History of the County Clerk’s Office

     The earliest settlers of Gloucester County, New Jersey were the Dutch circa 1623, followed by the Swedes and the Finns in 1638.  In 1664 the English became the owners of New Jersey and divided the state into areas of tenths.  The third and the fourth tenths of New Jersey became Gloucester County on May 28, 1686 when a court was established at Arwames (present day Gloucester City).  During this time Gloucester County encompassed both Atlantic and Camden Counties with a jurisdiction extending from Pennsauken Creek to Oldman’s Creek, from the Delaware River to the Atlantic Ocean.    

     In 1686 the settlers chose John Reading as the first County Clerk who remained the Clerk until 1704. At this time the Clerk served as a register who kept exact entries and records of all public affairs.  The County Clerk was also the official register of court records including the Court of Common Pleas, Court of Oyer and Terminer, Small Cause Court, and Court of General Quarter/Quarterly Sessions.  In addition, the County Clerk kept various other records of public affairs including Tavern Licenses, Slave Manumissions, Dockets, Marriage Reports, Judgments, Indictments, Affidavits, Bonds, Oaths, Roads, and Inquisitions.

     Regarding land records, County Clerks were required by law to file copies of deeds beginning in 1785 and copies of mortgages beginning in 1766.  Unfortunately, Gloucester County’s earliest colonial records from 1686 onward (including some land records) were destroyed when the first courthouse and jail caught fire in 1786.  Although most of the county’s first hundred years of records were destroyed, the County Clerk’s Office still has the first deed purchased by the newly formed United States government for a fort at Billingsport used to protect the river approaches to Philadelphia. The deed is between Margarett Paul, a widow, and her son, and the Thirteen United Colonies of America and the Continental Congress of Philadelphia, recorded in Deed Book C dated July 5, 1776.                 

     Prior to the American Revolution, all Clerks served under the Crown of England and were typically appointed.  William Scott became the first elected Clerk in 1847, and so far, eleven elected Clerks have followed. To date, there has been a total of thirty one County Clerks.    Below is a list of all Gloucester County Clerk’s along with the year they were appointed or took elected office:

Gloucester County Clerks 

Under the Crown of England

John Reading  1686 Richard Bull 1704
Edward Kemps 1705 John Spey 1706
Thomas Sharp 1714 Gervas Hall 1723
John Ladd, Jr. 1726 Samuel Mickle 1770
James Bowman  1771 Josiah  Davenport 1774

American Revolution

Joseph Hugg 1776 Elisha Clark 1781
Charges Ogden 1805 Thomas Hendry 1815
Jeremiah Foster  1820 John Smallwood 1825
Joseph Sailer 1835 Henry Bradshaw 1837

Elected Clerks

William Scott 1847 Josiah Franklin 1857
S.P. Loudenslager 1872 H.C. Loudenslager  1882
Frank Ridgway 1887 Edward Sturgess 1907
James Lafferty 1912 Oliver J. West 1917
R. Edward Klaisz 1932 Melvin Kirkbride 1957
Joseph J. Hoffman 1962 James N. Hogan  1998