Mount Holly is one of the oldest settlements in South Jersey. It found its beginning around 1677 when a gentleman by the name of Walter Reeves settled along the Rancocas. The geography of Mount Holly contributed to its growth through the almost three hundred years since its first settlement. The early town was located in the bottom of a valley on a winding creek which provided power for the early industries. An adjacent hill or mound gave the town a unique position along with its surrounding flat plains that were fine agricultural lands prior to suburbanization.
The commerce of Mount Holly grew from a center to which early settlers brought their produce, grain, lumber, and wool to be turned into items which were useful on their homesteads or were sold or traded for goods they were unable to produce. In time an important economy developed; farm goods were delivered for local resale and export; and manufactured items were imported for resale in local commercial houses. Among the early enterprises were the 1723 "Three Tuns Tavern," a tailor shop belonging to John Woolman, Quaker minister, a store belonging to Stephen Girard, Philadelphia financier. The Farmer's Bank organized in 1814 and is the second oldest bank in New Jersey. Two early newspapers of the community were the "Mount Holly Mirror," established in 1818, and the "Mount Holly Herald," in 1826.
Industry began with the 1720 sawmill, a grist mill in 1723, and an iron works and a fulling mill in 1730. Later industries were a paper mill, plush mill, tapestry will, dye mill, thread mill, carriage factory, and a turbine foundry. Mount Holly supplies some of the labor for the H.B. Smith Machine Company at Smithville, via the Bicycle Railway which ran from Mount Holly to Smithville.
Transportation facilities had a definite influence on the growth of Mount Holly. The town, situated on the Rancocas Creek (North Branch), offered the advantage of an open waterway to the Delaware River. This made possible the exchange of commodities with the port of Philadelphia. In 1759 a stage wagon ran from Cooper's Ferry (Camden) to Mount Holly and on across the state to Middletown. The early roads began as bridle paths traveled by settlers on their way to Philadelphia, Burlington, Springfield, and the iron works, and later became streets in the growing town. By 1833 passengers could travel by stage to Burlington and board a boat for Philadelphia or a train to South Amboy. In 1849 train service was possible between Burlington and Mount Holly and in 1867 regular train service was established between Camden and Mount Holly. It is reported that in the busy season more than fifty trains a day stopped at the Mount Holly station.
In 1847, the Burlington County Agricultural Society started the Mount Holly Fair. In 1856, the fairgrounds were built on Route 541 at Woodpecker Lane, what is now the Fairgrounds Plaza in Mount Holly. It featured a grandstand, exhibition buildings and a half-mile racetrack. It was considered the premier fairgrounds on the East Coast, attracting thousands of visitors each year. In 1870, a two-tier grandstand -- the largest in the eastern United States at the time -- was erected and the fair became a popular destination for thousands. It was even visited by presidents and vice presidents, according to the booklet. The fair was discontinued in 1926. It eventually found a new home on the Village Green in Lumberton. It would remain in Lumberton for 53 years, until moving to the then newly created Burlington County Fairgrounds in 2011.
On September 13, 1892, the Mount Holly and Smithville Bicycle Railroad opened. It was developed by Arthur E. Hotchkiss. In 1892, Arthur Hotchkiss received a patent for a bicycle railroad and contracted with the H. B. Smith Machine Company to manufacture it. The purpose of the railway was to transport Smith Company employees from Mount Holly, via bicycles specifically designed to glide, similar to a monorail, to Smithville . The initial track ran 1.8 miles from Smithville, in a nearly straight line, crossing the Rancocas Creek 10 times, and arrived at Pine Street, Mount Holly. It was completed in time for the Mount Holly Fair in September, 1892, and the purpose of the railway was supposed to have been enabling employees to commute quickly from Mount Holly to the factory at Smithville. Monthly commuter tickets cost $2.00 (equivalent to $57 today). The record speed on the railway was 4.5 minutes , and the average trip took 6–7 minutes. The railway was exhibited at the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. It only had one track so that it was impossible to pass another rider, and if riders travelling in opposite directions met, one had to pull off onto a siding. By 1897 ridership had declined, and the railway fell into disrepair.
