In 2006, Toms River was ranked by Morgan Quitno Press as the 15th safest city in the United States, of 369 cities nationwide. In 2007, Toms River was again ranked as the 14th-safest city in the United States of 371 cities nationwide.
Toms River can be seen in various TV and news media including MTV's Made and Jersey Shore (seasons 1,3,and 5), HBO's Boardwalk Empire and the original The Amityville Horror movie. In 1998, Toms River East Little League won the Little League World Series. The township has what is said to be the second largest Halloween parade in the world.
Toms River includes the ZIP Codes 08753, 08754, 08755, 08756, 08757 and 08739. Ortley Beach (Dover Beaches South) shares ZIP code 08751 with Seaside Heights. Manchester Township does not have its own Post Office, and parts of Manchester use a Toms River mailing address under ZIP code 08757.
Toms River has a humid subtropical climate, with hot, humid summers, mild winters, and warm springs and autumns. The township was severely affected by the damage brought by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. Many lowlying areas of the township, including Silverton and the downtown area, saw their worst flooding ever when the storm surge overwhelmed the Barnegat Bay up and down the Jersey Shore. The barrier islands, just across the bridge, suffered even worse devastation from the storm surge brought by the Hurricane.
There were 34,760 households, of which 28.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.4% were married couples living together, 11.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.9% were non-families. 25.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.58 and the average family size was 3.10.
In the township, 21.3% of the population were under the age of 18, 7.9% from 18 to 24, 23.8% from 25 to 44, 29.7% from 45 to 64, and 17.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43.0 years. For every 100 females there were 92.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.6 males.
The Census Bureau's 2006-2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $71,934 (with a margin of error of +/- $2,094) and the median family income was $83,924 (+/- $2,842). Males had a median income of $59,860 (+/- $2,733) versus $42,192 (+/- $2,081) for females. The per capita income for the township was $33,423 (+/- $926). About 4.5% of families and 5.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.4% of those under age 18 and 4.6% of those age 65 or over.
There were 33,510 households out of which 31.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.1% were married couples living together, 10.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.1% were non-families. 22.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.62 and the average family size was 3.09.
In the township the population was spread out with 23.3% under the age of 18, 7.2% from 18 to 24, 27.2% from 25 to 44, 25.1% from 45 to 64, and 17.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 92.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.1 males.
The median income for a household in the township was $54,776, and the median income for a family was $62,561. Males had a median income of $47,390 versus $30,834 for females. The per capita income for the township was $25,010. About 4.0% of families and 5.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.7% of those under age 18 and 6.1% of those age 65 or over.
Founding and early history
Much of the early history of the village of Toms River is obscured by conflicting stories. Various sources list the eponym of the town as either English captain William Toms, farmer and ferryman Thomas Luker, or a Native American named Tom. In 1992, as part of celebrations commemorating the township's 225th anniversary, official recognition was granted to the tradition that the "Tom" in "Toms River" was for Thomas Luker, who ran a ferry across Goose Creek (now the Toms River). During the 19th century, Toms River became a center for shipbuilding, whaling, fishing, and iron and lumber production. The settlement and the river were usually spelled "Tom's River" in its early days, though its current spelling has been standard since the middle of the 19th century.
Toms River was located in the southern section of the Township of Shrewsbury that obtained a royal charter to secede in 1767 and form Dover Township. During the American Revolutionary War, Toms River was home to a strategically important salt works that supplied colonial militias, as well as a base for privateer vessels that plundered British and Tory ships off the coast. In March 1782, a group of British and loyalist soldiers attacked a blockhouse along the river that housed the colonial militia and captured Captain Joshua Huddy, who was later hanged at Sandy Hook. Also destroyed were the salt works and most of the houses in the village. The incident greatly complicated the tense relationship between the British, loyalist, and colonial and was a factor in prolonging the peace negotiations that were then in progress in Paris until 1783.
The village of Toms River is listed on both the national and state registers of historic places.
Mid 19th and 20th centuries
Map of Toms River in 1878
In 1850, Toms River became the county seat of the newly created Ocean County when it was formed out of southern Monmouth County. During the second half of the 19th century and the early decades of the 20th, many new towns were carved out of Dover Township, including Brick, Jackson, Lakewood and Berkeley. The Village of Toms River attempted twice — in 1914 and 1926 — to secede from Dover Township, but residents were unsuccessful. The part of Toms River on the south side of the river stretching down to Berkeley Township incorporated as South Toms River in 1927, but the core of the original village on the north side remains part of the wider township to this day.
