History of Atlantic Township

By Franklin Ellis
Philadelphia, R.T. Peck & Co., 1885

  • Atlantic Township
  • Colt's Neck
  • Reformed Church
  • St. Mary's
  • Independent Methodist Church
  • Scobeyville
  • Ediburgh
  • Schools of the Township
  • The North American Phalanx


    The township of Atlantic was erected in 1847 (Pamphlet Laws of 1847, pp. 66-67) from parts of the townships of Freehold, Shrewsbury and Middletown, with boundaries "beginning at the southwest corner of the township of Shrewsbury, where the Freehold, Shrewsbury and Howell township lines meet; thence running northerly until it comes to the mouth of the road that leads through Jacob Conover's farm; thence northerly, following the middle of said road, until it comes to the road near ---- Hulse's house, which road leads to John J. Ely's mills; thence easterly, following the middle of said road, until it strikes Middle Hop Brook; thence easterly, down said brook, its various courses, until it comes to Swimming River Bridge; thence southerly, along the middle of the main road leading to Tinton Falls, until it comes to Haggerty's corner; thence southerly until it strikes the Tinton Falls millpond brook; thence up the said brook, by its various courses, until it comes to Pine Brook; thence up the said Pine Brook until it strikes the Howell township line; thence westerly along the line dividing the townships of Howell and Shrewsbury to the Greehold line, the place of beginning."

    The boundaries of Atlantic township are: On the north, Marlborough, Holmdel and Middletown townships; on the east, Shrewsbury; on the south, Wall and Howell, and on the west, the townships of Freehold and Marlborough. The principal stream of Atlantic township is Hop Brook, which marks all of its northern boundary against Holmdel and Middletown. Several small tributaries of this stream flow in an easterly and northeasterly direction through the township, the principal of which are Yellow Brook, Big Brook and Hockhockson Brook, the last named of which, with its southern branch, marks the greater part of the eastern boundary of Atlantic against Shrewsbury. Through the southeast part of the township, for a short distance, runs the line of the New Jersey Southern Railroad. The population of Atlantic township by the United States census of 1880 was seventeen hundred and forty-three. Following is a list of chosen freeholders of the township from its erection to the present time, viz.:

    1847.Thomas G. Haight.
    1847-48. De Lafayette Schenck.
    1848-53.Samuel W. Jones.
    1849-50.John L. Stoutenburgh.
    1854-55.Edward T. Ryall.
    1856.Henry D. Hendrickson.
    1857-59.Henry Buck.
    1860-62.Forman Sickles.
    1863-67.Levi Scobey.
    1868-80.John T. Haight.
    1881-84.John E. Van Derveer.

    COLT'S NECK is the principal village of Atlantic township, and is situated a little south and west of the centre, on Yellow Brook. The origin of the name of this village is unknown. Some have said it came from the fact that a tavern-keeper of the place put up a sign bearing the picture of a colt's head and neck and the date 1817, but the date alone would disprove the supposition, as the name Colt's Neck is frequently mentioned in the annals of the Revolution, full forty years earlier.

    The tavern referred to was kept by Jacob Hart, who, in 1817, was succeeded in the proprietorship by Samuel Laird, who kept it until his death, July 5, 1859, when it was taken by his son, Robert Laird. He kept it several years, and in 1869 it was taken by Augustus Manning. Since that time it has had several proprietors, and is now kept by Monroe Matthews.

    The post-office at this place was established February 24, 1824, with Samuel Laird as postmaster. He was succeeded in 1859 by Tunic Statesir, who was, in turn, succeeded by Charles Sherman, the present postmaster, who is also a merchant of the village.

    In the house now occupied by Miss Harriet Throckmorton, John Wardell kept a store in 1812 and for several years after that time. About 1816, Benjamin Van Mater kept a store in a building that stood where now are the store of Charles Sherman and the dwelling of John T. Haight. John Stoutenburg kept a store here afterwards, and Elisha Laird kept a store from 1836 for many years. He was succeeded by Samuel and James Throckmorton. In 1858, Levi Scobey erected a store building, which he occupied several years. He was succeeded by Charles Scobey & Co., Charles Haight & Co. and in 1864 by S. Matthews, who is the present owner and proprietor.

    Colt's Neck as it was in 1834 is described in the Gazetteer of that year as follows: "it contains from fifteen to twenty dwellings, one tavern, two stores, three grist-mills and two saw-mills."

