Manasquan, located along the Atlantic Ocean at the southern end of Monmouth County, has been a settled community for nearly 125 years.
Native Americans were the first to enjoy this land along the river, inlet, lakes, streams, and brooks. The Unamis (“Turtle People”) branch of the Lenni Lenape fished and hunted from the Raritan River south to Barnegat Bay, but it was along the Manasquan River that they brought their squaws and children in the summer, to enjoy shellfish and other fruits of the Atlantic and its tidal waters. And it is from their presence on the Manasquan River that the name of the community is derived, although it would not be until 1887 that the name Manasquan would be the borough's official name.
The Native American word for island is man-a-tah; for wife, squaw, and for stream, han, combined -- Manatahsquawhan. Manasquan, literally meaning "stream of the island of squaws," is the English pronunciation.
In September 1609, Sir Hendryck Hudson, sailing in the area of Sandy Hook, made an entry in the "Log-Book of the Half Moon" that the region was "a good land to fall in with and a pleasant land to see." Thus began the Dutch and English interest in area.
Before the end of the 17th Century, the Dutch claimed much of the area known today as New Jersey and New York, with the Monmouth Patent created in 1665. This Patent, signed by Governor Richard Nicholls of New York for the British Crown, “purchased” the land from Native Americans. British representatives sailed from Long Island to what is now Monmouth County to escort Native American chiefs to New Amsterdam, where the Patent was signed at Stadt House, with the Governor’s staff, Native American representatives, Quakers, and others looking on.
Until 1801 Manasquan was part of Shrewsbury; when Howell Township was formed, Manasquan was included. In 1850, Ocean County was formed from the southern part of Monmouth County, and the following year, Wall Township separated from Howell. Finally, Manasquan was parted from Wall to create its own community in 1887.
As European settlers began clearing the seashore land, they made the trails that became crude roads, and set up their homes along the Manasquan River. Historical records indicate that during the Revolutionary War, the Manasquan Inlet (very near its present location), became a refuge for small boats and began to take shape as a small seaport.
Small farming was well underway by the early 19th Century. In 1815, there was no village in Manasquan, but there was a small clearing where the Osborn House stood (near the present intersection of Main and South Streets.) Records indicate that this inn had been built in 1808. After 1815, a tavern-house, a store operated by Jacob Curtis, and the homes of Benjamin Pearce, William McKnight, and David Curtis were added. The original layout for the community was a cross -- South Street and Main Street -- and new roads led to this intersection.
Timothy Bloomfield, who had operated a store inland, assumed ownership of the Osborn House and operated it until 1825. Bloomfield is credited with naming the small settlement "Squan Village."
At this time, the Quaker Meeting House (now located within the boundaries of Wall Township,) was the only house of worship, but that would change as more homes were built and businesses established.
In 1843, the Church on the Hill was built on property that is now part of Atlantic View Cemetery. This church jointly served Methodist Episcopalians, Methodist Protestants, Baptists, and Presbyterians for years. By the end of the19th Century, separate churches were established for the congregations of First Baptist Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church (now First United Methodist Church), the First Presbyterian Church, the Shiloh Baptist Church, and the Methodist Protestant Church (now Reformed Bible Church.) After the turn of the 20th Century, St. Denis Roman Catholic Church was established, followed by Our Lady Star of the Sea Chapel.
About 1840, a mail route was established from Squan to New York via Red Bank, with the eventual appointment of Osborn Curtis as first postmaster for the borough.
Also that year, the first school was built on Main Street. In 1881, a two-story brick building was constructed on Taylor Avenue. In 1914 with enrollment growing steadily, a new school was built adjacent to the high school to serve as an elementary school. By1931, a new high school was built on Broad Street, and in 1952, Manasquan Elementary School followed. Manasquan High School serves not only borough residents, but those in Avon, Belmar, Brielle, Lake Como, Sea Girt, Spring Lake, and Spring Lake Heights. (The high school also served Neptune City residents until the late 1950s; Wall residents until 1960.) The total enrollment for the Manasquan School District currently stands at approximately 1,600.
As the population expanded, so did its busy commercial district. Railroad service extended south from North Jersey and New York in1878, with service from Freehold and Trenton on another line, making the area more accessible from metropolitan areas.
The Sea Side, first published in 1877, recorded the name of the village as Manasquan. This weekly newspaper, continuously published since 1909, also was called The Manasquan Sea Side, and The Coast Star Democrat. Today, the weekly newspapers is called The Coast Star.