Mid and late 20th century
In the last two decades of the twentieth century, the demographics of the township changed substantially, adding over 20,000 residents just in the 1990s. While the village is still the center of municipal and county government, the population in the area exploded in the decades after World War II, due in part to the completion of the Garden State Parkway. Whereas the village was the largest and most densely populated section of the township for over two centuries, the vast majority of residents now shop and work in other sections of the town.
Toms River made international headlines in the 1990s with their Little League Baseball team, nicknamed "Beast from the East", which competed in the Little League World Series three times in five years, winning in 1998 when they defeated Japan by a score of 12-9. Over 40,000 people lined Route 37 for a parade following their victory over Kashima, Japan. Toms River Little League made it to Williamsport in 2010 giving Toms River its record 4th Mid Atlantic championship.
Toms River is also home to many National Champion Pop Warner Football and Cheerleading titles. 1996 Toms River Raider Jr. PeeWee Football team won a National Championship. Cheerleaders from the Toms River Little Indians, Toms River Raiders, and the Toms River Angels (formerly the Saint Joe's Angels) have won many National Titles. The first National Championship title was won in 1993 by the Toms River Little Indian Midget Cheer squad. In 2001, 2002, and 2003 the Toms River Angels brought home national titles resulting in the nations second ever three peat (meaning they brought home three national titles on the same level). In 2005, The Toms River Little Indians brought home two more national titles, and the Toms River Raiders won one. In 2006, The Toms River Angels Midget Large Advanced Cheer Squad and the Toms River Little Indians Midget Small Intermediate Cheer Squad won two more National Titles. In 2007 The Toms River Angels brought home one and the Indians brought back two more to add to their history.
In the mid-1990s, state and federal health and environmental agencies identified an increased incidence of childhood cancers in Toms River from the 1970-1995 period. Multiple investigations by state and federal environmental and health agencies indicated that the likely source of the increased cancer risk was contamination from Toms River Chemical Plant (then operated by Ciba-Geigy), which had been in operation since 1952. The area was designated a United States Environmental Protection AgencySuperfund site in 1983 after an underground plume of toxic chemicals was identified. The following year, a discharge pipe was shut down after a sinkhole at the corner of Bay Avenue and Vaughn Avenue revealed that it had been leaking. The plant ceased operation in 1996. A follow up study from the 1996-2000 period indicated that while there were more cancer cases than expected, rates had significantly fallen and the difference was statistically insignificant compared to normal statewide cancer rates. Since 1996, the Toms River water system has been subject to the most stringent water testing in the state and is considered safe for consumption.Dan Fagin's Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation, the 2014 Pulitzer Prize winning book, examined the issue of industrial pollution in detail.
Toms River Township
"Toms River" at one time referred only to the village of Toms River, a small part of the vast Township of Dover that included several other distinct settlements. With the United States Postal Service's adoption of Toms River mailing addresses for Dover Township, coupled with demographic changes in the other sections, those inside and outside began referring to all of mainland Dover Township as Toms River. In the 1990 Census, the census-designated place called "Toms River" only included the downtown village area that included fewer than 8,000 residents in 1990. Due to complaints of confusion, the CDP was broadened to include all of mainland Dover Township to better reflect the more common usage for the area.
Over the years, confusion over the name of the township had become an issue for many residents. A movement organized around the Dover Township Name Change Committee, founded by Mayor Paul Brush and supported by the Ocean County Chamber of Commerce, collected signatures to put a name change question on the ballot in November 2006. On Election Day, November 7, 2006, over 60% of residents voted to approve changing the name from the Township of Dover to the Township of Toms River. The name change campaign featured the slogan "Toms River YES", signifying a yes vote for the name change, and the name was officially changed on November 14, 2006.
Since 2002, Toms River Township has operated within the Faulkner Act (formally known as the Optional Municipal Charter Law) under the Mayor-Council form of New Jersey municipal government. The council consists of seven members, four of whom represent one of four wards of the township and three who are chosen at-large. The mayor and the seven council members are chosen on a partisan basis as part of the November general election to serve four-year terms of office on a staggered basis, with the mayor and three at-large seats elected together and the four ward seats chosen simultaneously two years later.