    The grist-mill near the village, on Yellow Brook, was build before 1806 by Cornelius Barriclo. It was afterwards owned by Charles Parker and Jacob Probasco, by whom the present mill was built, and since 1864 by Thomas E. Snyder, the present owner. The Van Mater and Muhlenbrink mill, lower down on the same stream, was also build by Cornelius Barriclo. Later, it came into possession of William Haight, by whom it was carried on many years, and afterwards by his sons.

    THE REFORMED CHURCH AT COLT'S NECK dates back less than thirty years. The following sketch of it is quoted from the "Classis of Monmouth," writeen in 1879 by the Rev. Theodore Wells.

    "The first creative act of the Classis, so to speak, was the organization of the church of Colt's Neck. This is a point about five miles from each of the churches of First and Second Freehold and the now church of Holmdel. It was a district of country outlying all circles of direct church influence, and lying between the three churches named and the pine region. Here was room for us to enlarge on our own frontier. This district contained many families of people, mostly living on small holdings, and without means of conveyance to church. They were quiet, respectable people, and anxious to have Gospel privileges. As they occasionally needed the services of a minister in the marrying of their children and the burial of their dead, they naturally called in some minister that they knew, or had seen or heard of, almost entirely irrespective of denominational relations. But inasmuch as the Reformed minister at Holmdel had the longest pastoral life, he at length became the only one they knew of. And it happened that that whole community fell into his hands as a part of his pastoral care, and he, responding to the occasion, made regular pastoral visitations among them, usually once a year, preaching the gospel from house to house, and in this way some precious fruit was gathered into the church. But it was for years a heavy burden on his heart that these people could not have the means of regularly hearing the gospel preached.

    "A commodious school-house was at length erected at Scobeyville, two miles from Colt's Neck, where preaching services could be held, and here was organized a Sabbath-school that grew and prospered. It must not be omitted, however, that in this district were good farms and substantial families, who had places in the neighboring churches. But while the poor are to have the gospel preached to them, they have sometimes to wait till they who are better favored can furnish the accommodations. The matter was long deferred. But at last the movement was made. On the 22d of April, 1856, a church was organized with seventeen members, a house of worship was built, and the candidate, jacob S. Wyckoff, a then recent graduate of the seminary, was called and ordained as their pastor. The church moved onward in its good work, taking card of itself in pecuniary matters from the beginning. Mr. Wyckoff resigned his call in 1864, and his place was filled in 1865 by Rev. James Bolton, who, after a prosperous ministry of thirteen years, has been during the last year succeeded by the present paster."

    The "present pastor" above referred to was the Rev. Hendrick A. Hendrickson, who was installed pastor December 3, 1878, and continued until 1882. The present pastor, the Rev. George W. Labaw, was installed December 5, 1882. The church has now a membership of one hundred and eighty-five.

    ST. MARY'S ROMAN CATHOLIC CONGREGATION AT COLT'S NECK was first organized in 1871 by the Rev. Frederick Kivelitz, of Freehold. Mass was celebrated once a month, and religious instruction given to the children once a week in a private house. In 1879 a brick and terra-cotta church of Gothic style, thirty by fifty-five feet, capable of seating two hundred and fifty persons, was erected. Since the completion of the church, Mass has been celebrated there every second Sunday.

    THE INDEPENDENT METHODIST CHURCH was organized in 1808 in which year the people of the region of Colt's Neck who were in sympathy with the views of the Independent Methodists met at the residence of one of their number on the 5th of February, and elected the following persons trustees of the church: Zenas Conger, Gant Haulsart, John Cooper, Solomon Ketchum, Thomas Cottrell and William Karnaglin. A certificate of incorporation was filed the next day. A house was built on the main road towards Freehold, and was used many years, and abandoned about the time the Dutch Reformed Church was built.

    SCOBEYVILLE is situated in the eastern part of the township, about two miles east of Colt's Neck. The first store at this place was opened by Charles Scobey in 1848. it was kept by him till his death in 1873, and since that time has been kept by his daughter, Miss H. A. Scobey. A post-office was established there in July, 1874. William Henry Foster was appointed postmaster, and still continues. The office is kept at the store.

    EDIBURGH is a hamlet located in the northwestern part of the township. There has been a school-house at this place for sixty or seventy years. A store is now kept by James Mains, who is the postmaster. The post-office was established in 1882, by the name of Vanderburg post-office. On Big Brook, and on the road from Holmdel to Colt's Neck, John G. Taylor built, in 1822, the grist-mill now operated by the estate of Charles M. Taylor.

    SCHOOLS OF THE TOWNSHIP - Atlantic township is divided into six school districts, which contain five hundred and forty-seven children of school age. The school property of the township is valued at eight thousand one hundred dollars.

