Washington Township

Warren County, New Jersey

area of 17.9 square miles, completely surrounding the Borough of Washington. There is a great deal of farmland and open space.

Three villages:

Port Colden on the east side of the township,

Brass Castle on the west

Changewater on the south.


1720s – first settlers arrived around the Musconetcong River.

By 1740 – the Mansfield-Woodhouse Presbyterian Church built. A cluster of houses around the church may have been the first settlement to arise within the Township.

The Township was originally a portion of Greenwich Township, one of the original divisions of Sussex County.

An iron forge was established by Col. Mark Thomson in the present Village of Changewater, then known as Changewater Forge.

during the 1750s – the Thomson iron forge was being operated by Jacob Starn. Later Starn leased Oxford Furnace from Dr. William Shippen.

mid 18th century – Pleasant Valley hamlet developed around a mill built on the Pohatcong Creek.

1754 – Mansfield Township was created out of Greenwich.

c. 1769 – Change Furnace now being called Changewater with reference to the separation of the Musconetcong River into its upper and lower branches here.

1780s – John Bowlby, Colonel William McCullough and Mark Thomson located farms along the Musconetcong River. Other families were the Laceys, Van Horns, Van Nattas, Crevelings and Van Dorens.

c. 1790 – in Pleasant Valley, John Sherrerd operated Sherrerd's Mill, supplying flour to Washington's army encamped in Morristown.

c. 1792 – Imlaydale, first settled by John Bowlby, began to expand after the erection of a gristmill by Samuel Bowlby and Henry Dusenberry.

During the 1800s – Pleasant Valley hamlet consisted of a store and a large farm, a store, and grist-and-saw mills.

1806 – the Morris Turnpike (Route 24 and presently Route 57), a toll road between Morristown and Phillipsburg, built through Washington Township.

1829 – Jesse Vanetta and Michael B. Bowers established the Village of Bowerstown by building an iron foundry in the area to the north of Washington Borough, near the coming Morris Canal (Plane 7 West) and Pohatcong Creek.

1831 – Port Colden, with its boat basin, given its name when the Morris Canal completed. The settlement took its name from Cadwallader D. Colden, president of the Morris Canal and Banking Company at that time. (Inclined Plane Number 6 West is still evident outside the village.)

1832 – in Port Colden the Morris Canal built through the Township. This started the town of Port Colden and helped the growth of the hamlet of Bowerstown. William Dusenberry helped the village get off the ground even though the local farmers referred to his many investments in the community as "Dusenberry's Folly".

1833 – in Pleasant Valley, Susan Sherrerd married William Warne, purchased Sherrerd’s Mill after her father-in-law’s death.

Before 1834 – in Imlaydale, a store added.

1834 – Imlaydale contained a mill, store, and three dwellings.

1840s – in Port Colden, St. Matthew’s Hall finishing school for ladies built.

1843 – in Bowerstown, Michael Bowers bought the iron foundry to specialize in the manufacture of plows.

1843 – in Changewater, John Castner and family were killed during a robbery.

1845 – Joseph Carter, Jr. and Peter W. Parks convicted of the Castner family murders and hanged at the Warren County Court House.

1849 (February 28) – the Township of Washington incorporated. Washington Township was created out of Mansfield Township.

mid-19th century – the main line of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad (former Warren Railroad) and the Central Railroad of New Jersey (Morris and Essex Railroad) traversed the Township.

1850 – in Port Colden, St. Matthew’s Hall finishing school for ladies building converted into a hotel and a stagecoach stop, called the Colden House.

1857 – in Imlaydale, the mill replaced with a new one.

1861-1865 – Civil War.

1865 – in Pleasant Valley, Mattison purchased the Warne’s Mill.

1868 – the Borough of Washington created from Washington Township.

1870 – year Bowerstown peaked.

1871 – in Bowerstown, the Erie Lackawanna Railroad bypassed the town and it began a long decline.

1874 – Brass Castle is though to have been named after the cabin or "castle" of Jacob Brass. The community had a school, sawmill, gristmill, brickyard, paper mill, several smithies, and about a dozen residences.

1874 – Changewater consisted of a grist mill, store and post office, a looking glass and picture framing factory, and eight residences.

1874 – Port Colden contained a hotel operated by M. Deremeer, several stores and smithies, a public school, a boat yard for repair of the canal boats, the John Opdyke distillery, and about thirty-five residences.

1893 – in Pleasant Valley, Larison’s Mill purchased the Mattison’s Mill.

1895 – in Port Colden, the reputation of the Colden House suffered because it had become a hangout for Morris Canal ruffians and the hotel abandoned.

During the late 19th century – in Port Colden, the former Easton-Washington Traction Company built and operated a trolley line along Route 24 from Phillipsburg.

During the late 19th century – in Port Colden, the trolley line attracted riders by offering free movies at Silver Spring Park.

1910-1940 – Bowerstown literally became a ghost town.

1911 – the Lackawanna Cutoff between Port Morris and Slateford, PA took mainline service away from the area.

1918 – Changewater population was 200 with the only industry the A. T. Skerry woolen mill, employing 60.

1918 – in Port Colden, because of the decline in importance of the Morris Canal, there was no industry.

1927 – Butler Park established when Butler purchased a farm, subdivided it and sold the building lots.

1929-1952 – Mr. Butler got even richer with his Butler Amusement Park across the Musconetcong River in Lebanon Township, Hunterdon County.

1929 – the old Sherrerd Mill (then owned by local entrepreneur and aviation pioneer Earle S. Eckel) caught fire and burned down. Eckel rebuilt a hydro-electric power plant on the old foundation.

c.1930 – in Bowerstown, Consumers Research, Inc., a pioneer consumer product testing organization, built a large facility. (It is now home to the Project Excel property, an alternative educational school.) (The old foundry structure is within this complex of buildings.)

1931 – Eckel built an Autogiro airport, the first exclusive Autogiro airport in the U.S.

1937 – Port Colden described as a near "ghost town" with a few houses and an old yellow hotel.

1940 – population of the Township was 1,320.

1952 – end of the Butler Amusement Park.

1953 – Butler Park fire company established

1960 – population of the Township was 3,055. New highways such as Routes 1-80 and 1-78 would led to great increases in population.

By 1980 – the population of the Township was 4,243.

between 1980 and 1990 – the population increased 26.5% to 5,367 persons.

1990 – Imlaydale listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

1994 – Pleasant Valley put on the State and National Historical Registers.

1996 – Bowerstown put on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. Now Boyerstown is only a place name.

1998 – Port Colden listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

The township is continuing its development because State Highway 31 conveniently connects to Interstate 78 in Hunterdon County.

Today – Brass Castle is a suburb of Washington Borough.

Today – Changewater village is presently a small cluster of twenty houses near the Musconetcong River.

Today – Imlaydale has retained almost all of its 19th century structures making it a great place to visit.


Warren County City, Town and Municipality Page


Washington Township, Waren County, New Jersey Official Web Site: History and Tour