History says that Westfield took its name from the rich "fields west of Elizabeth Town, and hence for over one hundred years went by the name of West Fields." Town records say that "the settlement of Westfield dates back to the last year (1699) of the seventeenth century. It was the result of the 'Clinker Lot Division.' Almost immediately after the division emigration from the older parts of the town of Elizabeth began to set towards the interior,—especially to the territory lying between the Rahway river, on the east, and the mountains, on the west. It was not, however, until 1720 that the settlers became numerous enough to constitute a distinct community." The old village area, now the downtown district, was settled in 1720 as part of the Elizabethtown Tract.
Westfield was originally formed as a township on January 27, 1794, from portions of Elizabeth Township, while the area was still part of Essex County, and was incorporated on February 21, 1798, as one of New Jersey's initial group of 104 townships by an act of the New Jersey Legislature. It became part of the newly formed Union County on March 19, 1857. Portions of the township have been taken to form Rahway Township (February 27, 1804), Plainfield Township (April 5, 1847), Cranford Township (March 14, 1871), Fanwood Township (March 6, 1878; now known as Scotch Plains) and Mountainside (September 25, 1895). The Town of Westfield was incorporated on March 4, 1903, replacing Westfield Township. The name of the town is derived from its location in the western, undeveloped fields of the Elizabethtown tract.
As recently as 2017, the Broaddus family living in Westfield received threatening letters from a supposed stalker who referred to himself as "The Watcher," causing a national sensation. The Broaddus family's experience, along with the 1971 John List family murders that also occurred in Westfield, were later adapted into the 2022 Netflix series The Watcher.
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