Greetings, and welcome to the Historical Society of Riverton's website for our town, founded in 1851, by a group of ten Philadelphians for summer homes for their families. Displayed within its scant square mile area of Victorian-flavored neighborhoods and gaslamp-lined streets are more than 150 years of American architectural styles. More than half of Riverton's buildings are included in the State and National Directories of Historic Places.

Here is the venerable Porch Club, birthplace of the PTA; Riverton Yacht Club, one of the oldest and still active yacht clubs in the country; the beloved Riverton Public School which just turned one hundred; treasured churches and other institutions, as well as businesses and a hometown to almost 3,000 proud Rivertonians.

Our masthead banner, derived from a delightful folk art painting by Riverton author and artist, Anne Knight Ruff, evokes the charm and vitality of our richly historic borough and serves as your invitation to explore it further with us.

Mrs. Tilmont, retired Riverton School teacher, turns 99

Eleanor Tilmont 99th bd (Copy)It was a Girls’ Day Out last Thursday when retired Riverton School teacher Mrs. Eleanor Tilmont celebrated her 99th birthday with friends at Due Amici (her actual birthdate, Feb. 11, 1916).

Father Michael Doyle read Eleanor a moving poem and gave everyone a blessing.

This is one lady who does tell her age and is looking forward to her 100th birthday bash. – JMc



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Town Historian Paul Schopp comments on “Summering In Riverton”

Mrs. Patricia Solin and I collaborated on “Summering In Riverton” which appeared in the November GN. Shortly afterward, my friend Paul Schopp sent us a wonderful commentary which gives added context to several of our remarks and makes a couple of corrections.


Okay, here are my comments on the “Summering in Riverton” article:

I do not believe the steamboat landing predated the town. No wharf appears on any pre-1851 maps. In addition, the founders and early residents had no regard for the railroad at all. The steamboat was the preferred method of travel. This is why the Camden & Amboy Railroad did not build a station at Riverton until the 1860s.

Regarding the Riverton Journal, I recall that the editors and publishers were a couple of teenage boys, hence the “frankness” and prose.

Riverton, NJ map 1859

Riverton, NJ map 1859

Attached is an 1859 map of Riverton; you will see the “Riverton House” next to C.P. Miller or Main Street. I believe this is the same as the Cinnaminson House that Charles Hall operated.

The 1877 map attached indicates that Pancoast had already built his house at 404 Main, but the lot where 402 would be built is still vacant.

Riverton, NJ map 1877

Riverton, NJ map 1877

As I indicated to you at the Memorial, the Kern’s Tourist Home was out along Route 25 (Route 130) and served the traveling public moving to and from New York City and should not really be included in your article.

In 1860, Pancoast was a farmer, but following the Civil War, I think he moved into Riverton and constructed 404 Main. He listed himself as “Palmyra, NJ” because the Riverton post office did not open until 1871 and he probably built 404 either in 1868 or 1869.

In 1890, the Pennsylvania Railroad published a guide to Suburban Homes within a radius of 30 miles around Philadelphia. This what it contains for Riverton:

“One of the most charming spots on the river is this favorite, conservative little town. Its population consists of seven-hundred, who are mainly property-owners, and the exceptional summer-boarding opportunities as presented here are usually captured a long time in advance. By a town ordinance no buildings are allowed on the river front, and now, extending for a  good mile in length, and running from the river wall to the artistic houses set back a goodly distance, is a green, velvet-like lawn, without fence or party-line, a perfect landscape garden, which has become one of the distinctive features pointed out to the boat travelers steaming by. It is a haven for yachtsmen, canoeists, lovers of the rod, cricketers, ball and tennis players, and its sandy beach is well dotted in the warm summer afternoons with numbers of bathers. Its shaded walks and drives bestow enticing coolness, even on the warmest day, and almost every evening some means of private entertainment or dance is improvised in the little theatre for the pleasure of the summer guest. From a sanitary standpoint it is very healthful, and the theory of malaria existing about these river-front resorts has long been exploded—as no better proof is needed than the return, season after season, of the same people, or by the length of years enjoyed by the permanent  New Jersey inhabitants. There are several churches (Episcopal, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Catholic) in the village. Telegraphic, express, and mail service.

