History of West Caldwell

At the time of the Horseneck Riots in 1745, James Caldwell, after whom the Caldwells are named, was a young boy of about 11 years. By the time of the Revolution, though, he was a man - a minister, in fact, who had endeared himself to the people of Horseneck by journeying over the mountains to preach to them. During the War for Independence not long afterwards, Caldwell earned the nickname "the Fighting Parson" because of his aid to Washington's men as they battled in various parts of Horseneck. Following the Revolution, a local chapel was finally erected - and in memory of the Fighting Parson who had stood with them since colonial times, the citizens of Horseneck in 1798 renamed their home "Caldwell." Caldwell Township flourished throughout the 1800's. Prescribed by physicians as a "pure air" retreat for patients with all kinds of ailments, the quiet region was home to about 485 people (1800 census). Franklin and Westville (what would eventually become known as West Caldwell) began to grow as well. Westville, owned predominantly by the Crane and Harrison families (whose historical homes still exist), was the site of farming lands and the local sawmill. Franklin, on the other hand, was the principal business center of Caldwell Township and had an economy supported by farms, a store, two factories, a cider mill and distillery.

By 1904, the population of Caldwell Township had grown and become so spread out that public renovations could never be approved by residents on both sides of town. To alleviate the problem, on February 16, 1904, West Caldwell was incorporated as an individual borough composed of 3,175 acres and 410 people. Over this century, West Caldwell has come to be considered one of the most beautiful residential areas in all of Essex County. Designated since 1982 as a Township, our community today provides its 10,759 (2010 census) residents with a legacy of patriotism, pride in the present, and aspirations for an even brighter future.

Pictured above is the Zenas C. Crane House which currently serves as the home of the West Caldwell Historical Society. It is located at 289 Westville Avenue and was built about the year 1853 on the site of an earlier structure erected in the early 1790's by Caleb Crane, but destroyed by fire in 1848. Zenas Crane, a son, was willed the original house and land, a tract of 40 acres, upon the death of his father on 1844, and it was he who rebuilt the house after the fire.

Caleb Crane was the youngest son of Zenas Crane and began managing the farm after his marriage in 1879. Caleb Crane was well educated and served as a deacon in the Caldwell Presbyterian Church and later was secretary of the board of education. He was elected the first mayor of West Caldwell in 1904 and died in 1937 at the age of 92.