History of the Toll House Located at Oakley Museum
The Toll House located on the property of the Oakley Farm in Freehold Township is one of only 2 remaining in the State of New Jersey as of 2006. It was built circa 1850. Toll Houses came into being in the mid to late 18th century. They were usually owned and operated by a cooperative of farmers living along a main road. The farmers would 'man the gate' and charge $0.05 for single horse and $0.10 for 2 horses.
The reason for the Toll House was to help the farmers pay for upkeep of the road. In the early days of travel, all roads were dirt, clay, sand, etc. If they were not kept graded (level), the horse could possibly break an ankle or you could lose a wheel on the buggy or wagon and it could take several days to get it fixed. If your horse broke an ankle or leg, you would have no transportation. Therefore, it was in the best interest of the farmers to have the road kept up. It is not known how many of these structures were in the state originally, but suffice it to say that they were probably stationed along all major thoroughfares in the state.
The Toll House located at Oakley Farm once stood at the corner of Route 537 and Burlington Road and is a Historic Landmark Site. The present Main Street (Route 537) was built in 1798. It was nothing but 2 tracks through sandy soil. The original road, or trail (also known as the Burlington Path), traversed between the present Administration Building for Township Schools (on Route 537 and also known as the original West Freehold School, circa 1935) and the Barkalow School on Stillwells Corner Road. It continued past the Baptist Cemetery on Barkalow Avenue and came out on W Main Street in Freehold at McLean Street.
This new road, from Freehold to Smithburg (5 miles), was called the Freehold-Smithburg Turnpike and was a toll road. There was a Toll House and Gate at West Freehold Village intersection, diagonally across from the original Moore's Tavern/Inn. This establishment was originally built by Moses Mount around 1793, and at that time West Freehold was known as Mount's Corner.
Although the Tollhouse was on the Northeast Corner, the gate was hinged on the opposite Southeast Corner of the road. The toll keeper would collect fees and turn them over to the shareholders of the cooperative for a return on their investment and for upkeep of the road.
At Elk's Point in what is now Freehold Boro, there was a plank road on the westerly side of the Burlington Path (Main Street) which is now known as Route 79. Those who did not choose to pay the toll used the old and poorer road alongside. By the 1850s, roads in the area included the Matawan to Freehold Road (Route79), the Lakewood to Freehold Road and the Jamesburg to Freehold Road (Route522). These were all dirt roads at that time.
On February 20, 1850, the Monmouth County Plank Road Company was incorporated to build a plank road from Freehold Village (boro) through Marlboro village into what was then known as Middletown Point (now Matawan).