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Long Branch City

Long Branch City Hall is located at 344 Broadway, Long Branch NJ 07740; phone: 732-222-7000. Long Branch was incorporated in 1867 from portions of Ocean Township.

Beginnings [1]

There is some reason to believe that John Cabot and his son, Sebastian, first viewed the Long Branch coast in 1498, for in that year they sailed south on the Atlantic to the 38th parallel, far below the site of Long Branch. Whether they sighted Long Branch or not, it was included in their claim of the North American continent for the King of England. In 1524 Giovanni da Verrazano, an Italian navigating for the French crown, noted highlands along the coast that have been thought to be the Navesink Hills near Long Branch. The next year, Estevan Gomez, a Portuguese in the service of Emperor Charles the Fifth of the Holy Roman Empire, sailed a course in the North Atlantic that least historians to believe he may have come close to Long Branch.

Almost a century later Henry Hudson, an Englishman in the employ of the Dutch East India Company, claimed this territory for Holland. Although the Dutch settled some of the land, in 1664 they were thrust from it by the threat of English force, and the territory known as New Netherland passed to Charles II of England. He gave the region to his brother James, Duke of York, who in turn handed over the section between the Delaware and Hudson rivers to two friends, John, Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret, calling it New Jersey.

Before the Duke of York had accomplished this transfer, Colonel Richard Nicolls, commander of the English fleet that had captured New Amsterdam (New York), permitted a group from Long Island to purchase a large tract lying on Raritan Bay and the Atlantic coast. In April 1665 he confirmed the transaction in the so-called Monmouth Patent. Shrewsbury and Middletown were founded by the patentees, the Rhode Island Monmouth Society, a group of New Englanders who had migrated to Long Island in search of religious freedom.

This was the stock of the original Long Branch settlers. In 1668 five associates of the Monmouth patentees, John Slocum, Joseph and Peter Parker, Eliakim Wardell and a man named Hulett opened negotiations with the Indians for land on the present location of the Port-au-Peck section of Long Branch. Popamora, the chieftan, invited the white men to a tribal feast to discuss the particulars. The Indians entertained them much as present-day salesmen pave the way to a sale by providing buyers with a round of pleasure. The main attraction was a series of bouts between Vow-a-vapon, the favorite wrestler of the tribe, and other youths of the settlement. The white men then exchanged trinkets for Indian pelts and a general spirit of good fellowship augured well for the business dealings to come.

In charting the tracts of the five associates, it must be remembered that Slocum alone settled on land that is included within the present-day [1940] boundaries of Long Branch. Despite this fact, the five men have long been considered as a group of original settlers of the city. Eliakim Wardell obtained the long shore front of Sea Bright, Fresh Pond (Monmouth Beach) and Snag Swamp. The Parkers, Joseph and Peter, settled in Town Neck (Little Silver), and Hulett established himself in Horse Neck.

With the exception of Hulett, who moved away from the region shortly afterward, the original settlers remained on their land and founded families that formed the nucleus of the small town that Long Branch was to remain for more than a century. The early history of the community depends, of course, in a real sense upon the activities of these original settlers, irrespective of their inclusion within the Long Branch boundaries. Wardell and his wife, Lydia, built their home on Monmouth Beach, filling the walls with stone brought from England as ballast. His lands, which were mostly sandy beaches, covered approximately four hundred and fifty acres in 1670. Both Wardell and his wife had been publicly whipped and driven from Boston for their religious beliefs and for harboring other Quakers in their house. Here on the Jersey Shore they followed their faith and raised a family in peace.

Settlement after the arrival of the original five families proceeded slowly. The Asbury Park Press estimates that the total price paid the Indians for the land comprising Long Branch was about $170,000. Settlers are believed to have paid about 20 shillings an acre, which would mean that in all they purchased approximately thirty-four thousand acres from the Indians.

The sea held little attraction for these early settlers; in fact, the shorefront, to become the deciding factor in Long Branch's development, was regarded as practically worthless by the pioneers. They sought protection from the wintry gales and heavy storms by settling about a mile-and-a-half inland. Their cluster of farms that was to grow into a village was probably located a little south of the so-called long branch of the Shrewsbury River.

Early industry appears to have been limited to tanning and milling. Grist Mills were erected at Whale Brook Pond. The first tannery was located on Wolf Hill. Shoes and boots were manufactured by itinerant cobblers who went form household to household, remaining in each until they had made shoes for the entire family.

Because there was no church in the vicinity until after the Revolution, the social life of the community must have been even simpler than that of most colonial settlements. Quilting-bees, corn huskings, an occasional wedding and frequent parties were the main diversions.

In 1759 there was a regular coach line from Cooper's Ferry (Camden) to Mount Holly, Shrewsbury, Middletown, Chapel Hill, out onto Sandy Hook where sailing boats completed the trip to New York. Travelers from Long Branch could take this coach in either direction at Shrewsbury, the nearest stop. Prior to 1793 a line of stages connected with Philadelphia by a sailboat was covering the 48 miles between Bordentown and Long Branch. The stage stopped in Smithburg, the half-way mark for a midday dinner, and arrived in Long Branch late in the afternoon.

The Revolutionary Way and the crucial years thereafter witnessed the first substantial growth of Long Branch since its founding. In the decade 1790-1800 several families, which were to become prominent and influential in Long Branch affairs, first settled in the town.

An increase in civic institutions began in 1790 when George Morford, the first of a long line of Long Branch Morfords, moved down from Shrewsbury. A year later, from the same town, came the Lippincott family, which had been Torys during the war. Shortly after there followed James Joline, a Hugenot colonel in the French army, the Blaisdell family from Norwich, Vermont, and a branch of the Wooley family from nearby Poplar. In 1799 Cornelius Van Brunt built a home on Shell Dock Road that was typical of the period. It was constructed in the salt-box style with a wide lean-to in the rear that caused the back half of the roof to sweep nearly to the ground.

About 1791 a Methodist Protestant church was erected. It wasn't until 1812 that there was a school within the present limits of Long Branch.

In 1812 Michael Maps and Richard Wycoff opened the first general store. Other stores quickly followed.

The distinction of actually launching Long Branch upon its celebrated career as a resort cannot be properly conferred upon any individual. Fish Tavern, a pre-Revolutionary establishment, provided lodgings and may have housed the first white men who came to Long Branch to enjoy the seashore. On the other hand, many farmhouses rented out rooms to visitors, who sat at the host's family table; the host's wife was the cook and his daughter the waitress. One of the earliest-known boarders in Long Branch was Elliston Perot, of Philadelphia, who rented rooms in 1788 at the farmhouse said to have been owned by Captain Philip White. Perot was so pleased by the ocean, high bluffs, and the landscape that he asked if he might return with his wife. His host showed clearly his amateur status by requesting Perot to bring back with his family additional beds and bedding. He continued to visit the house for three years.

  1. Writers' Project, Works Progress Administration, State of New Jersey, Entertaining A Nation, The Career of Long Branch, American Guide Series, The City of Long Branch, 1940.
**Information is curated from a variety of sources and, while deemed reliable, is not guaranteed.
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