Roads and Transportation
When the first white settlers came to the vicinity of Green Brook, which records show was in the latter part of the seventeenth century, they must have reached the site by way of the Raritan River because travel in those days was almost entirely by water. They were probably transported in sailing vessels up the Raritan, which was the only large navigable stream, and then along with their possessions, were carried in boats which were poled up the brooks against the currents of the streams. Since Cedar Brook and Green Brook were much larger than they are now, they probably were used a great deal for transportation purposes.
After settling on their large farms which were laid out on the level lands upon the sides of streams, settlers no doubt made use of Indian paths which were always located with considerable skill. The Indians always made a careful study of the natural features of the land before making their trails. Hills were ascended at the easiest grades and streams were always forded at points least liable to be affected by freshets. Following these Indian paths must have been a great help to the early settlers.
In many cases these Indian paths were the progenitors of the great state thoroughfares of today. It appears that there were two important Indian paths of this kind in the early days, both beginning at the seashore. One went over the Watchung Mountains near what is now Plainfield, and thence followed the Passaic River northerly to the vicinity of Bernardsville. The other went through New Brunswick; and Somerville to Pluckemin and Peapack. Then, there was a third which is recorded as having extended by way of the present village of New Market through what is now Bound Brook, and so on up the Raritan.
These paths were narrow, as were all Indian paths; but little by little these Indian paths became the bridle paths of the early settlers. Some of them do not seem to have been wide enough to have permitted any wagons or other vehicles to travel them; therefore, horse and man, and foot were used as late as 1716. The main paths were gradually made wider and horse-drawn vehicles began to be seen.
Early roads were known as "Ways" and were used by the people in getting to the mills, ferries, shops, markets, and churches if there were any around.
There seem to be no early historical records to show that Greenbrook Road was an Indian trail, but it follows the brook which was a characteristic of Indian trails, and it may have been used in connecting the Minnisink trail with the one which passed through New Market.
The descendants of the early Quaker settlers say that it was no more than a cow path and barely wide enough for just one wagon or cart. They all agree that it was very muddy and no one in Green Brook today would disagree with that statement if he has had the misfortune to get off the hard road with his car in the spring or after a heavy rain.
From the stories gathered of experiences with the first automobiles in Green Brook, the road was not in very good condition until about 1922-1924 when it was improved. Since that time it has been repaired and resurfaced many times.
King George's Road, which used to run north and south by Sebring's Mill and across Highway 22 up over the mountain to the Dead River, is a very old road.
When Sebring's sawmill and gristmill were in operation this road was used constantly. Today it does not cross Highway 22. It is very rough and rocky and seldom used.
The bridge by the mill across Green Brook is said to have been the original bridge built on King George's Road. It is pictured on some of the old maps which Washington used while in this territory, during Revolutionary days. Since 1940 three bridges have been built over the brook at Sebring's Mills. The last bridge made many changes to the land surrounding the homes. It was completed in 1975.
Warrenville Road is another old road which runs over the mountain to Warrenville. It is the one used by Washington when he was escorted up the mountain in search of a suitable spot to view the surrounding country, the spot now known as "Washington Rock".
The road, leading from Dunellen up to the top of the mountain, known as Washington Rock Road, replace an older road that was a continuation of Clinton Avenue in Plainfield.
For the earliest settlers transportation of goods by water or trail to the larger settlements was difficult so they had to rely on their own resources for much of the needs. But as time passed and the population increased, the trails were widened into roads and transportation become easier. This permitted small industries to be developed in the township, some using water power from mills on Green Brook. In particular, the hat making industry seemed to flourish.
Wagons were used to transport goods both to and from Philadelphia along the Old York Road. Water transportation was also used to transport good by way of the Raritan Landing, or the ports at Elizabethtown and Trenton.
After the end of the Revolutionary War, fast coaches lines with regular schedules were established over short inland routes in competition with water transportation. The ancient Indian Trail from the Hudson to the Delaware was plied by an up-to-date stage-coach line, the "Swift Sure". The stages passed each way three times a week.
In 1837, the Eastern and Amboy Railroad was built from Elizabethtown to Plainfield. Passengers for New York would be transferred to the Red Jacket, a small steamer plying between New York and Elizabeth. By 1843, the railroad was extended to Bound Brook and then later to Somerville. A combination train, consisting of a passenger coach, a freight, and a flat-car, made one trip daily. It setout from Somerville in the morning and returned at night, but the train had no fixed time-schedule. Station agents alerted passengers of the approaching train by ringing the depot bell.
While railroad did not pass directly through the township, it was just a mile or so East of Green Brook. With the availability of the "Swift Sure" line, water transportation, and the railroad, travel and commerce in the township begin to flourish. It was especially good for the hat making industry along Green Brook.
The only public transportation that existed in the township was a stage coach that ran between the Dunellen Station and Washington Rock that was operated by Samuel Merrill during the 1870's. There was a large hotel known as the "Washington Rock House" which was adjacent to Washington Rock during that time. The hotel was operated by Stat's Brothers Proprietors and was frequented primarily by tourists. Merrill's stage faded from existence when the Washington Rock House was destroyed by fire.