Toms River’s WWI Heritage

(Photo by Micromedia Publications)

TOMS RIVER – One hundred years ago, on May 18, 1917, the United State Congress passed the “Selective Service Act” – a military draft to support our efforts in World War One.

The minutes of the then-Dover Township Committee reveal a community hard at work here on the home front in support of the war effort:

A Committee On Public Safety

On April 6, 1917, the Dover Township Committee met at 1:30 p.m. It was a Friday. This date was the same exact date that the United States Congress declared war on Germany, hurling the United States into WWI. At this meeting W. Howard Jeffrey and William Fischer were present and suggested that the Township Committee appoint a “Committee on Public Safety.” On motion by Committee Member David O. Parker, seconded by Chairman John Post, and carried, citizens were appointed to the Committee on Public Policy. Among the members of the Committee were Messrs. William Fischer and Adolph Ernst.

The Committee Goes To Work

The township minutes indicated that three days later, on April 9, 1917, there was a meeting of the Township Committee on Public Safety. Rev. Charles B. Austin was elected as Chairman. The Township Clerk was instructed to write to the Adjutant General to advise him that the Township Committee had appointed a Committee on Public Safety to “do whatever they deemed necessary for the safety of Dover Township.” Additionally, a “Committee on Farming” was appointed. The Township Committee was instructed to issue a proclamation on growing foodstuffs to be read in the schools and publicly posted. A committee was formed to organize a company to “hire land and farm it to produce food to be sold at market prices.” Also on April 9, 1917, three local women were approved to take charge of the “Red Cross work.” A committee of the “Home Guards” was appointed.

On April 18, 1917, the Committee on Public Safety met. The Committee on Gardening reported that it “hardly had time to do very much but stated that the Committee would go ahead with the work.” A proclamation from the Governor was read. The Committee on Farming stated they were “up against it because they couldn’t find anyone to do the work.” The Committee on Home Guard indicated “it had a very favorable meeting.” The Committee on Home Guard thought the Committee on Public Safety may help them “solve the problem to get guns or rifles and uniforms.” Chairman Rev. Austin stated that “he thought it would be wise to call a patriotic meeting in the Court House to create some enthusiasm among the public. It was resolved to call a public meeting in the Court House on April 22, 1917 at 7:30 p.m. A “Committee on Investigation” was also appointed.

A Munitions Plant In The Township

On February 21, 1918, the Dover Township Committee met. The Township Committee passed a resolution that “we favor the location of the plant of the Atlantic Loading Company in this neighborhood.” The resolution indicated that “as officials of this Township and also patriotic citizens desirous of doing whatever we can to aid our Country in this Great War, we will cooperate in any way that we can in the event that they locate in this vicinity their plant.” (The Atlantic Loading Company was a company from Maine that produced munitions. It needed to locate a plant in New Jersey to support the war effort. It produced numerous types of ordinance from 75 MM projectiles to hand grenades. It ended up being built in Atlantic County employing 10,000 people).

The George P. Vanderveer Post

The Armistice was at the 11th hour on the eleventh day in the 11th month – November 11, 1918. On November 14, 1919, the Dover Township Committee passed a resolution stating that “the Veterans of the Great World War residing in the Township there organized and received a Charter for George P. Vanderveer Post #129, American Legion, and requesting they use a room in Town Hall free of charge for their use. The Post was given such permission to “use the second floor of Town Hall free of charge with the exception of lights and heat.” (The Town Hall at the time is the location of the present day Toms River Fire Company No. 1 located on Robbins Street).

“Celebrating The Victory Which Was Ours”

On October 29, 1920, the Dover Township Committee passed a resolution for the second anniversary of the “signing of the Armistice ending the great World War and Bringing to a successful termination the causes for which our nation in common with its allies were fighting.” The Committee resolved that November 11, “is hereby set aside as a holiday in the Township of Dover, and citizens of the Township are requested upon that day to decorate their homes and business places with the national colors and join with our living heroes in celebrating the victory which was ours.”

In total, 320 township residents served in the armed forces in WWI. Ten would give the ultimate sacrifice. One hundred years later, we remember their sacrifice in “making the world safe for democracy.