A Brief History and Overview
Buena Vista Township
(written by Mayor Chuck Chiarello, January 1997
updated November 2012)
In 1692 this area was part of Cape May County. By 1694 we were part of Gloucester County. In 1695 our area was called Great Egg Harbor, which was also known as New Weymouth. In 1798 we became part of Weymouth Township until 1813 when we became part of Hamilton Township. In 1837 Atlantic County was formed. On March 5, 1867 Buena Vista Township, Atlantic County was established, separating from Hamilton. Buena Vista Township today is somewhat smaller than it was when it was originally established in 1867. At that time, the areas that we know today as Folsom and Buena Borough were part of Buena Vista Township. In 1906 Folsom separated from the Township followed by Buena Borough in 1949. The earliest settlements in Buena Vista Township can be traced to a pristine body of water known as Deep Run in the Pancoast Mill area.
Wildlife and rare species can be found in this particular portion of the Township. Deep Run (part of the Great Egg Harbor River system) lent itself to an early sawmill being developed by John Campbell. Campbell originally bought land in Buena Vista Township in 1773. In 1779, he opened a tavern known as “Ye Olde Midway Inn”. In 1774, the Methodist Church (Friendship Church) was established by Aguilla Down and Ambrose Pancoast. The original Friendship Church and the sight of the modern day Midway Inn, are now in Buena Borough.
The Buena Vista School District was established in 1866, one year prior to Buena Vista Township being created. Several original school buildings in the Township still exist, though the earliest ones prior to 1900 are no longer standing. The school in Milmay is now a private home and was built around 1915. The first school in Newtonville still stands on Jackson Road at 10th Street, and is now a private home too.
The area known as Newtonville was planned to be developed by an acquaintance of Charles Landis, the developer of Vineland, but it never bloomed to its anticipated level. Newtonville has several historical cemeteries. The Collings Lakes area was originally cranberry bogs that were later filled to make lakes. A housing community was developed around the bogs there in the 1950’s. Buena Vista Township’s farmlands in Richland, East Vineland and Milmay truly put the word “garden” in the Garden State. Our area is noted for its tomatoes, corn, peppers and other vegetables. In our modern era, we also grow a variety of unusual vegetables for specialty purposes and greenhouse operations offer a wide variety of flowers and plants. The name Buena Vista, which means “good vision”, was originally introduced to this area after the Mexican War by George B. Cake, a hotel owner, in 1848.
Buena Vista Township has a diverse, cultural background. With residents of almost every religion. Our earliest settlers were Dutch and Swedish, followed by English and Scottish, African Americans, Germans, Irish and Welsh. Later came the Italians, Jews, Russians and Puerto Ricans. In 1953 a Russian community, New Kuban, was established on Weymouth Road.
We have vast farmlands, beautiful Pinelands, wildlife, precious bodies of water and even beaches in Collings Lakes. While most people perceive this area to be flat, we are actually on higher ground than many areas in Southern New Jersey. In the farmlands of Milmay, East Vineland and Richland, several rivers have their headwaters (starting point). The Manumaskin Drainage Basin (part of the Maurice River) along with the Tuckahoe and South Rivers (tributaries of the Great Egg Harbor River) are significant in their environmental impact to the region and start in Buena Vista.
The original reason that people came to this area was the soil that was available for farming and the sand which helped produce both sand mining operations and glass manufacturing plants. Today, soil and sand are still the primary businesses in Buena Vista Township. Farms are abundant and companies such as Comar and Wilmad Glass are examples that the specialty glass and plastics industry is still in Buena Vista.
In modern times, Buena Vista Township employment is made up of people in all different backgrounds – from laborers and farmers, to business and professional people, as well as, casino employees. Our children are educated by the Buena Regional School District which serves both Buena Vista and Buena Borough as well as students in Estell Manor, Weymouth and Newfield. We are also home to the St. Augustine Prep School in Richland and St. Mary’s Regional School in East Vineland.
The logo on the Township banner shows an eagle that symbolizes the Township’s strength and states the slogan: “44 miles of Opportunity”. In actuality, the size of the Township is under 42 square miles. In the year 2010 our population was 7,570 residents with about 2,545 homes plus 547 mobile home units. Ninety percent of Buena Vista Township is located within the confines of the area known as the Pinelands. The area to the west of Union Road in East Vineland is the only portion of the Township that is outside the Pinelands. The Pinelands is a natural land reserve covering 53 towns in 7 counties in southern and central New Jersey. Beneath the Pinelands is the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer, the largest underground supply of water on the east coast of the United States.
The Township is served by the New Jersey State Police. On November 8, 1996, the New Jersey State Police opened Troop A Headquarters, serving all of South Jersey, on Route 54 in Buena Vista. The facility includes barracks, administrative offices, vehicle maintenance, heliport and a target range. Five volunteer fire companies service the Township: Richland, East Vineland, Newtonville, Collings Lakes, and Milmay. Each fire district has commissioners that are elected by residents within their boundaries. Tax dollars and donations are used to operate the fire companies. Four volunteer rescue squads service the Township but do not receive direct taxpayer dollars, only contributions from the Township, Fire Districts and the public. The Collings Lakes Fire Rescue and the BVT EMS are based in our Township. The BVT EMS is a joint effort of the East Vineland and Richland Fire Companies and started operations in 2000. Collings Lakes Fire Rescue operates the former Collings Lakes Ambulance Association. The Milmay area is served by the Dorothy Rescue Squad. Mutual aid is also provided to the Township by the Buena Borough EMS in Buena Borough and AtlantiCare in the Collings Lakes area.
In 1998, the Dr. Martin Luther King Community Center opened in Newtonville and was joined in 2003 by the African American Heritage Museum at the same site. The Center features Community Programs and The Western Atlantic Parent-Family Network operated by the Family Services Association. Our community has a “Township Committee” form of government. There are six voting districts. Five Township Committee members are elected for staggered three-year terms to serve our residents. Each committee member is elected “at-large”, meaning that voters from all districts of the Township vote on their elected leaders. The Township re-organizes each January. A member of the Township committee is selected to act as Chairperson/Mayor of Buena Vista. An additional member of the Committee is chosen to be Vice-Chairperson/Deputy Mayor. The Township Committee is the decision-making body for the government of Buena Vista Township. All daily operations are handled by the Township Administrator, as well as, the various department heads. All business for the Township passes through the Township Committee, which acts on laws applicable to our community that are established by the State of New Jersey.
Many people identify Buena Vista Township by the area they live in, such as Buena, Richland, Milmay, East Vineland, Newtonville, Collings Lakes, New Kuban, Lake Ann, or Buena Acres. Buena Vista Township is served by 10 post offices including: Buena, Milmay, Richland, Newtonville, Williamstown, Newfield, Mays Landing, Minotola, Landisville and Vineland. We are located in the western end of Atlantic County on the border with Cumberland and Gloucester counties. Our voters cast ballots in New Jersey’s 2nd Legislative District and nationally in the 2nd Congressional District. Our community has two telephone area codes (609) and (856). The Richland Village Project broke ground on November 23, 2004. It includes redevelopment along US Route 40 and the restoration of excursion train service which started again on October 8, 2005. Richland Village is also home of the Patcong Valley Model Railroad and the 100 year old Richland General Store.
At the writing of this brief history, Buena Vista Township is 145 years old. In 1967, the 100th Anniversary of the Township was celebrated and was quite a festive occasion. As a resident of Buena Vista Township, you can feel proud of the history and culture that your community has inherited.