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Smithville, NJ - Discover the History!

Smithville Events Calendar | Smithville Restaurants | Accomodations

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Making its way along Route 9, you will discover the historical town of Smithville, New Jersey, another quaint town that makes up a string of towns along the New Jersey Shore! Dating back to the 1700s, you will find numerous things to do, from visiting historical structures and learning about their past to enjoying modern-day dining and dancing.

You can enjoy a wonderful dining experience by reserving a room at the Smithville Inn. This particular historical structure was original built just two years prior to George Washington becoming the President of the United States. Today, the Smithville Inn is a lovely restaurant. Since the restaurant only accommodates 42 people, the dining atmosphere is charming and intimate.

Many people come from around the country to experience a piece of history but they also fall in love with all the shopping available in Smithville. This shopper’s paradise features more than 60 shops with wonderful merchandise ranging from Christmas ornaments and collectibles, candles, Hawaiian gifts, fine chocolates, antiques, arts and crafts, books, music, jewelry, tobacco, and much, much more!

After spending a day buying, you can relax at any number of restaurants where you can enjoy something casual like pizza or sit down to an authentic German meal. Even the children will never be bored in Smithville. Here, they can enjoy paddleboats, miniature golf, carousel rides, an old-fashioned steam train, and other great activities.

The summer and springtime are beautiful in that flowers are in bloom and the walkways are shaded by huge, overgrown trees. This is truly a beautiful place to visit, filled with an exciting past, present, and future. Finally, Smithville, New Jersey is close to many of the other charming towns along the Jersey Shore, offering adventure for the entire family.

History of Smithville

The town of Smithville actually had very meager beginnings. As a 37-acre mill owned by Jacob Parker in 1776, he went on to build a dam, saw mill, grist, and a home. Today, this same site is called “Parker’s Mills.” Parker went through all the proper channels with officials to build his dam but neighbors were not impressed. For more than 20 years, they took him to court, battling over flooding and pond water rights.

Eventually, the cost of fighting to keep what he believed to be rightfully his, Parker filed for bankruptcy and in 1802, the property was sold to John Mullen, who was interestingly, Parker’s millwright. Then in 1816, the property was sold again, this time to Charles French. Throughout the next several years, the mill and grist continued in operation. By 1831, the property was again sold to two brothers, Samuel and Jonathan E Shreve. They took the original 37 acres and then bought an additional seven to developing a cotton cloth, manufacturing business, naming the town Shreveville.

The land was used to build housing for all the workers as well as the owner’s mansion. Then in 1850, the millpond was enlarged, two industrial complexes were constructed, and for transportation, a special canal was built called Mount Holly. In all, there were 175 employees at the larger of the complexes and 23 at the smaller complex. Soon after, a machine shop was built with a $200,000 investment. This new endeavor provided jobs to an additional 106 men and 103 women, creating an annual production of $250,000.

As the years passed, a store, school, barn, stables, smoke and slaughter houses, 50 houses for the workers, and of course, the mansion were standing proudly erected. Even with all the growth and employment, further into the 1850s, the depression hit, causing financial strain. To complicate matters further, the brothers soon died within months of each other and by 1858, the town was put up for sale. With the cotton industry in near ruins from the Civil War, the town sat abandoned.

However, by 1865, a man by the name of Hezekiah Bradley Smith who was a very successful entrepreneur came looking for a location to build his business. When he saw Shreveville, he liked it. On December 6, 1865, Smith purchased Shreveville for a mere $23,000. Working closely with a woman by the name of Agnes Gilkerson who had worked in a mill in Lowell, they worked hard to convert the town into an industrial center, costing an investment of $500,000.

Everything was updated and enlarged, and soon new structures were being constructed. In fact, the H.B. Smith Machine Company was incorporated in 1878. This company soon became the patent holder for 150 different types of machinery and more than 30 inventions. Additionally, Agnes, who soon became known as “Madam Smith” founded the New Jersey Mechanic, which is a trade journal published and distributed across the nation. Smith eventually married and had a son although most people knew him by his constant companion, Agnes.

After all the changes were made, Shreveville was renamed Smithville. The worker’s houses were all renovated, a boarding house built, and soon these were followed by a theater, dining room, reading room, and so on. Workers loved working for Smith in that he paid good wages and kept the hours of labor to something everyone could handle. By the 1870s, Smith purchased additional land and again, construction began. He built a new barn, farm buildings, a granary, homes, an observation tower, and more. The farm began producing meat, dairy products, and vegetables to be consumed by the people living in the town.

Finally, Smith took the existing mansion and added servants’ quarters, wing annex, icehouse, stable, and carriage house. Within the annex, political meetings and other important business would be conducted where guests could relax while enjoying time in the billiard room, game room, and even bowling alley. Smith also built a town meeting house as well as enlarged the school.

All through the 1880s, Smith continued moving forward in the area of transportation. Bicycles and tricycles were produced, one even being steam-powered. Then in 1887, a tricycle was built to run on kerosene. Always looking for new things to invent, Smith built the “Star” bicycle in 1881, which was invented by a man named George W. Pressey. The trails of progress continued to be blazed by Smith, pushing him to run for Congress in 1878 for the Democratic Party – he won. However, Smith ran for reelection two years later but this time he did not win. Instead, he joined the New Jersey State Senate where he held office from 1883 to 1885.

In 1881, Agnes died and Smith was devastated. He never quite recovered and in 1887 at the age of 71, he too died, under what many still claim to be peculiar circumstance. His wooden casket was encased inside an iron coffin, sealed in a block of concrete, and laid to rest next to Agnes. Interestingly, Smith’s wife and son discovered that the will stated all of the property and estate to “be held in trust, to be used in establishing and constructing a school for apprentices and young mechanics.” This prompted the contesting of the will.

The battle for Smith’s estate began and continued for years. The son decided to have his father’s body exhumed and reburied in Vermont. With the courts agreeing, Smithville again came under the power and control of the Smith family. More renovation and updates were made over the years with sizeable sums of money being invested back into the factory. By the time the 1920s rolled around, Smithville was under the second and third generation of the family but was soon hit by the Great Depression. The town struggled, as did most other towns but today, Smith Machine, the company’s new name survives and still operates. Although there are just a few employees producing drum sanders, it is still alive.

The mansion was occupied until 1962 at which time Mr. and Mrs. Louis Thomas purchased it and converted it into apartments. This town holds many interesting facts and some secrets. You can take a tour of the mansion from May through October, being able to walk the very grounds worked so hard and long by Smith. Additionally, in December, there are wonderful tours called Victorian Christmas where the mansion is beautifully decorated for the holiday.

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