A quiet, carefully developed community nestled in north central New Jersey in eastern Morris County, Chatham boasts fine schools, parks, recreational and cultural facilities and is home to two major universities. It also boasts another title as well. Money Magazine recently named Chatham as one of the "top ten" places to live in the United States, and it is well-deserving of that accolade.
A Small Town Feel
A bedroom community about 25 miles from New York City and a 40-minute train ride on New Jersey Transit, Chatham received its name from Sir William Pitt, the Earl of Chatham, a former British prime minister and renowned statesman during the time of the American Revolution. Both the township and the borough share a common heritage and the same name. Located in the scenic Watchung Hills, the community split into two—Chatham Borough and Chatham Township—in the late 1800s. The 2.3-mile-square borough has more of a village feel with stately older homes and some new condominium construction, and the 9.1-mile-square township is more commercially-oriented but contains a variety of single-family homes, garden apartments and condominiums.
The Early Settlers
Many townships in New Jersey derive their origin from the Lenni Lenape Indians and Chatham is no different. The first settlers in the area were the Minsi group of the Lenape tribe, which are believed to originally have migrated from Canada in search of a warmer climate, according to an historical account on the website, www.chatham-nj.org. The Lenape forded the Passaic River at a shallow point east of Chatham in what they called "the Valley of the Great Watchung."
In 1680, Sir George Carteret, an English politician, who was instrumental in founding the colonial territory between the Hudson and Delaware rivers that eventually became the state of New Jersey, paid the Minsi Indians the equivalent of $55 for land that included the present location of Chatham. The town founded in 1715 received its name officially in 1773 and Chatham's citizens were very active in the Revolutionary War, defending its territory and siding with the colonists' efforts for independence.
The introduction of regional roadways and the railroad helped change the way the town developed. In 1801, the Morris Turnpike made traveling from town to town easier by connecting nearby Elizabeth to Morristown through Springfield and Chatham. Turnpikes and toll roads were originally built in the colony by private corporations to transport their goods to market. Local residents later built an alternate route— what was called Shunpike Road—so that they could avoid paying the tolls. The arrival of the railroad also made quite an impact. The Morris & Essex Railroad came to Chatham in 1837 opening up new modes of travel and bringing in visitors from other faraway locales.