Tinton Falls has a history as intriguing and important as many of Monmouth County’s more prominent historic areas. Think Allaire’s 19th century ironworks is interesting? Tinton Falls had one in the 17th century!
The village at Tinton Falls was first settled shortly after the 1665 issuance of the Monmouth Patent, probably by James Grover, one of the original patentees. Grover realized that the abundant local bog iron, combined with forests to supply wood for charcoal and the water power of the falls, added up to an opportunity for him. He and some unknown associates established an ironworks.
The venture must have required more capital than Grover and his partners anticipated, for Grover mortgaged half of the ironworks in 1674, then sold his half interest to one Lewis Morris in 1675. Lewis Morris apparently had the means and political connections to make the ironworks a success. He expanded and invested in the enterprise, even obtaining a seven-year tax exemption.
A 1676 map of the tract shows the forge and other buildings associated with the ironworks, as well as a grist mill, operated by Bartholomew Applegate. Apparently there was some problem with operating the corn mill in such close proximity to the ironworks, for in 1683 Applegate turned his property over to Lewis Morris in exchange for another 200 acre parcel of land nearby.
The Tinton Manor ironworks was a very important early industrial enterprise in New Jersey; the first ironworks to be established in this area, and one of the earliest in the colonies. Morris invested heavily in the venture, the largest capital investment in any ironworks before 1700. Tinton Manor was probably the first colonial ironworks to be equipped with machinery made in the colonies. Of about a dozen ironworks built in 17th century North America, it was the only one in the area south of New England to have reached the production stage. It was structured as a plantation, and there were 60 or more slaves at the ironworks in 1680; the first notable instance of slavery on record in New Jersey.
When Morris died in 1691, he left the estate to his nephew of the same name. This Lewis Morris went on to become a very successful politician, though his conduct was sometimes controversial. He held a variety of offices, culminating in his appointment in 1738 as the first colonial governor of New Jersey, an office he held until his death in 1746. The Morris family continued to be influential in local history; a descendent (also Lewis Morris) was a member of the Continental Congress and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Notwithstanding Applegate’s earlier abandonment of the grist mill, it must have resumed operation, for it went on to play a role in the Revolutionary War. The mill was used as a magazine for powder, arms, and military stores for the American army, and as a result became a target for British reprisals. Three raids on Tinton Falls were recorded, in April and June of 1779, and in April of 1780.
Certainly by the 19th century, and possibly earlier, the falls was also being used to power a saw mill. In 1834, Gordon’s Gazeteer lists both a saw mill and a grist mill in its description of the village. Old photographs, probably dating to the turn of the 20th century, show the saw mill building on the bank of the river opposite the grist mill.
The Gazeteer also refers to a mineral spring, which “is frequently visited by those who seek health or amusement at the boarding houses near the coast.” The mineral spring, located adjacent to the falls, is referred to in early deeds as the spa spring, and was apparently highly valued by the natives. In 1765, when Lewis Morris Ashfield, a grandson of Governor Lewis Morris, was selling some of his property, he says: “as the house is situated near the famous spaw spring, it would suit extremely well a person who would keep a boarding house for the numbers that come to that spring for their health …”
And in fact in 1838 Robert Morris (another descendent of Lewis) opened a boarding house in the village that became known as the Mineral Springs Hotel.
Because of the spring’s renown, a group of businessmen formed the Tinton Falls Mineral Spring Company in 1867, with authority to erect buildings and to sell and ship the water. The water, however, would turn to the color of cider and precipitate solids after standing for several hours, and was ultimately not suited to bottling and shipping.
Water power was the key to the early settlement of Tinton Falls, and the backbone of its economic activity for the better part of three centuries. The village was established early in Monmouth County’s history, and thrived by taking advantage of its distinctive natural features. The Borough acted to safeguard its rich history by creating the Historic Preservation Commission in 1990. With appropriate protection, on-going documentation, and increased public awareness, the heritage of the borough will continue to be a source of pride for generations to come. (Back to Top)
A Historical Narrative of Tinton Falls