The Caldwell's were settled in the early 18th century by pioneers who moved westward from Newark or through the Passaic Valley from the "Dutch" areas of Bergen County. While it was thought that the way had been cleared by Newark's 1702 purchase of this Horse Neck Tract from the Lenape Indians, clear land titles were clouded by the counter claims of the Proprietors. The resulting Horse Neck Riots of the 1740s were among the earliest American challenges to Royal authority.
Local hamlets clustered around churches and schools in this outlying section of Newark, and it was not until 1798 that the bulk of the Horse Neck Tract was designated Caldwell Township.
The 19th century saw dramatic changes taking place in our area, many the consequence of the construction of the "Big Road," Bloomfield Avenue. Israel Crane's stock company pushed the toll road through to Caldwell by 1808 and it became the main link with the markets in Newark for all that lay to the west.
As early as the 1850s some city folks were finding that these beautiful western slopes of the Second Mountain, with abundant pure water and equally clear air, were a delightful place to spend their summer months. In time, Caldwell would be promoted as the "Denver of the East," and to accommodate the influx of seasonal visitors, hotels and boarding houses multiplied and became a dominant aspect of both the economy and the ambience, alike. The Monomonock Inn, opened in 1901, ultimately came to be the most conspicuous representative of this phenomenon.
Further bolstering the economy was Caldwell's position as a major farming area with the expected supporting mills and stores. Then, with the arrival of the railroad in 1891, the area was firmly linked to the population centers to the east.
And not to be overlooked was Caldwell's most conspicuous contribution to the Nation-the 22nd and 24th President of the United States, Grover Cleveland.
The Caldwell's have grown, the dirt roads have been paved, the railroad abandoned, and most of the lodging homes are gone, but the beauty of the Caldwell's remains. Various communities recognize their past through their remaining historic landmarks. Although the Caldwell's have lost a number of their early and most fascinating sites, some survive and stand their ground firmly as silent testimonials to an almost forgotten era. Many of the people of the Caldwell's made significant contributions in molding our communities and some paid the ultimate price while defending the liberties and freedom of our nation.
Text and images from Images of America
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