History of the Department
Mantua Township is located in the heart of Gloucester County, just south of the County Seat of Woodbury. It is 15.919 square miles and is bordered by Deptford and West Deptford Townships to the North; the Borough of Wenonah and Washington Township to the East; the Boroughs of Pitman and Glassboro to the South; Harrison Township to the Southwest and East Greenwich Township to the West. It is situated on an elevated bluff overlooking Mantua Creek, from which the Township derives its name. Mantua Creek is thought to be named after the Native American word “Manta,” meaning frog. The Mantua Creek was the chief source of navigation and transportation for both the Lenni-Lenape Native Americans and early settlers. Mantua Township was incorporated on February 23rd, 1853 at the Union Street school house. The first town meeting was then held on March 9th 1853 where Joseph Norris, John Haines, and Elijah Chew were appointed to the position of “Overseer of the Poor and Constables”. In the early 1900s the state passed legislation enabling municipalities to appoint special officers. On March 22nd 1917 the Township Committee organized a temporary special police department using members of the Township Fire Departments. The “Committee on Public Safety” was also formed to oversee the police force. The Police Chief was chosen, often being the current Fire Chief or Company President.
The current Mantua Township Police Department was established full-time in 1968. Thomas Connell was selected, with the help of the Police Chief’s Association, to serve as the first Chief of Police of the department, where he served until his retirement in 1980. Since then, there have been three additional Chiefs – Ronnie Walker, Graham Land, and Rodney Sawyer (current Chief). Currently, the department consists of 26 sworn Officers, 2 part time SLEO II Officers, 3 part time SLEO I Officers, and two civilian Police Clerks. The Department services a mostly rural community and is home to just over 15,200 residents and over 5,600 homes as of the 2010 census. Mantua has evolved from rural farmland to a very preferable residential community without an overabundance of commercial development. Homes range from singlewide mobile homes, town homes, and senior communities, to multi-million dollar estates. The Township also has several large chain stores to include Home Depot, Lowes, K-Mart, Kohl’s, Target and even a Starbucks. Residential and commercial growth has and will continue under the Townships recently revised Master Plan for development.
The newest addition to Mantua’s appeal is a partnership with Rowan and Drexel Universities resulting in the newly founded Jean and Ric Edelman Fossil Park located off of Glassboro Road in the Sewell section of town. This former green manganese mining pit is set to transform the location into a “world class destination for scientific discovery and citizen science.” The site is one of three with significant worldwide importance due to fossils dating back to the Cretaceous Period of 65 million years ago, “the heyday of the Dinosaurs.”
The Township has two major thoroughfares: State Highway 45 (Bridgeton Pike), which connects Salem City and Westville Borough and State Highway 55, which travels from Route 42 in Bellmawr to Route 47 just south of Millville. Both are major arteries for commuter traffic to and from Philadelphia and shore traffic from northern points south.
Mantua is known as being very community friendly, offers a large sports program, three parks (Ceres Park, Chestnut Branch Park, and Tall Pines State Preserve), and community events to include Bark in the Park, Patriots Day, Community Day and our Christmas tree lighting ceremony, all of which draw large crowds. Tall Pines State Preserve is the first state park within Gloucester County and the township is extremely proud to have been a part of its creation. The Township and its Police Department are always trying to provide a better service to its residents.