In 1684, a man named John Fenwick became the first European landowner in what was to eventually become Greenwich, NJ. He bought the land from John Fenwick, who held the land grant and planned out a manor village. Quickly, the new town became a place of significance, with representation from the major faiths of colonial times all being represented.
The fairs of the Royal Governors were held in Market Square. A major port was erected, and warehouses plus delivery services soon sprung from loads of cargo unloaded here. It was officially made one of the only three legal ports of entry in New Jersey. Shipbuilding and ship repair yards were also key factors in the success of this village.
Greenwich, NJ was named for Greenwich, England in 1748, but prior to the Revolutionary War, they decided to change the annunciation to sound like “Green-Wich” to show a disconnect to the name’s origin country. The people here had grown publicly wary of the taxes, protesting the crown as early as 1714. The residents were so dedicated to the revolutionary cause, they threw their own tea party.
On December 22, 1774, a large group of locals dressed as Native Americans, went to known British sympathizers home and broke in. They took the stash of tea he was hiding for later transport to the redcoats who were occupying Philadelphia and burned it to ash. It was not a quiet event, and it was an entire cargo of tea.
At the time, the continental army did not yet have control of New Jersey and the governor ordered the Sheriff to incarcerate the townspeople responsible. Sheriff Jonathan Elmer refused. A very public trial ensued. The group nicknamed “the Indians” were tried, not once but twice, both times being found not guilty. “No cause for action” was the official reading from the juries.
Eventually, the governor and his loyalists stopped pushing the repeated charges, and “the Indians” became local heroes. The port gained influence and power in New Jersey and Greenwich thrived. Just remember how to pronounce it. Green-wich.
Later, Greenwich became a major stop in the Underground Railroad, showing the citizens here did not give up their zest for freedom. Today we have several sites preserved by the Historical Society. You can visit the historic area, and even take part in reenactments from the Revolution. One of the town’s common advertisements invites you to sit with a colonial at lunch.
Mark your calendar for the Annual Greenwich Artisans’ Faire and Marketplace. Here for as little as $5 you can experience colonial demonstrations, arts and crafts, local artists, old-time glass blowers, and even a Masonic tea burning celebration. You can find it all on “Ye Greate Street”. After the festivities, the eight hundred residents of historic Greenwich go home and expect it to be as comfortable as it can be.
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