This county was established in 1675. Its boundaries were not definitely settled until 1709 and 1713. In 1850 the southern portion was constituted into a new county, called Ocean. It is bounded on the north by Raritan Bay, east by the Atlantic Ocean, south by Ocean County, west by Mercer and Middlesex counties. The surface is level, excepting in the township of Middletown. The Highlands of Navesink and the range of hills projecting from them lie in this township and break up its surface into rolling uneven land.
Agriculture is the chief employment of the inhabitants, and many of the farms are in a high state of cultivation. Marl is found in great abundance.
The townships in the county which come within the limits of this work are, Wall, Howell, Ocean, Atlantic, Eatontown, Shrewsbury and Middletown.
This country was first settled about the year 1664, by Dutch settlers from New Amsterdam and a few English from Long Island. The latter seem to have fled from Puritan persecutions, which had followed them even to the remote settlement on the western end of that island. They were Quakers and Baptists. It is stated by some writes that they first settled under the grant of the Nicholls patent, but there are reasons to believe that settlements had been made in this county before the surrender of the Dutch. When Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret assumed the government of the province they published a very liberal code of concessions, to induce emigrants to settle in the country.
These concessions, dated the 10th day of February, 1664, were made to all who would settle or plant in their possessions, and had the desired effect of attracting numbers of persons, not only from neighboring colonies where they were subject to disabilities, but also from England, Scotland, Ireland, and other parts of Europe.
Among these concessions, item 6th and 7th declares that "all persons that are or shall become subject to the King of England, and swear, or subscribe allegiance to the King, and faithfulness to the Lords, will be admitted to plant and become freemen of the said province," and that "persons qualified as aforesaid shall not at any time be in any way molested, punished, disquieted or called in question for any difference in opinion or practice, in matters of religious concernments, who do not actually disturb the peace of the said province, but that all and every such person and persons may freely and fully have and enjoy his and their judgments and consciences in matters of religion throughout the said province, they behaving themselves peaceably and quietly and not using this liberty to licentiousness, nor to the civil injury or outward disturbance of others, any law, statue, or clause, contained or to be contained, usage or custom of this realm of England, to the contrary thereof in anywise notwithstanding."
Such was the effect of these liberal offers, that within twenty years from that time, it was considered the most wealthy conty in the province, and paid a larger share of taxes than any other. Its exposure during the Revolutionary War to the raids and barbarous invasions of the regufees and royalists from New York cits, have already been alluded to.
A large portion of the lands in the northern part of this county are held under the Monmouth patent or Nicholls patent.
This celebrated writing, granded by Richard Nicholls, Esq., first governor of the province under the Duke of York, on the 8th day of April, in the year 1665, conveyed unto William Goulding, Samuel Spicer, Richard Gibbons, Richard Stout, James Grover, John Bowne, John Tilton, Nathaniel Sylvester, WIlliam Reape, Walter Clarke, Nicholas Davis and Obadiah Holmes, patentees, and their associates, their heirs, successors and assigns, all the lands from Sandy Hook westward to the mouth of Raritan River, and up the same to a certain point, thence southwestward into the woods twelve miles, thence to turn away southeast by south until it falls into the main ocean.
Within the bounds of thie patent were comprises the old townships of Middletown and Shrewsbury, with the necks of land called Navesink, Narmusum and Portaupeck.
This land had previously been bought of the sachems, chief proprietors thereof, who acknowledged before the governor to have received satistaction for the same. This instrument was further confirmed and agreed to, about seven years afterwards, by Governor Carteret and the council, acting under authority of the Lords proprietors, but not until considerable disagreements had arisen between them about their conflicting claims.
During the Revolutionary War many important events transpired in this county worthy of historical mention, the relation of which, however, transcends the limits of this work.
The celebrated Battle of Monmouth Courthouse, between Sir Henry Clinton and General Washington, took place on the 28th of June, 1778, in which, what at first seemed a defeat, was turned, by the courage and promptness of General Washington, to a victory.
The night after the battle, and while the American army lay on their arms with the expectation of renewing the conflict in the morning, the British general stole away and gained the heights of Middletown and the sure protection of the guns of the British fleet, which was lying in Sandy Hook Bay.
General Washington considered it fruitless to pursue them any further, and marched his army to the Hudson and took a strong position, which covered the important passes of the Highlands on that river.
Perhaps we cannont close this very imperfect sketch of the history of Monmouth County better than by qoting the words of one of her own most honored sons: [Hon. Joel Parker.]
"In its early settlement, and up to the beginning of the present century, Monmouth was the most populous and most wealthy county of New Jersey; and, although shorn of a large portion of its territory, it is still second to none of the agricultural counties. From the earliest times its inhabitants have exercised great influence in public affairs.
"Monmouth has always been, in Southern New Jersey, what Essex, another original county, has been in Northern, a power in the state."