The Formation of South Brunswick
By a simple act of legislation, “South Brunswick” was formed on February 21, 1798 after the South Ward of New Brunswick became independent. “The inhabitants of the South Ward of the City of New Brunswick shall henceforth be known as the inhabitants of the Township of South Brunswick,” the charter states. Cranbury and Plainsboro were released from the township in 1885 and in 1919 respectively, giving the township its present size is 42 square miles.
A north - south Indian trail ran in the western portion of the township, later to be formed into The Lincoln Highway or Rt. 27.
James Abrahams of South Brunswick was the first justice of the peace for South Brunswick. Various justices followed.
The population of South Brunswick maintained steady-3, 000 - 4,000 residents. Most of the residents occupied the eastern portion of the township in villages of Dayton (Crossroads), Deans (Martinsville), Monmouth Junction and the southern town of Kingston. People dealt with problems and situations on an individual basis. For the most part, families protected themselves.
Agriculture was the primary industry in South Brunswick.
Pioneer Grange No. 1 in Dayton was formed in 1872 as a farmer’s coalition to sell products and protect themselves. Livestock thievery was on the rise. A prominent member of the Grange was H. Norman Schwarzkopf.
Every community requires some oversight by a non-partisan organization to protect its residents from harm and to make certain that laws are enforced to provide this protection. Around the turn of the century many towns in New Jersey organized “Vigilante Societies” Their main purpose was to organize local citizens and empower them to pursue those suspected of stealing horses, mules, livestock, wagons and other personal property. Monmouth Junction, Franklin and Kingston had such organizations. Member’s dues paid for advertisements to locate “missing” horses. $100.00 rewards were posted for the capture of chicken thieves. The organization was disbanded in 1940. “The auto came in, and there was nothing left for us to do, that’s why we disbanded”, said James C. Cortelyou a Vigilante Society secretary and treasurer.
The Lincoln Highway
On July 1, 1913, the Lincoln Highway Association (LHA) was established "to procure the establishment of a continuous improved highway from the Atlantic to the Pacific, open to lawful traffic of all description without toll charges." The Lincoln Highway project passed through South Brunswick as was also called (NJ State Hwy) 13.
According to the Association's 1916 Official Road Guide a trip from the Atlantic to the Pacific on the Lincoln Highway was "something of a sporting proposition" and might take 20 to 30 days. To make it in 30 days the motorist would need to average 18 miles (29 km) an hour for 6 hours per day, and driving was only done during daylight hours. The trip was thought to cost no more than $5 a day per person, including food, gas, oil, and even "five or six meals in hotels." Car repairs would, of course, increase the cost.
Since service stations were rare in some parts of the country motorists were urged to top off their gasoline at every opportunity, even if they had done so recently. Motorists should wade through water before driving through to verify the depth. The list of recommended equipment included chains, a shovel, axe, jacks, tire casings and inner tubes, tools, and (of course) a pair of Lincoln Highway pennants. And, the guide offered this sage advice: "Don't wear new shoes."
State Police Protection
Through the efforts of the State Grange Organization, Pioneer Grange No.1 member and 1917 West Point graduate H. Norman Schwarzkopf, the New Jersey State Police was formed. In 1921 troops began training under the direction of Schwarzkopf and on December 1, 1921 they took their oath of office. On December 5, troops set out on horseback and motorcycle to posts throughout the state. Until the 30’s the New Jersey State Police was the only policing authority in South Brunswick There were town constables and game wardens, but problems were brought to them. For the most part, the New Jersey State Police patrolled the state and South Brunswick utilizing their 61 horses, and twenty motorcycles. Horseback was the primary patrol vehicle in the 1920’s.
In July of 1919 (NJ State Hwy) 1, today known as Rt. 130, was taking shape.
The Change Begins
During the 1920’s and the industrial revolution, automobiles dramatically changed the mode of transportation. Stage coaches and mule drawn barges became obsolete. Native foot trails and stagecoach lines evolved into (NJ State Hwy) 13 and Georges Rd. These roads were the way travelers got to other sections of the state as well as Philadelphia and all points west. It eventually extended southwards through Mercer County. In South Brunswick, (NJ State Hwy) 26, the “Straight Turnpike” is 6.45 miles in length, bisecting the township north to south being constructed to accommodate increased traffic flow. It was a dirt road that ended at the Ridge Rd. intersection and stayed in this condition for quite some time.
During the “roaring 20’s”, house parties, dances and dinners at the Grange, hot cider and “raising the devil” every Saturday night was the call to order recalled “B.K.P.” Sgt. William Voorhees. “B.K.P.” was the moniker for “Before Kendall Park”, a label affixed by former mayor turned civilian dispatcher, Lester Schaub.