The Burlington & Mount Holly Railroad and Transportation Company, was incorporated in 1836. The railroad ran 7.2 track miles from Burlington, New Jersey to Mount Holly Township, New Jersey. July 4, 1863 Burlington & Mount Holly Railroad & Transportation Company renamed Burlington County Railroad Company.
In 1895, the Pennsylvania Railroad used the Burlington & Mount Holly tracks to experiment with 500 volt DC trolley wire; trolley pole electric operation, with two motor passenger cars built by Jackson and Sharp Company at Wilmington, Del.
This service was discontinued on October 29, 1901, after the electrical powerhouse in Mount Holly burned.
In April 1902, PRR orders demolition of Mount Holly power house and ends experiment of electric trolley operation between Burlington and Mount Holly.
This line was the first electrified PRR branch in New Jersey. The Burlington & Mount Holly line was abandoned by the PRR in 1927.
County Route 541 in Burlington County is on and or follows the Burlington & Mount Holly Railroad and Transportation Company's right of way.
Speaking of rails in Mount Holly, I recently had an opportunity to check out the Mount Holly Rail Trail which is located in Creek Island Park.
Trailheads at Madison Ave. This hike isn’t very long, about 1/2 mile. There is plenty of interesting stuff to see at this trailhead.
After a nice hike on the rail trail, I decided to check out the sights of Mount Holly.
"The North Branch Rancocas Creek is a 31-mile-long tributary of Rancocas Creek in southwestern New Jersey. The creek starts in the Pine Barrens of Brendan T. Byrne State Forest and Fort Dix Military Reservation, near Browns Mills. From its confluence with Rancocas Creek, tidewater extends upstream to the upper end of Mount Holly. The North Branch Rancocas Creek drains an area of 167 square miles. The creek is among the more developed portions of the Rancocas Creek watershed."- wikipedia
The Frederick Schrayshuen Mansion
C 1870 ....10 Bispham Street
Two story central block with one wing, 4/4 windows, floor depth, with Gothic arch; high stone foundation; two story porch, six bay, with cast iron balusters, fancy pierced; plain ashlar simulated walls over brick; inside end and interior chimneys; hip roof on wing and gable roof on central block; scrolled bracket cornices; irregular Z-shaped floor plan.
The Shinn Curtis Log House lies in the heart of an historic section of Mount Holly. The early settler's home of hand-hewn logs originally built in 1712 was encased in a house and was uncovered in 1967 when the surrounding house was demolished. It was in the possession of the Curtis family for 147 years, since 1802, and is now owned by the Mount Holly Historical Society. The building was relocated from what had been Water Street and renamed Rancocas Road.
The inside of this post office is vintage. The foyer looks like a turn of the century train ticket office complete with old wood, trimmed to the hilt, glass windows, stained dark.
The police department faces a side alley, to the rear of the municipal center. There were a bunch of cruisers parked back there. The original structure was built in 1930, and is an amazingly interesting and architecturally relevant structure which is why it is a contributing structure to the historic district.
The green building to the right of The Shoe String is the Daniel Smith House, Navigator Circa 1790.
The Mount Holly Preservation Society, commissioned a replica town clock. It was placed where the original once stood.
This Friends Meeting House was built in 1775, and so was here at the time of the Battle of Iron Works Hill on December 23, 1776.
"The British army occupied Philadelphia from September 26, 1777 until June 18, 1778. Philadelphia had been serving as the American capital, and the British occupation forced Congress to move to York, Pennsylvania, which had a demoralizing effect on the Americans.
During that same winter of 1777, General George Washington and his Continental (American) army were camped about twenty miles away from Philadelphia in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Valley Forge provided a good strategic location for the army's winter quarters; It was close enough to keep an eye on the British troops in Philadelphia, but in a strong defensive position should the British decide to attack.
