The Kingston Historical Society (KHS) was formed in 1997 as a non-partisan, non-profit organization to preserve, enhance and promote the history of the village of Kingston, New Jersey. The KHS has its headquarters in the Locktender’s House on the Delaware and Raritan Canal where it maintains the original circa 1830 home of families who operated the Kingston locks on the canal.
Activities of the KHS include an annual meeting at which we have a speaker, and a Holiday Open House and Tree lighting at the Locktender’s House the first Sunday in December. The Society also advocates for the preservation of Kingston’s history and historic character.
Today what was historically Kingston forms a small part of three counties (Somerset, Middlesex and Mercer) and four townships: Franklin, Plainsboro, South Brunswick, and Princeton. The historic village itself is divided by Route 27, once known as the King’s Highway, between Franklin and South Brunswick Townships.
A Brief History of Kingston, New Jersey
Kingston, one of the oldest communities in New Jersey, is a unique community which began in 1683 with Henry Greenland’s settling along the rude road, once an Indian trail, connecting the fall lines of the Delaware and Raritan Rivers near the crossing, then merely a ford, of the Millstone River. Greenland’s house was also a tavern in which, in 1868/7, was signed the Keith Line Agreement (which delineated East and West Jersey.) The rude road was, chartered in 1697 as a King’s Highway; it was part of the first major road to connect the original 13 colonies.
As traffic grew, houses, taverns and shops were built along the road on the plateau overlooking the river crossing; by 1723, when the first Kingston Presbyterian Church as built, these buildings had become the village of Kingston or, sometimes, King’s Town.
Kingston is a village rich in history. During the American Revolution, British and American troops marched through Kingston many times. George Washington made a key tactical decision while pausing in Kingston after the Battle of Princeton. In 1778 Washington and his Continental troops stopped in Kingston on his way to the Battle of Monmouth. Washington later set up headquarters at Rockingham, a farmhouse on the outskirts of Kingston village, during the session (in nearby Princeton) of the Continental Congress in 1783
Its location on the main road connecting the colonies made Kingston a thriving stage coach stop with a number of inns and taverns. Work on the 44-mile D&R Canal began in Kingston in 1830. Kingston is Lock 8 out of 14 on the canal. The Kingston lock included a toll house that had one of the first telegraph offices in 1846.
In the 1800s the Delaware and Raritan Canal and the Camden and Amboy Railroad fueled Kingston’s growth. The mainline of the railroad was rerouted to the east in the 1860s; canal traffic peaked in 1866. Route 1 was paved in the 1920s and the canal closed in the early 1930s. Although the first transcontinental automobile road, the Lincoln Highway, passed through Kingston on what had once been the King’s Highway and the Flemer family’s nursery became one of the largest in the world, most commercial activity moved east to US Route 1 and Kingston settled into the role of small village. It has retained its charming character and small town appeal for the last 100 years.
The Kingston Mill, built in the late 1800s is the most recent of several mills built on this site since the 1700s. Grist, fulling and flour mills were established here over the past 300 years. The mill, now a private home, to many is a symbol of Kingston and its historic past.
Kingston’s historic importance is well recognized with entries on the State/National Register of Historic Places, including:
- Kingston Mill Historic District
- Kingston Village Historic District
- Lake Carnegie Historic District
- Princeton Nurseries Historic District
- Delaware and Raritan Canal
- Withington Estate/ Heathcote Farm,
- King’s Highway (Upper Road/Lincoln Highway) Historic District
- Rockingham State Historic Site
Robert von Zumbusch, President
George Luck, Jr., Vice-President
Douglas Miller, Treasurer
Ceil Leedom, Secretary
Tom Jacoby, Charles Dieterich, Keith Chase, Anne Zeman.
David Potts (Emeritus)
Associate Archivist and Network Administrator