    Colt's Neck School District, No. 1, has one hundred and thirty-eight school children. The first school in this locality was kept in a house that stood about half a mile west from the village, on land now owned by Patrick Desmond. Charles Bowman, now living at seventy- eight years of age, attended school at that house about 1813. Stephen Wood was the teacher. A little later, Anthony Van Pelt taught there. In 1835, Thomas G. Haight, Samuel Laird and John Statesir were trustees, and in that year there were thirty scholars in the district. The old house was used until 1856, when the present house was erected.

    Edinburg School District, No. 2, has one hundred registered pupils The first house in which school was taught in this neighborhood was built for that purpose about 1814. In 1824, James Taylor was a pupil there, and school had then been taught there several years. The present school-house was built before 1836 and was rebuit in 1865.

    Scobeyville School District, No. 3, contains one hundred and two scholars. Before 1820 a school-house was erected on land of Daniel Polhemus, on a lane off the main road. This was used until 1851, when the present house was erected on land of Thomas Guest.

    Hillside School District, No. 4, has forty-six children of school age. Prior to the school established at the "Phalanx," children attended school at the old house not far from Scobeyville. In 1844, when the society that later became the Phalanx was in active operation, a school was opened and kept by them until they failed. The district was then known as the Phalanx District, and was not abolished until December 21, 1865, at which time the present district was formed and the school-house built.

    Montrose School District, No. 5, embraces parts of Middletown and Atlantic townships and contains one hundred and fourteen children. The school-house, which is in Atlantic township, was erected over twenty years ago.

    Robbins School, No. 5 1/2, has forty-seven school children. A school-house was erected in this section in 1873 and school opened in October of that year.

    THE NORTH AMERICAN PHALANX. - In the northeastern part of Atlantic township, between Hop and Yellow Brooks, on the road leading to Leedsville, in Middletown township, and five miles from the town of Red Bank, is the location which, from 1844 to 1855, was occupied by a company or society known as the North American Phalanx, a community of disciples of Fourier, the essence of whose doctrine was that there should be a universal guarantee of the results of all labor, a just distribution of those results and economical methods of production, distribution and consumption by co-operation in communities.

    Albert Brisbane and Parke Godwin were mainly responsible for the interesting experiment that was continued eleven years. Mr. Brisbane's translations of certain of Fourier's writings were published in the New York Tribune and elsewhere, while Mr. Godwin's arguments in favor of a practical test of the French philospher's ideas were attracting attention. Brook Farm was then in existence, and there were other less ambitious experiments elsewhere. Those whose thoughts were bent on attaining a perfect system of living were eager for opportunities to test their various plans. The Phalanx had for its members people from the middle of New York State and from Albany, at which latter place the society was informally organized in 1842 or 1843, with Allen Warden as president, and Nathan R. French treasurer. A committee then appointed to select a tract of land on which to settle examined various places in New Jersey, and finally decided on the tract above referred to, in Atlantic township, which tract of six hundred and seventy-three acres was purchased January 1, 1844, by Allen Warden, Thomas Guest and Nathan R. French, of Hendrick Longstreet and Daniel Holmes, for the sum of fourteen thousand dollars.

    The society then numbered about fifty persons, of whom about twenty -- nearly all of whom were men -- took possession of the tract in 1844, and lived in two small farm-houses -- one an old Dutch building, -- which were standing on the property. Before the next spring they had built a three-story frame building, one-half of which is now standing and then the wives and children of those who had spent the winter there moved to the place.

    On the 26th of December, 1844, notice was given that application would be made to the next session of Legislature for an act to incorporate "The North American Phalanx." This was not accomplished until 1848, when a certificate of incorporation was issued. The capital stock of the society was two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, of which thirty-five thousand and seventy dollars was required to be paid in. The day fixed for the act to take effect was January 1, 1850.

    On the 2d of February, 1850, the land and buildings which had been purchased by Allen Warden and others, with the property that had afterwards accumulated, amounting in all to $39,863.44, was transferred by Stephen F. Wheeler to "The North American Phalanx." Additions had been made to the buildings; a grist-mill, saw-mill, smith-shop, offices and other buildings were erected, including the General Phalanx building, which contained the dining-room, worship and dance-hall, besides offices. A school was established, and was taught by a Frenchman, named Guillaudeau, a member of the society, who was also the post-master.

    On the 17th of April, 1854, the grist-mill, saw-mill, smiths' shops and offices of the Phalanx were destroyed by fire, causing a loss of nine thousand dollars. This disaster, added to other troubles that had arisen, brought about the failure of the Phalanx scheme. The mills had been a principal source of revenue, and their loss was a fatal blow. There was a conflict of opinion as to whether to rebuild them where they had been or in the neighboring village of Red Bank.

