History of Jackson Township

by David T. Miller, Sr.
Registered Municipal Clerk and Township Historian

During 1994, we celebrated the 150th year of Jackson’s existence as an incorporated municipality in the State of New Jersey. As the handwritten Legislative Act reads, "Having been three times read in the Council (the State Senate) on February 29, 1844," and "having been three times read in the House of Assembly on March 6, 1844, it is hereby set off from the said Townships of Upper Freehold, Freehold and Dover into a separate Township to be known by the name of the Township of Jackson... in the said County of Monmouth."

"The inhabitants of the said Township of Jackson shall hold their first annual meeting at the public house now kept by William Francis in the village of Cassville, on the second Tuesday in April next, in the manner prescribed by law." And so it was 150 years ago in 1844. We recognize that each New Jersey town is unique. Each of the state’s 567 municipalities has its own story, distinct and apart from its neighbors. And here is the tale of one of these municipalities - Jackson Township.

The recorded history of Jackson, as well as all of the municipalities in what is now Monmouth and Ocean Counties first appeared 330 years ago with the purchase by a dozen on Long Island and Rhode Island residents of English and Huguenot descent from the native Indians, the Lenni Lenapes, of what was to be called the Monmouth Patent. Once the Indian sale had been consummated, the new settlers hastened to New York City, to the Governor of New York - New Jersey, Richard Nicholls, to seek a confirmation grant. In 1665, the Long Island and Rhode Island settlers obtained a grant of the Monmouth Patent from Governor Nicholls and moved to initiate its first settlement in Shrewsbury.

And so the Europeans came; first a trickle, and as the years went by, a steady stream of settlers came in the 1800’s until 1960, when the flood gates were thrown wide open with the onset of major home developments. Developments which are rapidly gobbling up the existing farmlands and forests.

The name of the earliest twenty-five pioneer families who settled in the first 10 years of Jackson’s existence (the 1665 - 1675 era) are familiar to us because their descendants still reside with us today. They are Allen, Applegate, Benit (Bennett), Bills, Burdon (Borden) - a 1665 patentee, Buckelew, Cheeseman - a 1665 patentee, Henderson, Holman - a 1665 patentee, Hulse, Hyerse (Heyers), Johnstone, and Johnson, Perrino, Reynolds, Van Hise, and White.

In the year 1844, and in honor of ex-President Andrew Jackson, Jackson Township was incorporated by the state legislature as a new municipality in Monmouth County by taking portions of Freehold, Upper Freehold and Dover Township. Initially the new Jackson encompassed 170 square miles and included today’s Plumstead Township. Although it has dwindled during the years, as other municipalities were created by the Legislature, to a mere 100.4 square miles, it is yet, the largest municipality in Ocean County and the third largest in the state. Its 1844 creation, coupled with the subsequent creation of other new municipalities hastened the establishing of a new county six years later in 1850. The lower half of Old-Monmouth was cut off to become Ocean County, which will be celebrating its own "Sesquicentennial" in another six years at the year 2000.

Agriculture was the main industry of Jackson Township’s population prior to 1955.

Forestry, with the hewing of trees for boardfeet at the local sawmills and the manufacture of charcoal for the local furnaces (converting iron bog ore to pig iron), was the first industry. And, as the forests were stripped from the land, owners converted their farms to crop growth.

When it was discovered that consuming wild cranberries (by the crews on the long voyages of sailing ships) prevented the dreaded Beri-Beri disease, John "Peg Leg" Webb, a retired seaman turned local schoolteacher, residing in the Bowman Road area east of Cassville, has been credited with initiating the domestication of the wild cranberry and the development of unique cranberry bogs for maximum growth production in the early 1840’s. At peak production after the Civil War, more than 200 cranberry bogs were in production with the majority of the harvested crop being processed and shipped in crates and barrels fabricated at the sawmills of Jackson, to Philadelphia, New York and even Boston, by the Holman family of Whitesville, the Allans of Cassville, and the Poppes of Legler.

As Jackson moved into the twentieth century, the fabrication of pine trees into charcoal and the commercial growing of cranberries, continued to be the main industries.

After World War I and starting about 1920, a new agricultural industry arose as the charcoal and cranberry industries began to wane. Everyone became a poultry farmer.

Chicken coops to house the egg producing poultry sprang up everywhere, as well as brooder houses (where the young poults from a February start as baby chicks stayed until they matured to egg producers and were moved from the brooder houses to the laying coops after Labor Day.) Plant facilities in coops and brooder houses ranged from one room facilities housing 200 growing chickens in Jackson to the second largest poultry farm in all of New Jersey, the Shubkegel farm on Lakewood-New Egypt Road (Rte, 528) at Cross Street, housing 30,000 chickens in two and three story coops.

After World War II, the local poultry industry peaked at $11,000,000 dollars in annual payroll and then suffered a rapid decline after 1950 when the federal government terminated its subsidizing of chicken grain and laying mask, generating a 300% increase in feed costs, and the local poultry industry could not compete with the "poultry factories" of Delaware. By 1955, there was no poultry industry in all of Ocean County; only empty coops littering the countryside.

As the 1950’s came to a close, the Garden State Parkway had reached Ocean County, opening up the opportunity, for many with North Jersey employment to move out of the congested and depressed cities, and relocate their families in a more congenial style of life, while they conveniently commuted to work in the city.

Plans were on the drawing board and rights-of-way were acquired for a Turnpike spur and fast rail line to be constructed from North Brunswick, south through Jackson, to connect with the Parkway at its Toms River toll plaza. Other plans were being designed to create an east-west interstate (I-195) from Trenton, through Jackson, to the shore.

It was inevitable that starting in 1960, land development in Jackson shifted from agriculture to new home development as the North Jersey megalopolis reached out into southern Monmouth and upper Ocean Counties.

From an average of 100 new homes a year in the late 1950’s, new homes during the 1960’s jumped to an average of 750 homes per year and the 1970’s and early 1980’s to more than 1,000 dwelling units per year. Just from 1961 to 1966, 3,000 new children were enrolled in the local schools, a trend that has continued at a lesser level through the years, despite the 1989-1990 recession.

Today, we are a commuter community. Jackson can look back with pride over its 330 years of European settlement and its 150 years of development as an incorporated municipality, watching the population of its 100.4 square miles mount from 1,330 souls in 1844 to a population estimated at 54,000 in some 19,000 dwelling units.