Monmouth County Schools, 1845-1866

RECORD GROUP: Other County Records
SERIES: Monmouth County Schools, 1845-1866
DATES: 1845-1866
VOLUME: 1 manuscript box
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This small collection consists primarily of enumerations of students in Monmouth County schools in the 1860s.
Prior to the 19th century, only children of wealthy parents could receive any type of formal education.  Occasionally, poor children could receive instruction from a religious institution.  At times, a group of parents might join together to pay a teacher’s salary for a small group of children.  There were no standards regarding the number of hours of study or the curriculum.  Generally, the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic were taught, and almost exclusively to boys.  Girls, if they were taught at all, were taught at home. As the population of various areas grew, the religious schools were unable to keep up with the demand, and began to support the idea of public schooling.

Although legislation for public schooling had been enacted as early as 1816, some of which created the State School Fund, education for children was a rather slap-dash affair. Few areas had dedicated schoolhouses or teachers.  The cause was a combination of sparse population, little discretionary income for the residents, and lack of willing, or able, instructors.  But, in 1829, An Act to Establish Common Schools was passed that would have a great impact on the students in Monmouth County, as described here by County Superintendent Samuel Lockwood, in his Historical Sketch of Education, Monmouth County, 1876,:

In this year was made the first annual appropriation of money to schools – $20,000 among counties in proportion to the amount of taxes paid by the inhabitants. The same act provided for the election of a school committee in each township, and this committee was authorized to divide the Township into School Districts, and to examine, and license teachers, and call annually district meetings. At these meetings, three Trustees were chosen every year. Their duty was to decide how many months the schools should be kept open, to provide suitable school houses, to prepare a list of children in each district between the ages of four and sixteen years, and to send this list to the township committee.

This act created great controversy, not the least of which was turmoil over the raising of taxes, and it was soon repealed.

In 1838, several changes were made to improve the educational system. The State Fund was increased to $30,000, and was to be used exclusively for the education of the poor. The townships were authorized to collect taxes for school needs, enough to match twice the amount coming from the state. The changes also created boards for each county to issue certificates to teachers.

In subsequent years, more improvements were instituted. 1846 saw the creation of township school superintendents, who would visit each school quarterly, and report to the State superintendent. The State Fund was increased to $40,000 in 1851 and was allocated according to the population of students between the ages of five and eighteen, hence the reason for the student censuses.

In 1875, Article VII, Section 6, of the State Constitution was amended to provide for the maintenance and support of a free public school system through an exclusive, perpetual fund.

The bulk of the records consist of reports or enumerations reflecting the numbers of students attending school in Monmouth County, primarily during the Civil War years of 1861-1865. These reports, filed by the County Clerk, would provide either a single total of all children in the district or a list of all the schools in the district, showing a separate total per school.  The reports were sent by each town’s superintendent of schools.  Some of the smaller districts listed each student by name.

There are three large school censuses that list the names of the parent or guardian, followed by the number of children under that adult’s care. The report from Marlboro Township lists the guardian’s name, as well as the names and ages of the children under their care.

This series is open to researchers.
These records are available in the Archives.
These records are grouped by subject, or by size, as in the case of the three larger census lists.
Monmouth County Archives
125 Symmes Drive
Manalapan, NJ 07726
Phone: 732-308-3771
These records were transferred to the Archives by County Clerk Jane G. Clayton before 1994.
This collection was processed and this finding aid was created by Mary Hussey in July 2018.
See also Superintendent of Schools Collection.
Report from Shrewsbury School Committee 1845
School Censuses – Atlantic-Matawan 1861-1866
School Censuses – Middletown-Wall Twp. 1861-1866
Misc. School-related documents Ca. 1864
School Surplus & School Money Collected 1864-1865
Matawan Twp. Enumeration List 1861
Matawan Twp. Enumeration List 1862
Marlboro Twp. Enumeration List