This township was incorporated in 1798. It is bounded on the north by Sandy Hook Bay, east and south by Navesink River and Shrewsbury, on the west by Holmdel and Raritan townships. The population is 4517. This is one of the oldest townships in the State. The principal towns are villages are Middletown, Port Monmouth, New Monmouth, Bridgeport, Chapel Hill, Highlands, Riceville, Leedsville and Leonardsville.
It was first settled about or previous to 1664, principally by persons who seem to have come from Long Island, the names of many of whom are mentioned in the quotation from the Monmouth patent in the sketch of Monmouth County. [see History of Monmouth County]
Richard Hartshorne, an English Friend, and a prominent man in the early history of the township, came in May, 1666, and settled upon the Navesink River at the foot of the Highlands. He called his place Portland Point, and the property still remains in the possession of his descendants of the same name. It is said that Dutch and Scotch families also settled in the township. In 1682 Middletwon was supposed to contain one hundred families. "As early as June, 1667, a legislature, composed of deputies from Middletown, Shrewsbury and Portland Point, assembled in New Jersey. It met nearly a year before the governor, council and representatives of the other towns of the province assembled at Elizabethtown. It was organized under the broad authority of the Nicholls patent, and continued to meet at Portland Point as a body, distinct from and independent of the proprietors' government, for many years." [The Address of Hon. Joel Parker.]
The people of this township for many years opposed the government of the Lords proprietors. Some of their proceedings, at their town meetings, were regarded as rebellious by the constituted authorities of the State, and it was not until the claims which thye had to the lands under the Nicholls patent were fully recognized and confirmed by the Lords proprietors, that quiet was secured.
This township and Shrewsbury suffered, perhaps, more largely from English and refugee incursions during the Revolution, than any other in the State. On the retreat of the British in the night after the battle of Monmouth, one division marched by the Colt's Neck road through Leedsville, and taking the Nut Swamp road came into Middletown from the south. The other division came through what is called Barrentown road and Holmdell Village, and taking a straight road towards Middletown, came out by the deep cut down Buckman's Hill.
Upon the hills back of the Osborn and Beekman mansions, this division encamped in plain view of their fleet at Sandy Hook. Lord Cornwallis and General Clinton were entertained in the house now owned by Edward Beekman, a sketch of which appears in this work. Its owner at that time was a loyalist. On this march it is said that the offices endeavored to prevent the destruction of property and injury to the inhabitants; but an army passing through a country, and more especially encamping in it, leaves desolation behind. It was so through Middletown, after the battle. The country was ravaged, stock killed, and much property destroyed and stolen.
The oldest church in this township is the Baptish church located at Middletown. Its origin is placed as far back as 1667. At least one-half the original purchasers of the Monmouth patent are known to have been Baptists, and constituted the members of the first church.
In 1677 these persons were abvised by the Baptist Church at Lower Dublin, Pa., to constitute a regular church, and in the winter of 1688 they took this important step.
The Episcopal Church is said to had been established more than a century ago. Episcopacy was made the State religion upon the surrender of the governments to the Crown.
George Keith and John Talbot, the latter an Episcopalian missionary, preached at nearly all the settled places in both East and West Jersey, between 1703 and 1727.In the earlier years the Episcopal interested in this place were included in Shrewsbury Township.
The Reformed Dutch Church was erected in 1836. Jacob Beekman was largely instrumental in establishing the church, and for some time supplied its pulpit.
At Chapel Hill there is a Methodist church; at Riceville a Baptist and Methodist; at New Monmouth a Baptist; near or at Portland Point an Episcopalian.
About a mile north of Beacon Hill, upon which the Highland lights are placed, is a locality known as Gravelly Point, where deep water is found near the shore. This is the spot where the British army embarked after the battle of Monmouth. It is also celebrated as the place where the unfortunate Captian Huddy was barbarously murdered by refugees.
In the spring of 1782 a slide of eath happened at Greenland's Bank, the highest point of the Highlands, situated two miles north of Beacon Hill. Afout forty acres gave way, and sank perpendicularly down forty or fifty feet, forming a cavity equal in circumference at the bottom to the space above. It was covered with woods, but neither the surface of the land nor the timber were broken up, but went down in a body, the tops of the trees being now on a level with the ground from whence the slide broke away.
At the foot of the Highlands, just below the lighthouses, and on the bank of the narrow strait that separates these hills from Sandy Hook Beach, are a number of boarding-houses, which are well patronized during the summer season by persons from New York and the surrounding country.History of Shrewsbury Township-Woolman & Rose