Sayreville is a borough located on the Raritan River, near Raritan Bay in Middlesex County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough's population was 42,704, reflecting an increase of 2,327 (+5.8%) from the 40,377 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 5,391 (+15.4%) from the 34,986 counted in the 1990 Census.
Sayreville was originally incorporated as a township on April 6, 1876, from portions of South Amboy Township. On April 2, 1919, the borough was reincorporated as the Borough of Sayreville and ratified by a referendum held on April 29, 1919.
Native Americans were the first settlers of Sayreville. Tribes of the Navesink lived along the South River where Jernee Mill Road is located today. This was noted on a 1656 New Jersey map by A. Vanderdonck, a Dutch surveyor and map maker. During the 20th century, amateur archaeologists found thousands of Indian artifacts at the location shown on the map.
Predating the incorporation of Sayreville, the Morgan Inn (later known as the Old Spye Inn) was established in 1703 in what is now the Morgan section of Sayreville. Charles Morgan III and his descendants, including Major General James Morgan and Lieutenant Nicholas Morgan, played significant roles in the Revolutionary War. The Morgan family lived in the area for over 200 years and many family members, including Evertsons, are buried in the privately owned Morgan Cemetery, which overlooks Raritan Bay. The Morgans were said to be related to the famous pirate, Captain Henry Morgan, who is said to have visited the Inn on more than one occasion.
It was from an episode during the Revolutionary War that the Morgan Inn gained its new name, the Old Spye Inn. According to local legends, a local British loyalist, Abe Mussey, was captured by Continental Army troops in 1777 while signaling to British ships in Raritan Bay. He was tried as a spy at the Inn, convicted in a one-day trial, and sentenced to death by hanging. Mussey's execution was carried out using a tree near the Inn's entrance. Mussey was reported to be buried behind the Inn in an unmarked grave. The Inn was destroyed by fire in 1976, but its ruins remain on the National Register of Historic Places.
Originally known as Roundabout (for the river bends in the area) and then as Wood's Landing, the town was renamed in 1876 for James R. Sayre, Jr. of Newark, co-founder of Sayre and Fisher Brick Company, one of the many companies that took advantage of the extensive clay deposits that supported the brick industry from the early 19th century until 1970. From its inception, Sayre & Fisher quickly grew into one of the largest brick-making companies in the world. Production grew from 54 million bricks annually in 1878, to 178 million bricks in 1913. Company representatives in 1950 estimated that more than six billion bricks had been produced since the founding of the company.
In 1898, DuPont began production of gunpowder at its plant on Deerfield Road, and later off Washington Road. The company later built additional facilities in Sayreville for the production of paint and photo products.
At one time the Raritan River Railroad passed through Sayreville and had several spurs to service Sayre & Fisher and other local industries. A train running on the line was featured in "The Juggernaut," a 1914 episode of the silent movie serial The Perils of Pauline. The episode was staged on the line, including the construction of a bridge over Ducks Nest Pond in Sayreville. The fishing pond is located in the back of Bailey Park, near the DuPont and Hercules factories.
In 1918 during World War I, Sayreville was heavily damaged by TNT explosions at the Gillespie Shell Loading Plant. The disaster killed dozens and injured hundreds of local victims, damaged hundreds of buildings, required an emergency declaration of martial law, and scattered wide areas of ammunition remnants that continue to surface occasionally.
Sayreville's clay deposits have earned scientific notice as one of the world's major sources of museum-quality amber fossils. This prehistoric tree resin managed to encase over a hundred species of insects and plants from approximately 90 million years ago, when Sayreville had a tropical climate. The fossils have been extensively researched and published by David Grimaldi, curator of invertebrate zoology at the American Museum of Natural History.