Mayor Morse
From 1983 Borough Hall Dedication, Cranford Chronicle

The Evolution of Garwood

Garwood evolved as a neighborhood of the larger communities of Cranford and Westfield who tended to treat it like a stepchild. By the turn of the century Garwood was gaining its own identity, primarily through its attractiveness to manufacturing industries, and decided it could get more value for the taxes it was paying by managing itself.

Secession took courage. The 400 citizens were creating one of the state’s smallest municipalities, only seventh tenths of a square mile, and Cranford especially resisted the move, right up to the legislature.

Garwood grew up with the Jersey Central and was named after Samuel Garwood, the president of a land company organized by the railroad. The first modern settlers lived in 75 homes and most worked for the Hall Signal Co., the first factory, and the Hercules Tube works, famous for bicycle tubing, which was built by John R. Maxwell, onetime Jersey Central President.

Cranford and Westfield were supposed to be supplying services. But they argued over who was responsible. At one point they negotiated at length before agreeing on paving three blocks of Center Street. Both sent marshals out but only occasionally. Fire protection was so uncertain that the Aeolian Company organized its own department.

The infant school symbolized the problem. Cranford ran it, buy youngsters on the other side of Center Street had to go all the way to Westfield. Parents agitated and Cranford reluctantly agreed to let “Westfield children” in if Westfield paid pro-rata tuition. It was not surprising that the first public building in Garwood was Jefferson School, built two years after autonomy.

For all its troubles, citizens were paying taxes to its neighboring towns. Frank Morse, who was to become the first mayor, summarized the sentiment: “Taxation without representation is revolution!”

Garwood opted to go its own route. Maxwell’s land company, with Morse as resident agent, and citizens pushed for autonomy. Assembly Bill No. 232 proposed the borough. Westfield seemed indifferent but Cranford reacted angrily. The Chronicle editorialized that the “secession movement, if successful, would rob Cranford of its richest and most promising section.”

Attempts to stop the legislation and annex Garwood proved fruitless. Many residents of Cranford, which itself has split off from several other towns including Westfield in 1871, sympathized with Garwood. Autonomous government was acquired on March 19, 1903. Independence was greeted by the Aeolian band playing on the steps of the schoolhouse, lit buildings, bonfires and fireworks.

Battles over tax apportionment continued and animosity over such matters as fire service lingered. That was resolved by the time the first municipal facility was completed in 1915.