The native people living in this area were the Raritans, of the Leni Lenape branch of the Delawares. They lived in a large wig-wam village near what is now Shackamaxon Golf Course and in the Ashbrook golf course area.
The first white man in this region was probably Verrazano in 1524 but the land was first claimed by the Dutch in 1609 as a result of Henry Hudson's explorations. The heartland of Scotch Plains was first owned by a Dutchman, Peter Sonmans, until the English conquest in 1664. Capt. John Baker bought the region from the Indians before 1684 paying one cent for every ten acres.
In 1684 and 1685 this village was settled by Scottish immigrants who had landed at Perth Amboy under the leadership of George Scot - thus, we were Scot's Plains. In these early days Scot's Plains was part of West Fields (later Westfield) which in turn was part of Elizabethtown.
There were 8 families in the original settlement, who lived in wig-wams or log cabins. At this time people traveled by horseback on Indian trails which were later adorned with wagon wheel tracks from stagecoaches and buggies pulled. These paths became our present main streets: Front Street, Park Avenue, Martine Avenue, Raritan Road and Westfield Road.
Scot's Plain, which included what is now Fanwood, grew slowly in population and was a farming community for 200 years. In the 1720's, William Darby, a Baptist, gave part of his property to build a meetinghouse and a cemetery. On this property a Baptist church was dedicated in 1747. In the 1760's he also gave land for the first school, an academy standing next to the church on Park Avenue (then called Darby Road).
The first significant building was a handsome structure erected in 1737 by John Surton. By 1769 this tavern, the Stage House Inn, became a stopping place for the Swift Sure Stage Line. In 1775 the center of Scotch Plains consisted of 11 houses including the inn.
In 1794 a gala time was held at the old inn when the township of Westfield, which then included Scotch Plains and Fanwood, was set apart from the township of Elizabethtown. The documents were signed and sealed right in the old tavern by well-known citizens: Marsh, Osborne, Laing, Swan, Clark, and Darby.
Following the Revolutionary War our township started some growth. A reading society was formed in 1800, the local post office opened its doors in 1804 and a temperance society was formed in 1831. In 1838 The Elizabethtown and Somerville Railroad had reached Westfield and they offered to purchase right of way in Scotch Plains. When the townspeople would have no part in this, it passed east of our center to Plainfield, spurring Plainfield's growth.
In 1851 three private schools were augmented by a public school system and at the time of the civil war in 1861, the village included 1 church, 3 private schools, 1 public school, 1 tavern, 2 stores, 5 mills, 70 houses, and many farms. There were no paved roads, sidewalks, or street lighting. Following the Civil War two other denominations arrived; Methodists in 1867 and Episcopalians in 1872.
In 1867 the train depot on Midway Avenue was given the name Fanwood and the 350 acres around it called Fanwood Park. This name was used to honor Fanny Wood, a daughter of a railroad official. In 1869 the Excelsior Hood and Ladder Co. No. 1, a volunteer firefighter company, was founded. In 1877 Scotch Plains divorced itself from Westfield and became Fanwood Township. In 1895 one mile of land in the center separated itself and became Fanwood Borough.
It has remained separate ever since. The railroad brought commuters and vacationers to Fanwood whose progressive ideas clashed with those of long-time residents of Scotch Plains. Clayton's History of Union County dated 1882 noted a population of 324 which didn't include south Scotch Plains at all. Mentioned were 3 churches, 1 schoolhouse, 2 taverns, 3 grocery stores, a dry goods store, a paper factory, a drugstore, a shoemaker and 2 butchers. A formal public library was established in 1888 the same year the stone "Union Church" now Willow Groove Presbyterian was built.
By World War I, Scotch Plains was becoming modern as paved streets replaced mud roads. There was a big influx of Italian immigrants bringing with them experience in shoemaking, masonry, carpentry and plumbing. After World War 1, the town grew mostly in homes for commuters with construction of Route 22 in 1930 playing a part in the town's development. City people began to move here "to the country". At this time we had the old School #1 built in 1890, School #3, in 1915, school #4, 1922 and a one room schoolhouse(School #2) on the southside. School #4, later LaGrande School, is now the Children's Specialized Hospital.
Fanwood and Scotch Plains have always shared schools. Until 1925 high school students went to other towns. At the time, what is now Park Middle School was built as a high school and a junior high.
The biggest growth came after World War II in the 1950's and 1960's especially on the southside where many big housing developments replaced farms. Schackamaxon, Evergreen, Brunner, Coles, Terrill Middle School, McGinn, and a new School One were added. In 1953 there were more than 10,000 people here and students in schools had doubled. A new high school was built and the old one became Park Middle School.
Today, with a population of 22,000, Scotch Plains retains its small town image, while the Township has been moving forward in providing diversified services and activities to meet the needs of its residents.
Surrounding the Borough of Fanwood where there is a Train Station sending commuters and pleasure seekers to New York City, Scotch Plains offers easy accessibility to major State Highways, including Routes 22, 78 and 287, the Garden State Parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike.
The rich culture of Scotch Plains includes people from all walks of life, from corporate executive to the rich array of trades people who have contributed to not only the quaint look of the Town but also the convenience of easy living.
The Township has been a leader in providing many services to its residents including active senior citizens groups who have been instrumental in the development of housing, bus service and activities for seniors.
In a community with a population that exceeds 22,000, Scotch Plains is family oriented featuring many parks for recreation as well as a park area in the Watchung Mountains. One Country Club, two golf courses(one Township & one County) and an amusement park add to the variety within the community.
Many civic organizations are very active in providing assistance to youth and needy causes. A very unified Ministerial Association provides support to not only residents but to the entire community.
Within the center of the Township is a growing Business Community offering diverse and unique specialty goods, as well as professional and personal service businesses. Unique to this colonial community, are the vast numbers of antique shops which further enrich the image of Scotch Plains. The retail community is growing and businesses are being established to further the family oriented tradition of the community. Scotch Plains has within its borders over 400 businesses, and the active Scotch Plains Business & Professional Association works continually to support the business community and the community at large.
The Business & Professional Association has over 100 members, thus showing the spirit of unity and cooperation prevalent in Scotch Plains.
Free Municipal parking lots and street parking still exist in Scotch Plains, with convenient lots located behind Park Avenue and East 2nd Street stores. Convenience of service, high quality and professionalism are trademarks of the Scotch Plains Business District.For More local history - Historical Society of Scotch Plains and Fanwood