Morristown is a town in Morris County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the town’s population was 18,411, reflecting a decline of 133 (-0.7%) from the 18,544 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 2,355 (+14.5%) from the 16,189 counted in the 1990 Census. It is the county seat of Morris County. Morristown has been called “the military capital of the American Revolution” because of its strategic role in the war for independence from Great Britain. Today this history is visible in a variety of locations throughout the town that collectively make up Morristown National Historical Park.
According to British colonial records, the first permanent European settlement at Morristown occurred in 1715, when a settlement was founded as New Hanover by migrants from New York and Connecticut. Morris County was created on March 15, 1739, from portions of Hunterdon County. The county, and ultimately Morristown itself, was named for the popular Governor of the Province, Lewis Morris, who championed benefits for the colonists.
Morristown was incorporated as a town by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on April 6, 1865, within Morris Township, and it was formally set off from the township in 1895.
The area was inhabited by the Lenni Lenape Native Americans for up to 6,000 years prior to exploration by Europeans. The first European settlements in this portion of New Jersey were established by the Swedes and Dutch in the early 17th century, when a significant trade in furs existed between the natives and the Europeans at temporary posts. It became part of the Dutch colony of New Netherland, but the English seized control of the region in 1664, which was granted to Sir George Carteret and John Berkeley, 1st Baron Berkeley of Stratton, as the Province of New Jersey.
Morristown was settled around 1715 by English Presbyterians from Southold, New York on Long Island and New Haven, Connecticut as the village of New Hanover. The town’s central location and road connections led to its selection as the seat of the new Morris County shortly after its separation from Hunterdon County on March 15, 1739. The village and county were named for Lewis Morris, the first and then sitting royal governor of a united colony of New Jersey.
By the middle of the 18th century, Morristown had 250 residents, with two churches, a courthouse, two taverns, two schools, several stores, and numerous mills and farms nearby.
George Washington first came to Morristown in May 1773, two years before the Revolutionary War broke out, and traveled from there to New York City together with John Parke Custis (his stepson) and Lord Stirling.
In 1777, General George Washington and the Continental Army marched from the victories at Trenton and Princeton to encamp near Morristown from January to May. Washington had his headquarters during that first encampment at Jacob Arnold’s Tavern located at the Morristown Green in the center of the town. Morristown was selected for its extremely strategic location. It was between Philadelphia and New York and near New England. It also was chosen for the skills and trades of the residents, local industries and natural resources to provide arms, and what was thought to be the ability of the community to provide enough food to support the army.
The churches were used for inoculations for smallpox. That first headquarters, Arnold’s Tavern, was eventually moved .5 miles (800 m) south of the green onto Mount Kemble Avenue to become All Souls Hospital in the late 19th century. It suffered a fire in 1918, and the original structure was demolished, but new buildings for the hospital were built directly across the street.
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