Rahway is a city in southern Union County, New Jersey, United States. It is part of the New York metropolitan area, 21.6 miles (34.8 km) southwest of Manhattan and 5 miles (8.0 km) west of Staten Island. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city's population was 27,346, reflecting an increase of 846 (+3.2%) from the 26,500 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 1,175 (+4.6%) from the 25,325 counted in the 1990 Census.
Rahway and the surrounding area were once the home of the Lenni Lenape Native Americans, and tradition states that the city was named after Rahwack, a local tribal chief.
Formal European settlement began in 1664 with the purchase by the English from the Lenape of the Elizabethtown Tract, which encompassed lands from the mouth of the Raritan River and included all of present-day Union County as well as parts of Somerset, Middlesex, Morris and Essex counties. The early settlers of Elizabethtown and Woodbridge were the founders of Rahway which began as outlying acreage and plantations. The Seventeenth Century Clark House is one of the oldest buildings in the state.
By the 18th century, Rahway consisted of four distinct communities: Upper Rahway, Bridge Town, or Lower Rahway, Leesville, and Milton.
Rahway saw action during the American Revolutionary War because of its proximity to Staten Island, Elizabethtown and Perth Amboy. In January 1777, rebels were victorious against the British in the Battle of Spanktown, which resulted in the death of some 100 British troops. The battle was named this after Rahway's original name given to it by the first settlers, Spanktown, which is said to have been chosen "because an early settler publicly took his spouse across his knee and chastised her". Spanktown was mentioned in Revolutionary War military dispatches from 5 January 1777 through 14 March 1782.
The Merchants' and Drovers' Tavern resides at the corner of St. Georges and Westfield Avenues. The earliest buildings at the site date to 1795 and the property remains one of Rahway's most prominent historical landmarks.