muriel j smith 120aHighlands was officially a brand-new town on its own on June 4, 1900, when Richard Lufburrow came to town to take the census. He was the official recorder for the United States and was there with a small staff to enroll the new citizens of Highlands in the 12th census of the nation.

Local historian and author John P. King wrote an essay on the first census with plans to include it in an anthology he was writing more than 20 years ago, and his notes are fascinating and complete.  His tales of murder and mayhem and other wicked stories about Highlands are great books filled with fun facts and some not so fun.

John N. Riker had the distinction of being the first Highlander to be registered in the first census in the borough which was incorporated in 1900, 13 years after Atlantic Highlands also split from the Middletown Township to which both communities belonged.

There was no dispute over it then…. every census taker was instructed to not only ask, in question number 13, the place of birth for the head of the house, but also the place of birth of both his father and his mother. Then in questions 16 through 18, persons answering the census taker had to also give the year of immigration, the number of years living in the United States, and whether he or she is naturalized or not.   In all, there were 28 areas for which information was asked and given. Census takers had to record the color, race, sex, marital status and age of each person in the household, show how long the couple was married and many children the female had. They had to identify how much education each had, in months, if they could read, write and speak English. The place of residence had to be identified as either rented, or if owned, whether they had a mortgage.

For Mr. Riker who a councilman at the time was and for whom a street near Navesink Avenue in the Waterwitch section is named, the questions were easy. He was born in New York City, as were both his parents, he was 53 years old, married 33 years, had two children, was a white male and head of the household.  He was a hotel proprietor, and owned a mortgaged home, as well as could read, write and speak English. Mayor Bahrs added some more facts about Mr. Riker: it was the Thompson Hotel he owned, the son-n-law of the founding owner of the hotel, Joseph T. Thompson, and he bought it at auction for $26,275.

john p king

Local historian and author John P. King

The census showed there were 197 families or households in town, for a total population of 848 persons, with 98.2 percent of them white. Black is the only other race listed, and the census indicated there were 15 black persons living in Highlands. There were just about an even number of men and women, and most families consisted of two parents with only 26 households headed by a single parent, primarily because of the death of the other. Four households recorded divorcees and another five persons were married but separated.  Records showed women outlived men, since there were 13 widows and only two widowers heading up homes; there were another 26 other widows or widowers living with either their children or their parents.

There were 343 offspring under 18 years of age living in the borough then, with just over 40 percent of population pre-school age, and another 41 per cent between the ages of 5 and 13.  There were 29 girls and 31 boys of high school age in the borough in 1900 though only 36 of them were actually enrolled.  Those who weren’t in school were employed, either as boatmen, clammers, teamsters, clerks, housekeepers, laborers drivers, plumbers, waitresses or milliners.

John Druman, an Irish immigrant, had the honor of being Highlands’ oldest resident at the time of the census, born in February 1820. And the 1900 figures showed that at age 80, he was still employed as a laborer.   Twin girls were the youngest Highlanders, and their parents Jessie and Stephen Murray reported they were so recently born that they did not even been named yet.

The first person to being able to brag about being born in Highlands, meaning after it was incorporated, was Francis McCann, daughter of Edwin and Annie E. McCann. She was April 1, 1900. The borough’s official incorporation date is March 22, 1900.

The census also shows why Highlands has long been known as Parkertown. There were 63 people answering to the name Parker, or just over seven per cent of the total population. They came from 126 different Parker households in town at the time.