TINTON FALLS, N.J. - (AP) -- Before the stench of the landfill made life unbearable for many who live near Shafto Road, the Reeveytown section of town was a haven, a place of wild blueberry bushes and peastone crossroads.
Most of what is Reeveytown lies between the narrow-upstream portion of the Shark River and Asbury Avenue. In the 1970s and 1980s, Monmouth County acquired 900 acres of the land by eminent domain to make the landfill.
The people who lived there or who have relatives there have not forgotten.
"It was a shame to take such good property and make it into a dump," said Claire Garland, director of the Sand Hill Indian Historical Association and a descendant of Cherokees who moved to the area in the late 18th century.
The Monmouth County Reclamation Center, as the dump is formally known, is the subject of complaints from neighbors, who have threatened a $233 million class-action lawsuit against Monmouth County over the odors emanating from the site. County officials have pledged to fix the problem.
The name Reeveytown derives from Native Americans and African-Americans, whose surnames Reavy, Revy, Rebee, Revey, Reevey and Richardson start to show up on the tax list dating back to the 1780s, Garland said.
In the late 1700s, the Cherokee Richardsons migrated from Georgia to New Jersey to live with their Lenape cousins, the Reveys.
The Reeveys were African-Americans who established the Reeveytown A.M.E.Zion Church in 1882.
"It was mostly just dirt lanes back there and it was possible to go blueberry picking. People had farms and raised pigs," Garland said of the land the county took for the dump.
One of the dirt lanes connected to Squankum Road, where there is an Indian burial ground. The burial is part of Pine Brook Cemetery today and is the property of the St. Thomas A.M.E. Zion Church.
One of the oldest plots is that of Richard P. Revey, who was born in 1784 and was the father of Elizabeth Revey, who married Isaac R. Richardson in 1844.
At one time 854 landfills operated in New Jersey, many of them private. However, in the 1970s the state created the Department of Environmental Protection and made new regulations for solid waste management.
That led to the closure of almost all the landfills.
The counties were then required to handle their own garbage and from the middle of the 1970s to the late 1980s, Monmouth County officials came knocking on the doors of Reeveytown residents.
"We got a telephone call in 1986 that we were going to get certified letters in the mail that we were going to be condemned," Geraldine "Jake" McCarthy said.
McCarthy said her parents Calvin and Belle Theobold lived in Kearny and bought their 33-acre property at 2955 Shafto Road in the 1950s. They used it as a weekend getaway and summer house for their 10 children.
Their wood cabin home sat on a hill that was 160 feet above sea level. The family made improvements over time, adding a skate shed by a pond, a tennis court, swimming pool and driveway.
"It was a haven back there. We rode our horses through the trials. There were peastone crossroads. They took the land from us, but not the memories," McCarthy said.
McCarthy said her family fought eminent domain for five years and took the county to court. Her mother was a judge general advocate in World War II and studied the case law.
The Theobolds lost the battle for their property but their legal fight got them more money for the land than the $10,000 per acre the county originally offered.
In 1991, the family picked up their house by its foundation and moved it across the street to 2978 Shafto Road, where it still stands today -- though under new ownership. See the house in the above photo gallery. It still has its original peastone fireplace. The siding however, is a newer renovation
The driveway to their old property at 2955 Shafto Road is still visible but is fenced off.
The eminent domain fight launched McCarthy's career in real estate. She was in college at Farleigh Dickinson University at the time and started taking real estate classes. Today she owns Theobold Properties and lives in Shrewsbury.
"This whole thing sparked my career. I wanted to know why? I wanted to know the laws on it. I wanted to how someone can just come along and take your property," McCarthy said.
In 1994, the Reeveytown A.M.E. Zion's white shingled church with its red front door that was built in 1882 was demolished to make room for the expansion of the landfill, according to the church. The group has relocated up the road to 2505 Shafto Road.
Garland, who lives in Middletown, said many of her relatives couldn't afford to fight eminent domain and took what the county offered them for their land. Some of them still remain in the area and live on nearby Wardell Street.
"It's really caused a lot of problems because of the stench leaking from the landfill has made it difficult to go out on their properties. The stench has taken over," Garland said.
Monmouth County officials will provide an update on the current work being performed at the landfill. The public meeting is at 7 p.m. May 13, at the Tinton Falls Municipal Building.
Information from: Asbury Park (N.J.) Press, http://www.app.com