In early June 1778, the British forces in Philadelphia decided to abandon Philadelphia and march towards New York City, the main British stronghold in America. British forces under General Henry Clinton began their trip on June 18, 1777, when they crossed over the Delaware River into New Jersey, landing at Coopers Ferry (now Camden). Over the following days, they marched through Haddonfield, Cherry Hill, Mount Laurel, and Moorestown. On June 20 they arrived at Mount Holly where they remained until the morning of June 22. While here, their commissary department used the Friends Meeting House.
During this time, General Washington and his Continental Army were also on the move. After hearing of the British evacuation of Philadelphia, Washington made the decision to leave Valley Forge. On June 20, they crossed into New Jersey at Coryell's Ferry and marched in pursuit of the British troops, keeping a path miles to the north of them.
From Mount Holly, the British troops moved on through Bordentown and Crosswicks. On June 28, they would meet the Continental Army at Monmouth Courthouse, and fight the Battle of Monmouth, the longest continuous battle of the war." -revolutionarywarnewjersey
This Elks Home lodge is in a Victorian-era home built in 1856.
This old court House was built in 1796 and modeled after Congress Hall in Philadelphia. It was used full-time until 1959 when a new County office building was opened which included court facilities. The courthouse continues to handle judicial proceedings.
This is one of the smallest government buildings you might ever find. The building is a single room structure painted to resemble the historic 18th century courthouse to the left of it. From the Nomination Form: 15. SURROGATE'S OFFICE AND COLLECTOR'S OFFICE ....1807 ....High Street Two identical one story rectangular offices constructed of Flemish bond brick with moulded brick water tables over brick foundations; one bay entrance porch on each; keystones over 9/9 windows, flanked by paneled shutters; gable roof over box cornices with carved and shaped dentils with moulded architrave frieze same as court house; full length return under gable at sides of buildings from front to back
The Burlington County Prison Museum is a National Historic Landmark located in historic Mount Holly. Designed by Robert Mills, one of America 's first native-born and trained architects, the Burlington County Prison was completed in 1811. One of Robert Mills' first designs as an independent architect, the interior vaulted ceilings of poured concrete and brick and stone construction made the building virtually fireproof. In fact, it was so well constructed that it remained in constant use until 1965.
The Brainerd Schoolhouse is a one room schoolhouse, located in Mount Holly Township, Burlington County, New Jersey, United States. Built in 1759, it is the oldest building of its type in the state and now a museum. It is a contributing property to the Mount Holly Historic District. It is owned and operated by The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America
Located at the intersection of Mill & Pine Streets, the Mill Street Tavern (also known as) is the oldest standing building in town. It has been a tavern & hotel since it opened in 1723. Rumours state it is haunted. Built in 1723 by Samuel Bryant. It has been used as a tavern for the past 250 years. There is some Revolutionary War history connected with this site as well as the Court of Admiralty met here during the last year of the Revolutionary War. The Mill Street Tavern was built about forty years after the first settlers arrived in Mount Holly. There appeared to be a need for a place to rest and libation, so the Three Tuns Tavern was built near the mill in Mount Holly, at that time called Bridgetown because of all the bridges over the various feeders to the Rancocas Creek. Samuel Brian Was the first owner and innkeeper, and few changes have been made to the building since his time. it is of course the oldest Inn in Mt. Holly and was grabbed as quarters by the Hessian soldiers during their occupation here in 1776, the DAR reports. The Mill Street Tavern was built about forty years after the first settlers arrived in Mount Holly. There appeared to be a need for a place to rest and libation, so the Three Tuns Tavern was built near the mill in Mount Holly, at that time called Bridgetown because of all the bridges over the various feeders to the Rancocas Creek. Samuel Brian Was the first owner and innkeeper, and few changes have been made to the building since his time. it is of course the oldest Inn in Mt. Holly and was grabbed as quarters by the Hessian soldiers during their occupation here in 1776, the DAR reports.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Gonzalez is a photographer, blogger and historian currently residing in Newark, New Jersey.