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History of the Settlements (Towns) in Elk Township


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Elk Township founded April 17, 1891




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The earliest published map reference to "Hardingville" which I have been able to locate is the 1848 "Map of the Counties of Gloucester & Salem". The Locality presently known as Hardingville, originally part of Woolwich Township, became part of Clayton Township in 1858, then part of Elk Township in 1891, and so remains.

(Taken from "The story of New Jersey`s Civil Boundaries", 1606-1968, by John P .Snyder, Bureau of Geology and Topography, Trenton, NJ, 1969)

Hardingville is the settlement in the vicinity of where the Swedesboro-Franklinville Road, the Glassboro- Hardingville Road(Whig Lane Road), and the Barnsboro-Elmer Road meet.

The Town was established by the Harding family, which originally settled in Salem County near Pittsgrove . A detailed account of this family can be found in Stewart`s Notes on Old Gloucester County, Vol. III, starting at page 206. One of the Hardings, Thomas (7/26/1772-8/12/1851) moved into Gloucester County "....and the village of Hardingville took its name from his residence there....), (Page 207) Thomas Harding purchased several tracts of land in 1796, he married Lydia Richman on 10/20/1795, and settled in the area . Development of the settlement was extremely slow, however, indicated by the one-line listing in "Gordon`s Gazetteer" of 1834, which simply stated:"Hardingville p.o Gloucester Co."

If correct--and there is little evidence to the contrary--the village of Hardingville consisted of the Harding Homestead only, plus a liberal number of associated buildings, such as barns and storage houses .

school 1830-1909 Brimstone School Hardingville(1830-1909)

The "p-o" attached to Gordon`s "Hardingville" means "post office" and refers to June 5, 1833 when Henry Harding became the village`s first postmaster . Lack of business closed this mailing facility on November 24th the following year and not until June 22nd, 1848 was the post office re-established . William Mounce took care of the letters and newspapers from then on until April 2nd, 1857, to be followed by Daniel B. Brown, who in turn was succeeded by Daniel A. Stanton on October 13, 1863 .

Having felt no need to purchase an official postmarking device, Stanton invalidated outgoing mail by criss-crossing the postage stamps with an ink pen and adding the name of the town, plus date of mailing in manuscript . His duties were terminated on August 3rd, 1864 .

For the next twenty-four years, residents of Hardingville were serviced by the Unionville (Aura) post office . By that time, however, business must have picked up, for a post office was installed in Hardingville once again and operated by James W.Hughes from February 21, 1888 to November 25, 1891. After him Samuel W. Boyce took charge of postal affairs and ran things until November 14, 1895 when James W. Hughes assumed his duties behind the stamp counter .

Samuel W. Boyce re-emerged as postmaster of Hardingville again, on January 22nd, 1900 and it was his fate to be the last of his kind in the village .On December 11th, 1902 word came down from Washington that as of January 14th, 1903 Hardingville would have to close its post office only this time it turned out to be for good .

Following is a chronological history of this post office;(photostatic copies from the National Archives)

  • June 1833-Postmaster, Henry Harding

  • 1848 Re-established, William Mounce postmaster

  • 1857-Daniel Brown

  • 1863-Daniel Stanton

  • 1864-discontinued

  • 1864-1888-served by Aura

  • 1888-James W. Hughes

  • 1891-Samuel W. Boyce

  • 1895 James W. Hughes

  • 1900-Samuel W. Boyce

"Gordon`s" The History of New Jersey "refers to the settlement as "Hardinsville", apparently a typographical error .

"Under Four Flags", published in 1964 by the County of Gloucester, (Hazel B. Simpson, Editor) has this to say about Hardingville; "The name of Hardingville comes from Thomas Harding who in 1796 purchased several tracts of land .Hardingville was also known as "Red Lion" . It was also known that there was a hotel in addition to the post office, owned by William Mounce in 1849 .

Hardingville was at one time a thriving village with a basket-manufacturing plant . Philito, writing in 1873, said; "the basket makers still make their shops merry by their whistling and pulling of their drawing knives; the white oak bits soon become baskets". Again in 1875, he wrote: "The hard times felt in other places affect this place though not as greatly as some others . Many of the people depend up[on basket making for a living, the demand for which seems light at present. There have been but one of the families for miles around that have stood in need of help from their neighbors, and these have in a very quiet way received their attention". Another entry indicated; "A new post office was established at Hardingville, formerly Red Lion.....," and in 1897 a newspaper account announces: "A new stage route now takes in Hardingville, Aura and Ferrell. A new mail coach is also used. ".