As of 2014[update], the Mayor of Toms River is Republican Thomas P. Kelaher, whose term of office expires December 31, 2015. Council members are Council President Maria Maruca (R, 2017; Ward 1), Jeffrey J. Carr (R, 2017; Ward 3), Maurice "Mo" B. Hill, Jr. (R, 2015; at large), Brian S. Kubiel (R, 2017; Ward 2), Alfonso Manforti (R, 2017; Ward 4), John "Sevas" Sevastakis (R, 2015; at large) and George Wittmann (R, 2015; at large).
Federal, state and county representation
Toms River Township is located in the 3rd Congressional District and is part of New Jersey's 10th state legislative district.
As of March 23, 2011, there were a total of 59,987 registered voters in Toms River Township, of which 11,617 (19.4%) were registered as Democrats, 15,749 (26.3%) were registered as Republicans and 32,592 (54.3%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There were 29 voters registered to other parties. Among the township's 2010 Census population, 65.7% (vs. 63.2% in Ocean County) were registered to vote, including 83.6% of those ages 18 and over (vs. 82.6% countywide).
In the 2008 presidential election, Republican John McCain received 57.2% of the vote (25,881 cast), ahead of Democrat Barack Obama with 40.8% (18,439 votes) and other candidates with 1.3% (600 votes), among the 45,215 ballots cast by the township's 62,909 registered voters, for a turnout of 71.9%. In the 2004 presidential election, Republican George W. Bush received 60.7% of the vote (26,203 ballots cast), outpolling Democrat John Kerry with 38.1% (16,467 votes) and other candidates with 0.6% (360 votes), among the 43,170 ballots cast by the township's 59,544 registered voters, for a turnout percentage of 72.5.
In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 66.8% of the votes (19,906 ballots cast), ahead of Democrat Jon Corzine with 26.7% (7,948 votes), Independent Chris Daggett with 4.6% (1,372 votes) and other candidates with 1.0% (283 votes), among the 29,782 ballots cast by the township's 61,578 registered voters, yielding a 48.4% turnout.
Students in kindergarten through twelfth grade attend the Toms River Regional Schools, a regional public school system (centered primarily in Toms River Township) that is the largest suburban school district in New Jersey. In addition to students from Toms River, the district also serves the adjoining boroughs of Beachwood, Pine Beach and South Toms River. It is the largest suburban school district in the state, and the fourth largest school district in New Jersey (after Newark, Jersey City and Paterson). It is also the largest school district in the state that is not an Abbott District. As of the 2011-12 school year, the district's 18 schools had an enrollment of 16,981 students and 1,166.8 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student–teacher ratio of 14.55:1.
Two of the most congested roads are Hooper Avenue and Route 37. Route 37 sees extra traffic from travelers to the Jersey shore during the summertime, due to it being a main artery to the shore from the Garden State Parkway at interchange 82. The township is also home to one of the state's only at-grade cloverleafs, at the intersection of Hooper Avenue and County Route 571 (Bay Avenue).
Toms River has been featured in television, including MTV which filmed three episodes of the show Made and scenes from MTV's Jersey Shore there.
Toms River is home to many beaches located along the Jersey Shore, including Ortley Beach, Normandy Beach, Monterey Beach, Ocean Beach, Chadwick Beach and Silver Beach.
The New Jersey Chili and Salsa Cook-Off, as well as the New Jersey Ice Cream Festival are held in Toms River.
The Toms River Branch of Ocean County Library is the headquarters of the Ocean County Library system and the largest public library in Ocean County. In January 2006, a renovation project was completed that doubled the size of the facility.
Toms River is home to the John Bennett Indoor Athletic Complex, the only indoor athletic complex bubble in Ocean County and one of the largest in New Jersey. It was severely damaged as a result of Hurricane Sandy, reopening in January 2013 after repairs were completed.
The 1979 movie The Amityville Horror was filmed in Toms River, rather than Amityville on Long Island. Local police and ambulance workers played extras. The Toms River Volunteer Fire Company Number One was used to provide the "rain" during one of the exterior scenes. If you look closely, you can see that it is sunny and not "raining" in the background, the next street over.
