The History of
Stafford (Manahawkin), NJ

Stafford history coursety Times-Beacon Newspapers

According to Jack Cervetto's "A Brief History of Stafford Township," before sailing from Staffordshire, England, James Haywood, Perry Paul and Luke Courtney purchased the first tracts of land in what is now Stafford Township in 1735. A few years, they sailed to the New World and settled the Manahawkin area in 1743.

According to local lore, the name Manahawkin is a Native American word from the Lenni Lanape meaning "good corn land. In 1749, Stafford ran from Oyster Creek in the north to Little Egg Harbor in the south, and from Long Beach Island in the east to Burlington County in the west. Stafford's first government included two commissioners of the highways, one overseer of the poor, one tax assessor, one collector and one constable, all of whom were chosen annually by the populace. The first water operated sawmills in the area were in Manahawkin, Wells Mills and Cedar Bridge. Early commerce in the township also included boat building, farming, oyster harvesting and clamming.

Stafford was home to the first house of worship in Ocean County, the First Baptist Church Society that also served as Stafford's only school until 1800. Cranberry harvesting became an industry in Stafford in 1880, when a man named Webb experimented with cranberry plants grown in patches along the swamps. These "crangerry bogs" were flooded in winter to protect the vines from freezing. One of the most famous early cranberry bogs, now hidden in the forest at the end of Oxycocus Road, belonged to historian/explorer/writer Nathaniel Holmes Bishop. It was added to the Forsythe Wildlife Refuge earlier this year.

Today, Stafford Township includes Manahawkin, Cedar Run, Mayetta and much of Warren Grove. With large residential sections like Ocean Acres, Fawn Lakes, and Beach Haven West, it is southern Ocean County's fastest growing community. Stafford also leads all of the other towns in the county in environmental projects, including recycling and ordinances that prevent pollution and overdevelopment.

In addition, Stafford is in its third year of the state's Neighborhood Preservation Project that is aiding homes and businesses in the downtown district to spruce up and beautify. The project is also helping to revitalize commerce along East Bay Avenue, the township's Main Street. The gateway to Long Beach Island, Stafford's section of Route 72 is also attracting new businesses and bringing tax ratables to the township. Recent additions include a Wal-Mart and Pathmark complex, and a new shopping center just off the Garden State Parkway.

Stafford is also home to Southern Ocean County Hospital (SOCH), which has tripled in size since it first opened a little more than 20 years ago. The hospital now has two healthcare satellites in neighboring Lacey and Little Egg Harbor townships In addition, it is now flanked by a medical\professional zone of doctors' offices and laboratories, and two fine nursing and convalescent homes are located nearby.

Stafford's active historical society has completed restoration of its Railroad Museum in Heritage Park, and is busy collecting showcases and displays. Its current focus is to put heating and air conditioning in the Old Baptist Church Museum on Route 9. The historical society holds several events during the year to raise funds for its projects, including flea markets, a railroad festival and a Christmas tour. Each year in June, Stafford celebrates its heritage with Founders Day, which includes a dinner dance, parade, senior citizens luncheon, day-long picnic, entertainment and fireworks.

The Saturday of Labor Day Weekend, the town and the Times-Beacon Newspapers host Manahawkin Good Ol' Days. A day long celebration featuring a street market on Bay Avenue, along with children's games, food concessions, and entertainment by the lake at A. Paul King Park, topped off with a nighttime concert. The township also has a Halloween Parade and Christmas celebration. The township has many clubs and organizations. Among them are the Stafford Business Association, both an Elks and Moose lodge, and a chapter of the Disabled American Veterans. The Old Barney Amateur Radio Club, Ocean County's largest, also calls Stafford it's home.

Stafford Township's Council is currently comprised of Mayor Carl Block, Council President John Spodofora, and council members Marie Bogdanski, Virginia (Peggy) Alman, Jeanne DePaola, Salvator (Sal) Baglia, and Fred Seeber. John Spodofora, also heads up the township's Environmental Commission. Council meetings are held the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. The Township Administrator is Paul Shives and Bernadette Park is the Township Clerk. The main number for town hall is (609) 597-1000. Police Department emergency number is 911, the non-emergency number is (609) 597-8581, the Volunteer Fire Company number is (609) 597-2138. Township wide shuttle service - Dial A Ride, (609) 597-1400.

Another big project is a $22 million building for Southern Regional High School to house the two top grades. There are four schools for lower grades, the Oxycocus School (elementary,) the Stafford Intermediate School, the McKinley Elementary School and the Stafford Middle School. Lighthouse Christian Academy, on Hilliard and Beach Avenues teaches children in grades K-6.



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