The History of Shrewsbury
Shrewsbury is the second oldest town in Monmouth County. The area was established in 1665, when Governor Richard Nicolls, Esq. granted the triangular piece of land to 12 men from Gravesend, Long Island through the signing of the Monmouth Patent. This move prompted a settlement in the area as Presbyterian, Anglican and Quaker families immigrated to the land. Early meetings for worship were conducted in members’ homes as it was only in 1672 that the first meetinghouse was built. The Shrewsbury Meetinghouse was a single-room wood structure that still remains up to this day.
Before settlers came to the area, Lenape Indians were already living at the intersection of the east-west Burlington Path. The Native American settlement in this area was due to its proximity to the ocean and the Navesink River. This area is now known as the Historic Four Corners. It was where the settlers met the Native Americans, who erected three buildings of worship. These are the Quaker Meeting House (1672), the Christ Church (1702), and the Presbyterian Church (1735).
Four Corners was also where the Allen House was built in 1710. It initially served as a second home for the Stillwell Family. The house was later sold and renovated into the Blue Ball Tavern, the then most popular tavern in Shrewsbury. It functioned as a tavern from the mid-1700s to the early 1800s, serving food and alcohol to locals and visitors, and offering lodging to travelers. The tavern also served as a place for public functions such as elections, legal courts, and town meetings. However, in 1779, the Loyalist party raided the tavern. They killed three and captured nine members of the Continental troops. This later became known as the Allen House Massacre.
In 1685, the Kings Highway, now known as Broad Street, was constructed. It prompted a boom in the population in the area that already had a population of 400 people. The area became a rural and agricultural district, remaining like so until the 20th century. The town never saw any significant industrial growth, save for an ironworks that was established during the early years of settlement.
The name Shrewsbury was derived from a city in northwestern England. However, due to the lack of spelling uniformity during the early days, it was spelled Schrousbury or Shrousbury in the first series of the New Jersey Archives Volume 1. In 1693, Shrewsbury, along with two other townships in Monmouth County, was established by the Provincial Assembly. The township covered the entire eastern section of Monmouth County South from the Navesink River, including what is now Ocean County to Little Egg Harbor and Mullica River.
An act of the New Jersey Legislature formed Shrewsbury as a borough on March 22, 1926, from portions of the Township of Shrewsbury. The borough still reflects the same pattern of the original settlement. Many of the residences in the area were constructed during the late 18th to mid-19th century, with the newer ones being commercial structures replacing the old ones.