The Raritan and Millstone river valleys comprise one of the earliest, most extensive, and perhaps the most prosperous center for European development in the territory now known as the State of New Jersey.
Settled in 1665-85 following the bloodless British conquest of New Netherland, the area extends up the Raritan River well past the confluence of its north and south branches and follows the Millstone River to present-day Princeton.
The soils in the piedmont region of the state have been identified by Rutgers Univer-sity geographer Peter O. Wacker as among the most fertile in New Jersey. The waterways in the area were suitable for a shipping industry on a par with the ports of New York and Philadelphia.
The area's ethnic diversity was so pronounced as to make parts of the region truly tri-lingual, with competition among Dutch, English, and Scots-Irish speakers, and their affil-iations with Reformed, Anglican, and Presbyterian churches respectively. Church historians have referred to the river valleys as a "garden" for the Dutch Reformed Church. Dutch settlers brought to the region one of the few chartered colonial colleges, today known as Rutgers University. It was originally known as Queen's College, in honor of Queen Charlotte, consort of George III of England. She was of Dutch descent.
Lenape Indian trails formed a basis for through-transportation and development of the region as a center for stagecoach, canal, rail, and motor vehicle travel. Access to these transportation routes encouraged development as a manufacturing center for rubber goods, wallpaper, chemicals, surgical supplies, and pharmaceuticals.
The region's role in the War for Independence earned it the designation as both the Crossroads and the Cockpit of the American Revolution. New Brunswick and nearby river towns were occupied by British and Hessian troops under Charles Lord Cornwallis and Colonel Carl von Donop in 1776-77. George Washington's Continental Army was garrisoned in Somerset County during the Second Middlebrook winter encampment, 1778-79.
The Raritan-Millstone valley region is crossed by the Lincoln Highway (Route 27), the first transcontinental road, built in the early decades of the 20th century. The region is also crossed by U.S. Route 1. Built in the 1930s, Route 1 was America's first federally des-ignated highway, running from Fort Kent, Maine to Key West, Florida. The East Coast Greenway, the 3,000-mile Maine-to-Florida trail system, offering routes for hikers, cyclists, and other non-motorized travelers, runs through the center of the region.
The Millstone Valley Scenic Byway, bound by Millstone River Road, Amwell Road, Route 27, and Canal Road, is so named for its scenic, natural, and historic significance.