HISTORY OF NEW HANOVER TOWNSHIP

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New Hanover Township’s boundaries were established on December 2, 1673 when King George II set it apart from Springfield and Chesterfield Townships.  It became one of the nine original Townships of Burlington County and was incorporated in 1798.  Pemberton Township was formed partially from New Hanover Township’s territory in 1846, and in 1918 Wrightstown Borough became a separate municipality, taking all of its territory from New Hanover Township.

 

Agriculture was the principal industry of New Hanover Township in the early days, and farmers later utilized the Pemberton and Hightstown Railroad to haul produce into market.  The northernmost part of the Township boasted some of the most productive farms in the county.

The Township of New Hanover is located in the eastern portion of Burlington County.  The Township contains approximately 22.28 square miles, or 14,259 acres of land area, of which only 2.09 square miles, or slightly less than ten percent, is privately owned land and under the control of civilian authorities. The remaining ninety percent of the Township of New Hanover is owned by the federal government and occupied by the United States military reservations known as McGuire Air Force Base and Fort Dix Army Center, the latter of which

Cookstown, the municipal seat of the Township, was named after William Cooke, who operated a grist mill.  The mill was built in 1721, and the village was known by the name of the various owners until Cooke bought the mill in 1776.  His name has remained with the village ever since.  By 1883 the town contained a general store and post office, two stores, two hotels, a church, a blacksmith shop, a hay press, a shoemaker’s shop, and housing for about 150 people.  While most of Cookstown is located in New Hanover Township today, a portion lies in neighboring North Hanover Township.  The north branch of the Crosswick’s Creek, which once furnished power for Cooke’s mill, forms the boundary between the municipalities.

 

Cookstown features several restored historic properties: the General Godfrey House on Main Street (see attached) and a renovated one-room school house on Browns Mills-Cookstown Road.  The township also enjoys a very nice Community/ Senior Center on Browns Mills-Cookstown Road.  Finally, Cookstown Park, located on Hockamick Road, is a beautiful 20-acre active and passive recreational area that offers two baseball fields, a picnic pavilion, tennis and hockey court, two basketball courts, playground equipment, and a beautiful walking trail that meanders through the woods.

 

Our peaceful, friendly community, surrounded by beautiful farmland and pine barrens, is a unique and welcome break form the hectic modern-day pace of life.  A drive through Cookstown today is like spending a Sunday in a Norman Rockwell painting.

General Godfrey House

The General Godfrey House sits at the main crossroads of the village of Cookstown in New Hanover Township.  The Godfrey House is significant for its association with Brigadier General Edward Settle Godfrey, a noted nineteenth-century cavalry officer with the United States Army who fought with Custer in the battle of Little Big Horn. 

 

The house was constructed between 1716 and 1775 as the family homestead of Samuel Emley.  Six generations of the Emley family occupied the property over more than two centuries.  Ida Emley, the second wife of General Godfrey, was the last member of the Emley family to live in the house.  She and Godfrey moved into the house in 1907.  They had no children.  Godfrey spent his last twenty-five years in the house until his death in 1932.  After her husband’s death, Ida Emley Godfrey sold the property to Roy Cawley.

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Architecturally, the General Edward S. Godfrey House typifies a late eighteenth century, frame farmhouse in New Jersey.  As the owners grew both prosperous and numerous, its simple two-story, gabled form evolved from four bays to six, and then was expanded to the rear, thus preserving the unity of the Vernacular Federal façade.  Stylistically the house was constructed in three phases: Georgian, Federal, and Colonial Revival.

 

Typical of the Georgian style, the original house had a mostly symmetrical plan with four rooms on each floor and central circulation including an enclosed quarter-turn winder staircase.  Other characteristic details include the massive brick fireplace vault located in the northeast corner of the basement and the entryway located under the second floor corridor and lit with a four light transom.  The vertically sawn framing is mortise-and-tenoned and rests on an uncoursed fieldstone foundation.

 

A two-bay, Federal style addition was put on the south end with a new entrance added to re-center the east façade.  In keeping with the new style, a wooden, hip-roofed porch with slender wide-spaced columns was built on the front of the house, and the plan was expanded to include a center entrance hall containing a simple quarter-turn staircase and a fireplace.

 

The two-story, gable-roofed, rear ell was a later Federal addition.  Subsequent additions include the angled bay, which has a date of 1836 on its framing, and two-over-two sash in the existing window openings.  The overall integrity of the house has been well preserved, especially regarding the interior where the current appearance is basically as Godfrey left it in 1932.  In 1995, New Hanover Township purchased the property with Green Acres funding.