Address:101 Washington St., Toms River, NJ 08753
Phone:(732) 349-6200
Fax:(732) 473-1356
Local History

2017 is the 250th (Semiquincentennial ) Anniversary of Toms River. Plans include special events throughout the anniversary year including the rededication of Huddy Park on June 24, 2017 and many other special events sponsored by community groups such as the Toms River Business Improvement District, Ocean County College, Toms River Regional Schools, Ocean County Cultural and Heritage Commission, Toms River Chamber of Commerce, Ocean County Historical Society, Downtown Toms River, Friends of Ortley Beach, and Ocean County Library.

The village of Toms River was christened in 1712, when a road was laid from Metedeconk over a bridge crossing the Goose Creek River, which soon changed its name to match the village. The origin of the name and the year of the village's original settlement were unsolved mysteries for many years. Some said it was named for Captain William Toms, others credit Old Indian Tom. Most believed it was named for Thomas Luker, who came to the area around 1700 and married Princess Anne, daughter of the local Indian Chief. Only in 1992, with the dedication of a small footbridge in Huddy Park to his memory, was Thomas Luker officially recognized as the source of the “Tom” in Toms River. Over 40 of Luker’s direct descendants and their families attended the ceremony where Ocean County Historian Pauline Miller laid to rest the other stories. It was one of many events celebrating the 225th anniversary of Dover Township.

Dover Township, incorporated June 24, 1767, was carved from the southern section of Shrewsbury Township in Monmouth County. The Toms River area thrived, and its earliest settlers, of English origin, supported themselves by lumbering, charcoaling, whaling, fishing, farming, and iron making. Access to the Atlantic Ocean was important, as during this time Cranberry Inlet (now the Chadwick Beach area) was open. Toms River was ranked as a leading port until a major storm in the early 1800s closed the inlet.

At the time of the Revolutionary War, the village had fifteen houses. The port area was a base for many privateering vessels which raided British or Tory craft, confiscating their cargoes. It housed an extensive salt works established by the Continental Congress. The windmill-powered facility was designed to supply the salt necessary to manufacture gunpowder and to flavor and preserve foods. A company of militia was sent by George Washington to guard the marsh flats at Shelter Cove and a block house was constructed to protect the salt works. On March 24, 1782, a band of Tories, led by British officers, burned the town and attacked the poorly-defended blockhouse. They took Captain Joshua Huddy prisoner, and later hanged him. This incident, and the subsequent demands for retribution, delayed the signing of the peace treaty ending the war until 1783.

By 1850, Toms River had grown to fifty houses, and was selected as the site of the county seat for the newly-created Ocean County. After the Civil War, wealthy New York merchants began spending summers in Toms River, and the arrival of the Central Railroad in 1866 and the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1880 brought hordes of vacationers to the community. Toms River's reputation as a resort contributed to its growth during the period 1910-1920, and by 1930 the population numbered 3,970. During World War II, many came to the area because of its proximity to Lakehurst Naval Air Station and Fort Dix. With the opening of the Garden State Parkway in 1954, commuting time between Toms River and northern New Jersey was dramatically reduced, which encouraged people to establish homes here while retaining their jobs in other areas of the state. The population of Dover Township in 1950 was 7,707 and grew to 17,414 residents by 1960; by 1970 the population had grown to 43,751; by 1980 to 64,455; by 1990 to 76,371; and by the 2010 census to 91,239. Today’s Toms River Township comprises the neighborhood sections of Toms River, East Dover, West Dover, North Dover, Pleasant Plains, Silverton and the beach areas of Ortley, Normandy Beach, and a portion of Pelican Island.

