Minister led push to create Ocean County

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Published in the Asbury Park Press 10/06/03
By MARY ALLSOPP
GUEST WRITER

In the mid-1800s Joel Haywood, a Methodist minister and former state assemblyman from West Creek in what is now Eagleswood, believed that the citizens in the southern part of Monmouth County -- now Ocean County -- were being treated unfairly by the county Board of Freeholders.

Dominated by Democrats, the board seemed to favor the more affluent northern part of the county. As a member of the Whig Party (soon to be succeeded by today's Republican Party), Haywood and Whig freeholders from lower Monmouth County wanted more funds for public works and other expenses of their towns.

So in 1849 Haywood wrote a letter asking the state Legislature to make the lower part of Monmouth a separate county. Based on his letter, the Assembly passed legislation to create a county extending from the Manasquan Inlet to the southern tip of Long Beach Island.

Introduced in the Senate by William G. Hooper, a friend of Haywood and a fellow Whig, the bill passed by one vote. On Feb. 15, 1850, the governor signed the charter creating Ocean County, New Jersey's 20th county.

Toms River, the largest village in the area, was chosen to be the county seat. Haywood had been elected to the Assembly in 1842, and in 1850, he was elected again to the lower house to represent the new county.

During the transition, Haywood joined a special committee of three board members from Monmouth and three from Ocean to oversee the distribution of surplus and school money, and public property. In 1853, Haywood ran for governor and lost by a narrow margin.

A founder of the Ocean County Republican Party, he was a delegate to the Republicans' first national convention in 1856.

Haywood was born on Dec. 9, 1798, in West Creek.

Trained by his father to be a blacksmith, he was good with his hands but preferred to read, study and converse with men of intelligence and learning in order to further his education. Tall and lanky, he was an eloquent speaker, quick-witted with a good sense of humor and a kind heart.

Haywood married Lydia Pharo in 1821 and they had eight children. After her death in 1842, he married her niece, Mary Ann Pharo, with whom he had four daughters.

As a young man, Haywood volunteered to rescue shipwreck victims and to conduct funerals for and bury those who did not survive. Appalled by the loss of life, he joined with William Newell, a member of Congress, to secure support for legislation to establish the Life Saving Service, which later became the Coast Guard.

During one of his rescues, he nearly drowned and this may have influenced his decision to become a minister. He helped to build the West Creek Methodist Church, was a trustee of the church, and served as its pastor for 40 years, conducting more than 400 weddings.

Haywood died on May 29, 1865, and is buried in the West Creek Cemetery.

A nephew, the Rev. James Edwards, wrote in a biography of his uncle: "Joel Haywood was a most companionable, lovable man. I have never known a person who more devotedly and conscientiously labored for the happiness and well-being of his fellow men."

Mary Allsopp is a retired Brick school teacher and a volunteer at the Ocean County Historical Society.