More than 300 years ago, the first farms and small settlements began to appear in this part of South Jersey. Gradually, more people began moving to this area, and by the mid 19th century the site where present-day
Merchantville is located had been incorporated into a large municipality called Waterford Township. In 1859, a piece of land that included the newly settled village of Merchantville broke off from Waterford Township and became Stockton Township. Meanwhile, the Moorestown-Camden Turnpike, which opened in 1851, was making this area increasingly attractive potential residents, and between 1852 and 1860 a group of men who would be among Merchantville’s earliest residents and founding fathers – Patrick Cunningham, Samuel McFadden, Jon Loutey, Frederick Gerker and Matthias Homer – purchased extensive tracts of land along the turnpike. Another major impetus for settlement in this area was completion of the Camden & Burlington Railroad in 1867. This provided good transportation from Philadelphia and Camden, and helped spur growth in the community. Residents of Philadelphia were particularly attracted to the town, where they built both permanent and summer homes.
In 1857, at the home of Philadelphia merchant John Louty, several citizens had met to decide on a name for their little community. As the story goes, they had almost agreed on “Martinsville, in honor of Ben Martin, the popular owner of a local pub called the Stockton House. But John’s wife, Rebecca, suggested that a more appropriate name would be “Merchantville,” since the founding fathers were all merchants. The group agreed, and so it happened that this community is known as Merchantville, and not Martinsville.
By the early 1870s, many of Merchantville’s approximately 400 residents had grown unhappy about being part of Stockton Township because they felt their taxes were not being spent on improvements to their town. So George Crump, an interested resident who served as England’s vice consul to Philadelphia, drew up a proposed charter for self-rule. In the spring of 1874, he and six other residents took this document to Trenton, where the legislature gave its approval. This led to the Borough of Merchantville’s incorporation on May 18, 1874.
Over the past decades Merchantville has continued to thrive and grow. In April 2024, our town celebrates its 150th birthday. The borough today has 3,800 residents and continues to maintain the same friendly charm it had at its founding. At the same time, it looks forward with great optimism to the progress it expects to make in the years to come.