HIGHLANDS – It was Friday, the 13trh of February 1900, when Atlantic Highlands Mayor Charles Snyder, also a state Assemblyman at the time, introduced a bill in the NJ Assembly to incorporate the seaside area of Middletown as the Borough of Highlands, following action Atlantic Highlands had taken in 1887.
And it was another Friday, March 22,1900, that Governor Foster Voorhees signed the official papers, making Highlands a corporate town, able to handle its own affairs, provide water and sewer service, police protection and other amenities to the citizens.
Governor Voorhees’ signature on the bill incorporating Highlands climaxed the action taken by Mayor Snyder on behalf of local residents who had petitioned for the town. The legal voters who signed the petition were Charles Maison, David Miller, Fred Johnson, James Taylor, John Taylor, Samuel Wilson, John Foster, John Johnson, Lewis Parker, Mahlon Burdge, John W. Foster, Bennet Rosenblum, Samuel Burdge, Thomas Hennessey, Joseph Brown and Ivy Brown. Five of them would then elected to the first council.
The following month, on April 19, 1900, Circuit Court Judge Gilbert Collins ordered the Middletown Township Clerk of Elections to turn over to the new borough the ballot box ‘from the old fourth district.” There were 248 registered voters in that district; one hundred eight-six of them turned out to elect that first governing body.
David Miller received 170 votes in his bid for the mayor’s position, and apparently had no opposition. John Johnson and Mahlon Burdge won the three years seats on the council despite a contest brought on by Benjamin Baldwin and Charles Rovers also vying for the positions.
The winners defeated their opponents by wide margins. Thomas Hennessey and Lewis Parker polled 178 and 123 votes respectively for the two-year terms where there was another contest by John Budge. He polled 58 votes. John Riker and Richard Mount each won the one-year terms, making the full council of one mayor and four council members.
Abram Parker received 185 of the 186 ballots cast to become the tax assessor and Charles Mason received 183 votes to become the first tax collector. John Foster was elected Justice of the Peace over his opponent Charles Davis who polled 32 votes. Every one of the 186 voters approved the first budget….it totaled $800 for appropriations.
The Assembly bill which incorporated the town spelled out its original boundaries as “starting from a point in the west channel of the Shrewsbury River opposite the Andrew and Thompson tract, along the side of that tract across Navesink Avenue to the west side of N. Peak Ave; along its west side to a stone planted for a monument in the line of lands of Hartshorne, then along the Hartshorne line to a monument on the Joseph Wheelock land, then along the lands formerly known as the Robert Proudfoot property back to the river channel, following the meanderings of the channel to the beginning point.” The bill added the land excluded the property owned by the United States “whereon the famous Twin Lighthouses are located.”
The first official town meeting was held April 30 at Fireman’s Hall on Bay Avenue, with Mayor/Assemblyman Snyder administering the oaths of office. Snyder was then appointed the first borough attorney.
Frederick Johnson was the first borough clerk, winning over one other applicant for the position. But he submitted his resignation at the May 4 meeting, and Jesse Sculthorp was named.
The first resolution passed by the new governing body set salaries, including $40 a year for the tax collector and treasurers, and annual salaries of $25 for the tax assessor and $20, for the borough clerk; the attorney was paid $50 a year.
The resolution was amended shortly after, changing the assessor’s salary from $25 a year to 12 cents per person assessed.
For the road department, a day’s pay was $1.50 for a laborer, and $3.00 for a driver and his team. A day’s work was defined as nine and a half hours Monday through Friday, and nine hours on Saturday.