Lawn House.”—Miss E.S. Bell. Three squares from station. Accommodates seventy-five guests. Open May 31st to October 15th. Rates, $10 to $25 per week. Large mansion; situated on the river bank; unobstructed view of river scenery. Good boating, bathing, and fishing.

“Private Mansion.” Miss Sallie Sickel. Few minutes’ walk from station. Accommodates thirty guests. Open all the year. Rates, $10 to 15 per week. Large porch and lawn.

Home Mansion.” Mrs. E.H. Pancoast. One square from station. Accommodates ten guests. Open June to October. Rates, $8 to $15 per week.”

I hope you find these comments helpful.

Best regards,


 Our thanks to Paul Schopp for his comprehensive fact-checking of our article.  – JMc

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We go in with Palmyra on a bigger, better Antique & Collectible Appraisal

Expert Personal Property Appraiser, Ronald Shaffer, ISA assesses Nancy and Bill Hall's music box.

Ronald Shaffer assesses Nancy and Bill Hall’s music box in 2013

Saturday, March 28, 2015, from noon to 4 p.m. will see the return of the popular Antique & Collectible Appraisal with the affable and very knowledgeable appraiser Ronald E. Shaffer, but with a  few upgrades.

The spacious Palmyra Community Center will serve as the venue for an enlarged event which the Palmyra Historical & Cultural Society is co-sponsoring with the Historical Society of Riverton.

Well-known Philadelphia antiques expert, Mr. Ronald E. Shaffer, ISA, is a frequent speaker on the subject of Fakes, Frauds & Flimflams, and he directs many such Heirloom Discovery Day events for historical societies and civic groups.

You are certain to be informed and entertained by Mr. Shaffer’s witty and informed banter as he speaks about each piece, about his profession, and offers his opinions of value for items brought to the event.

In addition, we are very fortunate to have available at this same event Mr. Nicholas Fratto, Accredited Master Gemologist and CEO of Anthony Jewelers, to evaluate your vintage fine jewelry. Anthony Jewelers, of course, is a 3rd Generation family business serving the Riverfront region and beyond since 1953.

Muster sheets listing names of local area Union soldiers on display in 2014

Muster sheets listing names of local area Union soldiers on display in 2014

Last January 2014, we reported on the fine PH&CS presentation of its recently acquired Civil War diaries written by Capt. Charles Hall and muster sheets of local soldiers in Company E, 4th Regiment NJ Volunteers of the Union Army. The Civil War muster sheets will also be on display at this appraisal event.

The popularity of Antiques Roadshow, Pawn Stars, American Pickers, and other such reality shows has us all dreaming of finding buried treasure in our attic or finding a bargain in that local flea market. Whether it has been in the family for generations or you just picked up a vintage item on eBay, find out what it’s worth at this rare special event.

Admission is free. Each expert’s verbal opinion of value is $5 per item with a limit of two per person. No written appraisals will be issued. No reservation needed.

PLEASE NOTE— so you will not be disappointed — Mr.Shaffer claims no general knowledge of firearms, swords, or modern-day collectibles. He specializes in American, English and Continental furniture, glassware, silver, china, American art, textiles, and needlework. Furniture items are always welcome — if they are easily transportable by the owner. Photographs of items, too large to carry, are acceptable as long as they are clear, true views with sufficient detail. Mr. Fratto’s specialty is fine estate jewelry. – JMcAntique Collectible Appraisal publicity 2015





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Blizzard fizzles; Editor looks back to actual historic snows

Snowblowing in Delran 1-27-2015

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the so-called “Historic Snowstorm” left two inches of soft powder in Delran (5 miles north of Riverton).

