Although the Township of Windsor (later divided into East and West Windsor Townships) was created in 1750, European (predominantly English) settlements in the area began in the later 1600s. York Road in East Windsor started as one of the first important colonial thoroughfares in the region, built on a well-used Lenni Lenape trail in 1682. The Ely, Hight, Hutchinson, and Rescarrick families were among the earliest landowners in what now forms East Windsor Township, farming hundreds of acres by the early 1740s. Etra Lake was built by John Cosman in the 1770s to provide power for his grist mill.

Etra Road, built in 1773, was a major boon for regional farmers; but within 25 years it was also in the center of a controversy over how to maintain public roads. The disagreement resulted in the division of Windsor Township in 1797. East Windsor was incorporated the following year, and the Township Committee's first meeting was held in a local tavern.

While East Windsor maintained its identity as a predominantly agricultural community until recent years, transportation issues continued to impact the development and shape of the Township. Tracks for the Camden and Amboy Railroad, the first railway system in the USA, were laid through the Township beginning in 1831. Hightstown, then a small hamlet in East Windsor, was the principal way station in the area for the railroad, and by 1853 had grown large enough to incorporate as a borough separate from East Windsor. Hightstown grew larger in 1915 when a small group of East Windsor residents seceded from the Township and became part of Hightstown (taking the town hall with them!)

Clara Barton, best known as the founder of the American Red Cross, lived with the Norton family in their farmhouse on Imlaystown Road for two years in the 1850s while teaching at a private schoolhouse on Cedarville Road. Mary Norton supported Clara's efforts during the Civil War and would be one of the four charter members of the American Red Cross on its founding in 1881. In 1895, the first telephone in the Township is installed at Lee's Orchard. Three quarters of a century later, East Windsor was part of another historical movement when Twin Rivers, the first "Planned Unit Development" in New Jersey, opened in the Township.

Township History Links
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East Windsor Township Historic Sites
Note: The sites listed below, with the exception of the Updike-Lee farm are on the NJ Register of Historic Places. They are still privately owned and not open to the public. The Updike-Lee Farm is open to the public during regular business hours.

Updike-Lee Farm (once Lee's Orchard, now  Lee's Turkey Farm)
 201 Hickory Corner Rd., East Windsor
(Jesse) Anderson House (Holland House), Old Cranbury Road
(Robert) Ayres Farm, Dutch Neck Road
Ely-Mount House, One Mile Road
(James) Wilson House, Old Trenton Road

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