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THE EVOLUTION OF BURLINGTON COUNTY MINICIPALITIES

 

Whenever I talk about the early history of Burlington County, I generally throw out an anecdote about the subdivision of the county into municipalities. I indicate that as a "transplant" from Pennsylvania to New Jersey via West Virginia, one of the first things that puzzeled me when I arrived in my adopted hometown of Vincentown, a quaint village in Southampton Township, was that in Burlington County there was a Southampton, an Eastampton and a Westampton, but no Northampton Township.

A few years later as I began to delve into Burlington County History, I learned that not only had there been a Northampton Township, but I was living in it! I learned that Northampton was the largest of the county's townships back in 1798, and it encompassed a half-dozen of the current townships from Westampton, down through Mount Holly and all the way to the southern tip of the County.

I also learned that in 1688, the County originally consisted of 8 Constabularies or Townships that eventually evolved into the current 40 Municipalities. And, oh yes, not only was there a Northampton Township, but the historic Rancocas Creek along which my home and property are located was once known at the Northampton River.

Another question I get is about Tuckerton and Little Egg Harbor Township, and when and why it ended up in Ocean County, when early maps show it to be a part of Burlington County. The quick answer is that it transitioned to Ocean County in March of 1891 more for political reasons than for geographic or economic reasons.

Most recently, a friend in Mount Holly sent me a Facebook question about the transition from Northampton to Mount Holly (which starfted simply as a name change in November, 1931, and eventually led to the creation of about a dozen additional Townships). This led to the creation of this page on my website -- which should be considered a work in progress.

Over the years, as I gathered additional information about the evolving history of Burlington County, I came across a great popular summary of the evolution of the county from 8 to 40 political entities. The document came to my attention while I was the Chairman of the Division of Humanities and Fine Arts at Burlington County College in 1981. During Law Week USA, the Burlington County Court system celebrated its Tri-Centennial (1681-1981). A souvenir booklet was created to commemorate the event under the sponsorship of The Burlington County Bar Association, The Burlington County Board of Freeholders, The Mayors and Governing Bodies of Burlington City, Burlington Township and Mt. Holly, and the Historical Societies of Burlington County, City and Township of Burlington and Township of Mt. Holly.

In the booklet, entitled "Journal - Tri-Centennial of the Burlington Court 1681-1981," acknowledgements for the historical data were given to Dr. Henry Bisbee and Prudence Bisbee for their substantial contributions to the document. Dr. Bisbee was at that time the Burlington County Historian. I have compiled some of the material from this booklet to answer the questions about the evolution of the municipalities of Burlington County, with a special personal exposition on the subdivision of Northampton Township.

As my research continues, I plan to update the material periodically.

Click here for a 5-page document on the Evolution of Burlington County Minicipalities

Joe Laufer.

 

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