Small bands of Paleo-Indians, or pre-historic people, lived in New Jersey during the Ice Age. They lived by fishing and hunting mammoths, mastodons, saber-tooth tigers, caribou, musk oxen, wild pigs, deer and bears. Spear points and ax heads have been found throughout central New Jersey that experts have dated to 8,000-10,000 years old. Five important archeological sites were identified within the Dismal Swamp near the crossing of Talmage Road and Bound Brook, where similar artifacts were discovered.
The later generations were known as the Leni Lenape people. The word “Lenape” has been described as: a male of our kind, men of the same nation or common, ordinary, real people. The land occupied by the Lenape, included all of New Jersey, southern New York, eastern Pennsylvania, and northern Delaware, and was called “Lenapehoking.” The Lenape clans were an agricultural society and farmed maize, beans and gourds, and supplemented their livelihood with hunting and fishing. A tribe of the Lenape Indians living in central New Jersey was called Raritaing, from which the name “Raritan” was derived. The name “Metuchen” first appeared in 1688/1689, and its name was derived from a Lenape chief, known as Matouchin. The European explorers in the 1600s described the Lenape as tall, with no beards, and black hair that was sometimes braided on one side of the head, while the hair was plucked out on the other side. The Province of New Jersey was part of the Dutch New Netherlands colony until the English conquest in 1664. The Metuchen-Edison-South Plainfield region was always a transportation hub, which shaped its popularity and growth. The early settlers farmed, fished, hunted and trapped beaver and muskrats, logged, or were merchants. A sawmill and gristmill were established on nearby Cedar Brook in Edison in 1732. Colonial development near Metuchen began around 1750s when well established Indian trails served as carriage routes to New Brunswick, Trenton, New York City and Philadelphia. These routes led to roadways, and commercial rail and highway corridors. Historical maps and records indicate that in the 1800s the region was sparsely populated with only a few buildings in the Boroughs of Metuchen and South Plainfield. However, by the 1840s the Metuchen railroad station spurred commercial and residential development. Information provided by websites for the historic societies of Metuchen, Edison and South Plainfield and the Hunterdon County Cultural and Heritage Commission were reviewed to provide the historic background for the Dismal Swamp.
Source: The Dismal Swamp Conservation Area Management Plan, Prepared by Princeton Hydro, LLC, April 2009.
Fact: Did you know there are over 175 bird species, 25 mammal species, and 25 species of reptiles and amphibians that in the 1,250-acre Dismal Swamp Conservation Area in Edison, South Plainfield and Metuchen?The Dismal Swamp is a birding hot spot for local birders with over 160 species observed in 2010. The Dismal Swamp is home many state-threatened and endangered species including American bittern, northern harrier, red-shouldered hawk, bald eagle, osprey, pied-billed grebe, and grasshopper sparrow. The Dismal Swamp is also a critical habitat zone for migratory passerine, providing cover and foraging capabilities for numerous species as they migrate to and from breeding grounds. Some highlighted species which are solely migratory in the region include Philadelphia vireo, Swainson’s thrush, blackpoll warbler, and blackburnian warbler. The Dismal Swamp is home to over 17 species of mammals, which include southern flying squirrels, eastern coyotes, muskrats, eastern red bats, and red fox. The American beaver (pictured above) is very active along the Bound Brook and its tributaries and plays an important role in the successional dynamics within the Dismal Swamp. Reptiles & Amphibians The Dismal Swamp has over 18 species of reptiles and amphibians. Red-backed salamanders and northern spring peepers are the most abundant amphibians while painted turtles and eastern garter snakes are the most abundant reptiles. Other species include northern black racers, northern water snakes, bog turtles, and northern gray tree frogs. Statewide, the number of vernal pools habitats has declined drastically because of increased development and limited regulatory protection; however the 2008 revision to the freshwater wetland regulations has afforded further protection to vernal habitat. Vernal habitat is now considered critical habitat. There are many vernal habitats within the Dismal Swamp that serve as breeding grounds for wood frogs, spring peepers, green frogs, and northern cricket frogs. Plants & Horticulture The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection identifies the majority of the Dismal Swamp as deciduous forested wetlands, with some portions depicted as deciduous shrub/scrub wetlands, or mixed shrub/scrub wetlands dominated with conifers. The forested wetlands are dominated by red maple, sweetgum, green ash, swamp white oak, and pin oak. Upland forested areas in the Dismal Swamp are considered to be valuable mature forests, greater than 50 years old. The forest and wetlands in Edison Township have been specifically identified as core habitat areas.