Town of Chester

Morris County, New Jersey


The terminal moraine forms an arc around Chester. The Black River runs through town


1708 (August 13) – a large piece of land eighteen miles square in the future Morris County was purchased from the Delaware Indians. The future Chester was part of this land purchase.

early settlements – Black River (now Chester) established at the intersection of two major Indian trails. Most of the settlers moving into Chester came from Long Island. Quaker-Baptists such as the "Rogerenes" came from Connecticut but only stayed briefly in the Black River Area.

1713-1714 – Chester, then a part of Burlington County, was placed in the new county, Hunterdon.

1713-1714 – surveyor John Reading, Jr. laid out land in the Chester area (known to the Indians as Roxiticus) for purchase.

Early purchasers of land included Abraham Bickley, John Budd, Thomas Budd, Francis Davenport, Peter Fretwell, Jonathan Wright, Isaac Pearson, Hannah Scot, Jacob Shinn, John Snowden and John Wills.

John Wills built the first dwelling in Chester.

1734 & 1734 – John Shinn, a Quaker, advertised his Black River property for sale. A numbr of families from Southold, Long Island, purchases land. Brothers David and Benjamin Luse and Walter Brown became the first permanent settlers in Chester.

1738/39 – Chester was placed in the new county, Morris, named for the newly appointed Governor Lewis Morris.

1739 – the Weldon brothers from England came to the Hacklebarney region and discovered iron ore. They soon started mining and built two forges or small furnaces. Power was from the dammed water of a stream at Lower Hacklebarney.

By 1740 – the road from New Brunswick to Chester (roughly along Route 206) existed. There were many other roads also. These roads made Chester a popular "stopping off" place. The Hull-Brown Tavern on the Landing Road thrived. (Now a private residence.)

1740 – iron discovered on the Black River in the region of Lower Hacklebarney.

1760 – the first iron obtained from the Hacklebarney Mines.

1779 – Jacob Drake transformed a farmhouse at the Crossroads into a tavern. (It operated for 183 years until it burned down.)

Isaiah Fairclo had a village tavern close to the left turn of the Landing Road. Fairclo sold to Zephaniah Drake and to his father, Jacob, the corner lot where the Landing Road turned left. They erected "the Brick Hotel," the most elegant of the tavern/inns in the area.

A "turnpike" was built from Morristown, through Mendham and Chester and on through Springtown. The turnpike was so superior in quality to previous roads that Chester actually experienced and economic decline as teamsters could now breeze on through the town.

1790 – the two forges built by the Weldons were discontinued.

1799 – Chester incorporated as a township.

by 1844 – according to Barbour and Howe, Chester had a Presbyterian and a Congregational Church, 3 mercantile stores, 2 academies, 3 grain mills, 7 schools

Chester produced quality peaches from their many orchards. The Van Doren brothers produced threshing machines. The forges and furnaces produced iron tools. There was also a brick yard, distilleries, and gristmills.

Civil War (1861-1865) – Chester changed from a farming community to an industrial one as the iron producing industry took off. There were 35 mines in and around the town. The iron industry made Chester's inhabitants prosperous and the town sprouted academies, well-equipped stores, and large houses with servants.

1867 – While Theodore Perry Skellenger was digging behind his two Main Street houses in order to build an ice-house, he discovered iron ore. Soon six iron mines were operating around Main Street.

Higher quality iron ore in the Mesabi Desert in Minnesota caused the iron industry to decline and this in turn returned Chester to a quiet town.

c 1899 – with 5 roads and two railroads (the Central and the D.L. &W.) meeting in Chester, the town was becoming a summer resort. Among its fine hotels were the Chester House, the Union House at the Crossroads, and the Depot down by the Muskrat.

World War I (1914-1917) – the war curtailed Chester’s economy.

Post-war period – Chester’s summer resort life perked up. Two of the best restaurants in the area were the Herb Farm and Fleming's Chester House.

Late 1920s – Bell Labs came to town. This led to the construction of New Jersey State Highway 206 (31).

1929-1930 – Chester Borough was created in response to the referendum voters voting against the sale of piped water into private homes.

The Great Depression (1930s) – Federal projects, such as the CCC and the WPA, provided employment for Chesterites.

World War II (1941-1945) – Chesterites dove into the war effort including working at the Arsenal and bomb factory and volunteering at the airplane watch, the Red Cross and Civil Defense.

Because of the war gas ban, Chester Catholics stopped traveling the several miles to the church in Mendham and built their own church, the Saint Lawrence Church on Main Street – the first Catholic Church in Chester.

Of the 150 men and women in the armed forces, only 140 returned.

1950's – the citizens of the Chesters, Washington Township, the Mendhams, and Mount Olive voted to form a regional district and build the West Morris Regional High School District.

1958 – the new West Morris Regional High School opened. Now there are two high schools:

West Morris Central and West Morris Mendham.

1960s and 1970s – three schools built to take care of the baby boom children.

The Township and the Borough have their own government and police force, but a common school system.

Today Chester Township is a residential community with some farms remaining.


Source: Frances Greenidge. 1974. Chester, New Jersey: A Scrapbook of History. Chester, NJ: Chester Historical Society.