Last week HSR President Gerald Weaber and I went to our History Faire tent at the Burlington County Farm Fair prepared to preach a litany of Riverton history sermons to the multitudes. There was some proselytizing on our part, to be sure, but I had the best time listening to the recollections of members of our own and other historical societies.
Too, there were visits from other local history buffs such as Nick Mortgu and wife Beth Lippincott who came hoping to find a source for searching some family genealogical information, which I believe, they found in County Historian Joe Laufer. They’ve been trying to find the burial site of one of Beth’s 17th century Quaker ancestors.
Nick is the historian for the RYC and an avid collector of all sorts of Riverton memorabilia. (Beth and he live in the historic 1860s era home that had been the site of Riverton’s Cole Dairy which was the focus of a Nov. 2010 Gaslight News article.)
While Beth and Joe were talking, Nick told me that Beth’s first ancestors to immigrate to the US, the Lovecott family, decided to rebadge the clan as Lippincotts.
I did not know that.
Then, Kim, one of my former students (so sweet that she didn’t introduce me to her young man as “my old teacher”) stopped by hoping to find a picture of her house or street in with the box of reproduction prints of vintage postcards that we had brought. No luck, but if you have looked for a particular street in our images collection, and don’t see it, ask for it at the end of this article and maybe the Universe will hear you.Recently, Ms. Lois Gorbe, now residing in Florida, sent us two snapshots of the burned remains of the schooner Lucy Evelyn that once served as a one-of-a-kind gift shop in Beach Haven. She has fond memories of visiting the ship/shop as a child during the 1940s. It’s so cool for me to be able to help her and others remember the good ol’ days back in the neighborhood.
Now gone, like so many other landmarks and buildings in our Images compilation, perhaps the entire collection might better be called, “Things That Aren’t There Anymore.” You can find them under Long Beach Island, NJ Images under the Images tab. Such unexpected bonus finds from across the miles were never possible for us before the launch of this website. Thank you, Lois.
Readers, wherever you are, please know that we would like to hear from you about your memories and images of Riverton and the region. We wish for this website to be a virtual meeting place for anyone who wants to know more about this region’s local history or has something to bring to our readers’ attention. What could we in the HSR do to help you?
Historical societies from each corner of this largest of New Jersey’s 21 counties exhibited displays celebrating the founders, landmarks, and various movers and shakers throughout their respective histories which have made each community so unique. HSR President Gerald Weaber and I viewed the affair as a kind of mini-convention in which we could network with colleagues at other tables, as well as showcase our organization’s preservation efforts to the public.
I so thoroughly enjoyed David Smith’s PowerPoint presentation summarizing his four-year long research project on the Rancocas Stud Farm owned by Gilded Age tobacco millionaire Pierre Lorillard IV that I listened to it twice.
David’s account of the life of this extraordinary entrepreneur and sportsman who traveled in the same rich and famous social circles as the Astors and Vanderbilts intrigued me, and it left me wondering how I hadn’t heard of him before.
I mean, the Lorillard Tobacco Company is older than the United States! And it “invented” the cigar store Indian in order to advertise its products. According to one school of thought, the tuxedo was invented by Pierre Lorillard IV and named after Tuxedo Park, a sportsman’s preserve and enclave of mansions he created out of 2,200 acres of mountain wilderness 40 miles outside New York City.
Certainly Pierre Lorillard IV had a head start when he inherited a large fortune from his father which included one of the most extensive tobacco companies in the world, but under his shrewd stewardship he shortly further increased his fortune at least tenfold.
Such history bits initially drew me in, but the tobacco magnate’s lofty triumphs in the sporting world coupled with his unimaginably extravagant lifestyle and colorful character makes for a compelling story of achievement and, at times, head-shaking disbelief.
David Smith hopes to write a book that begins with the tobacco company’s 1760 founding which created such fabulous wealth for the Lorillard dynasty that they could engage in horse breeding and horse racing, dog breeding, yacht racing, financing excavations of Mayan ruins in Central America, the building of incredibly lavish homes and estates, and the development of a country club and luxury retreat for the super rich.
Lorillard died at 67 in 1901, and willed Rancocas Stud Farm, now known as Helis Stock Farm, to his mistress Lily Livingston (AKA Lily Allien), and the sensational scandal that resulted played out in the pages of the New York Times for all to see. A book that could tell the epic story of the tobacco heir’s bigger than life bio along with all of his diverse sporting and commercial interests plus include the development of his company would be weighty, indeed.
I’m thinking a blockbuster movie or maybe an HBO mini-series a lá the glitz and glam of Boardwalk Empire (without the gunplay) would be the way to tell this story. Who could play Young Pierre? Who would you cast for Mrs. Lorillard, Older Pierre, and Lily?
Each of our historical societies has colorful characters and persons of achievement perhaps just as compelling Pierre Lorillard, even if not as rich. For our diminutive borough, it’s the Ogdens, Grices, Dreers, Lippincotts, and Dorrances of years past, with new names of people who have effected recent change such as Betty Hahle now added to that honored roll. Who’s on your town’s list?
We are always looking to expand our virtual image collection and add to our knowledge base. The latest plea was for information from anyone with a Riverton Civil War veteran tucked back in one of those branches of their family tree.
Ultimately, we hope to investigate the position taken by Riverton women, area Quakers, the general public, the business community, and various Riverton institutions toward the Civil War, so please let us know what you can. – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor