History of Magnolia

For those who are interested in the roots of their community, Magnolia offers a rich historical background of Lenni-Lenape Indians, Colonial land grants, Quaker family legacies, and subdivision of land deeds originally recorded in the 17th century.  In order to pinpoint the one square mile of irregularly-shaped piece of land now known as the Borough of Magnolia, it is necessary to step back into the archives and take a guided tour of the territory situated between the Hudson and Delaware Rivers originally granted to Lord John Berkeley and Sir George Carteret by the English Government in 1664.  The large tract of land, known as a province, was called New Jersey.
 
In 1673, nine years after the land grant, Lord Berkeley experienced financial difficulties and sold his portion of the province, the lower section of New Jersey, to two Quakers, John Fenwick and Edward Byllynge.  After some lengthy arguments about what geographical locations of their land purchase should go to each of them, Fenwick, whose purchase entitled him to one tenth of the tract, finally agreed to settle for the territory now known as Salem and Cumberland Counties as his share.
 
Edward Byllynge, then owner of the major portion of the southern part of New Jersey, later became financially insolvent, which resulted in the subdivision of his holdings to other people.
 
A small group of Quaker trustees, one of them being William Penn, engineered the division of Byllynge’s property into 90 shares, and anyone who was interested in establishing a Quaker Colony could buy them.  Divided into tenths, the first and second tenth portions became Burlington County and the third and fourth tenth became Gloucester County.
 
The land that today comprises Magnolia was situated in the third tenth portion of Gloucester County in Western New Jersey.  It was inhabited by the friendly tribe of Lenni-Lenape Indians and was rich in woodland, flowing streams and lakes with abundant supplies of fish.  The Quakers who later settled here made a modest living off the timber, fruits, dairy products, vegetables and livestock which were indigenous to this climate and soil.
 
On May 2, 1682, William Albertson, Sr. acquired a tract of this land in Newton Township and settled there.  Subsequently, he purchased several more tracts of land, moved to Pennsylvania, and gave this land to his son William.
 
In 1685, William, Sr. was a member of the Colonial Legislature and held other minor County and Township offices.  He reared six children and died in 1709.  His son William remained on the homestead until his death in 1720, when this tract of land passed on to four generations of William Albertsons.  Part of this land is the area we now know as Magnolia.
 
On December 17, 1709, one of the tracts, located in Gloucester Township and bounded on the south side by Otter Branch, became the legacy to Josiah Albertson, who then settled there.
 
Josiah married Ann Austin of Evesham, Burlington County, in 1727.  They had eight daughters and one son.  He plied his trade as a shoemaker, but at the same time increased his land holdings to twice the size of the original acreage, on which he established grist and sawmills and thrived on farming and lumbering.
 
In 1743, Josiah built a large brick house, possibly on the site of his log cabin.  Today it is a three-story structure with twenty rooms.  Still intact are the original yellow pine floors and woodwork, built-in cupboards with brass hardware dating back to 1869 and four working fireplaces.  The house was added to and is still standing and occupied.  Carved on the cornerstone on the west wall of this remarkable house is the phrase, “Built by Josiah Albertson 1743, rebuilt by Chalkley Albertson 1865.”  It is an impressive looking mansion located several hundred yards off the south side of Evesham Road, Gloucester Township, just across the Magnolia Borough line.  It is the birthplace of this immediate area.
Like his father, Josiah Albertson was active in civic affairs.  In those days, civic meetings were held in March of each year at different homes in the area.  Minutes of Old Gloucester Township dated 1747 reveal that one of the annual meetings was held in Josiah’s home on Evesham Road, at which time he was elected town clerk for that year.
 
At the time of Josiah’s death, Chalkley Albertson, who was born on this estate and was in direct line, also owned a portion of this estate, purchased the rest and before long became a successful farmer.
 
For someone who can appreciate the colorful experience of the people who influenced the final development of our community today, it is of great interest to know that one of our earlier settlers became an important factor in many accomplishments and improvements in South Jersey.  While in office as Assemblyman, Chalkley Albertson helped to establish and incorporate the White Horse Turnpike Company and introduced a bill in the State Assembly to incorporate the Camden and Philadelphia Bridge Company.  He helped initiate the Philadelphia and Atlantic Railroad and was one of the commissioners to arrange for the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia.  He was elected to the State Assembly in the years 1863, 1864, 1867 and 1873.
 
Charles Stokes Albertson, son of Chalkley, was born in 1855 on the family plantation on the South side of Evesham Road, Gloucester Township.  He was educated in the Friends Central School in Philadelphia, graduating in 1876.  The following year he taught school in the Greenland School (now the Acorn Inn on Davis Road in Lawnside).  In the spring of the year he would have to tend to his farming, so his two sisters would teach for him.  In 1890, he became Superintendent of Camden County Schools, a position he held for 40 years.  He was given special dispensation from the State to work beyond the retirement years.  He retired at the age of 75.
 
Charles married Sarah Von Leer and had two daughters, Mary and Margaret.  The girls never married, and a house was built for them at 546 West Evesham Road, Magnolia, N.J.  Mary went into the educational field like her dad and is still living (as of this writing) in Pennsylvania.  Charles realized the need for vocational training, and “fathered” the Camden County vocational School in 1927.  Charles died in 1944 at the age of 89 and is buried in Haddonfield Friends Cemetery.
 
John Jarret Albertson was born on the family plantation on August 16, 1858.  Educated and graduated from Friends Central School in Philadelphia, he studied engineering by himself, plus being a farmer.  He began his engineering work with the Philadelphia and Atlantic Railroad in 1878.
 
In 1892, he laid out the town of Haddon Heights and was made Camden County Engineer the same year.  This position he held for 35 years until his death.  In his lifetime he supervised the building of hundreds of miles of county roads and concrete bridges.  Take notice of the bronze plaques, which bear his name throughout Camden and Atlantic Counties.
 
In 1903, he erected a monument to the memory of his father, Chalkley.  It is a huge six-ton block of Barre Granite.  It used to be located on Kings Highway and White Horse Pike behind a water trough for horses in Haddon Heights.  It was moved in 1938 to Haddon Heights Park at 8th Avenue.
 
John, being very active as his forefathers, he served a s Borough Engineer for Audubon, Barrington, Haddon Heights, and Magnolia.  He assisted in the building of the Camden County Court House and designed and built the White Horse Pike.  In 1886 he married Elizabeth Swift Wills of Moorestown.  They had one daughter, Anne Albertson Collins.  So between the two boys, Charles and John, they had no sons to carry on.  John died in 1928 and is buried in Cinnaminson.  In his will he bequeathed a piece of land to the Borough of Magnolia in memory of his worthy ancestors who located on the tract of land in 1689.  He stated in his will that the tract of land was to be called the “John J. Albertson Park”.  Today we enjoy the scenic beauty of this legacy, which is located at Evesham Road and Albertson Avenue, opposite the Borough Hall.
Borough of Magnolia
438 West Evesham Ave Magnolia, NJ 08049-1725 (856) 783-1520 (856) 782-0782 fax
Monday - Friday 8:30am - 4:00pm Saturday & Sunday - Closed