated on February 21, 1798, as one of New Jersey's initial group of 104 townships by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature. Portions of the township were taken to form South Bound Brook (formed within Township, became independent municipality as of April 11, 1907) and East Millstone (February 18, 1873, returned to Franklin Township on December 31, 1949).
Culture and history
It has been unclear if the township was named for founding father Benjamin Franklin or for his illegitimate son William Franklin, a Loyalist and the last Royal Governor of New Jersey (from 1763 to 1776). In 2000, after considering the evidence set forth by William B. Brahms in his books Images of America: Franklin Township (1997) and Franklin Township, Somerset County, NJ: A History, and The Case for William Franklin and The Case for Benjamin Franklin, the Township Council chose the theory that the township was indeed named for Benjamin Franklin.
Franklin Township was very much a part of Revolutionary War history and the scene of many raiding parties along Route 27, then known as the King's Highway. Two British generals, Cornwallis and DeHeister, tried to lure General George Washington and his Continental Army into battle on the plains of Middlebush and East Millstone. Washington, however, kept his troops at Chimney Rock, just north of Franklin, until the British withdrew. Several of the prosperous Middlebush farms were destroyed by the British soldiers during their retreat. In 1777, near the mill on the Millstone River at Weston, the Continental Army and local militia engaged and successfully drove off a British foraging party of about 600 troops, sent out of New Brunswick by General Cornwallis. In 1783, Washington composed his farewell address to his army while staying at Rockingham near Kingston, New Jersey.
The construction of the Delaware and Raritan Canal in the 1830s, stretching to connect New York and Philadelphia, led to significant growth in the township, with as much as 200,000 tons of goods shipped on barges using the canal by the 1860s. The rise of shipping commercial goods using railroads led to a substantial decline in canal traffic. The area has been restored as the .
The Van Wickle House, located next to the Delaware and Raritan Canal in the Somerset section of the township, in between New Brunswick and South Bound Brook, was built in 1722 by Dutch settlers and is now owned and maintained by The Meadows Foundation. Set back behind Easton Avenue, the home adjoins the Rutgers Preparatory School and a Revolutionary War-era graveyard.
Passenger and freight railroad service was available in Franklin Township during the later half of the 19th century via the Millstone and New Brunswick Railroad (M&NB) which opened in 1854. The railroad was built and operated by the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR), from a junction with the PRR mainline at Jersey Avenue in New Brunswick to East Millstone. The M&NB is now known as the Conrail Millstone Secondary Branch. The branch line is still operated by Conrail up to just west of Clyde Road in Somerset, serving local industry in the industrial section of Somerset.
In 1922, the infamous Hall-Mills Murder took place in Franklin Township, in the area adjacent to New Brunswick known as Somerset.