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Califon is a borough in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough's population was 1,076, reflecting an increase of 21 (+2.0%) from the 1,055 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn declined by 18 (-1.7%) from the 1,073 counted in the 1990 Census.
The town was to originally have been called California, but the name was shortened to Califon in order to fit on the welcome sign. Alternatively, the name was related to a bright yellow cattle feed sold during the Gold Rush.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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