The Legend of Long Branch
Beginnings of a great city —
How old is Long Branch? It goes all the way back to May 1668.
According to local folklore, five associates of the original Monmouth Patent holders in 1665 (John Slocum, Eliakim Wardell, Jasper and Peter Parker and George Hulett) came to Monmouth County (then the British colony of New Jersey) to find suitable land and more religious freedom. At that time the men were trying to resolve a land acquisition dispute with Native American locals.
Starting at dawn at a spot near today’s North Lower Broadway in Long Branch, Slocum engaged in a “two falls out of three falls” wrestling match with Lenape tribe member Vow-a-Vapon. Under the terms, if Slocum won he could buy all the land that he could “walk off” in one day. If he lost his group left with nothing.
Slocum won a tough match — defeating an opponent who was “greased from head to foot.” The agreed upon payment for the land was “20 shillings per acre.” The Slocum take ended up being about 375 acres of land.
Most shared the reward of Slocum’s struggle. He got Long Branch, the Parker’s took Rumson/Little Silver, Wardell received Monmouth Beach/Sea Bright, and Hulett disappeared. The Slocum family would hold much of the land for some 200 years, according to a 1904 Long Branch Daily Record account.
In 1683, Slocum was appointed a captain in the colonial militia and later was made a County Ranger. He is also responsible for first developing an old Indian trail (today’s Broadway). Born in Portsmouth, RI in March 1645; he died in February 1702. Slocum Place in the city is named for the family; they also ran the city newspaper for over 25 years.
Myth or fact, the Slocum account has added weight to it — being cited in the 1940 Long Branch city-bio book, Entertaining a Nation. Plus, the Daily Record — “the people’s paper” in Long Branch — repeats the tale in its July 1951 “Golden Anniversary Edition.”
The first recorded mention of the name Long Branch came in a March 1682 land survey for Abijah Edwards, according to a Long Branch Daily Record story in August 1963, when it was then part of Shrewsbury Twp. In February 1849, Long Branch separated from Shrewsbury Twp. becoming part of Ocean Twp and governed by a three-member township committee.
By April 1867, Long Branch had incorporated as a borough and was governed by the Long Branch Commission (officially, the “Long Branch Police, Sanitary and Improvement Commission”). The first commissioners were: Francis Corlies, Louis B. Brown, Samuel Laird, Jacob Herbert, and Cornelius Van Derveer. Corlies was the first board of commissioners president (or ‘”mayor”) and John Lanning was the first town lawyer. With some adjustments, this five-member city commission set-up would run things in Long Branch for nearly 50 years.
A new century and city population reaching 10,000 brought more government change. In December 1904, Long Branch was reincorporated as a city (under the Coult Charter Act). The first mayor under this charter making Long Branch a city was C. Asa Francis. He was inaugurated amidst a celebratory parade and ball, with the state’s governor in attendance. The city’s first election had been held in November 1904 and the Republicans won big — capturing the mayor’s seat and a clear majority on the seven-member city council. Just under 3,000 voters went to the polls.
According to a May 1954 Long Branch Daily Record story celebrating the 50th anniversary of the city, the Long Branch Board of Trade (businesses) and the Long Branch Property Holders Association (homeowners) also deserve congratulations “for launching the movement to win a new government for Long Branch.”
“Long Branch is rich in opportunity.”
—Daily Record, August 1930
In May 1960, a Charter Commission recommended that Long Branch change to a new “council-manager” form of government. A nine-member city council (after selecting the mayor from its ranks) hires a city administrator to manage city affairs. That November, 60% of city voters agreed to the change. In May 1961, Lucy Wilson became the first women elected to a city governing body. The first city manager was Richard J. Bowen; paid $13,000, he lasted about 18 months.
More civic change came in February 1966, when voters backed by nearly 3-to-1 the Mayor-Council (Plan A) form of municipal government under the Faulkner Act. In May 1966, for the first time a mayor was popularly elected — with 68% of registered voters casting ballots. Sworn-in July 1966, the first mayor was, Paul Nastasio, and the first city council members were: Henry Cioffi, Samuel Teicher, Elliot Katz, Robert Cornell, and A.V. Ippolito.
