Seabrook Educational & Cultural Center
Upper Deerfield Township
Hwy. 77 PO Box 5041
Seabrook, NJ 08302
What do the J.A.C.L., Chow Mein Dinners, and the Buddhist Church all have in common? They all were brought to this area by a man named Charles Franklin Seabrook. Mr. Seabrook founded and owned Seabrook Brothers and Sons, which is a frozen food industry who needed workers to keep his industry going.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor during the time of World War II in December of 1941 made the Americans fear that the Japanese-American population would also turn against the United States. Because of this, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 that allowed 110,000 Japanese Americans to be considered "enemy aliens" and to be moved into internment camps away from their home on the West (Pacific) Coast. These individuals were given one week to pack and be evacuated to ten different, overcrowded internment camps around the country.
While barred in these camps, farms around the country were in need of workers. One of these was Seabrook Farms. Because of this, small groups were allowed to leave the camps and work at these farms. Later the government established a seasonal leave policy.
In 1945, the government closed the ten camps and relocated anyone one who didn't have an offer to work anywhere except the West Coast. Many of these decided to work for Charles Seabrook.
Seabrook granted the new coming workers some pay and a place to live. This is where the Hoover village came in. These prefabricated homes were constructed by Seabrook to house these employees. On the other hand, an increase in the Buddhist religion occurred. For this reason, Seabrook also set up a Buddhist Temple for these members.
After years at the Seabrook Company, many have moved on into different areas in the U.S. For the ones who have stayed in Upper Deerfield, the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) has formed and sponsors community-wide events such as the annual Chow Mein Dinner held at Woodruff School.
Recently, in 1993, a reunion was held, and people from throughout the country flew here to reunite with each other. The Moore School auditorium was packed for this very special occasion.
In October 1994, a big accomplishment was completed whereby future generations can learn the history of Upper Deerfield. This feat was the dedication of the Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center." This is a museum that explains the story of Charles Seabrook and how he made this township what it is today. It is located inside the basement of the Municipal Building and is open for the public to enjoy. Inside, models of the old Seabrook Factory and water tower are displayed. Also, there is a very detailed exhibit of a three dimensional map of Upper Deerfield. October 1998 marks the fourth anniversary of the opening of the museum.
The Mission and the Goals of the SECC:
- Establish a permanent SEABROOK EDUCATIONAL AND CULTURAL CENTER to preserve and present the settlement and experience of the diverse groups
- Create a repository of cultural and historical materials to promote education and research in Seabrook multi-cultural heritage
- Foster greater understanding among people of diverse cultural backgrounds
The Focus of the Exhibits at the SECC:
The exhibits depict the settlement history of Seabrook and community life, particularly of the 1940's and 1950's, when the community was most vibrant. The exhibits focus on three major areas and their interaction:
- Seabrook Farms Company - the company and its historical role in settlement and employment.
- People - the various ethnic groups who settled and/or worked in Seabrook.
- Community Life - the major social and cultural organizations that fostered community activity as well as the representative and significant events of village life.
The Types of Displays:
- Large-scale model of Seabrook Village of the 1950's
- Exhibits of cultural artifacts
- Photograph collections of settlement, workplace, and community life in the village
- Published and recorded material about Seabrook from print and electronic media
- Oral histories reflecting the settlement and the experience of Seabrook life