In 1927 the state took over 13 and renamed it (NJ State Hwy) 27, (commonly known as Rt. 27) which was an original part of the Lincoln Highway.
In 1928 the state renamed (NJ State Hwy) 1 as (NJ State Hwy) 25.
South Brunswick’s First Constable
In the early 1930’s, John Holsten was the township’s non-paid constable. He held this position for a few years then vacated the position. Holsten’s brother Fred, seeing the vacancy, applied for the job and was appointed the township constable in 1933 under Mayor Elmer J. Griggs who instituted a part-time force so as not to rely solely on the New Jersey State Police for protection. “They didn’t have anything before us; they depended on the State Police all the time. The little stuff we had here, the State Police didn’t bother with it. We needed to have some local people handle it” Holsten said.
But things started getting out of hand. Thefts of livestock, crops and farm equipment were statewide problems. Chicken thievery was at an all time high, followed by cattle stealing. Add the Great Depression to this. The Vigilante Society and the Constable had their hands full.
In 1935, the township committee decided to appoint their own police officers and asked Holsten to become a part-time Chief. Part-time Deputies were also appointed. William Voorhees and Anthony Delre covered Monmouth Junction and James McDonald covered Kingston Holsten as Chief would patrol the township in his own car during the off hours of his school bus contracting duties. The position of Chief was needed due to the fact that the constables had to compile reports on resident “war-aliens” The reports needed to be signed officially by a Chief of Police. Holsten signed the reports, and mailed them to Washington DC for processing.
The other officers would patrol as well. They all provided their own uniforms and vehicles. The uniforms were purchased from a distributor in New Brunswick. All officers and the Chief had the same equipment. The weapon they each used was their own personal one, usually a six-shot Colt revolver. The police force was trained in the care and usage of their sidearm by Col. Schwarzkopf of the New Jersey State Police at the pistol range in Dayton behind the gun shop. Most of the township’s roads were dirt roads and the constables spent only a few hours a week on their duties. Full years went by without a fatal accident. Constables received a $30.00 gift for a year’s work.
The sounds of gunfire weren’t out the ordinary; usually it meant someone was shooting at a dog stealing chickens.
If a serious crime were to occur, “…we would call the State Police to handle it” said Holsten.
At this time (NJ State Hwy) 27 which now ran between Philadelphia and New York was reported by the U.S. Department of Commerce to be the most traveled in the country.
Holsten learned police work, tactics and criminal law from Col. Schwarzkopf at the Pioneer Grange. Holsten would sit in a back room with Schwarzkopf and learn volumes of information. Holsten would then in turn teach his men.
“You didn’t have any police training,” Holsten said, “we had books that we read.” If any type of class were offered, Holsten would attend. A Justice of the Peace was available to issue fines and hand down jail sentences for defendants. Justices at this time were Walters, Spilatore, Mocal and others. The police would transport the prisoners to the Middlesex County Workhouse for incarceration, in the rear of one car, handcuffed with another officer riding in the rear with the prisoner.
Police Headquarters was at the Holsten house on Georges Rd. His wife Doris was his secretary. There were no dispatchers. Residents with problems called Chief Holsten at home or went to his house in person. Holsten recalled an incident in which a young man came to him at his house with a bullet hole in his foot. The young man explained that he was teaching his wife gun safety when he threw the gun on the floor. It fired, going through his foot. After bandaging him up, the young man went home. An hour or so later the man and his wife show up at the Holsten house. The bullet apparently went through her foot as well.
If an individual was arrested or needed to be detained, that person would be held at the Holsten's residence.
One evening there was a bad crash in front of the Holsten home. After viewing the wreckage and the badly injured driver, Holsten ran upstairs and grabbed a blanket and wrapped up the driver. The blanket was apparently a new one and Doris was not pleased. Incidents continued at the house for years.
Chief Holsten recalled providing assistance to the State Police during the search for the kidnapped Lindbergh baby as they scoured the hillsides in Hopewell and when convicted kidnapper, killer of the Lindbergh baby, Bruno Richard Hauptman was executed on March 31, 1936 in Flemington.
On May 6, 1937 when Holsten and Voorhees attended a dance at the Deans School, a call for assistance came over the Monmouth County band on the police car radio. The Hindenburg had exploded while attempting a mooring in Lakehurst, N.J. Holsten and Voorhees responded to render assistance. They both provided traffic direction and after the situation was controlled, assisted in the removal of the deceased passengers.
The New Jersey State Police’s municipal police basic training was discontinued in 1933 due to economic reasons. It was re-activated in 1951 at the Sea Girt Training Center. During the intervening years some training for municipal police was conducted at the West Trenton Academy. Municipal training consisted of a five-week course.
Alfred Ochsner was appointed to the force in 1939.
Crime for the most part was negligible in South Brunswick. Neighbor disputes and other “little things” occasionally occurred.