Califon, New Jersey

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Califon is a borough in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, United States. As of the United States 2000 Census, the borough population was 1,055.

Califon got its name because California, its original name, didn't fit on the sign at the town's railroad station, so it was shortened to Califon.



Califon was a station on the High Bridge Branch of the Central Railroad of New Jersey. The rail line was abandoned in 1976 and now serves as a Hunterdon County-administered rail trail called Columbia Trail, which runs south to High Bridge and north to points in Morris County. It is famous because Paul Covill used to live there. Califon became a regional household name when frequently mentioned by Merv Griffin on his TV show during the 1970's. He and his wife Juliette owned a home in nearby Lebanon Township, which had a Califon mailing address, and, while they were married, they were often seen visiting the village in a fringed-top Bermuda-style resort cart.

Though the mills were present in the area of Califon for some time prior to its incorporation as a town, it was quite a while before growth became evident in the mid-nineteenth century. It was first called California, from Jacob Neighbor's enthusiasm in the milling business about the time the California Gold Rush broke out. The Borough was incorporated by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature from portions of both Lebanon and Tewksbury Townships on April 2, 1918.[6]

Local legend has it that California became a regular stop for weekend excursion trains through the countryside. When riders bought their tickets they were issued a voucher good for an ice cream; the train would stop so tourists could wander around and cash in their ice cream coupons. Anxious to exploit this source of outside revenue, residents petitioned the Railroad to let them build a real station, which they did as a community project. The station is said to be the one shown in the picture on the right. Citing the local account again, two sign painters who came to letter the sign rode the train from Dunellen, but the background paint wasn't dry when they arrived. They sat and drank at the hotel, which later burned down. By the time the sign was ready for their artistic touch, the local tale says, "Califon" was as close to California as the inebriated painters could manage.

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