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Elk Township

Gloucester County, New Jersey

THe Elkk Township Municipal Building is located at 680 Whig Ln, Monroeville, NJ 08343; phone: 856-881-6525

Neighborhoods

Brief History [†]

Before European settlers arrived in the Delaware Valley, American Indians populated the Gloucester area. Recent archeological findings show that humans have been present in the region for approximately 10,000 years. Native American communities relied on the area's natural resources, such as Raccoon Creek, which sustained small Indian villages of the Narraticon tribe. The tribe and creek name was a version of the Lenape Indian word for "raccoon," which was an animal probably found in abundance in the area.

The first European settlers in the Delaware Valley were the Dutch, who founded a colony in New Jersey in 1624. In 1638, Swedish and Finnish settlers ventured to the Delaware Valley and a Scandinavian colony was established at the confluence of the Delaware River and Raccoon Creek in Logan Township. A few Swedish and Finnish families, accustomed to water travel, purchased land from the Indians and founded their own homesteads along the interior waterways. The largest settlement was at Swedesboro, on the Raccoon Creek downstream from Elk Township.

In 1644, the Dutch ceded control of their New World holdings to the English. The Swedish and Finnish settlers remained, tending thriving farms and establishing successful trade with the Indians, especially for furs. These settlers gave shelter to the first group of English colonists who arrived on the English ship Kent, docking at Raccoon Creek in 1677. Settlers from other countries also began arriving. Today, Elk Township citizens of German and Irish lineage make up the largest segment of the population.

It is believed that the earliest residents in Elk Township settled in the Ewan-Bridgeton Pike area, where the oldest homes still standing date to the 1700s. Jacob and Leonard Fisler, originally from Switzerland, purchased land in 1791 and are credited with "officially" settling Elk Township. Early settlers raised grain, fruit and vegetables, and tended livestock. Because of the rich farming soils, the area entered a long era of highly successful agricultural production. According to town lore, the roads in Elk Township follow the paths of elks. No history can be found to authenticate this or any other source for the name "Elk."

Incorporated in 1881, the township contains several distinct regions. Until 1891 Elk Township was considered part of Franklin Township, and later some of its land area belonged to Harrison Township. Historical settlements include the communities of Aura, Ewan, Ferrell, Hardingville, and the Lawns, along with development around Silver Lake, Lake Gilman, and the Wright's Mill area. The first two lakes were summer resorts that became private associations with permanent housing in the twentieth century. There are also several new areas of development, including Still Run, Covey Estates, Hampton Hills, and Meadowbrook.

Aura was first established by John Early who arrived from Ireland in 1764. Originally known as Union, Unionville, and Union Station (due to its location at a crossroads), the name was changed to Aura in 1892 (the name was supposedly based on a town in Oregon) because so many other New Jersey communities had "Union" as their name or as part of it. Aura was the largest community in the surrounding area, with many other local towns receiving mail from the Aura post office until they established their own. The primary light industry in early Aura was the manufacturing of hay forks and similar farming implements.

The tiny hamlet of Ewan, formerly known as Ewansville and Ewan's Mill, settled on its current name in 1894. Prior to 1861 it was notable for the grist mill located there along Raccoon Creek. Based on the age of its structures, Ewan is thought to be one of the first occupied parts of the township. Only the southwest part of Ewan, along the Ewan-Mullica Hill Road, Mood`s Road, and part of the Bridgton Road, is actually within Elk Township. The majority of the town falls within Harrison Township.

The town of Ferrell was originally known as Fairview. Because another town with the same name pre-dated it, the town changed its name in honor of Thomas M. Ferrel, a well-liked politician from Glassboro. Notable early settler families included the Fryes, Morgans, Laffertys, Nelsons, and Moods. Historically, farming and basket making were the chief occupations. Later, a large pickle processing plant employed a significant part of the town.

Hardingville is the settlement in the area where the Swedesboro-Franklinville Road, the Glassboro-Hardingville Road, and the Barnsboro-Elmer Road all meet. The community was founded by John Harding in 1796. Notable past structures included a basket-manufacturing plant, the Red Lion Inn, and the Red Lion Tavern. It is asserted that the inn and tavern gave the area the name "Red Lion," at least unofficially for a time in the first half of the 1800's. Much of the area was originally part of Franklin Township and later became part of Elk Township. Along with asparagus and tomatoes, white potatoes were the main crop of Hardingville.

The Lawns section of Elk Township was established in 1835. The Great Eastern Corporation of New York brought large tracts of land in this area, as did many private individuals. Although small by most standards, the community had its own school from 1929-1960, and by the 1970's included two stores, one gas station, four churches, and one volunteer fire company. Its most well-documented historical feature was the Pine Tavern which existed from 1752 to 1840. The economy of Elk Township as a whole was historically noted for its lumbering, farming, basket making, and milling. It was particularly well known for its apple orchards. Indeed, the Lewis Mood Farm near Ferrell is credited with creating its own recognized variety of apple, the Mood apple, in 1922. This variation on the "Red Delicious" apple, later called the "Starking Delicious," was sold and released on the market in 1975.

To this day Elk Township maintains it agrarian character and businesses. Its rich farmland and thriving horticultural industry are predominant in the township. Over 2,585 acres have been permanently preserved through state and county programs. However, the easy access to the township provided by State Highway 55, a major north-south corridor in southern New Jersey, began attracting development interest in the 1990s. There are currently plans for considerable residential and commercial growth in the northeast section of the township through the Silvergate Planned Unit Development and other similar projects. As a consequence, Elk Township will probably undergo many changes in the next few years. Township initiatives to preserve open space and large blocks of farmland have been ongoing for several years. In recent years, these efforts have accelerated.

Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, Environmental Resource Inventory, 2008, www.dvrpc.org, accessed July, 2020.

Nearby Towns: Harrison Twp •