Annotated poem, “Rhyme of Old Riverton,” to Marjorie Marcy Crowell by Therese Spackman Barclay Willits, 1974


In 1974 Therese Spackman Barclay Willits wrote the following poem to her lifelong friend Marjorie Marcy Crowell on the occasion of her 80th Birthday. A copy of it was placed in the Riverton Library, where your writer found it about 20 years ago, and would like to share it with the Gaslight News Readers.

Marjorie Marcy Crowell, daughter of Dr. Alexander and Mrs. Marcy, was born in 1894 at the home of her parents at 406 Main St. and lived there all of her life. She died in 1979. Therese Spackman Barclay Willits was born in the home of her grandfather, Joseph Campbell, on Main St. because the new home of her parents at 205 Lippincott Avenue was not quite finished in December 1889. She lived there after her first marriage, moved to the Philadelphia suburbs for a time after her second, and then came back to Riverton. She was past her 100th birthday when she died. BBH April 2001

Dear Marge, though it’s not customary
I crave of you a present,
A piece of time, I hope may be
For both of us most pleasant.






We’ll both stretch out upon the deck
Down at the Jersey shore,
And cast our memories back upon
The Riverton of yore.

The New Era, Aug 30, 1923, p2

When all the streets were dusty roads
Wet by a watering cart,
And little friendly stores there were,
And no big shopping mart.

1909 RPPC postcard, Main Street, Riverton, NJ

There were no buses then or cars,
But ten steam trains a day,
And later on a trolley car,
A slower cheaper way.

P.R.R. Station, Palmyra, N.J. c.1906

The doctors drove in buggies,
The country round about,
Delivering babies in their homes
And treating croup to gout.

Horse drawn wagon on Main Street, no date PHOTO CREDIT: MARY FLANAGAN

The iceman brought great blocks of ice,
Nice Harvey, big and black…
He wore a great thick rubber pad
On one side of his back.

Weikman ice wagon

If a thieving girl climbed the wagon step
He’d grin and never scold her
But mark, and cut, and weigh a chunk
And toss it to his shoulder!





Mr. Tippenhouer, the butcher
And the grocer Mr. Frank,
Came weekly to take orders
For all we ate and drank.

Butcher Ezra Perkins had his shop at 606 Main Street, rescued from curbside trash by Lorraine Gambone







Any forgotten item
Had to remain unknown–
We couldn’t call about it,
for no one had a phone.

The New Era, 1965 Anniv. Issue

Mrs. Smith sold “notions”
And penny candy too-
We’d ponder there, before the case
To chose, as children do.

Mrs Alfred Smith Store, c1926, RoR frame 28976

There were no movies or TV
But lectures, plays and dances
Held within the Lyceum’s doors
Remember learning lancers?

pre-1908 Lyceum photo from glass plate by Richard Gaughan 1976

In a little house on Main street
Lived “Uncle George Senatt.”
He loved all kids, and for us
There was welcome on the mat.

Uncle George Senat in reading room of present library building, 1887. Original owned by Nancy and Bill Hall

He fed us all on peanuts,
And like to see us come.
His little house was later
The Riverton Library’s home.

Riverton Free Library, undated

The Library in those days
Was in the Parish House
And in it we were quiet
As any small church mouse.

Christ Episcopal Church, Rectory, Parish House






In the reading room a rubber plant
Hid a chair in a little nook,
and that is where I’d make for
With a Henty or Alcott book!

books by G.A. Henty and L.M. Alcott






The Pansy Club, Mrs. Marcy’s scheme
To make us keen and wise–
“Read one half hour every day
And you will get a prize!”

Pansy Club Rules, St. Nicholas Magazine, Volume 28, Part 2, 1901, p1129







We went to school to Mrs. Sharp-
You were the “little one”
And there the jon was out of doors
Which we considered fun!

Gertrude Wright, undated school photo at Riverton School, built 1892

We went to Lothrop’s studio
To have our pictures taken–
It seemed like nearly every year
If I am not mistaken.

Charles Horace Haines, Lothrop photography 7.25″ X 5.25″









The drugstore, you remember,
Run by Mr. Copperthwaite.
It had delicious sodas,
And if you had a date

Riverton Journal, Oct 17, 1882, p1








Who only had one nickel
It mattered not, because
He’d hand one foaming soda out
with two diverging straws!






Dreer’s Nursey had a fine display
Of flowers, vines and trees;
We always took our company
To “Oh” and “Ah” at these!

Dreer Trial Gardens






The lily ponds were fabulous,
Some plants had pads so large
A small child could stand upon one
You ever try it, Marge?

Dreer Nursery – Victoria Trickeri Lily Pond






We played down at the river
Where the “John A” and the “Annie L”
Traveling up to Trenton
Made rollies that were swell

Steamer John A. Warner, real photo given by Bob & Peggy Morris







We powdered stones on the river wall
“For medicine” says you-
For me a muddy sort of paint
Or like attractive brew.

Riverton Yacht Club, Riverton, NJ 7-17-1939






We watched the 5 o’clock boats
On summer afternoons,
And Sonny Wright dived off the deck!
Sometimes a band played tunes.

Sonny Wright, RPS photo cropped







The Columbia, a big boat
Stopped at the wharf for freight.
And for commuting men folk
The “Sight Bell” rang at eight.

