Chatham's history traces well back to the pre-colonial era. Originally settled by the Lenni Lenape Indians, Chatham was established at the intersection of the Passaic River and the Minisink Trail, an important line of transportation for the Indians. Every summer the Lenni Lenape would travel along the Minisink trail and cross the Passaic River at a shallow point east of Chatham, a place they called "the Crossing of the Fishawack in the Valley of the Great Watchung."
This crossing would become the Borough of Chatham, and a section of the trail would become Main Street. In 1680, Sir George Carteret bought land from the Indians that included the Chathams. European settlers soon arrived and John and Daniel Day settled on the west bank of the Passaic River in 1728. John Day built a bridge over the Passaic River, and a small village named Day's Bridge began.
By 1750, Day's Bridge stretched for three-quarters of a mile on both sides of the river. The area bustled with farmers who crossed over the bridge en route to New York, where they would sell their produce. Simple stores including a blacksmith and several mills soon followed to meet the needs of a growing community. In 1773, Day's Bridge was renamed Chatham, in honor of Sir William Pitt, the Earl of Chatham. A spokesman for liberty and an opponent of tax policies, Pitt was a hero to American colonists. Being staunch revolutionaries, Chatham citizens served as a buffer between the British in Elizabethtown and nearby American troops. In 1801, farmers continued traveling through the area, first by road and then, in 1837, by rail.
The Morris and Essex Railroad encouraged industry, namely the brick business and rose growing, as well as mills and a roofing paper factory. With its easy commute to Manhattan and its pure mountain air, Chatham became a bustling summer resort by the 1900's. Some people decided to make Chatham a permanent home. The suburban boom of the 1950's brought many new residents and numerous new companies. Although modern and progressive, Chatham still has a small, hometown atmosphere.
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