Consolidation Isn’t New In Penns Neck
Consolidation - sometimes talked about for the Penns Grove Carney’s Point, and even Oldmans area - would be nothing new. All of western
Salem County from the Salem River to Oldmans Creek, was once a single municipality known as Penn’s Neck. A “neck,” incidentally, is a body of
land lying between the estuary of two streams.
Penns Grove was the last of the four municipalities carved from this early English real estate development when it became a Borough in 1894.
But this section of Salem County, along with all of West Jersey traces its contemporary history back to 1664 when James Duke of York and Son of
King Charles II, granted the land between the Hudson and Delaware Rivers to Lord John Berkley and Sir George Carteret.
Berkley sold his portion, known as West Jersey, which included Salem County to Edward Billing as member of the Society of Friends. Billing at the
time was on the verge of bankruptcy and engaged fellow-Quaker John Fenwick to develop his holding in the new world.
An English fleet, by a simple show of strength, established the Crown’s right to govern the lower Delaware Valley, so that when John Fenwick
arrived to found his settlement at Salem in 1675, he felt justified in asserting Billing’s claim to the land in Salem County occup9ied by the Swedes
who had settled here earlier. Fenwick did encounter opposition, however, was arrested by Gov. Andros and taken to New York where he was told
he could not disposses the Swedes.
The Quakers undertook to settle the dispute among themselves, and William Penn, Gawen Lawrie and Nicholas Lucas were named as trustees to
entangle Billing’s finances. As a result, Fenwick was awarded on-tenth of the original grant, consisting of the land south of the Salem River
extending into Cumberland County, Penn, Son of admiral Penn and a resident of Ireland at the time, acquired his first American possessions when
he and his partners, purchased the rights to the “whole undivided half of New Jersey” with the southern boundary of the property at the Salem
River. The section from that point north to Oldmans Creek had been called Fenwick, but they changed the name to Penns Neck Township.
Penn began a series of promotions, selling off portions of ground in the Township, as did his sons John, Thomas and Richard. Some of these
deeds are still in existence today. One is held by former State Sen. John M. Summerill, Jr., and another by Borough Engineer William W. Summerill.
Unquestionably their efforts were successful, for the 1721, the area had become too wide to administer as a single municipality. With the
confirmation of the court it was divided into Lower and Upper Penns Neck. The boundary line from Salem Creek to the Delaware River followed
along the property line of Cornelius Corneliuson - and remains the boundary line today. It was another 160 years before any further boundary
change was made, and when it came, it was in the nature of a gerrymander.
In 1881, Republicans in the Oldmans section decided to do something about the long Democratic control of the Township which extended back
before the Civil War. They further sub-divided Upper Penns Neck by creating the Township of Oldmans with the southern boundary line following
Pitman Landing Rd., west to the intersection of the Pennsville-Pedricktown Road where it cut across country to where a small stream intersected
the railroad. It then followed the stream to the Delaware River.
The final division was brought about by the urbanization of the village of Penns Grove and by fear of the new DuPont plant built at Carneys Point
in the early 1890's. The villagers wanted better roads and street lights but opposition of the farm vote in the rest of the Township prevented the
necessary appropriations. In addition, car loads of gun powder fresh from the new DuPont plant were being parked at the railroad depot in Penns
Grove, and the townspeople were fearful.
...1894, it was agreed that the only was to solve both problems was to form their own municipality where the desired laws could be adopted.
Following a public vote, Penns Grove as incorporated as a Borough in March 1804. The division of Penn’s Neck started by Fenwick and continued
by Pen, was completed.
In 1875, Penns Grove contained 122 houses and 17 other buildings, including a church, two boat yards, two blacksmith shops, school, hotel,
lumber yard and shops. In 1894 the number of homes had increased to 337 houses and 21 other buildings. By 1969, The borough contained
more than 1500 homes.
BOROUGH OF PENNS GROVE
SUPPLEMENT OF PENNS GROVE RECORD
AUGUST 14, 1969