Manalapan Spanning Three Centuries
By Lydia Wikoff
Residents of the Western section of Freehold Township were informed in the winter of 1848 that they were to be separated from that township and would become residents of a new independent township by the New Jersey State Legislature. In researching it could not be found how the decision to name it Manalapan came about. The name Manalapan translate from the Lenape Indian Words “manel” for drinking and “paune” for bread meant good land to settle upon, for the Indians.
The new township included an area of 30.85 square miles and 19,744 acres. The population of the township according to the census of 1850 was 1,910. It is interesting that the territory included a town, Englishtown, which at the time was larger than the town of Monmouth Court House (now named Freehold) which later was to become the county seat of Monmouth.
The new township could aptly be described as a farming community. Its products at the time were grains (wheat, rye, barley, corn and oats) and a variety of vegetables. Beers 1873 Atlas of Monmouth County lists 28 business. These included besides farmers, grain and saw mill owners, carpenters, fruit growers, horse and mule dealers, blacksmiths, wheelwrights and distillers of apple whiskey. At that time seven mills were operating, both grist and saw mills, as well as two woolen mills. Sadly, only the building which housed the grist mill at Millhurst still exists. The nearby shipping port of Matawan and Keyport added to the importance of our mills. They traveled by horse and wagon over toll roads before the roads became public.
It is recorded that a northern section of Freehold Township was also established and named Marlboro in 1848. Manalapan Township was officially formed on March 9, 1848 when leading citizens met in Phebe Perrine’s tavern in Englishtown. The second meeting of the residents was held on March 24 at the same location and township officers were elected. In addition to electing officers the following actions were taken:
“To raise the same amount of school money as the State appropriation
Five hundred dollars to be raised for highways
Three hundred dollars to be raised for the poor
Resolved that there should be five road districts, each district to elect its own overseer”
The offices of the Township were established in Englishtown and remained there until 1888. At that time Englishtown signaled its intention to become a separate borough and elect its own officials. When this occurred the Township moved its offices to Tennent, a small community within the township.
You are well aware that Manalapan was the site of the Battle of Monmouth, a Revolutionary War engagement held on June 28, 1778 involving 30,000 British and Continental troops. On the two hundredth anniversary of the Battle, in 1978, the State opened the 1,520 acre Monmouth Battlefield State Park. Eighty percent of the Park is in Manalapan Township. A reenactment of the Battle is held annually on the nearest date to June 28.
During the Township’s 152 year history a Civil War training camp was established in 1862 and 1863. The site was located on the southerly side of the Freehold and Jamesburg Railroad off Route 522. It was identified as Camp Vredenbergh and a part of the site was where portions of the Battle of Monmouth were fought.
The population of the Township grew very slowly as farms tended to be handed down from father to son. Great growth occurred between 1960 and the present day when developers bought farms and built houses.
For more history of Manalapan Township there are two books that speak well to the subject. The first book, “Manalapan in Three Centuries” was written by James S. Brown in 1991. The second book is from the popular “Images of America” series featuring “Manalapan and Englishtown”. This book was written by Richard J. Dalik and published in 1998. This book is available at retail book stores in the area.