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|Location||West New Jersey|
|Created||Various, see text|
|Abolished||Various, see text|
|Areas||Up to 64,000 acres|
Surveyors of the Highways
A tenth was a geographic division used in the former American Province of West Jersey, to divide a larger region into smaller administrative divisions. Despite seemingly related names, tenths are not directly related to hundreds, other than both being administrative divisions.
West Jersey was first divided into ten shares when Edward Byllynge and John Fenwick sold parts of their shares to others in order to defray debts. Byllynge, William Penn, Gawen Lawrie and Nicholas Lucas retained nine tenths of the province, with Fenwick retaining one tenth. Fenwick's tenth would eventually evolve into Salem County.
Tenths were formally established by the Lords Proprietors of West New Jersey under "The Concessions and Agreements of the Proprietors, Freeholders and Inhabitants of the Province of West New Jersey, in America", approved March 3, 1676/77, which provided for "dividing all the lands of the said Province, as be already taken up, or by themselves shall be taken up and contracted for with the natives; and the said lands so taken up and contracted for, to divide into one hundred parts, as occasion shall require; that is to say, for every quantity of land that they shall from time to time lay out to be planted and settled upon, they shall first for expedition divide the same into ten equal parts or shares".
In February 1681 "The Methods of the Commissioners for settling and regulation of Lands" directed that each tenth was to contain 64,000 acres, and to "have their proportion of front to the river Delaware". Only five of the tenths were actually organized.
Courts were established in 1681 at Salem and Burlington; the former to have jurisdiction over the Salem Tenth and the latter over the remaining nine tenths. A court was established at Gloucester in 1686 and had jurisdiction within the Third and Fourth Tenths. Three counties would appear to have been formalized before 1692 when the fourth, Cape May, was incorporated.
The Concessions and Agreements provided for the election of a General Free Assembly; each tenth was a multi-member constituency electing a potential of ten members, although in practice this was limited to the settled and organized tenths. This was further codified by legislation approved in May 1682. This apportionment would remain, in modified form, after the establishment of counties and up until the surrender of the proprietary charter in 1702.
Tenths also functioned as units of local government. Chapter 44 of the Concessions and Agreements authorized the Assembly, " to sub-divide the said province into hundreds, proprieties, or such other divisions and distinctions, as they shall think fit". As early as 1682, constables were designated for the First, Second and Third Tenths. The following year, road maintenance was assigned to the tenths; the legislation directing "that the courts shall and may appoint such and so many overseers within their respective liberties, to repair and amend, and maintain the said highways, as they shall judge needful". The authority to lay out highways was enumerated in 1684, with commissioners appointed for the First, Second, Third and Salem tenths. Legislation enacted at the same session required the tenths to raise taxes for making and repairing bridges and highways, as well as for a number of expenses of the Province. For this purpose, each tenth was to nominate six assessors and two tax collectors.
The system of tenths was gradually abandoned in favor of townships.
Salem Tenth, which had from the beginning taken a more independent approach than the others, was subdivided into five townships or precincts as early as the mid-1670s, namely, East Fenwick, Elsinburgh, Monmouth, West Fenwick and the town of Salem.
Burlington County, encompassing the First and Second Tenths, established eight "constablries" in 1688, being Chester or Cropwell, Chesterfield, Eversham, Mansfield, Northampton, Nottingham, Springfield, and Wellingborrow. The Town of Burlington had been authorized in 1677 under the Concessions and Agreements.
Gloucester County, which encompassed the Third and Fourth Tenths, in 1695 established the townships of Deptford, Gloucester, Greenwich, Newton and Waterford. These joined Gloucestertown, which had been formed by the Burlington Court in 1685.