Did you ever wonder how Westfield NJ got its name?
Dating way, WAY back, as early as the 1600’s, in fact, the area was used as very successful farmland. The “big town” of the area at that time was Elizabethtown, and this area was actually considered part of Elizabethtown for a very, very long time. It was, as least, the outskirts of Elizabethtown . . . . the “West Fields.” What is now the downtown district of Westfield was actually the original tract of land called the West Fields, officially named as part of Elizabethtown in the early 1700’s. It wasn’t incorporated as its own township until 1798, as more and more people settled into the desirable land. Believe it or not, both Elizabethtown and the brand new Westfield were actually part of ESSEX county back then, as the counties weren’t further divided up, and the new Union County in existence, until the mid-1800’s.
And Westfield also has quite a “political” beginning. The original, mostly British and Scottish, families farming here ( part of the Elizabethtown Associates) were mostly in sympathy with Cromwell and the Roundheads in Britain’s great Civil War, and NOT likely to be model British subjects. So it created quite a stir when, unknown to anyone on this side of the Atlantic, the Duke, King Charles II’s brother, had given New Jersey to his royalist friends, Carteret and Berkeley. Thus ensued some ugly conflicts between these two (the East Jersey Proprietors), who showed up unexpectedly one day with plans for their new property, and the Elizabethtown Associates over who had already owned this land. These conflicts became more frequent and more heated after the now infamous “Clinker Lot Division,” in which the Associates laid out the area in 171 one-hundred-acre lots around 1700 or so. The disputes were further complicated by certain questionable land transactions following a survey of the western bounds of Elizabethtown ordered by Governor Gawen Lawrie, and led by Captain John Baker, the Indian interpreter who was later questioned for his accuracy . Unofficially, the famous “Baker Tract” has sometimes been referred to as the true beginning of Westfield. It sort of represents the battle between those who were given land rights from afar and those who were already here calling the West Fields home, and had no intention of giving it up.
Ultimately, of course, after incorporation, Westfield grew and thrived into a highly desirable, much more autonomous town. In subsequent years, the building of roads and railways made the area a travel hub. While no one is really traveling her to look for farm land these days, they come from far and wide to enjoy the shopping, the dining, and the great school system. Had the original farmers and settlers of the area not been so determined to hang onto their homes, who knows how the course of history might have been different?