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History of Manahawkin – Stafford Township

Stafford Township, Ocean County, New Jersey

Europeans lived in what is now Stafford Township before 1700.  One of the first settled areas was along Barnegat Bay about where the Mallard Island Yacht Club now stands (where Margo’s once stood). Incorporated in 1749 from Shrewsbury Township in Monmouth County, Stafford Township is named after Staffordshire in England and was the first government to be formed in what would become Ocean County in 1850.

From about 1830, “Manahawkin” was identified as a Lenape word meaning “Land of Good Corn.”  More recent scholarship suggests that “Manahawkin” may mean something more like “fertile land sloping into the water.”  Other variations on the origin of this name range from a derivation of the Hawkins family to the sound of the honking of migrating geese.  The spelling has gone through many variations including among others: Manahohacky,” “Manahoching” and “Manahawken.” In fact, one Toms River observer in the 1870’s criticized the people of our town for not even knowing how to spell the name of their own town.

Stafford Township has an interesting role in New Jersey and national history including a rich history of colonial industry, 19thcentury bog iron industry, the birth of the United States Lifesaving Service, the post-Civil War railroad boom, cranberry industry, tourism, and the military and cultural legacy of the New Jersey Civil War (1775-1783).

The first European settlers created saw mills and grist mills and developed the Cedar industry to build houses, boats and even ocean going vessels. The small farms and villages developed in relationship to the water and eventually established the charcoal and bog iron industries.  The effective use of anthracite coal and iron ore elsewhere in the 1830’s doomed the local industries and led to long-term economic hardship.  The glass and fishing industries were among the few prosperous sectors in the local economy

Manahawkin was the center of intense conflict during the New Jersey Civil War during the American War of Independence (1775-1783).  Local loyalists battled the small patriot militia in a personal and bloody conflict.  Under the leadership of Reuben Fitz Randolph, Company Five of the Second Monmouth militia battled the Loyalists under the leadership of notorious Captain John Bacon.  This conflict included the Manahawkin Skirmish of December 3, 1781 that involved the death of one patriot and the wounding of another.  New Stafford Township may be the site of the last recorded land encounter of the American War of Independence (December 27, 1782 at Cedar Bridge Tavern).  Read more at Stafford Township Website – Click Here Now

Author: Owners

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