But it may have been enough to turn the late-January issue of the Gaslight News into a Post-Groundhog Day Issue, so I posted the PDF today. I will stuff envelopes and mail the newsletters as soon as I get them from Joie Budget Printing in Cinnaminson.

I do recall some historic snow storms. Well, maybe not in the meteorological sense.

Years ago, I waited for the KYW Radio announcement or the phone call from the colleague a step up from me on the Riverton School phone tree (and then I, in turn, called the next teacher) to give me the word, “No school.”

Upon returning to school the next day, students were all a-buzz with stories of snowball fights and sledding at Double Bunkers.

Historic or not, Riverton kids (and a teacher or two) enjoyed the day off. Often, though, a Spring Break would be adjusted or the school calendar extended farther into June to make up the day.

Skaters at RYC, c.1888

Skaters at RYC, c.1888

Each generation seems to define its own version of The Good Old Days and it amazing how the sight of an old photo or the scent of wet socks drying by the heater grate can reboot those memories.

What will the kids of 2015 regard as their Good Old Days?

Snow and ice have certainly caused their share of fun as well as commotion here over the years.

In 1900, the steamer Twilight became icebound near Trenton, and Charles Biddle rescued fifteen ice skaters with his boat when they got caught on a Delaware River ice that was breaking up.  In 1903, two young Riverton men saved another skating party from drifting ice, again by boat.

sleigh in snow, New Era, Feb 8, 1934, p3

sleigh in snow, New Era, Feb 8, 1934, p3

The Feb. 8, 1934 New Era, Riverton’s now defunct hometown newspaper, described how Benjamin Lippincott’s mule-drawn wicker sleigh thrilled “the younger generation of Riverton” when  it came into town.

In 1979, former HSR President and Town Historian Betty B. Hahle wrote in the Gaslight News:

In 1888 “Receipt Book” of Wm. F. Morgan …”The Great Blizzard occurred March 12th 1888.” (added) “The second occurred Feb. 12 and 13th 1899. It snowed for 52 hours.”

In researching his excellent Nov. 2009 GN article, The Fascinating Fitlers, former HSR President Gerald Weaber found:

Dale Baker Fitler was born in Riverton  exactly nine months after the famous snow blizzard in March 1888. Drifts reached  fifteen to thirty feet high along the riverbank.

Joseph F. Yearly - shoveling snow in front of J.T. Evans sheds 1940

Joseph F. Yearly – shoveling snow in front of J.T. Evans sheds 1940

Now, that blizzard really was historic. The Blizzard of 1888 was of the most famous snowstorms in American history, it hit the eastern United States March 11th and 12th 1888. The Great White Hurricane paralyzed communities from Maine to Chesapeake Bay. Cities became isolated when telephone and telegraph wires snapped, trains stopped, and roads became impassable. The National Weather service estimated that 40 inches of snow-covered New York and New Jersey. Philadelphia claimed high winds blew up to 60 miles an hour, creating snowdrifts 40 to 50 feet high.

It’s a good thing we missed out on that kind of historic snowstorm this time.

Riverton Readers of all ages, what historic, or just plain memorable, snowfalls do you recall? -JMc










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New Year changes proposed to the Constitution and Bylaws


No, not that Constitution – the HSR constitution. Patricia Solin, our Society’s secretary, explains below.

This past year the Board of the Historical Society of Riverton reviewed the its constitution and bylaws.

After careful consideration, an Ad Hoc committee suggested changes. The Executive Board voted to accept those changes, which now require review by the full membership.

proposed changes screenshotThe attached document describes those changes and the rationale for making the changes.

If you are a member of the Society, please review the document and be prepared to vote on it at our next General Membership meeting on January 21 (details forthcoming in the next newsletter and on this website).

Open the PDF here to read the proposed changes and the reasons for those changes. – JMc

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