Reinstalling historic marker at 308 Main Street, Riverton, NJ, 11/22/2022

Our elite Volunteer Sub-Committee on Excavations installed a new historical marker at the Joseph Campbell home at 308 Main Street, Riverton, NJ. An auto accident took out the first one.

On 9/9/2022, a car crashed into the post for the historical marker at the Joseph Campbell house at the corner of 4th & Main. The offending driver’s insurance company (State Farm) quickly reimbursed us for a new post, and Roger ordered a replacement. Amazingly, the sign came through unscathed.

For more details on Joseph Campbell:

Our crew (L-R): Bill Brown, Roger Prichard, and John Laverty. Homeowner Dennis DeVries looks on.

We have installed ten historical markers, including:

…and, coming soon, Ezra Lippincott House 303 Bank Ave.

Can we get an “atta boy” for our crew?

Program sparks new research, filling in more details to Riverton’s 1894 illuminated bike race

Sometimes a newly discovered piece of a puzzle leads to new insights about a familiar topic. This story illustrates how a recent find on eBay helped connect it to additional bits of Riverton’s history.

Cycling at Riverton, The Philadelphia Inquirer, September 17, 1894, p3

A May 30, 2016, post roused our readers to “Imagine the spectacle of a day given over to the sport of bicycling attended by almost 4,000 fans.” Riverton’s population at the time was around 1,100-1,200.

It included scans of two newspaper clippings that announced that a series of races to be held at Riverton’s quarter-mile bicycle race track on September 25, 1894, would be illuminated by twelve electric arc lights, an innovation at the time.

Bicycle race by electric light, September 26, 1894, Trenton Evening Times, p7

The above publicized the competition, and the one at right summarized the event in the next day’s Trenton Evening Times.

A recent eBay purchase ($25.59) of an “Electric Light Race Programme” further verifies the race and adds more details that characterize the meet that awarded gold and silver medals, diamond rings, mantle clocks, silver urns, and gold watches to the victors of 14 competitions.

News of Interest… The Philadelphia Inquirer, September 19, 1894, Page 3

Taking a fresh look at another news article in our files from that period enabled us to connect the dots between an article about an upcoming parade of decorated carriages and bicycles planned to coincide with the September 25th illuminated bike race.

The Ladies’ Floral Tournament Club of Riverton planned to commence the cavalcade at 4:30 pm with horse-drawn carriages coursing through the principal borough streets while cyclists wheeled about in the opposite direction.

“There will be a prize for the best, and one for the second best decorated carriage and the same for bicycles,” promised the article. Post-parade refreshments and entertainment were to follow at the clubhouse of the Riverton Athletic Association until racing by electric lights started.

Camden Daily Telegram, 18 Sep 1894, p1

Now our search had gained momentum!

Another new find established that the Park Avenue Wheelmen had chartered the steamer Columbia, presumably to carry its clubmen and spectators to and from the match.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, 20 Sep 1894, p3

To ease the fears of competitors concerned that the lights’ failure might cause casualties, organizers ordered eight locomotive headlights, circus lights, and Greek fire to supplement the arc lights.

(How the managers recreated the incendiary weapon that the Byzantines used in ancient naval battles escapes me.)

The Philadelphia Inquirer, 26 Sep 1894, p3

The next day a summary of the race results appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

W.W. Taxis broke a track record for the half-mile during the chilly evening on a track made “almost as light as day.”

The report deemed the meet “a decided success.”

This now nearly complete portrait of a colorful episode of Riverton’s history resulted from a fresh examination of source material sparked by a newly acquired event program.

There are almost certainly more undiscovered puzzle pieces out there that could further add details to this story as well as the many more chapters in Riverton’s history. -JMc

Riverton, Images of America, available here

Added 10/12/2022: Borough Historian and HSR Board Member Roger Prichard points out that a photo in our recently published new Arcadia Publishing Company’s book on Riverton in their Images of America Series that may further illustrate this story.

About floral carriages, I wonder if there is any chance this might be the same event that occasioned the picture of the carriage driven by Helen (Elsie) Biddle that’s in the book on p.18-19?

Helen Elsie Biddle in front of 309 Bank Ave., c1895

She would have been 19, which looks right. It feels a little more summer-like than September 25th would suggest, but then again there are many fallen leaves on the grass in the foreground. It would also explain the inconveniently-placed flag on the porch next door at 311 Bank – a decoration intended to be there only temporarily.

