In 1798 New Jersey established 104 Townships. Caldwell was one of these original Townships that united the majority of the ‘Horseneck’ Area of Newark Township with a smaller western portion of Acquackanonk Township ( Passaic ). Essentially ‘West Essex’ as we know it today.
These original 104 Townships are made up today of 565 Municipalities throughout the State. Caldwell Township was no different as seven Municipalities were eventually set apart, generally following established educational districts. This made sense because one of the most important aspects of ‘home rule’ involves School funding and the associated tax burden. The other large part is Municipal Services especially road improvements and utility administration.
For example, if Township Committeemen are predominately elected from Fairfield and Clinton, the budget allocation seemed to always favor those sections of the Township. This actually happened, and the other Township elected officials felt that their districts were being treated disproportionately.
By 1908 today’s individual ‘West Essex’ Township borders were established. Caldwell Borough was the first section to self incorporate in 1892. About twenty years later the Borough established their first Police Department with the appointment of Chief John Markey. Initially he served alone, but by 1924 his one man Department was expanded into six full time Officers.
Fairfield ( by default, the only remaining part of 1798 Caldwell Township ) and West Caldwell ( incorporated in 1904 ) were predominately farm country with much less need for law enforcement than the commercialized center of Caldwell.
Prior to organizing a Police Department these Towns employed part time Constables to protect their Communities. In West Caldwell Constable Roscoe Conklin was paid fifty cents an hour for his duties and could enlist other ‘deputies’ as necessary. Conklin was replaced when West Caldwell formally organized their first Police Department in 1924. William King was made Chief and served alone for six years. His salary was $1,700 per year for a job that required him to be on
call 24 / 7. He was not furnished any type of transportation or uniform and was only given a badge, a revolver, and a night stick. He also had many capable ‘deputies’ who he could call upon when needed. In addition, Chief King was responsible for School Attendance (Truant Officer) and Animal Control ( strays of all kinds ). Traffic Control was also a big part of his responsibility with Bloomfield Avenue requiring constant attention, especially on weekends.
In 1924 Fairfield was still utilizing part time Constables. Morris E. Collerd was Chief King’s counterpart with almost identical duties. Chief Constable Collerd also had several reliable ‘deputies’ who assisted when needed. The revolver he was issued was not capable of ‘hitting the side of a barn’ so he bought his own more accurate weapons. It’s likely those better revolvers were used most often for putting rabid animals out of their misery.
Every day Chief Collerd patrolled the Township for about four hours and was paid seventy-five cents per hour with a few pennies for his personal motorcycle mileage.
Chief Constable Morris E. Collerd of Caldwell Township 1924-1936
Both King and Collerd worked out of their homes, and when cases could not be scheduled for Municipal Court, the wrongdoers were brought to the Judges home for resolution.
According to Morris’ wife Adelia :
“Many nights when he was out on duty I was awakened in my sleep by people calling on the phone and knocking at my door and have even sat up with a revolver on my lap but couldn’t say that I ever would have tried to use it. Maybe to frighten someone that is all.”
The New Jersey State Police graduated their first class of soldierly recruits in December of 1921. To give the reader some historical perspective :
“The first modes of ( NJSP ) transportation consisted of sixty-one horses, twenty motorcycles, one car, and one truck. The horse remained the principal means of transportation throughout the twenties.”
About 140 Troopers covered the entire 8,000 square miles of New Jersey 24 / 365 until about 1930 when the numbers of Trooper Cars and Motorcycles increased.
Early NJ State Police. For more see :
West Caldwell added two full time Patrolmen for Chief King in 1930 and 1931. Special Officers continued to be available when needed. Chief Collerd had several ‘Deputies’ that he frequently relied upon : Vincent Mullane (1st), Rudolph Geiger, John Filipow, Robert Henning, and Charles Voelker Sr ( Father of eventual Fairfield Police Chief Charles Voelker and Grandfather of Chief Charles ‘Chuck’ Voelker ).
Chief Collerd was becoming increasingly disenchanted with his position. The part time job had grown into many full time responsibilities. His other jobs were Fairfield Reformed Church Sexton and Farmer on the large fifty acre Horseneck Road Homestead with Father Abram, and Brothers Ray and James.
Ticket ‘squashing’ was the most frustrating aspect of the Chief’s job.
“When an honest ticket was given out and probably around a $3.00 fine sometimes there were 2 & 3 cops and many telephone calls to get these tickets squashed. This sickened me of the job..........”
Fairfield’s first Police Car ( $ 600 ).
A 1932 Chevrolet owned by Chief Constable Morris E. Collerd.
At the end of 1935, after 11 years, Chief Constable Collerd resigned and “never regretted his decision”. Less than two years later, Caldwell Township organized a two man Police Department with former ‘deputy’ Robert Henning becoming the first official Police Chief. Officer William Vanderhoof Sr.served with Chief Henning and eventually became Police Chief as well.
In 1937, they opened new Police Headquarters in the newly constructed Municipal Building on Fairfield Road. No more spouses ‘packing’ revolvers on their laps in case of possible danger at home.
New Jersey License Plates 1920 to 1929
Dedicated to Chief Constable Morris E. Collerd..........Paul Pollio October 20, 2018
The Great Chicken Robbery
Not to trivialize the role of the Chief Constable, but this story made it into a Police report .
While on patrol one evening, Morris came upon a car parked on Big Piece Road in front of an abandoned home. The driver said he was having car trouble but it was quickly started and driven away. Morris jotted down a few details before returning to patrol.
The next day, a Farmer came to Morris’ home to report that all of his chickens were stolen. Morris went with the Farmer to his Chicken Coops to investigate. They noticed footprints in the light snow leading to the back of the same abandoned home Morris had stopped in front of the evening before. They entered the building and found all of the Farmer’s chickens in the basement unharmed.
Morris’ notes led to the arrest of the chicken thieves. Case closed.