    This dispute was sized upon by those who had the most foresight, as a pretext for withdrawing. They could not make the money that they felt their talents would command in open competition with the world. The colony had at one time numbered nearly two hundred, but it was not large enough. The industries had not been varied enough even for the little number there. There was not capital sufficient to establish other lines of work. The project had failed of the success that was anticipated, and the Phalanx ceased to exist in April, 1845, [note: this date is incorrect, and should be 1855] and the members gradually withdrew and dispersed. Charles Sears, John B. Angell and Thomas Guest were appointed to dispose of the property. The real estate was advertised to be sold October 3, 1855, and the movable property on the 5th of December in the same year. The Phalanx lands are now the property of John B. Angell (at one time president of the Phalanx), Thomas Guest (a member), John Bucklin (also a member), Colman and Richdale, James Bray and Burrows Walling.

    A description of the place by one who visited it in 1883, together with a rather rambling and highly-colored account of what was done there by the Phalanx people during the eleven years of the occupancy, was printed in a city newspaper (New York Sun, September 30, 1883.) of the time, and is here given, --

    "The Phalanx is a large tract of land shut off from the country road by a wild and luxurious growth of brush and shrubbery. Once beyond this natural screen the visitor finds himself in a charming, and at the same time and astonishing, place. A dam transforms a little brook into a placid lake at the foot of a majestic lawn leading up to a city row of frame houses, built at right angles to an enormous structure something after the style of a watering-place hotel. Other large buildings are to be seen through the trees and across the farms, and, if one did not know the truth, it would be difficult to decide in a glance whether the place was dead and deserted or whether it still contained a population.

    "The pond, the lawn and the trees are in the main the victims of continued neglect. The big, hotel-like place is evidently not inhabited. But the road is apparently in constant use; smoke curls from the cottage chimneys; now and then a man, woman or a pair of romping children pass from one house to another, and the calls of a ploughman to his sweating horses ring through the grove. A stranger's second judgement would be, after he had seen a big, factory-like building further along the road, with parlor furniture in view through the windows, that there had once been a much larger number of people in the inclosure; that they had lived in the big hotel and carried on various industries in the other houses, and that now only a few remained, and these were scattered about the place, some of the work-houses being turned into homes, some of the homes being abandoned and the only work being farming. And this would be in a general way the truth about the place.

    "Farming was at first the only means of livelihood of the Phalanx people, and those who engaged in it knew so little about it that Mr. John Bucklin, who was then and has ever since been a farmer there, says that when two of the cattle got their horns locked in the woods the men sent to the house for saws with which to cut off their horns, and when they attempted to drive a farm-wagon through an open gateway they managed to break down the gate-posts on either side of the opening. They bought poison marl, too, and thus made good ground sterile. John Bucklin was head of the farming group and Mr. Nathan French, now head of the firm of French & Co., produce commission merchants in New York, was the only other man who knew anything about farming. In time, however, the farming became very profitable, though there was more land than was ever utilized in that way. In time, too, other industries were added. Black silk stocks were then in vogue, and these were manufactured there. There was also a machine-shop, a black-smith shop and a flouring-mill. The latter grew to be the principal source of profit. From grinding their own grain they came to grinding that of the neighborhood, and then to shipping it from New York and sending it back in the shape of flour of a good quality.

    "At the highest point of success in the Phalanx the place presented a very interesting study. There were one hundred and forty people (This statement is too small. There were, as before stated, nearly two hundred people at the Phalanx at one time.) there, and their home was the big building now standing that had been likened to a hotel. Its dining-room was also its ball-room, and as it is to-day, there are not many halls in New Jersey as large, as handsome or as well-built as it is. At the further end is a great oil-painting of some sanguine philosopher's dream of a model Fourierite city, looking a little like a world's fair-ground and somewhat resembling a Western railroad centre, mainly composed of passenger and freight depots. Here the service at the tables was performed by waiter-girls, -- the wives, daughters and sisters of the Phalanx men. Here, also, they did their cooking and heating by steam. In all New Jersey there was not another such kitchen or restaurant. The food was excellent and the cooking elaborate. Work was thus furnished for women whose time was not wholly taken up in their own families, and who, in the world at large, would have had no such opportunities for making themselves useful and comfortable. Here, also, and in various other ways, children, who, if they had been anywhere else, would have found no way to add to the family income, worked at odd jobs. The restaurant workers formed several groups in what was called the household or domestic series. This series included the kitchen, laundry, waiting (at table), sewing and several other groups.