Truly history in the making – Schwering’s Hardware celebrates 100 years Sun., Sept. 23

Facebook likes and comments are all fine, but the best thing we can do to wish the owners of Schwering’s Hardware Store well would be to patronize the store.

Seriously, go buy something.

Schwering Hardware, possibly first ad in Palmyra Weekly News, Sept 22, 1922

This may be one of the first advertisements published to announce the opening of Harry C. Schwering’s “NEW HARDWARE STORE.” Harry’s store was a “SERVICE” store, and it remains so after a century in business.

Through a Great Depression and recessions, a World War and other wars, Watergate, 9/11, and a pandemic this family-owned hometown treasure has endured, even outlasting corporate big box stores like Rickel’s and Channel’s.

As we stated in a 2014 post: Isn’t Schwering’s Hardware the best? People have been finding quality products and first-rate service there since it opened its doors in 1922 as Schwering’s Wayside Hardware. Knowledgeable advice and neighborhood news are a bonus.

ad for Schwering, Picturesque Palmyra

Our 2011 post about Picturesque Palmyra, a small booklet meant to promote Palmyra’s real estate, featured an ad for H.C. Schwering. At the time of its publication in 1923, Schwering’s had only been open for a few months.

It looked much like this.

Schwering’s 1920s

Founder Henry Schwering opened Schwering’s Hardware in 1922. Through the years, it passed down to Richard Schwering, Steven Schwering, and now to Kyle Siemietkoski.

Schwering 4 generations

This past May, we recognized Sue and Steve Schwering for this milestone. Now in the capable hands of Kyle, a great-grandson of the founder and nephew to Steve, this cherished hometown treasure starts its second century of service.

The celebration begins at 11 am through 3 pm on Sunday, September 25th. Come out, and enjoy the food, ice cream, cake, giveaways, music, and more, while supplies last. Also, all of their apparel will be 10% off.

As you recall your experience or share memories of Schwering’s Hardware with others there tomorrow, please leave your comments below or on Facebook so that they become part of the story here.

Schwering local newspaper ads


Groves Mansion Update

Groves Mansion Status (411 Lippincott) Part I

Groves Mansion Mar 2021-Aug 2022

Briefly, the Mansion is in peril of demolition. The Riverton Planning Board bravely voted to deny the developer’s application for a demolition permit. (The fact that it is in the local historic district means that Riverton’s demolition ordinance applies.)

The developer has now sued the Borough and the Planning Board in Superior Court, demanding (a) to be allowed to demolish it, (b) to invalidate Riverton’s demolition ordinance so that now ALL of Riverton’s historic buildings would lose their protection, and (c) to order Riverton to pay all the developer’s professional costs (attorneys, engineers, etc.) The Borough’s response to that lawsuit is due, we believe, in the week of 9/19, and we’ll see where it goes from there.

The developer knew the home was a protected historic structure when he bought it but pressed the Borough to be allowed to demolish it anyway. That forced the Borough to pay its lawyer with taxpayer money for multiple lengthy hearings. Now the developer’s appeal lawsuit will require more public funds to defend. But what’s the alternative?

We are historic Riverton. We strive to defend, protect, and preserve history.

Groves Mansion Status (411 Lippincott) Part II

The developer has allowed the Mansion to become shabbier and a significant section of the yard to become a veritable jungle. On August 16th, an overflow crowd of Rivertonians, including many HSR members (thank you all!), packed the regular Borough Council meeting. Many spoke eloquently to show their concerns that the Borough should enforce the multiple existing housing ordinances (and statewide laws) on the books that require that the Mansion be maintained so that it doesn’t look abandoned even if it sits there empty.

The Borough Solicitor cautioned everyone that because of the demolition lawsuit, it would be hard for the public officials to say anything about the property (even though the case and enforcement of codes are unrelated issues). The public in attendance and the public officials alike seemed to be frustrated by that inability to have any meaningful communication. No indication from the Borough has been forthcoming that this big turnout has resulted in any enforcement action by the Borough.

Miss Dod Plays Golf… Epilogue

Borough Historian Roger Prichard reacts below to Patricia Solin’s article, “Miss Dod Plays Golf Against Stars on Riverton Links

Loved this and – as usual – there are so many connections here.

