2009-12-16 / Front Page

Birth of a town


Ever wonder how a place, a township, a borough, a school, a park, a lake, a river, a bridge or a street got its name?

The Covenhoven House in Freehold FILE PHOTO The Covenhoven House in Freehold FILE PHOTO Greater Media Newspapers recently delved into this topic to find answers to questions like why is Manalapan known as the "Land of Good Bread" or why is the beach in Long Branch called Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park?

Many names of New Jersey towns and locales have been derived from the language of the Lenni Lenape Indians, who occupied the area during the 16th and 17th centuries.

The Dutch were the first Europeans to explore New Netherland (New Jersey). The Swedes were the next settlers. Next came the English, who changed the name to New Jersey after the English Channel island where the Carterets lived. Capt. Philip Carteret was appointed governor of East Jersey in 1665.

Monmouth County, named for Monmouthshire, Wales, had three original towns: Freehold, Shrewsbury and Middletown.

Historian Randall Gabrielan has published 34 books on various subjects in the Monmouth County area. He is the executive director of the Monmouth County Historical Association.

The Old Tennent Church in Freehold FILE PHOTO The Old Tennent Church in Freehold FILE PHOTO Colts Neck dates back to 1690 and was the center of Atlantic Township. Early families were the Sickles and the Lairds. The Lairds came from Scotland in 1698. Robert Laird served under Gen. George Washington during the Revolutionary War. The Laird family is famous for applejack. Laird & Co., which was the country's first commercial distillery, is in Scobeyville, named for the Capt. Levi Scobey family.

Phalanx Road was named after the North American Phalanx, a local cooperative agricultural community, based on the ideas of the French socialist Charles Fourier between 1841 to 1856. It was founded by Albert Brisbane. It was destroyed by fire in 1854, according to the commemorative sign at the site.

Other roads named for area families were Lovett Road and Richdale Road.

The William-Sickles house is one of the oldest in Monmouth County. The Conover- Crine house on Conover Road was once part of the Daniel G. Covenhoven's Holly Bush Farm.The Covenhovens are one of Colts Neck's oldest families. William Buck bought the mill on Buck Mills Road in 1871.

Other prominent family names in Colts Neck include the Bucks, Conovers and Heyers.

In 1847, through a referendum, Atlantic Township was changed to Colts Neck Township.

Freehold was originally known as Monmouth Court House. Freehold was one of the first of three original townships in Monmouth County to receive a charter. Early landowners were the Stillwells, Conovers, Applegates, Schancks, Parkers, Claytons, Hyerses, Hendricksons and Mounts. Many of the streets still bear their names. Joel Parker was governor of New Jersey twice (1863-66 and 1872-75).

Freehold is home to the Covenhoven House, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. In the mid-1700s, William Covenhoven built the house that still stands on West Main Street. It served as headquarters for the British general Sir Henry Clinton before the Battle of Monmouth in 1778, according to the Monmouth County Historical Association.

Freehold was incorporated as a township in 1798. What we know as Freehold Borough and Freehold Township, which surrounds the borough, did not become finalized until the first quarter of the 20th century.

Englishtown's earliest property owner was James Johnston in 1688. The Village Inn was headquarters for Gen. Charles Lee in the Revolutionary War. George Washington was invited to the Moses Laird house after the Battle of Monmouth. The borough was incorporated in 1888.

Manalapan is said to derive its name from the Lenape word for "land of good bread or good land to settle upon." Englishtown was a part of Manalapan. The Monmouth Battlefield lands are 80 percent in Manalapan. Early settlers were the Perrines, Lambs, Reids, Quackenbushes and Elys.

Marlboro had been a part of Freehold Township. Early maps show it as Marlborough. According to the township website, "History has it that the name came from the discovery of marl on a farm just east of the village in 1768." Marl is the remains of prehistoric fish, clams and other sea creatures, which was used as fertilizer. The export of marl to all parts of the country became one of Marlboro's first industries, according to the township history.

The town still has villages: Morganville, Robertsville, Wickatunk, Bradevelt, Topanemus, Hillsdale, Montrose and Pleasant Valley. Early family names include Conover, Ellis, Schanck, Clayton and Quackenbush.

Marlboro Township was incorporated in 1848.

Allentown was settled by Nathan Allen in 1706. He built three mills on York Road at Doctors Creek. He purchased 638 acres from Rob R. Burnet. Main Street, known as York Road, was a main road from the Amboys to Burlington. It was originally known as Allen's Town. The Allentown Hotel still exists on Main Street. It was incorporated as a borough in 1889.

The borough is home to the Imlay House, built by John Imlay in 1790, a wealthy merchant and ship owner in Philadelphia, according to the historic sign. The borough is also home to the Governor Newell House, which was best known as the home of Dr. William A. Newell, who served as New Jersey governor from 1857 to 1867.

Roosevelt was originally established as Jersey Homesteads in 1937 as a back-to-theland movement. The land was taken from Millstone Township. Through a referendum its name changed to Roosevelt in 1945 in honor of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The president had died on April 12, 1945.

Millstone Township is named after the Millstone River. The Lenape name was Mattawong. It is made up of several villages: Cars Tavern, Holmeson, Smithburg, Sweetman, Bergen Mills, Bairdsville, Stone Tavern, Clarksburg and Perrineville.

Clarksburg was named after the English tanner Clark. John Perrine purchased a large tract of land north of Clarksburg. His son David owned and operated the grist mill in Perrineville.

