The History of Upper Freehold


Known officially as a Report of the Upper Freehold Better Township Association’s Committee, on History, the following was written by chairman William R. Hendrickson of Imlaystown. Published by N J’s Agriculture department in 1935, it was included in “Upper Freehold Township, A Survey of the Life, Resources and Government of a New Jersey Rural Township.” 


In 1664, after the Dutch settlers of New Netherlands had made comfortable homes, they, despite the pleading of their fiery Dutch governor, Peter Stuyvesant, allowed the English, without much effort, to take possession of the settlement, which then became known as New York. After the English had taken New Netherlands, many of the Dutch subjects began to get dissatisfied with their new rulers, and longed for new homes in a new territory quite distant from the conquerors.

It so happened that many of the Hollanders remembered that, on the night of September 2, 1609 (the evening prior to the landing of the “Half Moon” at New Amsterdam), the boat anchored for the night in the sight of the picturesque highlands of Navesink, in what is now New Jersey. During the anchorage the newcomers were deeply impressed with the most attractive scenery about the highlands and bay, and are said to have remarked, “This is a very good land to fall in with, and a very pleasant land to see.”


A number of dissatisfied Dutch moved to Long Island (Gravesend) and were later joined by many persecuted New Englanders from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. The settlement of Long Island proved to be too close to the English in New York, so another new home separated by a more extensive water boundary was sought as a permanent place of settlement – where interference from the British would be less likely to occur.


Remembering the attractiveness of the “high hills” across the broad waters of the bay, the Dutch began to induce many Long Islanders to consider moving to New Jersey near the “beauty spot” that they had seen before entering the harbor at New Amsterdam.


Colonel Richard Nicholls, British governor of New York, according to an official deed dated April 7, 1665, in the possession of the secretary of state, at Albany (a copy of which is recorded in Trenton), negotiated for tract of land at Navesink from Sachem Popomora, chief of the Indian tribe of the same name. Then, immediately, the governor assisted in forming the Monmouth Patent, the one condition of which was that, within a space of three years, settlers from Gravesend, Long Island, to the number of one hundred families, should settle there, fertilize the land and plant crops. There did not seem to be enough families, so some of the persecuted New Englanders were induced to go and make the required number.


Governor Nicholls, under the authority of the Duke of York, thought fit to grant a tract or parcel of land near Sandy Point Hook on the mainland and running along the bay to the mouth of the Raritan River, to twelve patentees: William Goulding, Samuel Spicer, Richard Gibbons, Richard Stout, James Grover, John Brown, John Tilton, Nathaniel Sylvester, William Reape, Walter Clarke, Nicholas Davis and Obadiah Holmes. These men were allowed 500 acres each; the each man and wife, 120 acres each; after that smaller tracts for children and servants.


The principal reasons for the settlement of Monmouth County were: 1. “The beauty of scenery about the Highlands,” 2. “Free liberty of conscience without any molestation or disturbance whatsoever, in the way of worship.” The name “Monmouth” was officially given to the county on March 7, 1683. Three counties, Bergen, Essex and Middlesex, had previously been settled.


The Indians who inhabited Monmouth County prior to its settlement by the Dutch and New Englanders were of the Algonquin stock and embraced two nations, the Iroquis and the Delawares, or Lenni Lenape. There were other Indians who came from the Southwest to the Navesink Highland region by way of the old Burlington path from the Delaware River to Raritan Bay.


The Navesinks were very hostile to the Dutch. After several families had lived in Middletown, they had to leave (1655) on account of fearful uprisings on the part of those Indians. In three days, more than 100 Dutch were killed, 150 were taken prisoner, and much property was destroyed.


In the year 1767, an act was passed to divide Shrewsbury Township, which comprised a goodly portion of Monmouth county, and annex a part to Freehold and another to Upper Freehold.


Grants of land in Monmouth County were made from 1675 to 1697 to persons whose names were later familiar in Upper Freehold Township. Among these names are Holmes, Smith, Ashton, Cox, Throckmorton, Whitlock, Stout, Hartshorn, Wright, Shinn, Cook, Applegate, Lawrence, Ellis, Bryan, Havens, Parker, Potter, Wall, Hankinson, Coward, Clayton, Chamberlain, Richadson, Wilson and Holeman.


The territory of Upper Freehold was taken up and patented in large tracts. One of these, 4,000 acres, was held by Robert Burnett. He disposed of 500 acres to his son-in-law. This was in the Eglinton section of the township. To the east of the Burnett tract, 2,100 acres were pentented by John Baker. After the death of Baker, before 1700, that tract passed to George Willcocks and was known as the “Manor of Buckhole.” Later, Richard Salter possessed it and built mills at Imlaystown.


A portion of the Salter tract was sold in 1777 to Elisha Lawrence, who settled there. This property was inherited by Elisha Lawrence, Jr., whose son, John Lawrence, later resided on a part of it, known as “Mulberry Hill.” John Lawrence’s son, Elisha was a sheriff of Monmouth County [and notorious Tory leader]; a grandson, Captain James Lawrence, of the ship “Cheseapeake,” served in the War of 1812. After he had been wounded and carried below, he made the famous utterance, “Don’t give up the ship!”


The “mill tract” at Imlaystown later was owned by Richard Salter [or Saltar], Jr., who sold it in 1727 to Peter Salter, Jr. William Dockwra, who in 1698 owned both sides of the Crosswicks Creek, disposed of his lands to Anthony Woodward. Between 1688 and 1695, a strip of land  running across the county was taken by men from Middletown, and known as the “Middletown Men’s Lots.” This land was divided into lots of 480 acres each and these lots became the property of Joseph Throckmorton, James Bowne, James Ashton, Philip Smith. John Stout, Job Throckmorton and Benjamin Borden obtained smaller tracts.


A township event of importance in the early 1700’s was the marriage of Hannah Salter, the only daughter of Richard Salter, who was the owner of Buck Horn (Hole) Manor, comprising about 2,000 acres in the basins of Buck Hole and Doctor’s Creeks, to Mordecai Lincoln, a grandson of Samuel, the first Lincoln to settle in Massachusetts (1637) and the great-great grandfather of President Abraham Lincoln.


It appears that six children were the result of that marriage – one of them, Deborah died at the age of three years and four months. She was buried, May 15, 1720, in the Covel’s Hill Cemetery, one of the highest points of ground owned by her grandfather, Richard Salter. This burying ground is on the road between Cox’s Corner and Stone Tavern.


Mordecai’s marriage to Miss Salter brought him into a circle of such people of influence in the colony as the Lawrences, Bordens and Holmeses. This Lincoln, by trade, was a blacksmith [forge master]. Tradition says, “The smithy in which he worked still stands at Fillmore, near Cream Ridge.” [Actually, the final residence of Peter Benjamin, barber to President Lincoln, but not far from the actual forge site adjacent to Clayton Park.] At his death in 1735, he was possessor of 600 acres of land in and about Upper Freehold Township. The tract now comprising the Old Yellow Meeting House property near Red Valley was donated to the church by his father-in-law, Richard Salter.


The township’s loyal citizens did their “bit” in the Revolutionary struggle and other conflicts affecting the nation. Many times during the first war they were subjected to bitter reverses by their Tory neighbors.


The fertile soil in Upper Freehold Township has caused the township to make steady progress in developing excellent farm homes. This section of New Jersey is unsurpassed in agriculture.