The golfer Frances C. Griscom who invited Dod here was the granddaughter of Riverton founder William Canby Biddle, and her father was the shipping magnate Clement Griscom, whose company owned the Titanic among many other ships. Clement was mentioned briefly in Gerald Weaber’s May 2008 Gaslight News article about Frances’ brother, Lloyd Carpenter Griscom.

106 Lippincott, Riverton, NJ, PHOTO CREDIT: Roger Prichard

Frances grew up and lived nearly all of her life in her father’s amazing Frank Furness estate “Dolobran” in Haverford, which Furness designed at almost exactly the same time as our Earnshaw House at 106 Lippincott (corner of 2nd).

Cecilia Beaux, “Mother and Daughter,” 1898

There’s a fabulous Cecelia Beaux portrait of Frances and her mother in the collection of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (writeup here).

Her mother was the former Frances Canby Biddle, William’s daughter, who would have spent many summers in the house at 307 Bank Avenue, the one the Baptist Home tore down in the 1980s to everyone’s regret.

They don’t look very happy, do they? Frances never married and the 1930 Census shows her still living at Dolobran … alone but for four Irish female servants.

Cecilia Beaux, “Sita and Sarita,” Musee d’Orsay

Total digression: Cecilia Beaux was an amazing and very successful portraitist. Cecilia only lived here briefly in the home of an uncle, Charles W. Leavitt, who built the Italianate house down the street from me at 402 Fulton.

She was so successful a portraitist that my favorite work of hers is in the Musée D’Orsay, and a later copy she made is in the National Gallery of Art, the “Sita and Sarita,” of her cousin Susan Leavitt, who also grew up in that house.

See what wonderful things your fine article kicked off, Patricia?

Miss Dod Plays Golf Against Stars on Riverton Links

By Patricia Smith Solin

Riverton Golf Club, c1920s

The 19th Amendment to the US Constitution was still sixteen years away, but nevertheless, women made their talents known in Riverton. Women have played in golfing tournaments at the Riverton Country Club since its inception in 1900.

Lottie Dod, age 20

Likened to Babe Didrikson Zaharias and Jim Thorpe, Charlotte Dod was an English multi-sports talent. Invited to the United States by Frances C. Griscom, a former US Women’s Golf Champion from Philadelphia, Dod’s aggressive play in Riverton won the tournament against local challengers.

Then 33, Dod met with Mrs. Cecil Fitler and the daughters of the Biddle, Frismuth, Lippincott, and Borden families on the nine-hole links at the Riverton Country Club on 03 October 1904 in preparation for her upcoming US Women’s Amateur golfing tournament.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, 04 Oct 1904, p10

Nicknamed Lottie, the “Little Wonder,” Dod was born on 24 September 1871. The Guinness Book of World Records notes her as one of the most versatile female athletes of all time. In addition to golf, she excelled in ice skating, tobogganing, field hockey, archery, and tennis.

She won her first tournament at Wimbledon at age 15 in 1887 and then in subsequent matches in 1888, 1891, 1892, and 1893. Lottie is still the youngest player to win the women’s singles tournament.

After Dod retired, she ended up in a nursing home in England, largely forgotten as a sports legend. She died there at 88 while listening to a Wimbledon match.

In 2020, the Newbury Town Council dedicated a plaque in honor of five-time Wimbledon champion and Olympic archery silver medallist Lottie Dod, who once lived in the area.

Clean up neglected properties – and start with the Groves Mansion!

If you, too, care about deteriorating properties in Riverton, please come to the Borough Council meeting to be held in person at Borough Hall 505A Howard next TUESDAY, August 16th at 7:00 pm.

We all know that it’s a difficult job to find the right balance – no one wants picky, intrusive code enforcement, but when ongoing issues impact the lives – and property values – of other folks they need to be resolved.

Groves Mansion Mar 2021-Aug 2022

Let’s show our support for our elected officials to enforce the anti-blight housing laws already on the books to resolve obvious problems that are harming neighbors – and historic Riverton itself.

Many residents are troubled that the historic Groves Mansion at 409-413 Lippincott Avenue has been allowed to slip into such disrepair and that its slide is accelerating.

Its ugly “temporary” chain link fence, overgrown shrubbery, vines climbing the back of the house, windows wide open, and the garage door smashed in reflect badly on Riverton – and harm us all.

(Read HSR’s Open Letter, with photos and code citations in the PDF, at this link ).

