Randolph: Reimagining Itself for 218 Years

by Sara Weissman, MCHS Volunteer and Reference Librarian (Ret., Morris County Library)
March 7, 2023

Randolph became Morris County’s sixth municipality in November 1805 when the New Jersey Legislature passed a law allowing the new town to break away from Mendham. In coming years, Randolph itself would shed various sections which became Victory Gardens, Dover and Rockaway Borough or joined Pequannock. Yet, adapting to change, the Township has evolved over the generations while retaining the many facets of its long history.

Friends Meeting House

It was the mining and forging of iron that first drew Quakers into the town, particularly on the the “Suckasunny Plains” along the Randolph-Roxbury border. In 1758 one of their number, Robert Schooley, set aside an acre of land for a cemetery and Meeting House. Over 200 years after its founding, it still stands on the township’s Quaker Church Road, maintained by an association of descendants of the founding families.

Shongum Lake, Randolph in the early 20th Century

Attesting to iron mining’s continued importance to the local economy through much of the 19th Century, portions of Randolph became known as Ironia and Mine Hill (later incorporated as an independent municipality). However, the century also saw the rise of grist and saw mills that harnessed water power from the nearby Millbrook, as well as the Black and Rockaway Rivers. Local apple orchards offered still another industry: distilling. Expanding these agricultural ventures, the one-time “Shawgum Forge” transitioned into a gentlemen’s hunting and fishing club by the late 1800s, while the chestnut woods covering Trowbridge Mountain were offered for harvesting.

The dawn of a new century ushered in further development in Randolph, as city-dwellers flocked to the Township that boasted of a healthful climate, courtesy of its altitude. By 1904, a resort industry began when local farmers offered lodging to summer guests. At its peak, over 50 hotels and bungalow colonies dotted the south Randolph landscape.  Today, these resort roots can still be found in the town library and community center, which were originally portions of grand hotels. Thus, over the centuries, Randolph has re-imagined itself, while still preserving its multi-faceted past.

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