The Great Nor’easter of 1992 struck all of Ocean County hard: river and bay fronts as well as the ocean front felt the gales of freezing rain and 100 mile per hour winds and experienced extensive flooding and storm damage during the early hours of December 11, 1992. Perhaps the biggest and happiest event of the 1990s, however, was Toms River East Little League’s victory in the Little League World Series in 1998. Celebrated by a parade, proclamations, congratulation signs on dozens of businesses, and the renaming of Route 37 as Little League World Champions Boulevard, it was an event no one in town will soon forget. One member of that Little League Champion team, Todd Frazier, went on to play for the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago White Sox and won the 2015 MLB Home Run Derby.

Starting in 2002, a Business Improvement District was formed as part of the downtown revitalization effort. Known as “Downtown Toms River,” the business organization hosts events such as the annual New Jersey Chili & Salsa Cook-Off and the New Jersey Ice Cream Festival, along with weekly summer Cruisin’ events, which allow aficionados to showcase their classic cars. In 2005 a weekly Farmer’s Market was initiated.

Following a referendum on November 14, 2006, Dover Township officially became Toms River Township. The new name represents the identification of residents with the Toms River heritage. The Toms River Seaport Society, founded in 1976, hosts an annual Wooden Boat Festival and in 2011 moved the Maritime Museum to its new building on Hooper Avenue.

On October 29, 2012, Toms River was changed forever by Superstorm Sandy. A high-pressure system over the North Atlantic combined with a dip in the jet stream caused Hurricane Sandy to take a sharp left turn and make landfall near Brigantine. The storm had with winds of over 80 mph, a footprint over 900 miles wide, the lowest pressure ever recorded north of North Carolina, a storm surge of over 12 feet and maximum rainfall of 13 inches. The Toms River area felt the full impact of the storm, with one of the worst hit areas being the Ortley Beach section of the township. Toms River is on its way to a full recovery, although there are still areas which still in the rebuilding process.

Branch History

In 1920 legislative enactment allowed New Jersey counties to establish county library systems and in Ocean County residents voted to create a free county library in November 1924. At that moment, Ocean County joined only four other counties in the new plan for New Jersey library service.

The Ocean County Board of Chosen Commissioners quickly appointed the first five members of the Ocean County Library Commission in early 1925 and the real planning began. The system needed people and Miss Elizabeth Wurts was hired as the first librarian at an annual salary of $2,000.

On September 19, 1925 the Ocean County Library opened its doors to the public from a small cottage known as the Lonan Building on the grounds of the County Courthouse. The small library cottage was open to the public only one day a week while a Model T paneled truck (purchased for $997) brought library service to a rural county of 28,000. It stopped at thirty-two schools and twenty-three “stations,” i.e. post offices, stores, and enclosed porches of private homes.

As Ocean County’s population grew, so did the library system. As the years went by independent municipal libraries joined the county system and brand new branches were built in towns that had never had their own libraries.

The first branch of the library system opened in Long Beach Island in 1956 in a room inside the Long Beach Township Municipal Building. Due to the hard work of the Friends of the Island Library Association, money was raised to build a new LBI library building that opened January 16, 1960. The Friends were responsible for the mortgage and maintenance of the new building and grounds while the library system provided the books and the staff. The next branch was in Brick in 1965.

The first independent town library that joined the county library system became the Point Pleasant Beach Branch. While always located in Point Pleasant Beach, when the library was founded in June 1894 it was known as Point Pleasant Library. This was long before the area of Brick known as West Point Pleasant was incorporated as Point Pleasant Borough in 1920. The library became the Point Pleasant Beach Branch in 1967. Tuckerton, Dover Township, Point Pleasant Beach, and Lakewood were independent municipal libraries before joining the county library system.


Branches added to the Ocean County Library System

Long Beach Island 1955

Brick 1965

Point Pleasant Beach 1967

Tuckerton 1972

Beachwood 1973

Plumsted 1974

Dover Township 1976

Lacey 1976

Island Heights 1978

Jackson 1978

Barnegat 1980

Stafford 1980

Berkeley 1981

Waretown 1982

Point Pleasant 1989

Manchester 1990

Bay Head Reading Center 1991

Upper Shores (Lavallette) 1995

Little Egg Harbor 1996

Lakewood 1999

Whiting Reading Center 2007


Toms River Headquarters

From its initial location in the Lonan building, the main library moved to temporary quarters in the Robbins Street Firehouse before moving to the east wing of the Courthouse in 1950. In 1962, the library moved again, this time to 15 Hooper Avenue, into what had once been a gymnasium for St. Joseph Church. It is now the Ocean County Probation Office.