It is a pity that there is no means of checking the accuracy of the foregoing quotations, since no citations are given ; in fact, no citations are given for any of the statements in this otherwise admirable book . (Under Four Flags)

The assertion that Hardingville was formerly known as "Red Lion" was repeated in Alfred M. Heston`s "South Jersey, A History" (1924) at page 397 , but again there is no citation of authority for such conclusion . The name "Red Lion" suggests that there may have been a tavern of such a name at one of the cross-roads in the vicinity of the settlement . Although no reference to such a tavern appears in Charles S. Boyer`s rather exhaustive "Old Inns and Taverns in West Jersey" (Camden County Historical Society, 1962) we should not rule out the possibility of its existence .

NEW INFORMATION; History of Hardingville: ( added 1-21-1999 )
There was indeed a tavern / hotel in Hardingville, referred to as the Red Lion Inn, the Red Lion Hotel, and the Red Lion Tavern.

In 1813, Thomas and Lydia Harden, of Pittsgrove Twp., Salem Co., NJ, purchased property in Woolwich Twp. from the widow Hannah Ellis, located by the intersection of the roads that comprise Hardingville. In 1838, Thomas and Lydia Harding sold it to William Smith.

Upon that farm, which spanned the border of Greenwich and Franklin Twp. in 1838, William Smith ran the Red Lion Tavern. There are several tavern license petitions on file at the Gloucester County Historical Society, each signed by many residents of the area.

William Smith died intestate 4 Aug 1840, the Woodbury Constitution stating he died "at his residence in the Red Lion Hotel in Franklin Twp". A son, Thomas, continued to operate the tavern a few more years. In the inventory of William's estate, tavern furniture is listed. In 1842, Athan B. Smith, sells his 1/6th share, "upon which Athan's father, William, ran the Red Lion Tavern," to (his mother) Jemima Smith. In 1845, Daniel Brooks Brown, of Salem Co., married Mary Ann Smith, a daughter of William, and bought the property from a Sheriff ordered sale. William Smith's widow, Jemima Peters Smith, retained her right of dower, and died in the home in 1860 (by then located in Clayton Twp.). There, the Browns raised their family: Hannah, Amanda, and William Henry Brown.

In the 1850 census, Daniel Brooks Brown is listed as a farmer, so I feel their days of running an Inn and Tavern, were over. 2 households of hotel keepers were neighbors, John Johnson and Warton Elwell.

The former Red Lion Inn remained in the Brown family until after Daniel Brooks Brown's death in 1904. By then, it was located in Elk Twp. The home is still standing, and I'm told that it is currently undergoing restoration.

Daniel Brooks Brown and wife, son William Henry Brown and wife, daughter Amanda and husband Christopher Knisell, Jr. are buried at the Aura Methodist Church. I've been unable to find where William and Jemima Smith are buried.

Athan B. Smith "went west in the gold rush and was never heard from again."

When the Bridgeton Branch of the West Jersey Rail Road was established , a station was located about three-quarters of a mile east of Hardingville, near where the Franklinville-Swedesboro Road crossed the track, and was called "Harding Station" (J.J.VanCleef`s 1887 map of Rail Roads of New Jersey) . The 1882 Rand, McNalley & Company map index page 64, lists "Harding" separate from Hardingville, both of which since their mail through Unionville, now Aura .

White potatoes were the main crop of Hardingville, but are no longer grown. Orchards are increasing, and asparagus and tomatoes are grown on a large scale.

Hardingville was fortunate in having two general stores, of which only one is standing. Hardingville has grown through the years and now comprises many businesses including Rainey's Service Center, owned and operated by Bill Rainy, Jr: Albert Weber's Homelite Mower & Chainsaw Center, Fruitwood Orchards operated by Everett Wright. Truck-A-Lou Orchards operated by Thomas Gant, Wentzell's Nursery and many large farms like Scattered Acers operated by Carmen Visalli.

Some of the old homes shown on the map of 100 years ago are: the Stiles home, the Visalli home, the Weber home, the Davis home, the Kerns farm (then Gardner) and Harbeson's.




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