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Shrewsbury Celebrates Its History


first_imgSHREWSBURY – In celebration of the 350th anniversary of New Jersey and the upcoming 70th anniversary of the borough, the Shrewsbury Historical Society announced the publication of “The Story of Shrewsbury Revisited, 1965-2015” by Rick Geffken and Shrewsbury Mayor Donald Burden.The new publication refreshes “The Story of Shrewsbury” written by Richard Kraybill in 1964. It features a reprint of Kraybill’s work, along with an update of the previous 50 years in Shrewsbury’s history.Co-author Rick Geffken said, “This new book is the fascinating history of the second oldest town in Monmouth County, established in 1665. When originally founded, Shrewsbury comprised a huge area from the Navesink River, then south to Little Egg Harbor. It included all of what is today’s Ocean County. Seventy years ago, it became the borough, which it is today.“We’ve included a careful expansion of the subjects Kraybill wrote about, and added new research about the impact of the first European contacts with the Native American Lenape culture,” said Geffken.According to the author, the publication also mentions Shrewsbury’s historic Four Corners, the buildings on the corners of Broad Street and Sycamore Avenue, including Christ Church (1702), the Presbyterian Church (1735), Quaker Meeting House (1672), and the Allen House (late 1600s), known as Monmouth County’s most historic acre.The publication specifically discusses the constructor of Christ Church Episcopal, Rev. Samuel Cooke, and his biography. The work contains historic print, illustrations of maps, and more than 30 profiles and photographs of famous, prominent historical citizens.“It really is two books in one,” said Burden. He explained the current text incorporates a previous published work detailing the town’s history up to 1965; the second section brings Shrewsbury up to today and looks forward to its future. That section, penned by Burden and Geffken, is “an update” of the community as it made its way from a largely agricultural area to a commercial and residential site.The book also sheds light on the role of the Shrewsbury Friends, the Quakers, in aiding the abolition of slaver y in America, which many readers are unaware of. The oldest buildings in town are noted, and the uniqueness of the Shrewsbury community is appreciated and praised in this historic work, along with the recognition of the newer businesses and homes that have added to the town, keeping the balance.“Because Shrewsbury is such a classic town in a lot of the way it exists, the council of the town over the last 50 years has been very conscious about keeping the balance of the old colonial style of the town, and the modern additions,” said Geffken. “It’s important to recognize that they’ve done a good job.”He gave the example of the historic hub of Shrewsbury, the Four Corners, being so close to The Grove, a center for modernized businesses.Today, Burden observed, Shrewsbury has become a location populated by medical offices and facilities, retail shopping destinations, as well as having a number of higher density residential developments – both age restricted and not – over recent years.Geffken decided to join The Shrewsbury Historical Society, of which Burden is the resident, after the vibrancy of a group meeting he attended appealed to his interest in history. Burden informed him of Kraybill’s work that was coming up on being 50 years old, and asked Geffken to help him rewrite it. The rest was history.In doing that they included “stories of personalities,” that have become well known to locals and legendary local events, including some significant fires that are stilled talked about, Burden explained.Geffken revealed that rewriting the publication took a minimum of 20 hours a week, and a lot of research into archives and newspaper files. “One of the most important things we did in the book was reprint the 1964 version in its entirety, which was out of print and unavailable for a long time. It was the go-to story of the history of Shrewsbury from 1664 on. It was written by a committee, but they didn’t necessarily do a lot of historical research, so we wanted to update this with some commentary with some new historic sources,” said Geffken.Co-author Burden said, “We are gratified by the initial reaction to the book and its format. We’re happy people find our format agreeable and relevant.”Any history buffs that have an interest in the crucial past of Monmouth County and the importance and growth of the community of Shrewsbury, would find this book engaging. It can be purchased by sending payment to the Shrewsbury Historical Society, attention Donald Burden, President, at 419 Sycamore Ave., PO Box 333, Shrewsbury NJ, 07702. It is priced at $30 for the hard cover and $20 for the softcover, with a $5 shipping and handling fee.John Burton contributed to this story.last_img

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