Settlers purchased the first tracts of land in what is now Stafford Township in 1735 from the English monarchy. They settled in the Manahawkin area in 1743. According to local legend, the entire area was originally called Manahawkin, which is Lenni Lenape for "good corn land." Agriculture was the economic mainstay of the early settlers. The first water-operated sawmills were in Manahawkin, Wells Mils and Cedar Bridge. Other early industries included boat building, farming, oyster and cranberry harvesting and clamming. The most famous "cranberry bog" belonging to writer Nathaniel Holmes Bishop was recently added to the nearby 20,000-acre Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.
Starting in the late 1800s, the resort industries along the New Jersey Shore developed and numerous seasonal resorts sprang up along the coastal beaches. What was previously a sparsely populated and rural area quickly became a destination of choice for vacationers and those looking to live outside the bustle of a busy labor center. Manahawkin in Stafford Township became part of the Garden State Parkway/US Route 9 corridor when the Parkway was built in the late 1900s.
Today, Manahawkin offers visitors and residents alike historic charm and the bounty of a coastal environment and pinelands. The Railroad Museum in Heritage Park and the Old Baptist Church Museum on Route 9 are historic links to the area's rich past. Founders Day and Manahawkin Good Ole' Days are celebrated each year in June and September respectively. From the bay to the pines, from Colonial America to the new millennium, from gristmills and cranberry bogs to suburban residential communities and a recreational economy, Manahawkin is on a progressive march to a successful future.