Steamer Columbia, 1905 postmark, scan Ed Gilmore






At shad run, in the spring time
We’d watch the floated net
Be windlassed in the upon the shore
And pretty soon we’d get

Faunce shad fishery capstan, The New Era 1909 Christmas Issue






A great big squirming glistening shad
Can there be better show?
The price was just a quarter- –
Think what that would be now!


Mending the Nets, Palmyra, N.J.






We learned to swim at Frishmuth’s Wharf
And dive from off the float.
We thought we had it made when we
Could reach their anchored boat.

Home of J. Frishmuth, Lindsay-Fitler Album






We ate our sandwich lunches
In a leaky old boat.
It kept one of us bailing
For her to stay afloat.

postcard published by The New Era






When older, we paddled to Taylor’s
For beach fires on the sand
And floated back in the moonlight
And wished we need never land!

Moonlight on the Delaware River, Riverton, NJ 4-5-1910






There were catboat races on weekends-
Good sailors not a few!
And many a wistful wharf-rat
In hopes of a chance to crew.

44 – (unidentified catboat possibly Olga) from Lindsay-Fitler Album









We sailed to Burlington Island
And lay becalmed all night,
While we were singing and laughing
Our families fought off fright.

Burlington Island Amusement Park 1905, westjerseyhistory






We followed the winding Pompeston
from marshland back to the wood
Where we had hilarious picnics
(where my sons later played Robin Hood!)

Swimming in Pompeston Creek, scan from Joseph and Mary Bintliff Yearly








A place we called “1000 Islands”
Was covered with flowers in spring-
We crossed a tree bridge to reach it,
A daring and dangerous thing!

Iris Garden at Dreer’s Nursery 1909






Back then there were tall groves of chestnut
Before the chestnut blight,
We went every fall to despoil them–
Those nuts were a beautiful sight!

Natural History by Alex Fletcher – New York 1869









We flung sticks high to dislodge them
From their prickly velvet lined burrs-
And they pattered like rain in their falling
Through thickets of redolent firs.

botanical chart chestnuts









I remember in election years,
After stormy political sessions,
The men came swarming down the street
In noisy light processions.

Philadelphia Inquirer, Nov. 3, 1890









With shouts and banners
Drum and fife,
And great flares lighting
The autumn night.

Taft campaign postcard, 1908







The diamond of our famous nine
Was up “above the tracks”,
Also the livery stable
Where one could hire hacks.

Riverton 1872 Baseball Team as seen in Sporting Life, Magazine, April, 1922, courtesy Bill Hall







And then in nineteen hundred
An era new was off,
The Country Club was started
And all the rage was golf!

Golf c1926, RoR frame 40600 screenshot






Oh later we played hockey
that brought you to fame
I played it, too, more feebly
But loved it just the same.

Marjorie Marcy Crowell field hockey equipment








In winter there was “hitching”
Can skiing be more fun?
Your sled would need a lengthy rope
If steering well were done!

1896 Snow House – cabinet card, scan courtesy Elsie Waters









From any sleigh or wagon–
“Bell and Frank’s” was the best
One hitch out, another back–
The round trip gave it zest.

Gertrude Wright out for a sleigh ride in Palmyra, 1914






We knew the sound of sleigh bells
Upon the frosty air–
The river froze and ice boats
And skaters darted there.

Ice Skaters on Delaware River – Lee Cook, Sonny Wright, Mr Allen 1908 PHOTO CREDIT: ELSIE WATERS







Parades would walk across then
Clear to the Pennsy shore
But modern navigation
Permits that never more.

post WW1 parade, July 5, 1920







July the 4th, red letter day–
Our patriotic town
Had speeches, races and parade
The like was never found.

Mayor Killiam Bennet, July 5, 1920







The great parade marched down the street
From old Joe Roberts’ store,
With beating drums and blaring brass
Down to the river’s shore.

Children’s Parade, c1907, postcard scan courtesy of Nick Mortgu






The band was smartly costumed
With epaulets on shoulders,
Traditionally the march they played
Was “Onward Christian Soldiers”.

July 4, 1924 stereoview, Elsie Waters






The judges judged the costumes
And decorated floats,
The breeze blew all the children’s flags
And gaily bannered boats.

Elsie Showell and brother John, Riverton July 5, 1920







The speeches that were heard that day
Were fiery and ornate,
We swelled with pride to hear them–
Far cry from Watergate!!

July 5, 1920 D’olier speaking







And all the day’s activities
Were on the river bank.
And families came to picnic,
And napped and ate and drank.

Riverton Yacht Club – enjoying a good time, scan courtesy Nick Mortgu







They watched the races, tub to yacht
And also the canoe
In which participating were
Sometimes me and you.

canoes and small plane in river, scan courtesy Mary Flanagan






Until at dusk the fireworks!!
And again the band would play.
And then the final “set piece”
Would end the glorious day.

Riverton Fireworks, 8-20-2008 scan courtesy Richard Flach







From Sunday School on Sunday
Till baths on Saturday night
Dawns then rose clear and rosy
And sunsets clouds were bright.

Teresa Hartnett RYC sunset June 6, 2019







So, Marge, come talk about it,
There may be more to say!
I really do expect you,
So set the time, come May!


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

3 thoughts on “Annotated poem, “Rhyme of Old Riverton,” to Marjorie Marcy Crowell by Therese Spackman Barclay Willits, 1974”

  1. History comes alive especially with the accompanying images that are treasured in the HSR Archives. Thank you for a great article!

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