The Port of Paulsboro is located in Gloucester County, New Jersey, about 6 nautical miles downriver (10.9 kilometers or 6.8 miles southwest) of the Port of Philadelphia. The Borough of Paulsboro was created by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature in 1904. The Port of Paulsboro is an industrial town with the Delaware River to the north, Mantua Creek to the east, and Greenwich Township to the west and south. The 2010 US Census reported a population of almost 6100 people in the Port of Paulsboro.
The indigenous people of the area that would become the Port of Paulsboro were the Leni Lenape, also called the Delaware. The Lenape inhabited what anthropologists call the "Northeastern Woodlands" before Europeans arrived in the 16th and 17th Centuries. They were farmers, and their women grew corn, beans, and squash. The men were hunters and fishers.
When white traders and settlers became established, the Lenape traded agricultural goods like maize for iron tools. The Lenape were the primary tribe that made shell beads (wampum) for jewelry and for rituals. The Lenape people lived in matrilineal clans. The mother's oldest brother was more important in the sons' lives than was the father. While the Lenape had no concept of personal property, they did have use rights. Agricultural land was allotted and managed by the women based on families' needs.
Lenape culture was greatly weakened in the 17th Century when Europeans introduced new diseases and violence to the New World. The surviving Lenapes moved west to the Ohio River region, and the American Revolution and the new United States pushed them even further west. In the 1860s, most of the Lenape who remained in the east were moved to the Oklahoma Territory. Today, most Lenape live in the States of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Wisconsin in the United States and in Ontario, Canada, their original and traditional homelands.
The first European settlement at the Port of Paulsboro location was Fort Nassau, established in 1623 when Captain Cornelius May arrived at the mouth of the Big Timber Creek. In 1664, King Charles of England granted land from the Delaware River to Connecticut to his brother. In 1672, Lord Berkeley became the land-owner of "West Jersey." Settlers in the area paid annual rent to the proprietor. Growth in West Jersey was slow, and Lord Berkeley sold some of the land to Edward Byllings and John Fenwick. When they could not agree on boundaries, they called in William Penn to settle their disagreement. The future Port of Paulsboro almost became part of Penn's Philadelphia.
In 1677, the deed was recorded, and over 200 settlers bought land at one penny per acre. They named the settlement Byllings Port (now Billingsport). Gloucester County was created in 1686, and Greenwich Township became the first incorporated town in 1694. In the late 17th Century, Samuel P. Paul purchased 100 acres on the Delaware, giving birth to the future Port of Paulsboro.
In 1800, the Port of Paulsboro was still named Crown Point, and it contained Samuel Paul's stone farm house. His land bordering the Delaware River was called Paul's Fishing Place. In 1805, his family owned half of the town that would become the Port of Paulsboro.
By 1811, there were two stores, two shoemakers, and three houses in the Port of Paulsboro. In 1820, a schoolhouse was built in the Port of Paulsboro.
In 1844, the first postmaster was installed at the Port of Paulsboro. The first doctor, Charles Clark, moved to the Port of Paulsboro in 1825. In 1827, twelve members incorporated the Port of Paulsboro's Methodist Church, and the first stone church was erected in 1838. Samuel Paul was the first person to be buried in the church's cemetery. By 1843, there were 18 houses in the Port of Paulsboro. Most residents of the infant Port of Paulsboro were farmers who sold their harvests in Philadelphia.
By 1858, about 450 people lived in the Port of Paulsboro. There was a hotel on Main Street and a second schoolhouse. The Port of Paulsboro sent volunteers to serve in Company E, 24th Regiment of New Jersey, in the American Civil War, but the Port of Paulsboro did not see military action near its borders.
Until 1876 when the Delaware-Shore Line railroad came to the Port of Paulsboro, the river had been the main mode of transportation. The new railroad brought settlement and business to the Port of Paulsboro. The railroad in the Port of Paulsboro was financially weak, and it was acquired by the DuPont Company who renamed it the Delaware River Railroad. Later, the railroad became part of the Pennsylvania Railroad.
In 1890, Lincoln Park and St. John's Roman Catholic Church appeared in the Port of Paulsboro. Lincoln Park was a 28-acre amusement park that had fireworks and concerts every two weeks, the only entertainment in the Port of Paulsboro at the time. People came from across the region to enjoy the amusements, swim, and have picnics. The Port of Paulsboro's Lincoln Park had a carousel that brought large crowds from Philadelphia on The Jersey Blue ferryboat.
In 1899, the Port of Paulsboro's fire department was organized, and its equipment was kept in the Port of Paulsboro's Armstrong Livery Stable where horses were provided. At the turn of the Century, the Port of Paulsboro's Lincoln Park was at its peak. Two ferries and five steamboats brought people across the river every day. The Public Library opened in the Port of Paulsboro in 1900, and the first bank in the Port of Paulsboro began operating in 1901.
Until 1904, the Port of Paulsboro and Billingsport had been part of Greenwich Township. That year, they were incorporated under as the Borough of Paulsboro. By this time, Lincoln Park had lost its appeal due to the birth of the automobile age when people could travel greater distances. However, residents of Philadelphia began to build summer homes in the Port of Paulsboro along the Delaware River.
Before World War I, Vacuum Oil bought a location near the Port of Paulsboro to establish a refinery on the East Coast. The Port of Paulsboro Plant opened in 1917 to make lubricating oil. The plant still operates under the name Mobil. Mobil also has a research laboratory in the Port of Paulsboro where significant advances in the art of processing petroleum were made. The first two-stage fractioning unit was built in the Port of Paulsboro in 1928. The first unit that continuously treats lubricating oil stock began operating in the Port of Paulsboro plant in 1936, the same year the first commercial catalytic cracking unit started operating.
During the first half of the 20th Century, the Port of Paulsboro was transforming from a residential to an industrial town. Movies came to town, and a weekly Friday night dance was held. The first movie house opened in 1915, and the Port of Paulsboro's first high school opened in 1916. In 1921, funds were appropriated for a drainage and sewer system. In 1924, the water company was opened by the Port of Paulsboro township.
By 1950, more than 7800 people lived in the Port of Paulsboro.