Jackson Township is a classic example of a municipality becoming a suburb after existing for many years as a rural area. European settlement commenced shortly after Richard Nicholls, English governor of New York, granted the Monmouth Patent in April 1665 to 12 families who had already settled in Middletown on lands purchased from the native Indians. Settlers were generally of English descent coming from the New York area, especially Long Island, or in some cases, were whalers who had moved inland from the coast.
The trickle of settlement continued through the years and when the state legislature created the township in March, 1844, the population was 800, scattered in a series of isolated hamlets and villages, interspersed with sawmills, gristmills, and large farms of a hundred acres or more. The community's prosperity was dependent, in those times, on a successful harvest. Other early industries were cranberry cultivation, charcoal and tar production, and for a short time oil drilling, an unproductive venture.
Some discussion centers on the origin of Jackson's name. Some subscribe to the notion that the township was named after William Jackson who owned a sawmill at Jackson's Mills, but recent historians dismissed the suggestion pointing out that there were citizens much more prominent and affluent at the time. The general consensus is that the name honors President Andrew Jackson.
During the early 20th century, the population varied according to economic fortunes. Munitions testing at Lakehurst Naval Air Station originally brought 1,000 people to the area. Poultry farming boomed in the 1940s, but by 1955, when Perdue moved its operations to the Maryland/Delaware area, this industry was dead. Because of that collapse, land values decreased sharply, setting the stage for development into suburbia.
Jackson's history was influenced by a large community of Russians who began arriving in significant numbers in 1934, but had been an earlier presence when the Lakehurst testing center tested ammunition for the Tsar. The influx came with the founding of ROVA Farms in 1934. ROVA (a Russian contraction of Russian Consolidated Mutual Aid Society), a burial aid society, used surplus funds to buy 1,400 acres of the old Van Rise estate at $10.00 an acre. The restaurant and bungalows were built in the 1930s, along with the two onion-domed churches, St. Vladimir's Memorial Church (1937) and St. Mary's (1938).
Since the 1950s, with the older generation dying out and younger generations relocating, the population has dwindled; about 10% of the original population remains. While once the celebration of St. Vladimir's Day would draw upwards of 50,000 people, more recent gatherings draw 1,000 to 2,000 people. Still, since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, there has been an increase in the number of younger Russian émigrés, an indication that interest in the culture may see a revival.
With the collapse of the poultry industry, and declining land values, the next stage of development did not occur until 1960, when developer Robert Smertz took advantage of low property prices and built 2,000 homes in a development known as the Brookwoods. Other developers followed.
In the early 2000s, Jackson is totally suburban, with over 65% of its 24,250 adults, 18 years and older, commuting to work in Trenton, North Jersey, New York, and even to the casinos in Atlantic City. The population has more than doubled in the past 30 years, from 15,000 in 1,890 dwelling units in 1960, to 18,300 in 1970, 25,600 in 1980, and 33,300 in dwelling units in 1990. The 2000 Census indicates even more growth: 42,816 residents living in 14,640 units. That is a far cry from the 800 souls who inhabited the small hamlets in 1844.
Jackson has a Township Committee form of government, consisting of five members elected to three-year staggered terms. A mayor is selected from one of the Committeemen to serve one-year terms. The committee meets twice a month.
Source: Jackson Community Profile June 2001, created by Ocean County Library.