The History of the Borough of Pine Hill
At one time we were a part of Old Gloucester County as Gloucester Township, incorporated in 1695. The towns that made up Gloucester Township were Clementon, Lindenwold, Pine Hill, Pine Valley, Laurel Springs, HiNella, Magnolia, Somerdale, and Winslow. Then in 1903, we became part of Clementon Township. Clementon Township consisted of Pine Hill, Pine Valley, Somerdale, Stratford, Lindenwold, Clementon and HiNella. In past years we have been called Mount Ararat or Clementon Heights. We became the Borough of Pine Hill by incorporating in 1929.
We are bordered by six municipalities, Lindenwold, Clementon, Pine Valley, Berlin, Gloucester and Winslow Townships. The largest boundary is with Gloucester Township and the second largest is Winslow Township. The New Jersey Almanac tells us that Pine Hill has the highest point in Camden County at 214 feet. There are several areas in the municipality where you can see the skyline of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Because of the many pine tree and hills we were named “Pine Hill”. People came here for health reasons and vacations. Pine Hill was considered to have a healthy climate. Some visitors with health problems, especially those with tuberculosis came because of the clean air and others would lie in the hot sand located amongst the pine trees.
The first meeting of the Mayor and Council for the Borough of Pine Hill was held in an old school house on Sixth Avenue on June 5, 1929. One of the first orders of business, after a salary ordinance, was to pass an ordinance to require all residents to remove trees, tree stumps and roots, from the streets and public highway by August 1, 1930 or be fined $5.00 upon conviction of this offense.
In the early years because there was no running water, people collected rainwater in barrels for washing clothes, hair and bathing. Hand pumps located outside were used to “pump water” for drinking. Eventually wells were dug to have water piped inside the houses.
People cooked and heated their homes with fireplaces or by using wood or coal in large iron stoves. As time progressed and furnaces were installed they heated by using coal or fuel oil. “Oil Stoves” were used to cook with when coal became scarce. Candles or oil lamps were used for light. Eventually there were electric and gas lines put in town. The governing body granted consent and permission to the South Jersey Gas Company to furnish gas for light, heat and power by an ordinance adopted in October, 1947.
To preserve food a metal box that protruded from a window called “window boxes” were used and later in more modern times the “ice box”. The iceman would deliver a block of ice to keep the icebox cold for ten or fifteen cents, depending on the size you could afford. The water from the melting ice would drain in to a pan under the box and would have to be emptied.
Instead of warm bathrooms, people would have to use what they called “out houses”. A hole was dug and a small wooden house was built over the hole. Instead of having a sink they put water in a basin or large pottery bowl to take what they called “sponge baths”. Before street lights were installed and, in the event they wanted to take a shower, in the summer time, they would stand outside during a late night rain storm and use the water that would run off the roof of the house.
Long before anyone heard of toxic waste, residents would dig large holes in their back yards to bury their trash and garbage and they would burn their leaves in the Spring and Fall. Burning was also used to control ticks and to clear brush and weeds on their property. We now have a very strong environmental and recycling program in town.
The first telephone service was “party lines”, which means there was more than one family or person using the same telephone number. There are residents that over the course of years have found arrowheads and pottery from when the Leni Lenape Indians lived here. We have a small graveyard in the borough that is still owned and maintained by the family of one of the first settlers by the name of Issac Tomlinson. One of the houses that was occupied by the Tomlinson family in the 1800’s is still standing on Blackwood Clementon Road. The Borough of Pine Hill purchased the “Tomlinson House” in November 2000 with a grant received from the County of Camden. The property will be restored and used as a museum.
There is a monument located on the corner of Erial Road and Branch Avenue to honor Veteran’s killed in the Wars, this area is called Veteran’s Memorial Park. The first “Honor Roll” to honor the men serving during WWII was located on the corner of 6th and Erial Road and built by one of the residents in 1944 for a cost of $185.00.
For recreation there is a large football field/soccer field/tot playground and walking paths called the Charlie Bowen Recreation Complex located at 36 South Club Road, the Joey Green baseball fields, Turnerville Road, Mayor Stephen W. Wilz Playground, 18 DeCou Road and the West Fifth Avenue Playground, 15 W. 5th Avenue, for tots to twelve years old. The playgrounds for the elementary schools, one located on Kayser Avenue and the other on Turnerville Road are also used by the residents. The Overbrook High School track is used for a walking path during the evening and on weekends. The recreation center located at the municipal complex is leased to the Youth Association of Pine Hill.