Today’s city government operates with a mayor and five-member City Council, whose members are elected at-large in nonpartisan elections to serve four-year terms of office on a concurrent basis.
Long Branch City Hall History & Images — HERE
First Residents: The Lenape —HERE
Mayors of Long Branch:
• John Pallone — 2018-present
• Adam Schneider — 1990-2018
• Philip D. Huhn — 1982-1990
• Henry R. “Skip” Cioffi — 1970-1982
• Paul Nastasio, Jr. — 1966-1970
• Vincent J. Mazza — 1965-1966
• Milton F. Untermeyer, Jr. — 1963-1965
• Thomas L. McClintock — 1961-1963
• Paul Kiernan — 1960-1961
• Daniel J. Maher — 1956-1960
• Dr. Alexander Vineberg — 1952-1956
• J. William Jones — 1948-1952
• Paul Kiernan — 1944-1948
• Alton V. Evans — 1936-1944
• C. Dorman McFaddin — 1932-1936
• J. William Jones — 1928-1932
• Frank L. Howland — 1924-1928
• Clarence J. Housman — 1920-1924
• John W. Flock, Sr. — 1918-1920
• Marshall Woolley — 1916-1918
• Bryant B. Newcomb — 1912-1916
• Henry Joline — 1912
• Edwin W. Packer — 1910-1912
• Charles O. McFaddin — 1907-1910
• Charles Asa Francis — 1905-1906
• Rufus Blodgett — 1903-1904
• Walter S. Reed, MD — 1902-1903
• Benjamin P. Morris — 1900-1901
• Augustus Chandler — 1899-1900
• Rufus Blodgett — 1894-1898
• George W. Brown — 1892-1893
• Thomas R. Woolley — 1891-1892
• George W. Brown — 1889-1890
• Wilbur A. Heisley — 1887-1888
• George W. Brown — 1885-1886
• Richard H. Woodward — 1883-1884
• Thomas R. Woolley — 1880-1883
• Joseph H. Cooper — 1870-1879
• Francis Corlies — 1867-1870
Note: From 1867 to 1904, the “mayor” was actually “president” of the Long Branch Commission. All were Democrats except Heisley, Chandler, and Reed.
First “Mayor” of Long Branch
His name it neither honored or recorded in city history. But Francis Corlies was the first “mayor” (or rather the first president of the Long Branch Commission). The “record” shows he was appointed in April 1867 and served until 1870.
These details are from a January 1918 front-page story in the city’s official newspaper, the Long Branch Daily Record (see story below). It seems plausible because Francis Corlies played a key role in the development of the North Jersey Shore, according to a July 1915 Long Branch Daily Record story.
Corlies was deep in the makings of the Long Branch & Sea Shore Railroad company — a than magical mode of transportation to easily shuttle the rich and famous from NYC to the Jersey Shore via ferry and train. In March 1864, Corlies was part of a committee that negotiated a land deal with President Abraham Lincoln to build a railroad starting on government property at Spermaceti Cove on Sandy Hook to Long Branch and on down to Manasquan. To ensure completion of the line from Sandy Hook to Long Branch by July 1865, Corlies was put in charge.
Later on as a shore area NJ state assemblyman for three terms, he was “instrumental in the initial movement for a government in Long Branch,” according to a Long Branch Daily Record story in May 1954.
He also helped organize the city’s first bank, the Long Branch Banking Company on Broadway in March 1872 and sat on the first Monmouth Park Racetrack board of directors in 1869. Born in Shrewsbury Twp., he was the son of Benjamin W. Corlies, one of Monmouth County’s top surveyors in his day. He died in April 1897 at age 70.
Most often, credit for being the first Long Branch leader goes to Joseph H. Cooper, a popular hotel owner, who served as commission president/mayor for nearly the entire decade of the 1870s — true boom times for the “Summer Capitol.” He owned the Metropolitan Hotel and grew it into a popular spot. Cooper Avenue in town is named for him. Both Cooper and Corlies were Democrats.