History of Jefferson Township

Morris County, New Jersey


The Rockaway River flows almost the whole length of the Township. Jefferson contains many lakes, especially Lake Hopatcong (which once was two separate lakes: Big Pond and Little Pond).


The Lenape Indians lived in the area.

1803 – the Berkshire Valley Presbyterian Church founded.

1803 – with the signing of the Charter, Jefferson Township was created. The first meeting took place at "Seward’s Tavern" (still standing) located on the Union Turnpike, now Route 15 South.

1805 – Union Turnpike built. Hotels & Inns like Seward’s Tavern, Woodport and Berkshire Valley Hotels situated along Union Turnpike (Route 181 & Route 15 South) were of great importance.

There was lots of iron ore in the area and lots of forests for charcoal for the iron furnaces.

By 1820’s – on the Morris Canal the lock and dam at Landing was in operation. Lake Hopatcong was the main source of water for the canal.

1864 – the Ogden Mine Railroad chartered.

1865 – the Ogden Mine Railroad built.

1866 – the about 10 mile Ogden Mine Railroad in operation. The railroad passed the villages of Weldon (originally Well-Done), Hurdtown (originally New Partners), Callaghan’s Island, Castle Rock and ended at Nolan’s Point. Nolan’s Point, became an important railroad town.

1866 – the Morris Canal connected twice with Jefferson, first at Woodport and then at Nolan’s Point. Iron was transported from the Ogden (Edison) Mine in Sparta and other Jefferson Township mines to the shores of Lake Hopatcong at Woodport. Some of the other mines were Schofield, Dodge, Ford, and Weldon Mines.

The railroad lines in Jefferson Township were the Ogden Mine Railroad, Central Railroad of New Jersey, and to some extent the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western.

through the 1870s – the railroad regularly carried 50,000 to 60,000 tons of iron ore a year.

1872 – the New Jersey Midland Railroad (latter known as the New York, Susquehanna & Western) took over from the Ogden Mine Railroad.

by 1872 – Thomas Bright who worked for the Glenden Iron Company in Hurdtown, moved to the Woodport area and purchased the first Woodport House located on the right side of the Union Turnpike.

18th, 19th and 20th centuries – ice harvesting was one of the main winter activities. On Lake Hopatcong there were five commercial icehouses and many private ones. The Consumers Coal & Ice Company (Brady Brothers) was based at Hurdtown and their home office was in Bayonne, NJ. They owned four of the icehouses on the Lake. The ice workers were housed at The Hurd Mansion (location of Gatywns II); Callaghan’s Hotel (Floraine Inc.), and other places.

The location of the five commercial icehouses were as follows:

c. 1882 – the icehouse at Nolan’s Point built.

Hurdtown icehouse was located approximately where the Lake Forest Yacht Club is today.

Callaghan’s icehouse was located near the area where the Hurdtown River empties into Callaghan Cove (Hurd Cove).

By 1880s – a second Woodport Hotel built (located on the left side of Union Turnpike now Route 181).

1880s – the Raccoon Island Hotel built on Raccoon Island.

1880s –Mahlon Smith built the Sunnyside Hotel on Nolan’s Point behind what is now the Jefferson House.

early 1880s – the Nolan’s Point Villa (later Bryant Villa) built as a private dwelling for Mr. George Bryant, manager of the Central Railroad.

By 1882 – the Central Railroad of New Jersey, had built a line from their High Bridge Terminal into Nolan’s Point. The Central Railroad then leased the Ogden Line; and then combined the two lines into one railroad system. An amusement park was built at Nolan’s Point.

1884 – the Van Over House, located on Bird Lane, between Espanong (which mean raccoon) and Nolan’s Point Roads was managed by Mr. Apgar, who owned the Woodstock in Mt. Arlington.

1886 – arrival of the Central Railroad at Nolan’s Point and connection with the Ogden Mine Railroad.

1891 – the Chincopee Bridge built to connect the mainland to Raccoon Island. On the island itself there was the Raccoon Island Hotel (later the Hollywood Hotel), store, and summer cottages.

