OCEAN COUNTY – How many monuments are there in Ocean County? That was a simple enough question that led to a three-year scavenger hunt for members of the Junior Historical Society, who photographed and catalogued them all.
They managed to find 157 monuments in Ocean County’s 33 municipalities. The result of this search is a book called “A Photo Journal Of Monuments And Memorials Of Ocean County, New Jersey.”
The Junior members Faith Hennig, Sara Lee Da Ponte, Samantha Trembley, and Katlyin Rae were involved in the project. Historical Society members Grace Towery, Jane Loihle, and Frank Parks are also acknowledged.
Heather Zbikowski, of Forked River, did a lot of the research and typed up the book. Her neighbor, Barbara Moreau, got her interested in history when she was 10. “It’s probably one of my favorite things to do in school,” she said. A sophomore in high school, she plans on studying neurology upon graduation.
The group wanted a project to do over the summer, Zbikowski said, “and it turned into three years.”
Part of this was people kept coming up with more monuments. For example, the new well commemorating Beachwood’s 100th birthday and the Protectors of Freedom monument in Bey Lea Park in Toms River were so new that they didn’t even get into this book.
“People kept adding more and we had to keep adding pages and it kept getting bigger,” Zbikowski said.
“We had a lot of questions about what we saw and why it was there,” she said, remarking about “how many things can relate back to where we are.”
For example, in her home town in Lacey, there is a Wall of Freedom, of people who were lost. There were a lot of familiar last names. It puts things in perspective.
Some were harder to find than others. One was covered in sand. It read “The waters of Old Cranberry Inlet flowed on this approximate site circa 1750-1812.”
The group had learned of a statue of a Native American that was somewhere around Great Bay Boulevard and Route 9 in Tuckerton. They scoured the side of the road, and the corners of the intersection before realizing it was right there in the middle of the road. It was called the “Memorial to all members of the Improved Order of Red Men,” and it listed different tribes who lost members in “the World War 1917-1919.”
There are religious ones like Padre Pio and various Biblical figures. Pretty much every major war has at least one memorial, as well as every branch of the military. Some of them are lifelike statues. Some of them are do-it-yourself, like the painted rock of Lacey.
There are a lot that commemorate solemn moments in history. For example, there’s a small plaque where the Hindenburg crashed in Lakehurst and a Holocaust memorial in Lakewood. There’s the Angel in Anguish, located at Windward Beach in Brick, that commemorates the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. There are also some places in Ocean County that have pieces of the World Trade Center.
Some of these tragedies have been lost to living memory, cast only in stone and bronze. There’s the memorial on Ocean Road in Point Pleasant that reads “In memoriam to the victims of the Packet Minturn, lost at sea in a storm off our coast, Feb. 15, 1846.”
They span centuries. Brick has a monument marking the summer meeting place of the Lenni Lenape and monuments in memory of the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters.
Occasionally, though, you’ll find one that celebrates something positive, such as the firefighter in downtown Toms River, the Little Leaguer in the Ocean County Mall, the tourists on Route 37, or the statue that celebrates “Human Endeavor” in Toms River.
Some of the monuments are very curious. For example, there’s a memorial to “Candor,” the first horse of Stanley Dancer. The “Alleged Geographical Center of Ocean County” is apparently on Evergreen Road in Plumsted. Island Heights’ former Wanamaker camp ground had a monument for the Battle of Verdun. There is a memorial for the blind in Toms River that is written in braille. And then there’s the torpedo in South Toms River.
Lacey and Toms River seem to have the most monuments, said Ocean County Historical Society member Barbara Moreau.
Brian Hanlon, the local sculptor, was responsible for quite a lot of them. Moreau personally thanked him for his help in this project.
The juniors looked them up in the library, Moreau said, and then talked to people in towns to find more.
The book itself is a monument, dedicated to Moreau’s late husband, William, for his help with the Juniors.
Moreau related how excited the students get when they do research and learn something new.
“I wanted children to be proud of their history,” she said. “They need to know about the past.”
The book will be on display and on sale at the Ocean County Historical Society museum at 26 Hadley Ave.
Youth and adults who are interested in helping the historical society can call them at 732-341-1880.