A BRIEF HISTORY OF BRICK TOWNSHIP
by Gene Donatiello
Before there was a Brick Township Native Americans were among the early summer residents who came to this area for the oysters, clams, fish, and the abundant wildlife in the woodlands. In their travels the Natives left a legacy of artifacts and names, Metedeconk, Manasquan, and Mantoloking. By the 1730’s they no longer visited this area as they began their move westward.
In 1850, when the New Jersey Legislature created Ocean County from parts of Monmouth and Burlington Counties, they also created Brick Township from parts of Dover and Howell Townships. The new Township was named Brick for its most prominent citizen Joseph W. Brick, the industrious and successful owner of Bergen Iron Works.
At that time Brick Township included the villages of Adamston, Bricksburg, (Lakewood), Bay Head, Burrsville (Laurelton) Cedarbridge, Herbertsville, Osbornville, Point Pleasant Beach, West Point Pleasant, Mantoloking and a portion of Normandy Beach.
Early industries were the lumber, pinewood (charcoal and turpentine), iron industry (Butcher’s Forge at Forge Pond) Bergen Iron Works, Cranberry, Blueberry, and poultry. The resort industry always provided seasonal work for the locals. The people of Brick Township also made their living off the land, bay and rivers. They were subsistence farmers growing their own food and trading off the surplus. They fished and hunted the rivers, bay, ocean and forest. There was an abundance of striped bass, perch, herring, crabs and clams along with ducks, rabbits, pheasants and grouse. There were cranberry bogs in most sections of town and later blueberry growing became an important crop.
Compared to today’s schools early Brick Township schools were one or two room buildings, housing grades one through eight. The furnishings were basic, benches and desks, hooks on the wall for coats, a receptacle for water, (there was no running water) and a blackboard (chalkboard). In the middle of the room was an iron stove for heat and at the front of the room was a teacher’s desk
The 1900’s brought new economies to the area; the poultry industry started with Park & Tilford’s Laurelton Farms and peaked in the 1960’s. Summer camps for children began to spring up, Camp Eagle, Boy Scout’s Camp Burton, Princeton Summer Camp, Camp Metedeconk, New Jersey Episcopal Choir Camp (NEJECHO) and the Cedars. Land developers arrived promoting the area as a resort, for swimming, boating, salt water bathing, crabbing, fishing and for just getting away. In 1934, the Van Ness Corporation developed Breton Woods. Because of its many lagoons, Shore Acres was advertised as “The Venice of the Jersey Shore.” The Hudson Dispatch, a newspaper, offered a plot of land in Cedarwood Park with a subscription to their newspaper (a subscriber had to buy an additional lot at full price in order to build a house).
Brick Township continued to be a quiet rural-resort and commercial community into the 1950’s, until the Garden State Parkway opened. Travelers exiting the Parkway were soon to discover this area where property was inexpensive and taxes were low, was a place where they could go to move away from the crowded cities. Unrest in the urban areas in the 1960’s and 70’s caused a flight of families to the urban areas and Brick Township was the ideal place to relocate. As more and more people moved into Brick Township the general stores were replace by department stores, supermarkets, and specialty shops. Highways and roads were expanded as well as city services. Since 1850 Brick Township has evolved from the virgin woodlands to the thriving suburban community it is today.