History of Montague, NJ

Copied from original newspaper clipping at Minisink Valley Historical Society, relating the formation of the township:


After Wantage ..... "The next township created was Montague, and the petition for it was laid before the council by Gov. Bernard, January 13th, 1759. As the Assembly was not then in session, it was postponed to the meeting of that body. On the 19th of March that year a petition from Abraham VanCampen and other citizens of Sussex county, in respect to the formation of the new township, was read, the Assembly then being in session. It prayed that the new township begin "at the mouth of a brook near the lower end of the little Minisink island, run up to its source and thence in a direct line to Jeremiah Kettle's house, thence on the same source to top of Pahoqualin mountain, thence northeasterly along the top of that mountain to the York line, thence along that line to the Mingaupack (now Mongaup) river, thence down the same to the Delaware river, and thence down the same to the beginning." The council advised his excellency to grant the request, but as the location of the York State line was not settled, advised the line of the proposed township read "where it first touches it, until the same comes to the station point at the river Delaware, thence down that river to the beginning."


The consent of King George II was secured and the township named Montague, presumably by royal suggestion. Just whom the name honored seems indefinite. There was at the time in England a literary woman, Lady Mary Wortley Montague, eldest daughter of the Duke of Kingston, whose career was then at its remarkable zenith. She wrote works which attracted great attention, and her quarrels with Addison and Pope made her famous. She was born in 1690 and died in 1762. There were also the first and second Dukes of Montague, both famous in English annals, and John Montague, solicitor, who was a subject of controversy in the colonies, being a counsel for the New York Proprietors concerning the land grants. Also, there was Sir Charles Montague, who had been a member of the king's privy council, chancelor of the exchequer, and formerly a member of the Board of Trade in England. The name Montague was therefore prominent in England, and when the new township was an accomplished fact it was found to have the name Montague at the top; but whether in honor of the lady, earl, captain or duke, makes little difference now."

Montague was formed out of Wallpack, and is believed to be named for the Duke of Manchester, George Montague, as part of Sussex County. It was settled by 1701, when its people were ordered to vote in Ulster County, NY. They had come from Esopus (now, Kingston, NY), & followed the waterways and Native American trails. The Dutch West Indies Co., probably had trading posts here before the homesteads. The early settlement was known as Menissink - across from that island. The first settlers lived side by side with the Minsi [Lenni Lenape or Delaware tribe], and their property was deeded from the Indians. The treaty of Easton, in 1758, freed NJ from further Indian claims to land.


Until 1664, this area was controlled by the Dutch. Later, it was ruled by England and the Proprietors of East & West NJ. We shared one royal governor with NY until 1738. This area was included in the 1704 Minisink Patent from Queen Anne, which also covered property in present day NY, as our original northern boundary was to have extended to Station Point (near Cochecton, NY). New York also once claimed land as far south as Easton, PA and later to the southern tip of Minisink Is. Early town records note a Precinct of Menissink as of 1736 under Orange Cty. (recognized by NY in 1738). It came under Sussex County, NJ in 1755 and was renamed the Precinct of Montague in 1759. The compromise boundary between NJ and NY was settled at the fork of the Delaware & Neversink Rivers in 1769.


The Minisink Dutch Reformed Church organized in 1737, with its first building about 1/2 mile south of present site. It moved to the River Road location in 1827. The current structure was built in 1899. An early mill, built by Thomas Quick, was in our Millville area - before he moved to PA. The French & Indian War, necessitated that forts be erected along the river. Indian raids then continued through the Revolutionary War. The "Old Mine Road" was the early route used for trade and troop movement and was visited by Mohawk chief, Joseph Brant, and Count Pulaski. The first houses were made of stone, as wood was a sign of wealth. First industries were mills (sawmills & grist mills), blacksmiths, tanneries and small stores. Small communities developed within the township: Brick House, Millville, and Tappentown/ Duttonville. Brick House, with its historic hotel, had businesses, a post office - and was considered the "Village of Montague". River crossings were by ferry until the bridge to Milford was built about 1829. The D&H Canal caused present day Port Jervis, NY to develop as a center of commerce and the Erie Railroad further affected the future of Montague. Our town evolved into an agricultural community. Along with growing crops, people raised chickens, turkeys, hogs and cows. Between 1820 and the Civil War, many went West - to new frontiers. In 1850, our population was 1010. In 1920, it bottomed out at 534. Education began in one room schoolhouses throughout the community. The present K-6 elementary school site on Route 206 began with only 3 classrooms in 1955. Six additions followed, with the last in 1997.


By the early 1900's, people would come to visit and stay at boarding homes and hotels - such as the Rock View and High Point Inn. Some of our land would become part of High Pt. State Pk. and Stokes State Forest. With agricultural regulations changing, it was harder to earn a living farming. Around 1960, land developers began to purchase large farm tracts with the original intention of building homes for weekend and vacation use. Holiday Lakes evolved into Canyon Ridge, and is now known as the High Point Country Club. When the current bridge to Milford was under construction, the Brick House Hotel was razed in 1953. Shortly after, more property along the Delaware River was purchased in anticipation of constructing the Tocks Island Dam. When that project was put on hold, it became part of the DWGNRA (Delaware Water Gap Nat’l Recreation Area). Many old and historic homes were lost. Our census count in 1960 was 879, and in 1990 it was 2836.


Compiled by A.C. Batko 1/98