The Township of Ocean is a part of that land which, in Sept., 1609, was described by the log-keeper of Captain Henry Hudson's "Half Moon" as "a very good land to fall in with and a pleasant place to see." This very apt observation was made when the intrepid voyagers on that tiny craft landed inside of Sandy Hook and so became the first Europeans to tread the soil that is now Monmouth County. Thus the story of the Township of Ocean, extends, back through the mists of the years to the Indian occupation and the coming of the white man.
After Hudson's landing and until 1664, the Dutch claimed this entire region and settled some of the land. However; they lost control of it when the English, by armed force, pressed their prior claims and forced the Dutch governor, Peter Stuyvesant, to surrender. The following year the entire state of New Jersey was included in territory conveyed by King Charles II of England to his brother James, Duke of York who, in turn, granted that part lying between the Hudson and Delaware rivers, and south of 41 degrees 40 minutes north latitude-to Lords John Berkeley and George Carteret. In July of 1676 the state was divided by a line from the east side of Little Egg Harbor to' the most northerly point of boundary on the -Delaware, thus creating the territories of West Jersey and East Jersey; and in 1683 the latter was divided into four counties: Bergen, Essex, Middlesex and Monmouth.
The first subdivision of Monmouth County occurred in October 1693, when the townships of Middletown, Shrewsbury, and Freehold were created. The line between the first two extended "as far west as the Burlington Path" which was an old Indian trail running from the Delaware River to the sea. Shrewsbury then was composed of the present townships of Howell, Wall, Eatontown. Ocean, Neptune, a part of Atlantic and all of Ocean County.
The first settlements in Monmouth County were made about 1664 by some Dutch from New Amsterdam and English from Long Island. These people were Quakers and Baptists fleeing from Puritan persecution which was rampant at that time. They established their homes in the Middletown-Highlands area at "Nawasink, Navarumsunk, and Pootapeck" and insured title to their lands by purchase from the Indian sachems. These titles were further confirmed on the 8th day of April, 1665, when Richard Nicholls, the first governor of the province, executed the famous Monmouth or Nicholls patent which embraced all of Monmouth County and portions of Middlesex and Ocean Counties.
After the writing of the patent, settlers increased rapidly and in 1670 many familiar names appeared among those who established their homes in the region, a few of which are: Allen, Bowne, Davis, Havens, Hazard, Holmes, Hulett, Layton, Leonard, Mount, Parker, Slocum, Stout, Throckmorton, Tilton, Wardell, West, and Woolley. Among them were the forefathers of many present day Ocean Township residents.
Lands comprising parts of Ocean Township, including part of Deal, Wanamassa and Asbury Park, were purchased from the Indians in. 1687 by Gawen (or Gavin) Drummond, a Scotsman and a surveyor, for "one gun, five match coats, one kettle and two pounds weight of powder".
Romance is interwoven in the story of Drummond's acquisition of his lands from the Indians. Tradition has it that an Indian princess, Nissima, had, in accordance with Indian custom, been left at the Wanamassa camp one day while the tribesmen went to the beach to fish, and it so happened that Drummond, on a surveying expedition, entered the clearing where the girl reposed in her tepee. The story has it that Drummond and the Indian princess became infatuated with each other and his visits to the camp were more frequent than they were wise. One day the tribe, returning from the shore, surprised the young Scotsman in his courting and he was forced to make a hurried departure. A quarrel is said to have ensued between the princess and her father, and when the tribe returned to its winter home she deserted and went out in service with the families of colonial settlers.
Some years later, so the story goes, Gawen went to visit a cousin, a minister who lived near Delaware Water Gap. Much to his amazement, there he found Nissima who had acquired an education and was installed in the clergyman's household where she cared for and instructed the children. The meeting culminated in the marriage of the re-united lovers and, in the end, both made peace with the tribe. Upon his return to the Jersey shore in the summer, Drummond is said to have received a grant of considerable land and that, according to tradition, is how he came into possession of the territory which he later sold at a huge profit.
Ocean Township's existence as a political subdivision of Monmouth County began on February 21, 1849, when an act of the Legislature divided Shrewsbury into two townships, the northwesterly part to be called the Township of Shrewsbury, and the southeasterly part the Township of Ocean. The line of demarcation "was described as: "beginning at the mouth of South Shrewsbury river, and running up said river to Eatontown Landing creek to the easterly line of Jacob White's land; thence northerly along the line of land between Jacob White and Peter Castler to Parker's Creek; thence up said creek to the Eatontown millbrook; thence up the pond to a point where a line south 10 degrees west will strike the road west of Asel Spinning's; thence on a straight line leading to the road from Eatontown to Shark River, where said road crosses Cranberry brook, thence along said road as it crosses Jumping Brook to the northwest corner of Skulthorp's farm; and thence on a straight line running west of the schoolhouse near John P. L. Tilton's to the Howell Township line.
The act provided "that the inhabitants of the Township of Ocean shall hold their first annual meeting on the second Tuesday in March, 1849, at the house of James Anderson in Eatontown." It further provided that the township committees of Shrewsbury and Ocean meet March 24, 1849 at the home of John L. Doby in the village of Shrewsbury "to apportion all properties and money..: on hand, due or to become due and to pay their proportion of the debts if any." In compliance with the provisions of the legislative enactment, the first meeting was held in Anderson's home at Eatontown, which was then within the confine of the township. First to be elected to the governing body were William R. Maps, Eden Woolley, George W. Shafto, Benjamin W. Corlies, and Joseph Barclay.
In those early days, Ocean Township embraced considerable territory. Its northerly boundary extended along the South Shrewsbury River to Highlands; its southernmost jurisdiction being the north bank of Shark River. Westward it extended to the Shrewsbury Township line and included Eatontown. Also within its limits were what it now Neptune Township, all the oceanfront between Shark River and the South Shrewsbury (not to confuse this with the Navesink farther north), including what is now Avon, Bradley Beach, Ocean Grove, Asbury Park, Allenhurst, Deal, Long Branch, and the beaches north as far as Highlands together with all of Eatontown Township. Its western boundary extended well within the village of Wayside. Contrary to the belief of some, the peninsula of Sandy Hook was never a part of the township. It was ceded to the United States government in 1790 as a military reservation.
Before many years had passed there came a desire on the part of various sections of the Township to establish and maintain their own local governments. Long Branch took the lead in 1867 by incorporating as a borough. In the same year a township called Lincoln was erected from a part of Ocean Township but the act creating it was repealed in 1868 and Lincoln Township was erased from the map of Monmouth and thereafter referred to as the "lost township." In 1873 Eatontown Township separated to be followed in 1879 by Neptune Township. Sea Bright went its own way in 1886 as did Allenhurst in 1897. The next separation was Deal in 1898 followed by Monmouth Beach in 1906. Interlaken seceded in 1922.