Learning history through the new signs in Toms River’s Huddy Park
Toms River residents and visitors can now take a trip through history inside the township’s first municipal park.
Joshua Huddy Park now includes historic interpretive signage featuring signs built according to the National Park Service specifications.
The yearlong project was the brainchild of the Toms River Historic Preservation Commission who created the historic panels with the help of local graphic designer Jess Connors of Tortuga Digital Marketing & Design.
The signs were manufactured by Pannier Graphics, located in Gibsonia, Pennsylvania.
The panels were presented during a recent Council meeting.
Joshua Huddy was an American Patriot commissioned by the continental congress and was sent to the village of Toms River to defend its blockhouse (on present day Robbins Street in Toms River between our WOBM studios and Town Hall), in February of 1782.
Toms River became an official township on June 24, 1767.
Flash forward 15-years later, to a surprise attack by British Forces in March of 1782 that resulted in Nine American Patriot casualties from hand-to-hand combat, and the British also overtook the blockhouse, burned the village of Toms River to the ground and captured its defender and hero, Joshua Huddy.
That's where the name of the park comes from, Joshua Huddy, an American Patriot sent to Toms River at the request of its residents who feared an attack by the British and asked our first Governor William Livingston to send down Huddy.
He came down in February of 1782 to take command of the blockhouse at the time being watched by volunteers.
On March 24 1782, chaos ensued along with panic and destruction all the way down to Huddy himself.
"Nine Patriots are killed in hand-to-hand combat, Huddy is captured, the blockhouse is overtaken and the village is burned to the ground," Retired Toms River Historian Mark Mutter explained to WOBM News in June of 2017.
He said the British Troops burned the village to the ground and overtook the coveted blockhouse, and then took Huddy who was there defending it, to a prison ship in New York Harbor.
"Several weeks later he was removed from that prison ship and summarily hung," Mutter said.
He explains that Huddy, the villages hero,"without justice, without trial Huddy was hanged by the British setting off an international incident that goes all the way to Paris where the peace talks were ongoing to wrap up the Revolutionary War."
One of the reasons the British came after Huddy was because his impact on the war was so great in favor of the American forces, he had become a major thorn in the side of British troops throughout the entire war, "whether on land or at sea," Mutter said. "He was notorious for a long time but that's why the Americans wanted him to come here because he was quite successful. That's why the British came here as well because he was quite successful."
Huddy Park was purchased by the township of Toms River (Dover Township) in 1905 following a voter referendum and was named in honor of its hero.
"Toms River was a target because we had salt works at Barnegat Bay that go into the manufacturing of ammunition and gun powder for the Revolutionary Army," Toms River Mayor Tom Kelaher explained.
The panels in 2019 inside Huddy Park take residents and visitors on a journey of the park’s history and include background on Toms River’s first municipal park, the Luker Bridge, how Huddy’s hanging stalled the Peace Talks in Paris and a panel on Captain Joshua Huddy himself.
There are six total panels in the township, five of which, are located in Huddy Park.
The sixth and final panel describes the Pennsylvania Salt Works and will be located in Shelter Cove Park.
"We have one more to go up at Shelter Cover because that's the spot where the salt works were that the British wanted to destroy," Kelaher said.
The legendary story of Joshua Huddy and the village of Toms River is something township officials are hoping to continue finding ways to share for years to come.
"Toms River has some rich history and it would be a shame if that whole story evaporated because of a failure to repeat it," Kelaher said. "We're open to continuing to do anything we can to maintain that history within the community."
Mark Anthony contributed to this story.