The library serving both as Toms River Branch and System Headquarters moved to its current location, 101 Washington Street, in October 1981. This facility provided the library the opportunity to expand its services and to integrate the Children’s Services and Media Services departments into the main building.

The Township of Dover Library or the Bishop Memorial Library opened in 1941 on Washington Street. The Bishop Library was named after the Victorian era local writer, cranberry grower and adventurer, Nathaniel Holmes Bishop. After a referendum, the Dover Township Library merged with the Ocean County Library System in 1976. The building first was repurposed as the Children’s library, then after the new Toms River branch was built next door, it housed a non-circulating local history and genealogy research collection.

In 1997, a computer training lab was added to the Bishop building offering free computer classes and Internet access to the public until 2006. In 2006, all of the services formerly available in the Bishop Memorial Library Building were moved to the main building. The genealogical and historical research collection was relocated to the Hugh B. Wheeler Room. The computer training lab was expanded and re-established as a 20 seat Technology Lab.

Following the completion of the expansion, a process that required four years, the Toms River Branch doubled its size to 100,000 square feet. Among the improvements was a 250 seat multipurpose room for concerts and special events – Mancini Hall (named after Ocean County *Freeholder James J. Mancini, the “father of the modern [Ocean] County library system”), the technology training lab, a youth services area with a story and craft room, a large Teen Zone with a plasma TV for gaming, expanded reading rooms, a silent study tower, conference and group study rooms, expanded space for videos, audio books, DVDs, an art gallery and an exhibit room.

The branch was designed to meet the multi-use requests of a diverse population base, while remaining flexible to adjust to changing technological needs.


The Church and Steeple

The former Presbyterian Church of Toms River, which dates back to 1853, has also been on the receiving end of numerous facelifts and repurposing. The congregation worshipped in the building until 1970, when the church moved to a new, larger location. The building, purchased by Dover Township, remained empty until it was incorporated and renovated for use as a meeting room.

The steeple was badly damaged by lightning in 1999 leaving an open gash of almost six feet by three feet. It was repaired but several years later upon inspection, it was found to be so infested with termites that it was deemed in danger of collapse. After being torn down in 2005, a new copper-covered steeple was installed on Jan. 16, 2007. The chimes from the original steeple were recorded so the hourly bells can still be heard.

A Dunkin’ Donuts cafe opened at the site of the former meeting area in May 2007 through a contract with the State Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. It continues to serve the public and provides a place for refreshment and relaxation.


Hurricane Sandy and the Ocean County Library

Hurricane Sandy, slamming into New Jersey on October 28-29, 2012, impacted Ocean County in many ways. Thousands of homes and business were destroyed or damaged. Power was out in many locations for days. Many roads were impassable along the shore. Library branches opened to the public as soon as it was safe to do so to provide warmth, information, computer access and charging stations. Many of the libraries became staging and photocopying centers for FEMA workers who visited houses and businesses. Library staff quickly compiled and constantly updated the library’s website with resources for hurricane recovery. Several towns held their public meetings in branches. Available branches opened on Election Day so residents could vote, have access to internet, and obtain information. The Library partnered with the Ocean County Board of Chosen Commissioners to host two sessions of Beyond Sandy: The Storm Resource Expo that provided attendees the opportunity to speak with representatives from local, county, state, and federal agencies. Two library locations suffered significant damage in the storm. The Bay Head Reading Center reopened in June 2013 and the Upper Shores (Lavallette) branch reopened in August 2013.

*The "Freeholder" title has changed to "Commissioner" as of 2021.

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