“Why didn’t anyone do something about this a lot earlier?” is a common sentiment we hear.

We agree that it’s time we “do something about this”. There are also other properties with serious issues, but the Groves Mansion is a high-profile, obvious example. Let’s start by setting a sound, fair policy with it.

HSR’s role is simple: the core of our Mission Statement is “ to discover, restore and preserve local objects and landmarks. ”

HSR’s Board of Directors agreed to make this a priority. HSR President Bill Brown delivered a letter with a detailed list of the code violations we understand to exist, citing chapter and verse from the Riverton ordinances and the New Jersey State Housing Code.

Read his letter yourself (at this link) and spread it far and wide. Tell your neighbors! … and bring them to Borough Council in person on the 17th to show support for preserving our history. If you can’t make the meeting, we also have a petition – please contact us at to get on our petition – an opportunity to show your support!

The 21-page Open letter also appears below.

Sometimes you find an ugly surprise when you do research


Patricia Smith Solin

Archives of the Historical Society of Riverton
Sometimes you find an ugly surprise when you do research. Sometimes you find an ugly surprise when you do research. This recent descent “down the rabbit hole” led to a shocking discovery about one of Riverton’s most esteemed residents.

I’ve been helping to catalog the archives of the Historical Society of Riverton. As a former librarian, I enjoy volunteering and using my training to assist in their project.

Lyceum photo from a glass plate negative

Recently I began cataloging the documents and photos for Riverton’s Lyceum, a meeting hall for dances, lectures, and social functions.

Keith Betten, the HSR’s lead archivist, offered me the box of materials since I had written an article for the September 2011 Gaslight News on this unique building that hosted dances, concerts, plays, public meetings, and other such events from 1886 until 1918.

Gov. Wilson speaks at Lyceum

Among other materials in the archive’s box, I found a small newspaper clipping (unknown source) that noted that the former owner of my house, Dr. Alexander Marcy, Jr hosted a guest speaker on October 28th at the Lyceum on his behalf – New Jersey Governor Woodrow Wilson. The penciled note suggests that it was clipped from a newspaper in 1961 from a section called 50 Years Ago. I checked further on the details of this meeting.

Dr. Alexander Marcy, Jr. and New Jersey Governor, Woodrow Wilson
Wilson was governor in 1911, so the time fit. I did not know that Marcy was a Democrat in this very-Republican town!

What was the connection between Wilson and Marcy?

Dr. Alexander Marcy, Jr., as President of the NJ Medical Association, 1906
And Woodrow Wilson, 1910. Wilson image courtesy Wikipedia

Dr. Alexander Marcy enjoyed a long and respected career as a beloved physician in Riverton. A Mason and a trustee of Calvary Presbyterian Church, the good doctor pursued new methodologies for improving the lives of his patients and authored many medical articles. In 1899, he helped establish the Riverton Library and Free Reading Room at Christ Church, the predecessor of Riverton Free Library. His 1934 obituary stated he was an organizer and later president of Cinnaminson National Bank in Riverton and served as president of the New Jersey Medical Society in 1906. Marcy’s son-in-law, J. Gardner Crowell, guessed that the famed late obstetrician had brought “at least half of Riverton” into this world.

Altogether he was a valued and respected community member.


In 1910, as a part of New Jersey’s Social Service, Dr. Marcy chaired a New Jersey Sanitary Association committee on the Study and Prevention of the Social Evil, which had plans to form a permanent organization.

One year later, Wilson named Marcy to a board of examiners. Its mandate was to ascertain if someone who was mentally or physically disabled or a habitual criminal convicted of sexual assault should undergo sterilization.

As noted on page 89 of the Legal, Legislative and Administrative Aspects of Sterilization, his uncle/father-in-law, Dr. Alexander Marcy, Sr, also endorsed the proposal.

This relationship bears an explanation. Marcy, Jr married his first cousin. Further, the cousin’s father is the man after whom our Dr. Marcy was named, not his own father, so he actually isn’t a “Jr.”

insane sterilization, Warren Times Mirror, Warren PA, 23 Nov 1911, p1

The New Jersey Legislature passed on 21 April 1911, “An act to authorize and provide for the sterilization of feebleminded (including idiots, imbeciles and morons), epileptics, rapists, certain criminals and other defectives.”

