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Medford History

These excerpts of Medford's history are presented with the permission of the Medford Historical Society. The society endeavors to stimulate interest in local history and invites everyone to attend their meetings on the first Monday in April, May, June, September, October, November & December at 7:30 pm at Friends Meeting House, 14 Union Street. You may also write to them at P.O. Box 362, Medford, NJ 08055.

1670 - William Penn and others, acting for Edward Billynge, sells 900 acres of land -- what is now known as Medford Township -- to Samuel Coles. Other large land owners in the area during that time were Simon Bozorth, John Goslin, John Haines and William Hewlings. The Braddocks, Pricketts, Wilkins, Strattons and Branins were among many who came to the area during the next few years. John Goslin started a sawmill which was later purchased by David Oliphant. The Oliphant Mill Site is at the intersection of Hartford and Taunton Roads. Joseph Hewlings' mill was later known as Christopher's Mill and portions remain at the Tuckerton and Christopher's Mill Roads site.

1767 - Medford, then known as Upper Evesham, began to resemble a village with a schoolhouse that was also used as the Friends Meeting. The Shamong Trail (which we now know as Stokes Road) had grown from the footpath that the Indians used to become a narrow, sandy, soggy and sometimes impassable road between Burlington and the busy seaport of Clamtown (Tuckerton). The Village continued to develop through the 1780's largely due to the founding of the Etna and Taunton furnaces by Charles Read. Etna furnace (Medford Lakes) went out of blast in 1773 but the grist and sawmill operated into the 20th century. The Taunton furnace supplied shot and shell to the Continental armies and Adonijah Peacock manufactured gunpowder for Washington's armies at his farm on what is now Branin Road. On January 20th, 1777, according to John Hunt's diary, Adonijah was killed when gunpowder he was drying in his kitchen exploded. Excerpts from Hunt's diary report "It was said that the roof of the house was blown off and very much shattered to pieces with the blast of the powder heard for ten miles around." Adonijah is buried in the Peacock graveyard in Chairville.

1800's - After the Revolution and into the 1800's,Upper Evesham struggled as a little village with a few houses strung along Main Street. One is J. Stanley Braddock's residence at 70 South Main Street; another is the John Reilly house at 53 South Main Street. In 1800, an important merchant named Mark Reeve arrived in Upper Evesham. He built the first machine in the country to manufacture cut nails (not patented). As a merchant of sundry goods he kept his store specializing in tobaccotwists and making cut nails on the corner of Friends Avenue and South Main Street. It now sits on Dr. Jennings' farm on Jennings Road and is appropriately called "The Nail House". It was Mark Reeve who, as the story goes, called a town meeting to propose the name Medford after a visit to Medford, Massachusetts. In1820, when the Post Office opened, the town was officially called Medford of Upper Evesham. On February 4th, 1847, Medford Township was "set apart from" Evesham by act of legislature. The first township meeting was held at the Cross Roads (Route 541 and Church Road) on March 9th, 1847. The seat of township government remained there for several years.

One of Medford's biggest boons began with the coming of the railroad in 1869. A glass factory on Mill Street was booming and there were sawmills and grist mills running full tilt. Now they had an easy way of getting their products to Philadelphia and New York -- Medford was in its "heyday". In 1889 the Camden and Atlantic Railroad came to town connecting Camden and Medford along a route now occupied by Route 70. The medical offices at 69 North Main Street, formerly the police station until the new Public Safety Building was built, was the passenger station for this line.

1900's - During the 1920's passenger service declined with the coming of the automobile; the glass factory had closed because of labor trouble and high costs of automating; and, Western sawmills were putting local sawyers out of business. In 1927, passenger service was discontinued and the tracks of the Camden branch were torn up when Route 70 was built. Kirby's Mill, originally known as Haine's Mill, was an operating saw and grist mill long after Medford's many other mills had shut down. Kirby's Mill ran on water until 1961 when it was converted to electricity. In 1972 the mill was entered on the National Register of Historic Places.

There is much more in Medford's rich history that simply can't be related here. The Medford Historical Society keeps interest in our history alive and sponsors several events throughout the year. You may write to the Society at P.O. Box 362.