The Forge at Metedeconk
By Gene Donatiello
In March of 1808, Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States, signed the third Embargo Act cutting off trade with England and France. In that same year, John Lippencott, of Mount Holly, Burlington County purchased one hundred and five acres of land from the New Jersey Proprietors.
The land Lippencott purchased was at the southern end of Monmouth County in Howell Township and north of the Dover Township line on the Metetecunk (Metedeconk) River near Indian Stage, the site of many Lenape ceremonies. The area was later to become Brick Township; the area was ideal for an iron forge business. There was ample bog ore in the nearby marshes. The surrounding woodlands supplied the wood for charcoal needed to heat the forge and the river provided transportation and power. Two years after purchasing the land Lippencott sold the tract of land to Banajah Butcher and Barzillai Burr of Mount Holly, Burlington County. In 1810, Butcher and Burr received New Jersey State Legislative permission to construct a dam across the Metedeconk River creating a mill pond for the purpose of working the forge and grist mill which had recently been constructed. According to Thomas Gordon’s History and Gazetteer of New Jersey, in 1834 the mill pond was the largest in the state at about three miles long by one half mile wide. In 1847, the dam broke washing away the Forge along with several homes and business that grew up around the Forge.
The Forge produced mainly water pipes sold in New York City where there was a ready market. According to Early Forges and Furnaces in New Jersey the majority of early water mains in lower Manhattan came from Butcher’s Forge. Because of the lack of good roads, products from the forge were shipped on sailing ships via Gravelley Docks about a quarter mile east on the north shore of the Metedeconk river, at the opening to the north branch. The sailing ships traveled south down Barnegat Bay and through Cranberry inlet to the Atlantic Ocean. When nature closed Cranberry inlet around 1812, forge products were shipped by wagon over land to the Shrewsbury River. There it was loaded onto sailing vessels headed for New York City.
Today Bricktonians enjoy the picturesque view of Forge Pond from the park on the west side of Route 70. The trees, once harvested to produce charcoal for the forge, have grown back. The Laurel is growing again. Turtles, black snakes and other wildlife inhabits the pond. The winding Metedeconk River provides a link from its beginnings in western New Jersey through Lake Shanandoah to State Highway 70 and beyond.
Miller, Pauline S. Ocean County Four Centuries in the Making. Ocean County Cultural & Heritage Commission, Toms River, New Jersey. 2000. P.148-149.
Gordon, Thomas. History and Gazetteer of New Jersey. 1834.