On March 25th, 1740, Morris Township was created by the State Legislature. The Township was named for then-Governor Col. Lewis Morris. The first schoolhouse was built in 1776. There was enough population growth between 1810 and 1814 that three one-room schoolhouses were built. The four schoolhouses, Mt. Kemble Avenue, Hanover Avenue, Mendham Road, and Washington Valley were closed in 1913. Then children were sent to schools in Morristown.
The 1830s saw improvement in transportation as the Morris Turnpike was built, the Morris Canal was completed in 1834, and two years later, the Morris and Essex Railroad opened, enabling township farmers to move their produce to the urban markets further east and for city dwellers in overcrowded and industrialized centers to move west to Morris Township amongst other places.
However, the township was not just farmland. The Speedwell Iron Works, now a National Historical Landmark, was in operation from 1815-1876. This is where, in 1838, Alfred Vail and Samuel Morse sent the first telegram. Bricks were made on Mt. Kemble Avenue before 1800, until Robert Foote purchased the brickyard in 1906, then built the Springbrook Country Club.
The Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth started the Academy of St. Elizabeth, at the behest of Bishop James Roosevelt Bayley, in 1860. The academy was the first all girls secondary school in the state. Later, in 1896, the Sisters opened the first four-year college for women, the College of St. Elizabeth in Convent Station.
The Township continued to collect taxes from town and township residents for roads and schools after the town had separated from the Township on April 6, 1865. The final separation of Morristown from Morris Township took place on February 18, 1895.
This was the location of New Jersey’s first mint, operating in 1786 through 1788 on property long known as Wheatsheaf Farms, but originally named “Solitude,” when a skilled British machinist named Walter Mould was making money. The owner of the property was John Cleves Symmes, a member of the state Supreme Court and the father of the wife of U.S. President William Henry Harrison. Silver and copper were mined there and later became coins called penze or horsehead pennies, with a shield and the Latin words “E PLURIBUS UNUM” on one side and a horse head, year and the words “NOVA CAESAREA” on the other side.
Check out information on Morris Township’s Farmers Market here.