Paint Island Spring Road, according to the township website, was named for its spring that the Indians used for the attractive colors it produced. Later, doctors prescribed its waters for medicinal purposes. Other settlers were the Deys, Thompsons, Wyckoffs and Stouts.

It was incorporated in 1844.

Upper Freehold was once a part of Freehold. Early families included the Claytons and Ellises.

Historic Walnford was built in 1774 for the Waln family who operated a grist mill there.

Other villages in Upper Freehold are Ellisdale, Imlaystown, Hornerstown, Davis, Arneytown, Cream Ridge and Prospertown.

The Assunpink Wildlife Management Area in the Lenape language means rocky place that is watery.

Howell was named after Richard Howell, who was New Jersey governor from 1792-1801. He was a brigade major, clerk of the New Jersey Supreme Court and a Federalist. Howell separated from Shrewsbury Township.

It was incorporated in 1801.

Plumsted Township was named after Clement Plumsted, an early proprietor, according to the Federal Writers' Program. It was once called Timmin's Mill after the owner of the local mill. It is also known as New Egypt with many legends as to how it got that name. "Timmins had put away a heavy stock (of corn seed), filled his mill, barns and storehouses of other people around. Farmers got seed from him during a severe shortage similar to Joseph and the pharaoh of Egypt storing seed before a famine came to Egypt."

According to Vivian Zinkin's book, "A Study of Place Names in Ocean County," a George Forts was present when the decision to name the township was being made. The name New Egypt was floating around until Forts suggested that because "New Egypt" was "not euphonious" and likely to change over time, the new name should be Plumsted.

The high school in Plumsted is named New Egypt High School. The township was incorporated in 1850.

Jackson, the largest town in Ocean County, was named in honor of President Andrew Jackson in 1844. It was part of Freehold, Upper Freehold and Dover. It also originally included Plumsted.

The first settlers were of English, Dutch, French and Swedish descent. The families in the 1600s were the Allens, Applegates, Bennetts, Bordens, Buckelews, Cheesemans, Hendersons, Holmans, Hulses, Heyers, Johnstone/Johnsons, Perrines, VanHises and Whites.

Other settlers included the Bradshaw, Brown, Camp, Errickson, Francis, Jameson, Lees, Schenk, Shinn, Taylor, Thompson and Voorhees families.

Early Jackson had 27 grist mills.

Walter Stochel, president of the Edison and Metuchen Historical Society, said localities or places are usually named after railroad stops or stations, families that owned the land, famous people who passed away, businesses in the area, and after developers.

Stochel said it will be interesting as to what names would be used as the 21st century moves forward.

"Maybe something like Googleville," he said.

Stochel said the Metro Park train station in Iselin was named in this century. Also a high school in Plainfield in February changed its name from Plainfield Academy for Academic & Civic Development to Barack Obama Academy after the current president.

The city of Long Branch was formed in 1867 and was originally a resort town. The town was so named because it was the "long branch" of the Shrewsbury River, according to the compilation of the Federal Writers' Program of the Work Projects Administration of the State of New Jersey.

The city was a vacation spot for seven presidents: Chester A. Arthur, James A. Garfield, Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Harrison, Rutherford B. Hayes, William McKinley and Woodrow Wilson.

Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park was named in honor of their visits to the city. The Church of the Presidents is said to be the place where all seven presidents worshiped when they visited.

President Garfield was taken to Long Branch for recovery after being shot by an assassin in July 1881. In September, he died, according to local history.

Gabrielan said that in a broad sense, localities have been named after people who owned the property or land.

"Over time, some of these two-street names with 'corner' or 'ville' at the end started to fade between the 1850s and 1950s," he said.

For example, in Middletown, there was a "Heedens Corner," which was changed to Fairview because of a cemetery that was established in 1851.

Middletown Township was originally formed in 1693 and incorporated as a township in 1798.

Gabrielan said places often are named according to geographic location or named after other places.

"Chapel Hill Road in Middletown was named after a church that was near the road," he said.

The town was also settled by the English. Villages were established in Shrewsbury to the south and Portland Port (near Atlantic Highlands) to the north. Middletown was the middle village. Portland Port failed, but Middletown and Shrewsbury became known as the two towns of the Navesink (River).

During the Revolutionary War Middletown was divided between Tories (pro-England Loyalists) and Patriots (pro-Revolution). Joseph Murray was murdered in 1780 by Loyalists while working in the fields (at the current Poricy Park). In 1782 John Huddy was executed at Highlands.

Marlpit Hall in Middletown is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for the prominent Loyalist family during colonial times. It was built in 1756.

Also on the historic list is the Taylor- Butler house, which was built in 1853 by Joseph Dorset Taylor and his bride, Mary Holmes Taylor, according to the Monmouth County Historical Association.

Some names around town will sound familiar. Cooper owned the land on the Middletown side of the Navesink River and so its name is Coopers Bridge. Richard Hartshorne came to Middletown in 1669. A park exists today on his lands. Other families include the Holmeses, Taylors, Conovers, Heyers, Applegates and Mounts. Red Hill was one of the township's earliest African-American communities. Brookdale was a farm. The Hendrickson mansion was known as Locustwood.

The Leonardo section of Middletown was a part of the Atlantic Highlands and originally called Leonardville. It was named after Henry and James Leonard, the first ironmasters in the state. Croydon Hall was the home of John J. Leonard.

Sources for this story include municipal websites and the Images of America books. FILE PHOTO FILE PHOTO

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