1894 – the icehouse at Nolan’s Point burned.

1896 – Raccoon Island Hotel named changed to The Hollywood Hotel.

1899 – the Chincopee Bridge destroyed by the ice.

1909 – John Frederick Muller became the owner of the Bryant Villa.

c. 1910 – the Old Orchard Inn built in the Woodport section of the township on the right side of the Union Turnpike or currently Route 181. Bradley J. Bloodgood owned this hotel. (Today the property is the Willow Lake Day Camp.)

1912 – the Raccoon Island Hotel burned.

1913 – the Lake Hopatcong Citizen’s Improvement Association with 52 members from Nolan’s Point organized.. Meetings were to be held at the Kenvil Store in Espanong Village (Jefferson Lumber Company).

The officers and board of directors for 1913 were as follows: Mr. George H. Hulmes, President; W. T. Archer, Vice President; John D. Lauerman, Secretary; Frank R. Crater, Treasurer. The directors were: Mr. George H. Hulmes, W. T. Archer, J. D. Lauerman, J. J. Robinson, and Fred H. Buck.

1913-1916 – building of the 28-room Alfred T. Ringling estate. Ringling, looking for somewhere to build his country estate, bought 1000 acres of Petersburg Pond and the surrounding land. The Rockaway River was dammed in two places partly to provide water for the circus animals.

1917 (summer) – Ringling sent Joe Headley out with the circus to Dover, but present day Berkshire Valley Road was so impassable that Headley had to return to the Ringling mansion. Mr. Headley had a solution: he loaded the circus into truck, thereby creating the first motorized circus.

1918 – the Van Over House name changed to The Great Cove House.

1919 – death of Ringling. His widow sold the estate and developers got hold of it.

1920s – the George M. Tolton family purchased the Great Cove House.

Early 1920s – Louis Kraus developed Bertrand's Island Amusement Park. He and his wife ran Camp Village on Prospect Point before he built the California Lodge at Bertrand's Island.

1921 – the icehouse at Nolan’s Point burned again.

1921 – the Hurdtown icehouse burned.

1921 – the Stack House at Duck Pond (now known as Lake Shawnee) destroyed by fire.

1924 – the second Woodport Hotel burned and a Victorian building was constructed.

1930-1931 – Callaghan’s icehouse torn down.

1930s – Camp Ranger built. It accommodated 70 boys for an 8-week period.

Great Depression – the Bryant Villa hotel closed and was lost to the Muller family.

1932 – the Raccoon Island Transportation Corporation founded. A ferry was built for the people that lived on the island.

1935 – the Amusement Park at Nolans Point closed.

By 1937 – two Finnish women leased the Great Cove House to accommodate employees of the Picatinny Arsenal.

1938 – the Great Cove House burned down.

By 1938 –Selma Lemming bought the Bryant Villa, changed it into a Scandinavian-style resort, and also changed its name to the Suomi Hovi Hotel, which loosely means "Finnish Manor or Mansion".

1940s – the Sunnyside Hotel was purchased by the owners of the Soumi Hovi Hotel and used as an annex.

By the middle 1900’s – the second Woodport Hotel burns again.

1950s – the Catholic Church purchased the old Ringling house and converted it into a monastery.

1962 – Camp Ranger sold and its name changed to Camp Clifton.

1972 – Jefferson Township municipal building built.

1976 – the Suomi Hovi Hotel burned down. The Sunnyside Hotel was called "Soumi Hovi" and used as a bar.

1990s – the Orth family purchased the former Sunnyside Hotel but their plans to establish a ‘bed-n-breakfast’was not successful.

1998 – Camp Clifton (former Camp Ranger) up for sale. Mayor E. Brown and others purchased the camp and named it Camp Jefferson. (Now used as a civic center.)

2001 – the Orth family take down the old Sunnyside Hotel building.


R. Richard Willis. The Jefferson Township Bicentennial Celebration 1804-2004: About Jefferson Township: 200 Years of History. http://jeffersonbicentennial.org/about/about.html