Architectural historian works to preserve Marshalltown
Mannington Township in Salem County has a population of 1,800 - but is home to a vanishing village with an important history and a woman who is working hard to make sure it's not forgotten.
Marshalltown was once a community of free Black people founded in the 1830s. It was named after Thomas Marshall, who settled in the area and managed to buy more than 100 acres of land.
There were a few dozen houses, farms, two churches, a school, two stores and post office. Only one house, one church and a one-room schoolhouse remain in the village today.
For more than a decade, architectural historian Janet Sheridan has painstakingly worked to document and preserve Marshalltown and its history.
Last month, she was honored by the organization Preservation New Jersey for getting the village listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. That designation makes it eligible for grants to preserve the buildings and possibly put up interpretive signs or kiosks telling visitors about its history.
Marshalltown was part of a larger trend called the first emancipation - of which South Jersey, so close to the south and with a strong abolitionist Quaker influence, played a large part.
Sheridan believes it was a likely stop on the Underground Railroad.
"Marshalltown is a place where Black people exercised agency of their own to create institutions and establish respectability and advocate for abolition and be activists," Sheridan says. "I think that really symbolizes what this is."
The village was formed due to racial discrimination. Marshalltown saw a decline in the 20th century as farmers moved away to take jobs in factories.
A few descendants still live in the area.
Marshalltown was never incorporated as an actual town by the state. It remains part of Mannington Township.