At this point in time we have sixty business’ in town including a golf course designed by Tom Fasio with a restaurant on the old “Ski/Action Mountain” site on Branch Avenue, a Fitness Center on Blackwood Clementon Road and a Bank located on Erial Road.
Water and sewer service is provided by the Borough of Pine Hill Municipal Utilities Authority. The Authority is a separate entity from the Borough of Pine Hill, with a five member board appointed by the governing body created in March, 1959. Aquifers used by the Authority are the Potomac Raritan-Magonthy and the Mt. Laurel-Wenonah. They operate five wells that are located on Turnerville Road, Country Club Road and Mt. Clement Avenue.
The Pine Hill Board of Education, 1003 Turnerville Road controls the Local School District consisting of the John Glenn School, 1005 Turnerville Road, the Dr. Albert Bean School, 70 E. Third Avenue, and the Overbrook H.S. and Middle school, Saint Edwards Parochial School, 400 Erial Road a preschool to eight grade closed in 2000.
Lower Camden County Regional High School District Number One, was made up of seven sending districts and controlled, among others the Overbrook Senior High School at 1200 Turnerville Road in Pine Hill. The residents of the seven sending districts, made up of Pine Hill, Clementon, Berlin, Winslow Township, Chesilhurst, Lindenwold and Waterford Township voted to dissolve the regional district effective as of July 1, 2001 and Pine Hill received the Overbrook Senior High School as part of the distribution of assets of the district.
The newly built Pine Hill Middle school was dedicated on November 10, 2001.
The Local elementary schools have one of the highest ratings in the State of New Jersey, at this time.
The first Fire District Number 1 was established in 1987. It is governed by five Fire Commissioners that are elected at large. The Fire Commission appoints the Fire Chief, controls the fire budget, owns the fire equipment and fire trucks. The Fire District leases the buildings owned by the Pine Hill Fire Department to house their trucks and equipment.
The Pine Hill Fire Department has one building that is located at1109 Erial Road. The Department is made up of a day time career staff and many active and inactive volunteers as fire fighters. They require their volunteers to have training by the State of New Jersey. The Department also provide residents with emergency medical services, part paid services with paid Emergency Medical Technicians, and part volunteer service in the evening hours. Over the years many men and women volunteers have been fire fighters , as well as being a big part of the volunteer emergency service program.
The Borough of Pine Hill Police Department today is comprised of twenty four men and women. The Chief of Police, one Captain, four Sergeants, two Detectives and sixteen patrolmen. In 1929 constables or special officers would enforce the law as the paid Pine Hill Police Department was not established until May, 1944. In 1944 the police force consisted of a Chief and one patrolman. In August, 1954 the force became a Chief and one Sergeant.
There is a legend that at one time the notorious gangster Al Capone stayed in a house located in a secluded area of the borough during the twenties. Municipal Court was established in 1948 when the State of New Jersey with the new constitution abolished the small cause courts and Justices of the Peace. The Court would be known as the “Municipal Court of the Borough of Pine Hill” and presided over by a Magistrate, who would be paid an annual salary of $200.00.
The borough provides a Senior Citizen Center Building located at 131 E. Twelfth Avenue. The seniors hold their weekly meetings every Friday and use the building for their special events. The County of Camden sponsors a nutrition program four days a week from the center.
There are five churches in town, Saint Edward’s Catholic Church, 500 Erial Road, Memorial United Methodist Church, 260 Erial Road, Amber Terrace Assembly of God (Full Gospel Community) Church, 24 DeCou Road, (Pine Hill Christian Missionary Alliance) Hope Chapel Church, 32 East Branch Avenue and Mater Ecclesiae Roman Catholic Church, 261 Cross Keys Road.
Pine Hill has four apartment complex, Mansions Apartments, 220 W. Branch Avenue, Pine Hill Gardens Apartments, 350 Blackwood Clementon Road, Chalet Garden Apartments, 320 W. Branch Avenue and the Chateau Ridge Apartments, 828 Blackwood Clementon Road. The Boy Scout’s of America own a 62 Acre reservation on New Freedom Road and there are several other organizations in the Borough, such as the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, Senior Citizen’s Clubs, Democrat Club, Republican Club, Youth Association, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts and the Pine Hill Historical Society.
Public information to the residents is provided by television E and G channel 19, a quarterly newsletter called the “Pine Hill Packet” and the Internet.
(If you find this history interesting, you may purchase an expanded version of this short history at the Municipal Clerk’s office. All donations for the “Short History of Pine Hill” will be used for the rehabilitation of the Tomlinson House.)