With over 37,000 residents, Galloway Township is one of the largest municpalities in Atlantic County. At one time, all of Atlantic County was essentially part of Galloway.
“Absecon, Port Republic, Egg Harbor City, Mullica Township, Hammonton and Brigantine at one point were all part of Galloway Township,” Galloway Historical Club President Robert Reid said Monday afternoon, Jan. 14.
Since then, the different municipalities have broken out on their own. Galloway became a municipality of 8,000 people. The population has grown by about 31,000 people.
“Most people have moved in to the township from somewhere else,” Reid said.
As a result, many people identify more with the area of the township they are from, saying they are from Pomona, Germania, Smithville, Conovertown or Leeds Point, rather than Galloway Township.
It’s this type of “identity crisis” Reid wants to see disappear from the township. At the same time, he believes in the need to instill a sense of history to the township, as he has helped do in Absecon.
In that vein, the Galloway Historical Society has begun to hold a monthly Open House on the second Saturday of every month. The first was in December, and the most recent was on Saturday, Jan. 12. The next is on Saturday, Feb. 9. All Open Houses are held at the Elaine Conover Abrahamson Historical Room at the Galloway Municipal Complex, 300 East Jimmie Leeds Road, and there are nine of them over the course of the year.
The society also holds meetings in that same location, the most recent taking place Monday night.
Reid was pleased with the turnout for Saturday’s Open House.
“A great number of people showed up,” Reid said. “We scanned old photos and heard some great stories. We collect artifacts and old documents.”
Reid added there were photos of the police from 1954 and 1957, and residents were helping each other identify people in each other’s old photographs. People came to the Open House from Absecon and Egg Harbor City. In the past, people from Galloway were donating items to the Absecon Historical Society, Reid said.
The Absecon Historical Society has seen great success. It has grown in popularity. It is based out of Howlett Hall, and has become self-sustaining, according to Reid.
Conversely, Reid, president of the Galloway Historical Society since 1992 and of the Absecon Historical Society for the last six years, didn’t have great expectations for the Open House due to the Galloway Historical Society’s … well, history.
“We used to have meetings and only five or six people would show up,” Reid said. “Now we have Open Houses and 40, 50, 60 people show up. “
As of Monday night, the society’s Facebook Page Historic Galloway had 116 members. The society is looking for members to show up for meetings, and Reid feels things are looking up.
“Council seems interested in what we’re doing, and people seem interested,” Reid said.
Reid, a planner and surveyor, knows the importance of knowing and understanding history.
“If you don’t know where you’ve been, how can you project where you’re going,” Reid said. “You have to be able to look at history and see how things have developed. That helps you alter history. … It’s important to study history.”
The Galloway Historical Society is an apolitical group that is an agency within Galloway Township’s government that elects its own officers.
“We control our own destiny,” Reid said.
Reid hopes that destiny includes the Galloway Historical Society becoming as big and successful as the Absecon Historical Society.
Annual membership for the Galloway Township Historical Society is $20 for an individual, $25 for a family and $50 for a business. Lifetime membership is $500, and to be named as a Benefactor, which includes a lifetime membership, costs $1,000.
Checks can be made payable to Galloway Twp. Historical Society. Contributions can be mailed to the Galloway Historical Society, 366 Upland Avenue, Galloway, NJ 08205.
A sample membership ballot is attached to this story as a PDF.