Aura was settled by John Early in 1764.Because several roads converged here. It was earlier known as Union, Unionville, and Union Grove or Station. Aura is about three miles west of Clayton, and has about 200 inhabitants. On May 21, 1892 because other communities bore the same name, Union was changed to Aura. This was done at the suggestion of John Tonkins, the postmaster, who chose the name of Aura after a town in Oregon.
John Early came to America from Ireland because of religious persecution. In 1764 he landed at Swedesboro and from there he came to Aura.. A stream called "Little Run" on the Aura-Glassboro Road is where he settled, and built a sawmill. He resided on the former Michael Block property, where he raised nine children.
The "Map of Philadelphia, Camden, from Actual Surveys by D.J Lake and S.N Beers", published by C.K Stone and A.Pomeroy, Phila. 1860, shows the town as "Union Cross Roads", but S.Mitchell`s 1880 New General Atlas, reference section, page 16, calls it "Unionville".
Cushing and Sheppard`s "History of the Counties of Gloucester, Salem and Cumberland" (1883) at page 223, refers to the place as "Union Meeting-House" (now Unionville).At page 314 , the following description appears :"Union" is the name of another town in Clayton Township, and is about 3 miles west from Clayton, and numbers about 200 inhabitants.
As to the origin of the name "Aura", "Origin of New Jersey Place Names", New Jersey State Library Commission, compiled by the Federal Writer`s Project of the WPA, 1939, reissued in 1945, states (without explanation) that it derives from Aura, Oregon.
The well-known historian, Mr.William R. Farr, has the following account, in the reply to a request from the Gloucester County Historical Society, concerning Aura. This was submitted about "Aura" and "Union Cross Roads" in Elk Township: "The Post Office records show that the initial post office at this place was established as "Unionville" on September 4, 1863 with William Curry as the first Postmaster. Following him was Gabrial Abbott -1865; John Morton -1869; Henry Abbot -1871; Eli Heritage -1874; Joseph Carter -1881; John Tonkin -1888; William Hamilton -1895; Clement Gardiner -1899; Linwood Locuson -1925"
To update this information it should be noted that from the time the post office was removed from Locuson`s store, now the Aura Bank, to Joe Gotti`s store, now the front part of Nicholson`s warehouse, Howard Carter was postmaster. The post office in Aura was discontinued about 1945.
Peoples Bank of Aura (1976)
In the early days of Aura the chief industry was the manufacturing of hay forks. The Fork and Elevator Manufacturing Company was operated by the president and manager, Mr.J.R.Fitzhugh. There was also a general store, which was built by Fitzhugh, and connected to a coal yard. The only church was the Methodist Church and there was also the Aura Holiness Camp, which is still in operation today on Willow Grove Road.
The general store was also owned by Thomas McClure, Clement Gardiner, Linwood Locuson and, finally, Vernon Nicholson. The store was permanently closed about thirteen years ago, and now (1976) houses the Aura branch bank of The Peoples Bank of South Jersey.
.Nicholson's Store, Aura (year about 1900)
It has been told that if one cared to have his taxes reduced, he could cart gravel in the Fall at .10 cents a load to help repair the roads.
One of the earliest settlers was Mr.Jacob R Fitzhugh. The name of Fitzhugh was originally Fitshons. The grandfather, John D. was of German ancestry, having resided in Wittenberg, Germany. He had nine children. His son, John D.,the father of Jacob R.,was born in 1801, and emigrated to America in 1812.
Jacob R Fitzhugh was a self made man, born March 28, 1848, in Indiana County, PA., and remained at the parental home until he was twenty-three years old.
This family worshipped at the German Church, which was latter the Grange Hall, and now the Municipal Building. The corner stone for the church was laid in 1902, and has a new 1902 nickel within, put there by Mr.Clarence Runge who passed away several years ago.
History told to Mrs.Edith Hoelle by Mr.Clerence Runge of Aura, March 31, 1968, indicates that people were taken down toward Mantua Avenue, Woodbury, someplace near Rachor`s Point to be hanged, called "Hangman`s Hill" .An old German man, Mr.Rachor, who had a store in the Point, was father of John Rachor who owned the hotel latter called Newton`s.Hangman`s Hill and Rachor`s Point were at the south end of Broad Street in Woodbury, N.J
Mr.Joseoh Guest, who lived on the corner of Buck and Willow Grove Roads, organized what was known as the Aura Grange, with the help of Mr. Nicholas Black.
The Aura Grange first met on the second floor of what is now Nicholson`s warehouse around 1911 . Latter, the Grange moved to the Grange Hall, the present Municipal Building,(gone now ) about 1923 and purchased it from the German Church, some time latter.The building sat close to the Aura-Hardingville Road in front of where the Municipal Building is today.
Some very active members in the early days were Hiram Newkirk, John Miller, Mr & Mrs.Elmer Gant, Roy Hughes, Mrs.Ned Kerns and Mrs.Aaron Knight.
A small store was operated while the Grange still met in Nicholson`s warehouse. Items such as cocoa, coffee, and vanilla were sold as a profit-making venture for the Grange.
The Aura Grange picnic was held in the grove across from the Aura Church. Should it rain, the picnic was held on the barreling platform. This was a shipping platform where potatos and other vegetables were packed for shipping by rail .
In 1968 the state demanded the charter because the attendance dropped off, and the members who were left could not support the Grange .
In present day Aura we have quite a few businesses which differ greatly in appearance and function from earlier days . Throughout the town many new homes have been built, too, which demonstrates the progress made in today`s society in comparison to the days of the earlier settlers.
Municipal Building 1976
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