On December 30, 1887, Squan Village was incorporated as the Borough of Manasquan, and on January 17, 1888, residents cast their ballots for the borough's first mayor and council. Edward S. Van Leer served as the first mayor; councilmen were John Cline, Theodore O. Cook, Daniel Cook, William P. Taylor, Elisha C. Errickson, and Henry A. Curtis.
As the community added homes and businesses, the need for safety services increased. Manasquan Hook & Ladder Co. No. 1 was established in 1887, and Volunteer Engine Co. No. 2 in 1894.
In 1929, the current Manasquan First Aid Squad was established as the Dr. C.A. Norris First Aid and Emergency Squad. (After the opening of the Garden State Parkway, vehicles needed to be closer identified with the communities they served, so the name was changed to its present name.) Today, Manasquan and neighboring Sea Girt share these emergency medical services.
Historical records indicate that there was a library in Manasquan in 1875, a collection of volumes that was moved from a store, to a church, to the Woman's Club. It would not be until 1951 that land on Broad Street was purchased to construct the current Manasquan Public Library.
At the same time the village was growing, so was the beachfront. Wooden bungalows began to line the oceanfront as people seeking the healthy sea air found the borough a wonderful place for relaxing, fishing and sea-bathing. By the 1920s, a mix of Victorian homes, seashore cottages, and beach shacks dotted the shoreline.
The natural inlet that had opened the Manasquan River to the sea for hundreds of years and been used by merchantmen and privateers in early days, had completely shoaled over following the 1926 opening of the Manasquan - Bay Head Canal (now the Point Pleasant Canal). After years of negotiation, the Manasquan River Protective Association, under direction of Manasquan Mayor Lloyd C. Riddle as its president, convinced the US Government to construct a permanent inlet. This impassible cut, often used as a walkway to Point Pleasant Beach at low tide, was deeply dredged by the US Army Corps of Engineers, bulkheaded, and permanently re-opened as the current Manasquan Inlet on July 3, 1931 – making the river newly attractive to additional economic and recreational opportunities.
With the post World War II economic boom and the construction of the Garden State Parkway in 1954-55, Manasquan and its neighboring communities experienced another growth spurt. The newly opened Parkway made it easier to reach the Jersey Shore in far less time, and brought thousands of day-trippers and weekly visitors to the area.
In 1963 a contest to design a town banner was won by I. Maurice Stokes, a resident of the borough. His emblem showed the head of a Lenni Lenape Native American with waves on either side, over a gold shield flanked by seahorses. On the shield, a plow recalls Manasquan early farming days, and a sailing ship reflects the town’s maritime heritage. Three stars in the center of the emblem signify that New Jersey was the third state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.
The Police Department, established in 1888, now employs 18 officers and 27 part-time special officers. The special officers, are scheduled year-round for special events, parades, and other activities, but are busiest during the summer months when the population of the borough swells to 20,000.
Early town fathers’ foresight now makes for plentiful parkland in Manasquan. Other dedicated open spaces are a fishing pier, boat launches, and wildlife sanctuaries. A bicycle path leading from North Main Street west to Allenwood, is another popular amenity enjoyed by residents. Additionally, Manasquan Recreation offers a variety of programs for persons of all ages.
Manasquan's mile-long oceanfront, mostly municipally owned and operated, was augmented by the town’s acquisition of “Sea Watch Beach” in 2005, a section of the beachfront that had been privately owned. This beautiful and busy oceanfront has always been the jewel in Manasquan’s crown, and continues to draw visitors and new residents in droves.
The Woman's Club of Manasquan, Manasquan Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 1838, Manasquan River Group of Artists, Manasquan Kiwanis Club, Manasquan Elks Lodge No. 2534, Manasquan Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Manasquan Seniors, Squan Beach Life Saving Station Preservation Committee, Manasquan Beach Improvement Association, Manasquan Cahmber of Commerce, Squan Soccer Club, and Manasquan-Brielle Little League are some of the town’s longstanding athletic, service and social organizations.
On the occasion of its 100th anniversary in 1987, the Squan Village Historical Society, was established which today maintains the Bailey-Reed House, a museum at 105 South Street.
It was once said that Manasquan was a fine community for two things – to make a living and to enjoy life. This is every bit as true today, as Manasquan's 6,310 residents enjoy living in a classic American town of thriving businesses, good schools, civic responsibility and happy families - alongside the ocean, river, lakes, streams, and brooks that make Manasquan unique.