    "An idea may be had of how the whole work was divided up by the reports in the New York papers of the first funeral at the Phalanx. Seven years passed before a death occurred, and Mr. James H. Martin's was the first funeral. In the procession to the tomb President Sears led the way. The body followed, attended by six members of the Kitchen Garden Group, of which the deceased man had been the head. The members of this group all bore, in rest, their hoes as emblems of their profession. These were draped. A hoe and spade, draped and crossed, rested on the coffin. Then followed the family, then the Agricultural Series, headed by its chief, Mr. John Bucklin, and thus composed:

    1, the Market Garden Group, with draped hoes in rest; 2, the Marling Group, with pickaxes and shovels in rest, draped; 3, the Farming Group; and 4, the Orchard Group, all with their implements draped.
    Mr. G. B. Arnold headed the various groups in the Domestic Series, appointed with the proper implements draped. Dr. E. Guillaudeau headed the Festal Series, bearing Humboldt's Cosmos, as a symbol of all knowledge, draped, and Mr. J. Warren carried a flute, draped. Another teacher carried a roll of music, draped. Chief J. B. Angell, heading the Live Stock Series, was followed by the groups in that department, leading four robust farm-horses with their horns in mourning. The Manufacturing Series, headed by Mr. N. R. French, with a draped miller's staff, presented the millers with their tools, the carpenters with theirs, the iron and tin-workers and the woodmen each with an appropriate implement, and each implement draped. The ceremony at the grave was not unlike a similar one in the outer world. Nothing was said to startle or shock the most orthodox Christian.

    "This gives an idea of the industrial distribution in the colony. Everybody worked at what he or she could do best, and the pay was regulated partly by the rates of wages elsewhere and partly by the nature of the work and the number employed at it. It was part of the theory that disagreeable work, such as had to be performed and yet could not be with pleasure undertaken by anybody, should command the highest pay. An applicant for membership served a year's probation, and in that time, having been put at all the sorts of labor, was certain to demonstrate what he was best fitted for, and also whether his moral character and mental inclination were such as the colonists would care to introduce in their society. Everybody with one idea came there to air his notions and there was not a crank in the country who could personally, or in writing, present his views but was heard from. The Phalanxers held to what was whole-some, honest and practical all throughout their co-operation, and there never blew for an instant during their eleven years of existence the faintest breath of scandal there. That this could only have been the result of the most earnest and watchful endeavors must be apparent to whoever considers what sort of material composed the army that knocked at the gates for admittance.

    "And yet the Jersey people thought then, and think now, that it was a free-love community. They could not understand the colony at all. The simple fact that the Phalanx girls and women wore the Bloomer costume settled this point in the rural mind. ...The Phalanx girls found the short skirt and long trousers the best costume when at work, washing, scrubbing, waiting on table, moving about near machinery, toiling in the fields and elsewhere. They loved the dress so, that they shaped silk and satin into it and danced in it on Fourier's birthday and other grand occasions.

    "The home life and the rearing of children were exemplary. All the intellectual pastimes of the city-folk, lectures, concerts, readings, plays and the possession of the daily papers, the magazines, a fine library, and an exceedingly well-equipped school were enjoyed there. The style of living at first indulged in proved not to have been warranted by the income of the colony; and an old ex-chief, who put everything as tersely as possible, said yesterday that 'they never prospered until they came down to the bed-rock of griddle-cakes and sorghum.' They were, in the main, shrewd and practical people, whose extravagances, such as the funeral of Chief Martin, were due to extreme earnestness rather than mere sentiment; and the very men who led in that quaint parade all attained at least moderate distinction and prosperity in the world afterward. Charles Chapin invented the sewing-machine hemmer; Mr. Nathan French is conspicuous in merchantile circles in New York; Mr. Benjamin Urner's is a familiar name. The Angells, the Bucklins, the Colemans and a score of others have prospered beyond most people. George B. Arnold's magic ruffle revolutionized one industry; and George Arnold, the poet of Bohemia, did not die so young but that he left his name in people's minds.

    "After eleven years the colony broke up, ...and so came the end, when outside creditors received one hundred cents on the dollar, and insiders sixty-five cents. But not a man of them nor a woman would or will admit that the scheme thus tested is not practicable, or that their venture can fairly be called a failure. They love the memory of the Phalanx; and some of them, among the most substantial and prosperous people in rich old Monmouth County, love the Phalanstery itself, and still live and carry on their callings there in the happy expectation of resting at last in the favored place."

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