DemographicsFreehold is a small town, made smaller -- if only in relative terms -- by a boom in thesurrounding area after World War II. Its racial and ethnic makeup has been a source of conflictthroughout its history. Bruce put it this way in the lyrics to "In Freehold," from 1996: “Well if you were different, black or brown/It was a pretty redneck town/Back in Freehold.
There were 7,550 people living there in 1950, the year after Bruce was born, and the population increased 40 percent in the next two decades.
The growth spurt was the second of the20th century. During the 1920s and 1930s, the number of residents more than doubled as peoplemoved into town to take jobs, especially at the Karagheusian rug mill.
Even so, the town's growth failed to keep pace with the likes of Freehold Township,where farmland gave way to housing developments. The number of township residents soaredalmost fourfold in the 1950s and 1960s, and by 1970 its population surpassed Freehold's.
Lastyear, the township had three times as many people, according to a Census Bureau estimate.
Bruce was different by Freehold’s standards because of his long hair. Drivers tried to push him into ditches as he hitchhiked along Route 9.
Yet his ethnic makeup was perfectly inkeeping with the town’s Western European heritage. The Dutch were among the town’s earlysettlers. Irish immigrants followed in the mid-1800s, when their home country was struck byfamine.
The Irish became Freehold’s largest white ethnic group, followed by the Italians.Together, they were 28% of the population in the 2000 census.
African-Americans arrived as slaves during the 1700s, and historically were Freehold’slargest minority group. In 1790, they accounted for one out of every six residents. The BethelAfrican Methodist Episcopal Church, the town’s oldest black congregation, started in 1848.