RECORD GROUP: Municipalities
RECORD SERIES #: 8600.19
SERIES: Freehold Township
VOLUME: 17 cubic feet
Freehold Township, founded in 1693 and one of the original three townships of Monmouth County, is rich in history. It was Hendrik Hudson and his crew aboard the Dutch vessel ‘Half Moon” who, in 1609, first spotted land in what is now Monmouth County (most likely off Sandy Hook). The first European settlers in Freehold Township were Scots who settled in about 1682-85. The Dutch followed them into Freehold Township several years later. As they arrived in this area, Lenni-Lenape Indians greeted them. The Lenni-Lenape lived in scattered small family bands. Unlike the great Indian Wars that would follow in much of the United States, the relationship between the Lenni-Lenape and those first settlers was, for the most part, amicable. In fact, New Jersey is the only state in the U.S. in which all lands were purchased through treaties and land sales rather than conquest.
One of the first Scots in the area was a man named John Reid, who had actually served as surveyor-general of the province at one time. In 1713, Reid donated land to build the first courthouse. Freehold Township, commonly referred to as Monmouth Courthouse in those early days, became the County Seat. It was in the Monmouth Courthouse on June 6, 1774, that irate colonists met to denounce British tyranny. Four years later, the Battle of Monmouth would be waged near this same location. The battle of Monmouth was the largest battle of the American Revolution and has been described as “General Washington’s finest hour.” American heroine “Molly Pitcher” (Mary Hays) later gained renown for paintings in which she was shown replacing her stricken husband at his cannon position. The Battle of Monmouth turned the tide of the war and helped America win its independence from the crown.
The physical site of the Battle of Monmouth became an army training camp in 1861. Camp Vredenburgh produced several regiments of New Jersey Union troops during the Civil War. Freehold Township residents fought and died for the Union cause at many famous battles including Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, the Wilderness, Cold Harbor, and Gettysburg. Although Camp Vredenburgh was closed in 1864, Freehold Township has been represented in every American War since. Today, a small monument stands in Freehold Borough carrying the names of these brave citizens.
Today, Freehold Township is approximately 39 square miles, having given up much of its original size with the creation of Marlboro, Manalapan, Millstone, Upper Freehold Township, Freehold Borough and parts of Ocean Township. While the first European settlers could not have imagined 21st century Monmouth County, they could not have positioned Freehold Township in a better location. Approximately equidistant from New York and Philadelphia, a short drive to the Jersey Shore, and a little over an hour from Atlantic City, Freehold Township is the “center” of New Jersey. The area has grown to approximately 30,000 residents living in approximately 10,000 homes.
Western Monmouth is one of the fastest growing areas of the entire country, and Freehold Township is certainly one of the most desirable places to live. While the area continues to develop, the local government remains committed to preserving the quality of life associated with Freehold Township’s agrarian past. The Township has a very aggressive Open Space Conservation Plan and has saved more than 9,000 acres as Permanent Open Space. Residents also enjoy award-winning parks such as Liberty Oak, Lake Topanemus, and Durand Parks. Freehold Township continues to work with both the county and the state to preserve even more of its land as open space.
It is also worth noting that almost every major roadway in the County passes through Freehold Township, the “hub” of Monmouth County, including State Highways 9, 33, and 79 and County Roads 524 and 537. Most of these road systems follow the ancient paths of the Lenni-Lenape Indians, Freehold Township’s original inhabitants.
One “historical” attraction in Freehold Township is the Freehold Raceway. It is the oldest harness racing track in the country, dating back to 1853. The Grandstand and track were rebuilt after a fire destroyed the Grandstand in May of 1984. The reconstruction of the track coincided with the construction of the Freehold Raceway Mall, one of the largest malls in the region.
From the Lenni-Lenape to present day, Freehold Township residents have enjoyed a wonderful quality of life in what Hendrik Hudson called, “good land worth settling.”
Fourteen record cartons of textual material, including some bound volumes. The records are in the following series:
I. Freehold Township Committee Agendas, Workshops
II. Deeds and Easements
III. Miscellaneous Old Records
IV. Oakley House Records
See box inventory which accompanies this guide.
125 Symmes Drive
Manalapan NJ 07726