In our earliest days, that geographical area known as Brielle was a section of Shrewsbury Township (founded 1664), an original township in Monmouth County. Settlers, primarily Dutch and English, were arriving by the late 1600's and mostly engaged in agricultural pursuits. Comfortable farm homesteads dotted the area some enjoying a sweeping view of the Manasquan River and Atlantic Ocean. Early in the 1700's a small commercial port called Landing and later, Union Landing, grew up on the Manasquan River. A modest ship building industry developed as did shipping activities. Sailing ships navigated the Manasquan Inlet engaged primarily in coastal trading while at the same time herds of cows grazed on pasture ending at the river.
During the Revolutionary War the Union Salt Works, situated approximately where Hoffman's Anchorage is now located, produced salt, the vital preservative of food prior to refrigeration. Before the war, salt had been imported from England. The salt works were destroyed and the settlement around the works sacked in April 1778 by loyalists "refugees", accompanied by British Troops. In spite of the raid, the salt works were again operative following repairs. Men and material continued to be shipped from Union Landing throughout the war. Ships were the primary source of communication and trade in those days. Roads were few and not always safe and passable.
By the second half of the 1800's a number of "cottages", summer hotels and boarding houses were being constructed along the Manasquan River at or near Union Landing. This area was in those days referred to as "the Union" or just plain "Union". The most popular hotel, established after the Civil War by Captain John Brown, was the Union House located on the river at the foot of Union Lane. In May 1888, Robert Louis Stevenson spent a month there on the referral of his good friend Will Low, the painter. While here, Stevenson wrote a portion of "The Master of Ballantrae". He was fascinated by the many cat boats he observed on the river, and learned how to sail one. On a specific occasion he and Low, who had decided to stay also, sailed up the river to Osborn Island, and upon landing, proclaimed it "Treasure Island", by carving that name plus their initials onto a bulkhead there. This took place five years after he had completed his famous novel of the same name. To this day, many still refer to the island as such. It is now officially named Nienstedt Island, honoring the family who donated it to the borough. Stevenson and Low were not the only celebrities to visit Union. Other guests here included Upton Sinclair, Fred Astaire and Minnie Maddern Fiske, a famous dramatic actress at the turn of the last century.
On July 7, 1881, a group of businessmen formed the Brielle Land Association, and purchased 150 acres of farmland between Longstreet's (or Debbie's) Creek and mud pond to be divided into lots for sale as vacations home sites. This land was north of Union Landing. They named this development "Brielle" upon the suggestion by one of their number who had visited Brielle, Holland the year before. He thought this area resembled the countryside and the coastal towns which dot Europe's lowlands on the North Sea and the English Channel. It was during this period that the area began to flourish as a resort. The railroad had been extended south along the shore. Incidentally, Mud Pond was quickly renamed Glimmer Glass.
Early in the 19th century, Shrewsbury Township was divided and the southern section, including our area, became Howell Township. Further division in 1851 created Wall Township in the eastern section of Howell then in 1919, the Borough of Brielle was created from a portion of Wall. It consists of the original Union Landing area, the Brielle Land Association tract, and all the property up along the river as far as Old Bridge Road. Over the years, and particularly since World War II, the town has grown into a residential community with many of its citizens commuting to the New York metropolitan area. Its prime local industry is still connected with the waterfront with more than 200 commercial and charter fishing boats plus private pleasure craft.
Brielle has no ocean frontage but has almost 4 miles of frontage on the Manasquan River, Debbie's Creek and the Glimmer Glass. Very little vacant land remains. There are approximately 4,600 of us within our 1.8 square miles, including the eight acre island. A large section of land is occupied by the nationally known 140 acre Manasquan River Golf Club, founded in 1922.
We are proud of our outstanding K-8 elementary school. Upper grade students attend Manasquan High School. The Reformed in America Church (formerly the Dutch Reformed Church), was established here in 1958. The church holds services in an attractive colonial style edifice designed by local architect John C. Dodd. The congregation numbers more than 300 members.
The Manasquan River forms our southern boundary and to the east, north and west, Brielle borders Manasquan Borough and Wall Township. Brielle has 20.09 miles of municipal roads, 4 miles of county roads and 2 miles of state highways. Brielle is policed by a fifteen person department. Brielle Fire Company #1 (organized June 13, 1910), and Brielle First Aid Squad (incorporated 1962), are made up of volunteers. Brielle is governed by a Mayor and Council which meet twice each month in Borough Hall located at the corner of Union Lane and Union Avenue. Thomas Nicol is currently serving as Mayor.
Our "Sister Town" of Brielle, Holland
The town of Brielle in the Netherlands is first mentioned in Dutch historical archives in the year 1257 at which time the settlement was part of the domain of the Squires of Voorne. Brielle, Holland lies along the River Maas, (also called Brielle Lake), and the origin of the town's name probably rose from the Celtic word "Brogilo", which indicates a swampy area fit for loading and discharging ships. Over time this word was changed into "Brol", "Breul", and "Briel" respectively. Finally, in 1813, the Dutch government decided on the permanent name "Brielle".
In 1330 Brielle obtained its municipal rights and in 1338 the walls and moats surrounding the town were built. Although the original fortress no longer exists in its unaltered state, from an aerial view, Brielle still appears to be star-shaped.
In 1567 Brielle and its environs were occupied by the Spaniards. The occupation lasted until 1572 when a group of patriots called the "Waterbeggars" freed the town from Spanish rule. The "Waterbeggars" were men from all classes of the population, sailors and intellectuals alike, who had fled from Spanish oppression and rendered assistance from the sea while practicing piracy against their country's invaders. On the 1st of April 1572, the "Waterbeggars" battered Brielle's North Gate with a ship's mast reclaiming the town for the Dutch. This was the beginning of the campaign, which eventually liberated the entire Netherlands. The April 1st victory is marked each year in Brielle with a costumed, carnival-like celebration highlighted by the arrival of "pirates" in tall ships who re-enact the landmark battle of 1572.
Brielle is situated about 30kms west of Rotterdam on the island of Voorne-Putten. The town's lovely, historical buildings, canals, busy harbor and friendly people, as well as the surrounding dunes, windmills and polders make it an interesting and picturesque destination when visiting the Netherlands.
The Borough Historian, John E. Belding, now has office hours in Borough Hall. His office is just down the hall from the tax office and is open on Mondays between the hours of 2:30 and 4:30 in the afternoon and 7:00 and 9:00 in the evening. You also may make an appointment for other times by calling Mr. Belding at (732) 528-5867.
Mr. Belding has been building an extensive collection of Brielle history and artifacts, thanks to the generosity of residents wishing to share their treasures or facsimiles with the borough, and thereby ensuring the availability of such an important heritage for generations to come.
Stop in to see our historian for information, to drop off your treasures or just to have a friendly chat.
*Information from the Brielle, Holland Tourism Office by courtesy of Gerard Russoniello, former superintendent of Brielle Elementary School.