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History can be a lot of fun when there isn’t a teacher forcing you to learn it. Medford’s history has been documented back to the 1600's. In 1670 William Penn sold 900 acres on behalf of Edward Bylinge to Samuel Coles. Twelve years later, Edward Bylinge sold another 100 acres of land to Richard Haines. The son of Richard Haines, John Haines, lived in a cave on "Haines Bank" on the South bank of the Rancocas Creek. Most of Medford’s settlers could not read or write. John Haines was known for being able to sign his name. His descendants would later build what would be known as Kirby’s Mill.

The pioneers that settled and worked here were Quakers. The Quakers did not believe that one man could own another and in 1680 abolished slavery. The Quakers were also the county’s first ecologists. In the South, settlers would burn the forest to clear the land for farming. The Quakers cut the trees down and sawed them into lumber. They would load the wood on to rafts and barges and float it down to Lumberton, where the wood was loaded on to boats and sent to Philadelphia. Medford as abundant with virgin cedar that thrived in our soggy soil.

By the 1700's we had already become a pioneering town. In addition to the lumber that we were selling to Philadelphia, hay also became one of our town’s first cash crops. The animals in Philly had to be fed during the winter, and Philadelphia was already too urbanized for outside grazing. Kirby’s Mill was turning out flour, our farmers were growing produce, producing milk and wealthy Philadelphians were eager to buy. It took between 4 to 6 hours to make the trip to the ferry in Camden by wagon. Not bad time, considering that during rush hour it seems to take that long now.

After a few years of farming, Medford’s rich soil was depleted, and without fertilizer, the farmers would either have to move on, or find a new way replenish the soil. Rich marl deposits were discovered near Medford. Marl contains the potassium, phosphorous and calcium need to build up the soil. This spurred a new industry and the village of Marlton. The right to dig the marl out of soggy pits were sold at auction.

In the 1700's manufacturing had come to Medford area in the form of Etna and Taunton furnaces by Charles Read. Etna furnaces that forged iron. The Etna furnace (located in Medford Lakes) was destroyed in 1773, while the Taunton furnace supplied shot and shell to the Continental armies and Adonijah Peacock manufactured gunpowder for Washington's armies at his farm on what is now Branin Road.

On January 20th, 1777, according to John Hunt's diary, Adonijah was killed when gunpowder he was drying in his kitchen exploded. Excerpts from Hunt's diary report "It was said that the roof of the house was blown off and very much shattered to pieces with the blast of the powder heard for ten miles around."

At this time Medford was a part of Evesham township, known as Upper Evesham. Mark Reeve arrived in Upper Evesham in 1800. He built the first machine in the country to manufacture cut nails. As a merchant of sundry goods he kept his store specializing in tobaccotwists and making cut nails. It was Mark Reeve who, as the story goes, called a town meeting to propose the name Medford after a visit to Medford, Massachusetts.

In1820, when the first post office opened in Medford. The town was officially called Medford of Upper Evesham and on February 4th, 1847, Medford Township was "set apart from" Evesham by act of legislature. The seat of township was at the Cross Roads (Route 541 and Church Road) and on March 9th, 1847 the first township council meeting was held there.

One of biggest things to happen to our town was in 1869 when the Railroad arrived. In 1889 the Camden and Atlantic Railroad connected to the existing railroad. The tracks ran on what is now Route 70. With the new railroad they had an easy way of getting their products to Philadelphia and New York. The medical offices at 69 North Main Street (formerly the police station) was the passenger station for this line. At the time there was a farm on the site of the Shop-Rite. In order for the farmer to get his cows to the pasture on the other side of the tracks, a tunnel was built under the railroad.

During the 1920's passenger service declined with the coming of the automobile; the glass factory had closed because of labor trouble and high costs of automating; and, Western sawmills were putting local sawyers out of business. In 1927, passenger service was discontinued and the tracks of the Camden branch were torn up when Route 70 was built.

The land between Route 541 and Hartford Road was owned by the Singer family.  In the 1940's American Stores opened an Acme Super Market on Main Street.  By the 1950's Acme’s "super market" needed a larger location with more convenient parking. American Stores was interested in part of Singer’s property on Route 70. To seal the deal, a deed restriction was placed on the remaining ground preventing anyone from building another market on the other parcels. Soon a new Acme was open in what is now the offices of the Central Record and Medford’s first new major shopping area was named "Medford Center". The Acme remained there until the 1980's when expansion was once again needed, and a new store was built at the current location of the Future Fitness in the Medford Center. Other Singer parcels became the Cedars of Medford Apartments and later Sharp’s Run Plaza.   The Singer family homestead, built in the 1700's,   is located behind the Public Safety Building and will be renovated to become affordable housing for seniors. 


William Penn: Former owner of Medford New Jersey

Oliphant's Mill, built in 1685 by Daniel Oliphant.  It was the first of four mills in the Medford area.  This photo was taken around 1900.

Shopping at the Stacy Prickett Store in 1900  Click to enlarge.

Horse and wagon in front of Ed Warner's store on South Main Street.  Click to enlarge.

Ivin's Blacksmith Shop in 1909.  Current location of the Pinelands Library on Allen Avenue.  Click to enlarge.

The Indian Chief Hotel (now the Stagecoach Building) at Main and Union in 1904.  Click to Enlarge.

The Medford Field club (Bowling Alley) on North Main Street in 1910.  Click to Enlarge.
In 1875 this iron bridge was constructed on Main Street at Allen Avenue.  Click to Enlarge.

The Harry Allen Store at Main and Union Streets.  Click to enlarge.

Esso Gas Station at 14-16 North Main Street (destroyed by fire in 1958) with our original Acme Market in the background. Click to enlarge.

The Cedars At Medford apartments were built on the swampy part of the Singer land. They opened in 1969 with a "Move In Special" price of $99 a month.


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