Although the state of New Jersey was one of the first to codify this kind of sterilization legislation, there is a long and incremental history since the mid-1800s of what are deemed “ugly laws” taking shape throughout the country. Such laws were mostly municipal statutes in the United States that targeted those who had visible disabilities, poor people, vagrants, and public beggars.

According to Steven A. Farber in his U.S. Scientists’ Role in the Eugenics Movement (1907-1939): A Contemporary Biologist’s Perspective:

…many intellectuals and political leaders (e.g., Alexander Graham Bell, Winston Churchill, John Maynard Keynes, and Woodrow Wilson) accepted the notion that modern societies, as a matter of policy, should promote the improvement of the human race through various forms of governmental intervention. While initially this desire was manifested as the promotion of selective breeding, it ultimately contributed to the intellectual underpinnings of state-sponsored discrimination, forced sterilization, and genocide.

The eugenics movement misguidedly sought to arrange reproduction within a human population to increase the occurrence of heritable characteristics regarded as desirable. Since discredited, Nazis adopted the idea of preventing “undesirables” from procreating during World War II to kill millions of people who did not conform to the political, religious, ethnic, or sexual criteria of the Nazis.

Thankfully, the legislation no sooner passed, and it came under legal challenge. In the case of Smith v. Board of Examiners, the New Jersey Supreme Court deemed the law unconstitutional, and the State of NJ repealed the law in 1913. It did not result in any recorded sterilizations.

Local Option, Perth Amboy Evening News, Oct 26, 1911, p4

Marcy, Runs for NJ Assembly as a Democrat
Later that same year, in October 1911, Marcy ran for NJ Assembly as a Democrat, with the endorsement of his personal friend, Democratic Governor Woodrow Wilson.

According to the Perth Amboy Evening News, 26 Oct 1911 (p. 4), “Local Option Causes Stir in Burlington,” Marcy hoped that the endorsement of the Anti-Saloon League would encourage cross-over votes from Republicans, winning him the seat. For years, Marcy had held strong views about the discontinuance of alcohol, both as a medicine and a beverage.

Dr. Marcy lost to the incumbent Republican Assemblyman Blanchard H. White in November 1911.

By July 1912, the Democratic County Executive Committee urged Marcy to run for the NJ Senate.

Was the second time to be the charm for Marcy’s political ambitions?

Marcy Declines, The Morning Post, Camden, Aug 6, 1912, p6

According to The Morning Post (Camden), on August 6, 1912 (page 5), Marcy, without reason, withdrew his name from the upcoming November election.

As for Wilson, he moved on from New Jersey, taking the oath of office as the 28th President of the United States on 4 March 1913. There, as,, and others acknowledge, the segregationist continued to embrace eugenics and perpetuated inequality for Black Americans.

Disconcerting? Disappointing?

Yes, but we can’t turn our heads and pretend awful things didn’t happen in our town. Riverton’s history is often more complicated than it appears on the surface.

Everyone, then and now, is a mess of contradictions, especially when we judge the past through the lens of today’s moral standards.


Farber, S. A. U.S. Scientists’ Role in the Eugenics Movement (1907-1939): A Biologist’s Perspective. Retrieved July 30, 2022 from

Kersten, L. (2014, March 13). New Jersey passed a sexual sterilization law, only to have it be deemed unconstitutional in 1913. No eugenics legislation was carried through. Retrieved July 22, 2022, from

Declines a Forlorn Hope.” The Morning Post (Camden, NJ) 06 Aug 1912, p. 6.

Laughlin, Harry H. “Eugenical Sterilization in the United States: Legislative Record of the Sterilization Laws” Cold Springs Harbor. 1 Jan 1922.

Laughlin, Harry H. “The Legal, Legislative and Administrative Aspects of Sterilization.” Eugenics Ethics Office. Bulletin 10B. Cold Spring Harbor, Feb. 1914.

Local Option Causes Stir in Burlington.” Perth Amboy Evening News (NJ), 26 Oct. 1911, p. 4.

Journal of the Executive Sessions, New Jersey Legislative Senate. 6 Feb. 1912, p. 1330.

Portrait of Alexander Marcy Jr., Journal of the Medical Society of New Jersey. 1906

Proceedings of the New Jersey Sanitary Association. 36th Annual Meeting. 1910. p. 29.

Wilson, S. (2015, February 5). Ugly Laws. Retrieved July 22, 2022, from