Jefferson Township in the northwest corner of Morris County
was founded in 1804. Shaped like a parallelogram, it encompasses
approximately 45 square miles. The Rockaway River flows almost
the whole length of the township between Green Pond and the Bowling
Green Mountain Range. Nestled amid the highlands lies Lake Hopatcong.
Hopatcong is an Indian name from the language of the Lenni-Lenape
Indians of the Delaware Tribe. The selection of the name Jefferson
suggests that our ancestors sought both to honor the great Philosopher
of American Liberty and to hold the vision of freedom for the
One of the earliest settlers was Humphrey Davenport, who came
from England. He purchased land as early as 1720 at Newfoundland.
The next settlement was made in c.1776 by a group of 8 trappers
and/or hunters. One settler named Slack had his farm near Little
Pond (now part of Lake Hopatcong). William Headley came from
Wyoming Valley, Pennsylvania. The Hurd family came from Randolph
Township near Dover, arriving c1800 in the area now known as
Hurdtown. William Wood came in 1804. Colonel John H. Stanburrough
James L. Hurd kept a public house (tavern) at Hurdtown (sometimes
called New Partners in 1820). At that time a forge was operation,
manufacturing bar iron extracted from the abundance of iron ore
deposits. Some of the other industries of the time were the making
of charcoal and the harvesting of ice. In 1837, the hot blast
furnace was introduced and prosperity followed. On the rocky
soil once stood quiet farms and noisy mines linked by dirt roads.
As more of the land was cleared, farms and mines were divided
by split rail and dry stone walls.
Railroads were built and, by the turn of the century, they
brought urban summer escapes from the already crowded cities
to the east. To the verdant hills and sparkling lakes, to grand
hotels and rustic cottages, came theater celebrities, citizens
of note, and ordinary families seeking respite from the cites'
summer heat. Summer resorts, campsites and hotels flourished
in the township; and the ice and iron industries offered gainful
employment close to home. In 1830 Berkshire did a larger business
There were two major roads dating from the early 1800's. The
Union Turnpike (a toll road) connected Jefferson Township to
Sussex. Today it is Route 15 South and Route 181. The Longwood
Road, now Berkshire Valley Road, connected to Passaic County.
After the first World War, the automobile and paved roads brought
more summer residents to more summer cottages, and growth continued.
After World War II, the ever-expanding metropolitan population
pushed beyond the older suburbs as young families sought new
The Ringling Manor estate and grounds were once used as the
winter quarters of the Alfred T. Ringling Circus. The manor house
and various outbuildings still remain on Berkshire Valley Road.
The Manor is on the National Historic Sites Registry.
Today, as Jefferson Township enters its Bicentennial year,
its population is approximately 24,000. There still remains the
desire for country living intermixed with city amenities and
the growing needs of a diversified citizenry. The heritage of
the township runs clear and deep as do its lakes and rivers,
and its prospects for the future excite the imagination.