Middletown Village Historic District
The Middletown Village Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2013, The Gombach Group.
The Kings Highway District [now known as the Middletown Village Historic District] was the heart of the oldest settlement in New Jersey. The support document is the New Jersey Book of Deeds showing Thomas Whitlock's 1664 land claim registered two years before the next claim. Thomas Whitlock divided his claim into thirty six lots. The earliest settlers are listed in the First Towne Book of Middletown.
The land had been purchased from the Indians and the relations between the natives and the settlers were generally peaceful. The disturbances occasioned by the King Phillip's War did, however, necessitate the building of a blockhouse in 1670. Its foundation is presently the foundation of Christ Church.
The reason for the location of the Village was the fact that here was the junction of three great Indian Trails and the nearby Indian Village of Chaquasitt. These trails and the clearings already made provided both easy access to other sections of East and West Jersey and the advantages of tillable land. Particularly favorable was the easy access to the sea by way of Indian Trails. This stretch of old roadway to the sea became part of The Kings Highway laid out in 1719 by the Monmouth Patentees to join the great colonial route which allowed travel from one settlement to another.
The Kings Highway District [Middletown Village Historic District] was most significant in both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Christ Church played an important role in the Revolution. It was the meeting place of Henry Clinton and Lord Cornwallis withdrawing from the Battle of Monmouth. The church itself was used as a hospital during the War.
The Murray House (35 Kings Highway) was the scene of a killing of a Revolutionary soldier tilling his lands. Joseph Murray, while on duty with, a company at Navesink Highlands to block conveying of produce to British ships had leave to come home to plant corn. Surprised by three armed men, he was killed right out in the field. A later owner of the house was a son of an officer under the first Napoleon.
The owner of the Bowne House (2 Red Hill Road) was a member of the Governor's "Light Guards" and he served as a Captain in the Civil War from the start.
The Blacksmith Shop was also known as the wheelwright shop of William Truex. As captain in the Mexican War, Truex (later both Colonel and Brigadier General in the regular army) used his shop as temporary headquarters providing the American forces with many officers who became distinguished. Drilling took place on The Kings Highway. The general forces drilled here became known as the Governor's Light Guards.
The Bowne House (2 Red Hill Road) has been associated with political causes as early as 1700 when an arrest for unjust taxes was made. This began the conflict between Lewis Morris, governor, and the people of Middletown. Andrew Bowne and Richard Hartshorne give an account of the incident which appears in Volume 11 of the New Jersey Archives. "The people stood up manfully without regard to consequences to protect their friend Richard Salter, and resist the tyrannical acts of a usurping governor and his pretending officers of the law." As the Rising Sun Tavern, the Bowne House had many famous visitors of the political nature. "Mad Anthony" Wayne is said to have carved his initials behind the bar. This house is also said to have served as a hiding place for runaway slaves.
The Franklin Academy (53 Kings Highway) was one of the earliest private schools in New Jersey. It was built by a local stock company for preparing "boys for college, the study of a profession or any other business they wish to pursue" and girls "for all the useful and ornamental branches of Female Education." The Academy operated as a private school from 1837 to 1851. In 1851, it became the only village operated school and was in continuous use until it was replaced in 1902. It was then used as a public library.
A group of Baptist men and women who settled in the new Village of Middletown in 1665 organized and constituted the first Baptist church to be established in New Jersey in 1668. In 1707, this church joined with four other churches and established the Philadelphia Association, the oldest association of Baptists in America. The church continued to be innovative when in 1955 it proved very ecumenical by establishing a policy of open communion and it moved toward less restrictive membership requirements as a community church. It is now known as the Old First Church of Middletown.
Ellis, Franklin History of Monmouth County R. T. Peck, 1885.
Salter, Edwin History of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, E. Gardner and Sons, Bayonne, N.J., 1890.
Smith, Samuel History of the Colony of Nova Caesaria
† Staff, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Middletown Village Historic District, Monmouth County, NJ, nomination document, 1973, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.