History of the County Clerk’s Office

Earliest Settlers

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 Oldmans Creek, from the Delaware River to the Atlantic Ocean.

Appointment of First Clerk

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.

Historical Records

In addition, the County Clerk kept various other records of public affairs including:

  • Affidavits
  • Bonds
  • Dockets
  • Indictments
  • Inquisitions
  • Judgments
  • Marriage Reports
  • Oaths
  • Roads
  • Slave Manumissions
  • Tavern Licenses

Land Records

Regarding land records, County Clerks were required by law to file copies of deeds beginning in 1785 and copies of mortgages beginning in 1766. The County Clerk's Office 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.

List of Gloucester Clerks

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:

  1. Under the Crown of England
  2. American Revolution
  3. Elected Clerks
  • 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