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Although Plainsboro was not incorporated as a township until 1919, a community existed there since the early 18th century or before. It is believed that the township was named for a Dutch tavern, known as the Plaines Tavern, which still exists, situated at the intersection of what is now Dey and Plainsboro Roads, in the early 1700s. In 1897, the Walker-Gordon Dairy Farm opened there, becoming famous for Elsie the Cow. Other farms were established in the 1900s, and Plainsboro was formed because Cranbury and South Brunswick refused to build a larger school at Plainsboro Village.

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