Coronavirus writes a new page of Riverton history

Palmyra Record, Oct 6, 1916, p1

Visitors here may recall that we have published local historical information about pandemic outbreaks twice before, on January 20, 2018, and January 29, 2018.

Riverton social media – 1895


The pages of hometown newspapers such as The New Era (1894 – 1949), The Riverton Journal (1880 – 1882), The Palmyra Record (1913 – 1918), and The Weekly News (Palmyra) (1887 – 1922) were the social media of their day.

Palmyra Record, March 29, 1918,

In 1918, the news in those pages filled its readers with dread as the Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919 took hold of the community.


However, this COVID-19 virus is writing a new page of history for us every day.

The first two presumptive positive cases of new coronavirus were reported in Burlington County on Tuesday, officials say, striking a couple in Riverton.

Also, social distancing, postponements, shutdowns, and cancellations have affected us all.

On March 10, Mayor Suzanne Cairns Wells published a Coronavirus Update in which she suggested common sense precautions and said that there are “…no implications for Riverton School or any school in Burlington County at this time.”

Nevertheless, Riverton teachers are working on contingency plans, and all after school activities and programs and field trips are canceled, including a planned Arbor Day presentation.

Principal/Superintendent Mary Ellen Eck answers some concerns on the school website that parents may have in a letter dated March 10.

Some news sources, including the Burlington County Times, are providing content online for free as a public service to their readers during the coronavirus outbreak. Please support local journalism by subscribing to the Burlington County Times at

According to the Burlington County Times:

The New Jersey Department of Education has directed schools to update plans for outbreaks or pandemics. The state called for schools to identify leadership teams, outline communications plans, establish flexible attendance and sick-leave policies and have students and staff avoid travel to areas with advisories. The state also told school districts to prepare plans for home instruction in case they need to close.

The situation is fluid and recommendations will change as government and institutions respond to suit conditions.

For our part, the New Jersey Council for the Humanities has asked that we cancel all programs for March, April, and May. This includes “Before & After: Discoveries in Historic Preservation” by Dan Campbell scheduled for March 26, as well as our “Hamilton vs Jefferson” program scheduled for April 23rd.

Our advice – check with reliable news sources and government agencies rather than joining the speculation on Facebook. We welcome your comments, photos, and reader submissions on the topic that is evolving as we write.

As I write this I see a news alert that the President is about to address the Nation. Stay tuned to the New York Times for Live Coronavirus Updates. -JMc

Published by

John McCormick

Teacher at Riverton School 1974-2019, author, amateur historian, Historical Society of Riverton Board Member 2007-2023, newsletter editor 2007-2023, website editor 2011-2023

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