Downtown Toms River hosts many community events, including festivals and the second largest Halloween parade in the world. The official logo is a 'T' with a river, forming an 'R', through it. The slogan is "Great Places. Familiar Faces."
^Romano, Jay. "Ortley Beach Journal; Secession Drive Brings Criticism", The New York Times, February 12, 1989. Accessed July 11, 2012. "Ortley Beach is one of several small communities on the barrier island that runs from Point Pleasant to Seaside Park and separates Barnegat Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Centered on this island, Ortley Beach is bordered on the north by Lavallette and on the south by Seaside Heights, both independent municipalities."
^ abc"Dover Township Community Profile", Ocean County Library. Accessed May 16, 2012. "Most believed it was named for Thomas Luker, who came to the area around 1700 and married Princess Anne, daughter of the local Indian Chief. Only in 1992, with the dedication of a small footbridge in Huddy Park to his memory, was Thomas Luker officially recognized as the source of the “Tom” in Toms River. Over 40 of Luker’s direct descendants and their families attended the ceremony where Ocean County Historian Pauline Miller laid to rest the other stories."
^The 2014 Pulitzer Prize Winners - General Nonfiction, Pulitzer Prize. Accessed December 18, 2014. "In an astonishing feat of investigative reporting, prize-winning journalist Dan Fagin recounts the sixty-year saga of rampant pollution and inadequate oversight that made Toms River a cautionary example for fast-growing industrial towns from South Jersey to South China."
^Toms River Regional School District 2013 Report Card Narrative, New Jersey Department of Education. Accessed August 10, 2014. "Toms River Regional School District is the largest suburban school district in the state with a population of approximately 17,000 students, twelve elementary schools, three intermediate schools and three high schools. Respective of our size, the district takes enormous pride in the neighborhood school concept providing high-quality educational programs and services to our four sending towns, Beachwood, Toms River, Pine Beach, and South Toms River."
^Crane, Mark via Associated Press. "What's right in 'right of way'; Roadway devours homes, farms", The Nevada Daily Mail, March 13, 1981. Accessed September 18, 2013. "The authority finally declared the Alfred E. Driscoll Expressway project dormant last year after almost a decade of planning, legal battles and land acquisitions that totalled $17 million.... Land values have increased significantly in the past seven years and some parcels have doubled or tripled in value since the authority purchased 100 tracts of land from some 30 or 40 owners along a 38-mile strip from Toms River to North Brunswick."
^Kile, III, William H. "INDOOR TRACK: ‘Bubble’ finally ready for action", Medford Central Record, January 11, 2013. Accessed August 14, 2014. "The familiar sound of the starter’s pistol rang out from the John Bennett Indoor Athletic Complex on Jan. 2 and it was a welcome sound for track coaches and fans in the area.The South Jersey indoor track and field season finally got underway last week after the Hooper Avenue facility, also known fondly as 'The Bubble,' was repaired after sustaining damage when Hurricane Sandy arrived at the end of October."
^Bennett, Don. "County gets behind hospital's bid for heart certification", Asbury Park Press, March 3, 2008. Accessed July 11, 2012. "Three years ago, Kelly said, Community's bid was approved by all the boards that reviewed it, but was rejected by the then-commissioner of health - despite Community's being the largest non-teaching hospital in the state, with 587 beds, and its affiliation with two cardiac surgery centers: Beth Israel and St. Barnabas."
^Reiss, Fraidy. "Students restore cannon", Asbury Park Press, "Right there in town hall, for all the world to see, the town whose slogan boasts 'Great places, familiar faces' recently began displaying a black, functional, 500-pound swivel cannon."
^Staff. "Shooting of Blind Faith Begins", The Wichita Eagle, November 5, 1989. Accessed February 15, 2012. "Shooting has started in Los Angeles on the NBC miniseries, "Blind Faith." It is based on the Joe McGinniss book about the murder of Toms River, N.J., housewife Maria Marshall."
^Edelson, Stephen. "Toms River's Barnes returns to N.J. with Jets", Asbury Park Press, March 9, 2007. Accessed April 6, 2011. "Darian Barnes' professional football odyssey came full circle Thursday when the Toms River native signed a free agent contract with the Jets, nearly five years after he began his NFL career by being released by the Giants during training camp in 2002."
^Denman, Elliott. "Shore Hall of Fame inducts 17", Asbury Park Press, May 13, 1999. "Alex Blackwell, a Toms River North and Monmouth College basketball player who spent a year with the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers and several more seasons in international professional competition."
^Sielski, Mike. "Heard on the Field", The Wall Street Journal, October 29, 2011. Accessed August 14, 2014. "Jerry DiPoto, a native of Toms River, N.J., who pitched for the Mets in 1995 and 1996, will be named the general manager of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during a news conference Saturday, a person with knowledge of the situation has confirmed."
^Feitl, Steve. "BACK TO HIS ROOTS: Frank Edgar part of fight card in UFC's return to New Jersey", Home News Tribune, November 15, 2007. Accessed December 28, 2007. "After an accomplished wrestling career — one that saw him place twice at states while at Toms River High School East and qualify for nationals all four years as an All-American at Clarion University in Pennsylvania — Edgar chose to train for the combat sport that merges numerous disciplines from wrestling to jiu-jitsu to kickboxing."
^Christopher, Chris. "Frazier to Cincinnati; 34th overall", Ocean County Observer, June 8, 2007. "She had to do something to honor her cousin, Todd Frazier, the former Toms River High School South standout selected 34th in the supplemental first round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft yesterday by the Cincinnati Reds.... Todd Frazier of Toms River, right, was picked by the Cincinnati Reds yesterday."
^Brian Geraghty, The New York Times from Allmovie. Accessed April 6, 2011. "After viewing that performance, Geraghty -- unclear after high school about where he wanted to go or what he wanted to do -- made a beeline from his home of Toms River, NJ, to New York City's Neighborhood Playhouse, where he plunged headfirst into classical theater -- and subsequently received a bid to audition for HBO's organized crime drama The Sopranos."
^Kurland, Bob. "METROSTARS MINUS TWO -- DONADONI, RAMOS TO MISS OPENER", The Record (Bergen County), April 12, 1996. "Kearny native Ted Gillen, who grew up in Toms River, was placed on injured reserve due to a slow-healing hamstring."
^Hagenmayer, S. Joseph. "A. Goullet, A Legend In Bike Racing", The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 14, 1995. Accessed August 14, 2014. "Alfred T. 'Alf' Goullet, 103, whose world-record-setting performances in bicycling races on three continents prompted sportswriters to compare him to baseball's Babe Ruth and boxing's Jack Dempsey, died Saturday at a retirement home in Toms River... He resided in Newark for 75 years and lived in Red Bank and then Toms River for the last eight years."
^Edelson, Steve. "Konopka right at home, in Ireland", Asbury Park Press, March 12, 2008. Accessed April 8, 2008. "Since stepping off a plane at Dublin Airport on Jan. 15 and signing a contract with storied Bohemian Football Club two weeks later, Chris Konopka has experienced a side of soccer he could barely have imagined growing up in Toms River."
^Anastatisa, Phil. "Scout reflects on baseball love affair", Courier-Post, June 7, 2004. Accessed October 23, 2007. "Lynch mentions former Cherry Hill West left-hander Shawn Senior, Lenape left-hander Scott Schoeneweis and Toms River brothers Al Leiter and Mark Leiter among the local athletes who best caught his eye."
^Dremousis, Litsa. Demetri Martin, The Believer (magazine), February 2006. Accessed June 23, 2007. "The son of a Greek Orthodox priest (note: Orthodox priests can marry prior to ordination) and a nutritionist, Martin grew up with his brother and sister in Toms River, New Jersey."
^Roberts, Sam. "Metro Matters; Rosenberg Case: Family's Struggle At Reconciliation", The New York Times, June 20, 1988. Accessed February 15, 2012. "His nephews, Michael and Robert Meeropol, planned no special remembrance. Robert intended only to take a long walk alone near his home in Massachusetts to reflect on that afternoon in Toms River, N.J., when his older brother, then 10, was ushered outside to join him after the television broadcast of the Yankees-Tigers game was interrupted repeatedly by news bulletins about the impending execution of their parents, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg."
^Scott Palguta, Colorado College. Accessed January 12, 2014. "Palguta, a native of Toms River, N.J., was a two-time all-Ivy League selection at Cornell University, where he graduated in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in hotel administration."