Salem County Directory
History of Freeholders
' Activity

The First 125 Years

From the date of the earliest English settlement in West Jersey, which was founded by John Fenwick in 1675, there is no written record of Freeholders activity until April 13, 1724. Minutes were kept of a meeting of four Justices and sixteen Freeholders. Two Freeholders representing each of the eight municipalities of Salem County of the Day. These were Alloway's Creek, Pilesgrove, Mannington, Penns Neck, Salem Town, South Side Cohansy, North Side Cohansy, and Elsinboro.

Previous to the establishment of a charter creating the Board of Chosen Freeholders of Salem County, these landowners and Justices administered affairs of county government. It is noted in the minutes of a meeting held the 28th day of March 1732, the clerk of this body was ordered to issue warrants to all slaves in their respective precinct and their master's names.

The Charter, an Act of The State of New Jersey, dated February 13, 1798, incorporated the Boards of Chosen Freeholders for Bergen, Essex, Middlesex, Monmouth, Somerset, Burlington, Gloucester, Salem, Cape May, Hunterdon, Morris and Cumberland Counties. Duties of Freeholders included responsibilities to build bridges, locate roads, erect almshouses, and administer to the poor, provide County Court Houses, license school teachers, loan money, supervise hangings, collect taxes, and provide militia men to the cause when called by draft.

Regular meetings of the Board were held semiannually and entitled Freeholders $1.00 in fee. Fines were levied against members absent. Special meetings were held on occasion.

Freeholders & History