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Deptford Township

The Township Municipal Building is located at 1011 Cooper Street, Deptford NJ 08096; phone: 856-845-5300.

Landing site of the first North American hot-air balloon flight, 1793.

Beginnings [1]

The Township of Deptford dates from the earliest days of English rule over the colonies after Dutch and Swedish claims to the land were eliminated, sometimes by force. New Jersey was the province of James, the Duke of York who was given the land by his brother, King Charles II, in 1664. The Duke of York in turn rewarded two of his loyal courtiers, Sir George Cateret and John, Lord Berkeley, with East and West New Jersey, respectively. Lord Berkeley found himself in financial difficulties and sold West New Jersey to two Quakers in 1673. The part occupied by modern Deptford Township was shortly owned by Edward Byllynge. Byllynge's land was divided into smaller shares of about 20,000 acres each. Byllynge, along with a group of trustees who marketed the shares, established a common document promising religious freedom, representative government, and fair taxation. These provisions were attractive to a group of Irish Quakers who ended up being the first legal settlers in West New Jersey in 1681, a year before William Penn chartered Pennsylvania. Deptford was established in 1695 as a township under the Crown when it was known as Bethlehem. The Township was about 106 square miles when first established. Deptford was formally incorporated on February 21, 1798 by an act of the New Jersey legislature. Woodbury, Westville, Washington, Woodbury Heights, Wenonah and West Deptford at one time were part of Deptford.

Deptford was the landing site of the first hot air balloon flight in North America in January 9, 1793 undertaken by Jean-Pierre Blanchard. The ascent from Philadelphia was witnessed by then President George Washington, as well as future presidents John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe. The landing site is believed to be located next to Big Timber Creek, north of Clements Bridge Road.

The demand for wood for construction and industrial heating from Philadelphia led to felling of forests in Deptford in Colonial times. This wood was floated down the Big Timber Creek and led to the stream's name used today. The forests were also cut to make charcoal used in ironwork, which burned with a more consistent and hotter flame. As the original forest declined and the land was cleared, Deptford became a farming community on the outskirts of Woodbury. A railroad line was established by 1865 in Woodbury that gave more consistent access to markets for agricultural products. The opening of the Walt Whitman Bridge in 1957 and the subsequent construction of Rt. 42 in 1957-59 brought a more direct route to Philadelphia and opened the Township to suburban development. Suburbanizing pressure accelerated with the opening of the Deptford Mall in 1975 and its subsequent retail development that continues to this day.

  1. Township of Deptford, Introduction to the Master Plan, 2007, public hearing draft, www.deptford-nj.org, accessed July 2008.
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