County Government in New Jersey is organized around the semi-legislative Board of Chosen Freeholders, the elected administrative officials of the County. The term FREEHOLDER, as applied to a County Official, is derived from a practice in medieval England. There, a Freeholder was a person who held certain rights in real property. Only Freeholders were eligible for membership on the County Governing Body. This conception followed the English to the shores of New Jersey, and the County Governmental Body became known as the Board of Justices and Chosen Freeholders. The Justices of Peace who joined with the Chosen Freeholders in forming the Board, were appointed rather than elected by the popular vote, as were the two Freeholders chosen from each municipality in the County. The legislature in 1798 abolished the Board as constituted. A Board of Chosen Freeholders composed of one elected representative from each municipality in the county, who assumed the powers and jurisdiction of the old Board of Justices and Chosen Freeholders. The proper qualification was later dropped, but the title was continued. In 1902, permissive state legislation allowed a county to change the composition of its Board of Chosen Freeholders from one member representing each town and township to that of three to nine elected members for the County at large.
Hunterdon County has been governed by the above forms of County Government during the 275 years of its existence. Among the men of distinction that have served as Hunterdon’s Freeholders and Justices are William Trent, for whom Trenton is named; Phillip Ringoes, early trader and settler in Amwell Township; Colonel John Mehelm, Colonel Thomas Lowry, Colonel Isaac Smith, Colonel David Schomp, all of Revolutionary War fame; John Hart, signer of the Declaration of Independence; and U.S. Senator John Lambert.
The minutes of the Board of Justices and Chosen Freeholders of Hunterdon County begin with the May 1739 meeting as recorded in a leather-bond volume, and are continued to the present date. Much of the information recorded reflects the condition of affairs and the thinking of the people of Hunterdon County throughout the years. In the beginning, the Board met once a year in May at the Hunterdon County Courthouse. Occasionally, a special meeting would be called at another place. When not meeting in the Courthouse, the Board generally met at a tavern convenient to the location requiring the attention, such as a bridge site.
The early Freeholders served without pay, which they “looked upon as a grievance,” in 1792 that the sum of shillings 6 pence per meeting be allowed for expenses for each member in attendance.
New Jersey Gutter is licensed in these municipalities of Hunterdon County:
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