Welcome to the Matawan Historical Society

Pride in Our Past & Present

Settled by a group of Scottish Presbyterians beginning in the 1680’s, Matawan was first called New Aberdeen, and then Mount Pleasant. Today, Matawan’s historic town core retains its appeal as a place to live, work, and shop.

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Today in forgotten Matawan History:
The Great Matawan Fire of 1901

January 27, 1901

Many residents probably do not realize that one of the most disastrous events in Matawan history occurred on this day 122 years ago.

The Matawan Fire of 1901 was such big news it even made the front page of the New York Times. Sadly, this would not be the first time Matawan made the cover of the world’s most famous newspaper for tragic reasons (The 1916 Shark Attacks also garnered headlines in the NYT).

In the early morning of January 27, 1901, an intense fire broke out and destroyed the main business district in downtown Matawan. The entire west side of Main Street between Spring and Summit Street was engulfed by the blaze. Almost a full city block of six buildings was lost to the flames. Oddfellows Hall, the current location of the Masonic Temple, was one of the few buildings spared in the fire.
“Incendiaries were blamed for starting the fire,” according the WPA 1936 Matawan Book. This was a time before modern fire science so other evidence was not able to be collected unfortunately. It was believed to be the work of arsonists, but no arrests were ever made.

Perhaps the strangest part of this incident was that three separate fires broke out simultaneously around town. This threw the people of Matawan into a panicked frenzy. One newspaper even wrote “women wept and prayed in the streets while men armed themselves with shotguns and patrolled in front of their properties.”

Matawan’s volunteer fire brigade was eventually able to subdue the blaze with the help of our friends from Keyport, who fortunately arrived with their truck just as the Matawan apparatus failed. Miraculously, there were no deaths reported from the fire of 1901.

Overall losses from the fire included 11 businesses, a public hall and three single family homes. The loss of property totaled over $100,000 ($3.6 million in today’s dollars).

Although the cause was never fully determined, the damage and loss of life would’ve been much worse had it not been for the bravery of the Matawan Fire Brigade.

122 years later, the men and women of the Matawan Borough Fire Department still keep watch over our town, forever diligent and ready to respond when they are needed next. Washington Engine Co.

Shark attacks? Pirates and buried treasure? Revolutionary War skirmishes? Unexplained hauntings?

You can learn more about all of this and 300+ years of local history by joining the Matawan Historical Society. This year we will be celebrating the 300th anniversary of Burrowes Mansion with a weekend full of events and a battle reenactment on June 2-4. All are welcomed to attend. Your membership helps support Burrowes Mansion museum and helps keeps local history alive. Please click the link below to join.

matawanhistoricalsociety.org/join-or-donate/
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20 hours ago
Today in forgotten Matawan History:
The Great Matawan Fire of 1901

January 27, 1901

Many residents probably do not realize that one of the most disastrous events in Matawan history occurred on this day 122 years ago. 

The Matawan Fire of 1901 was such big news it even made the front page of the New York Times. Sadly, this would not be the first time Matawan made the cover of the world’s most famous newspaper for tragic reasons (The 1916 Shark Attacks also garnered headlines in the NYT).

In the early morning of January 27, 1901, an intense fire broke out and destroyed the main business district in downtown Matawan. The entire west side of Main Street between Spring and Summit Street was engulfed by the blaze. Almost a full city block of six buildings was lost to the flames. Oddfellows Hall, the current location of the Masonic Temple, was one of the few buildings spared in the fire. 
“Incendiaries were blamed for starting the fire,” according the WPA 1936 Matawan Book. This was a time before modern fire science so other evidence was not able to be collected unfortunately.  It was believed to be the work of arsonists, but no arrests were ever made.

Perhaps the strangest part of this incident was that three separate fires broke out simultaneously around town. This threw the people of Matawan into a panicked frenzy. One newspaper even wrote “women wept and prayed in the streets while men armed themselves with shotguns and patrolled in front of their properties.”

Matawan’s volunteer fire brigade was eventually able to subdue the blaze with the help of our friends from Keyport, who fortunately arrived with their truck just as the Matawan apparatus failed. Miraculously, there were no deaths reported from the fire of 1901.

Overall losses from the fire included 11 businesses, a public hall and three single family homes. The loss of property totaled over $100,000 ($3.6 million in today’s dollars). 

Although the cause was never fully determined, the damage and loss of life would’ve been much worse had it not been for the bravery of the Matawan Fire Brigade. 

122 years later, the men and women of the Matawan Borough Fire Department still keep watch over our town, forever diligent and ready to respond when they are needed next. Washington Engine Co.

Shark attacks? Pirates and buried treasure? Revolutionary War skirmishes? Unexplained hauntings?

You can learn more about all of this and 300+ years of local history by joining the Matawan Historical Society. This year we will be celebrating the 300th anniversary of Burrowes Mansion with a weekend full of events and a battle reenactment on June 2-4. All are welcomed to attend. Your membership helps support Burrowes Mansion museum and helps keeps local history alive. Please click the link below to join.

https://matawanhistoricalsociety.org/join-or-donate/Image attachmentImage attachment+1Image attachment

Comment on Facebook

Where was Summit Street?

They always keep us safe. All of the fire departments in our town. Thank You.

The archivist is going through old photographs these days to update the inventory. These photographs were in a group, seemingly associated. Several are linked to the Van Brackle family. Some lack notes on the back. Reader assistance with identifications of people, venues, and occasions is welcomed. ... See MoreSee Less

1 week ago
The archivist is going through old photographs these days to update the inventory. These photographs were in a group, seemingly associated. Several are linked to the Van Brackle family. Some lack notes on the back. Reader assistance with identifications of people, venues, and occasions is welcomed.Image attachmentImage attachment+2Image attachment

Comment on Facebook

My dads aunt was Mrs. Margaret Hulsart Van Brackle, she lived on Main St with her daughter and I believe her husband was a Robert Vanbrackle, not sure much about him. Her son work for JCPL before retiring to Alabama

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