Gaslight News – June 2023

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June 2023  Historical Society of Riverton  vol. LIII, no. 2 (#195)

President William C. Brown, Jr’s Message

Bill Brown, July 2017

It was a very gratifying experience to serve as President of the Historical Society of Riverton these past seven years.

Keith Betten, archives presentation, Sept 22, 2022

Together with the members of the Board of Directors, past and present, we accomplished much. We obtained much-needed space in the Library basement to organize our Archives. We made an effort to increase membership and contributions.

Veterans Day 2012

It has been my privilege to have helped make the Riverton War Memorial more inclusive by including names of Riverton’s members of the armed forces to members past and present.

Steamboat Landing sign installation by (l-r) Roger Prichard, Bill Brown, and John Laverty, Dec. 2017

And Carlos Rogers came through as usual with a generous donation from his Criterium Race that supported our Marker and Plaque programs.

Arcadia planning session, Dec. 2021

Our Board, working with Arcadia Publishing Co., produced Images of America Riverton, a book with photographs and commentary that tells the story of our beautiful Town.

Groves Mansion teardown starts Feb 1, 2023

Our year-long effort, with the support of so many of our citizens, tried but failed to save the beautiful Groves Mansion on Lippincott St. The Board continues to work together with the Borough Council and Planning Board to organize a Historic Preservation Commission that will provide the protection needed for other such historic properties.

L-R John Shaw, Bill McDermott
Mark & Paula DiLeo, Tom & Beth Rafter, 408 Main St.

Our recent Annual Preservation and Recognition Awards Program acknowledged our townspeople who restored their beautiful rescued homes. We also recognized recently retired Police Chief John Shaw for his years of dedicated service.

Bill Brown, Faith Endicott, July 4, 2022

Please welcome our new President, Faith Endicott, who is sharp, full of new ideas, and endless energy. She was such a great help to me this past year; I am forever grateful to her. I will remain a member of the Board and contribute to what is so special to me.

Thank you,
Bill Brown

1930s-1940s graphic from The New Era 
Ryan McComb, RPS 2023 History Achievement Award winner, PHOTO: S.Dechnik

At Riverton Public School’s Special Awards School Board Meeting, Susan Dechnik, retired educator and HSR Board Member, presented the Betty B. Hahle Excellence in History Award to eighth-grader Ryan McComb and spoke briefly about the person for whom the award is named.

The Betty B. Hahle Excellence in History Award is given to an eighth-grade student each year at Riverton Public School. Betty Hahle’s many decades of historical research and writing as Town Historian and her interest in cultivating young people’s interest in studying history inspired the award.

Regretfully, there was no recipient this year of the $500 History Writing Prize for high school students that we announced in April, as no one submitted an essay.

HSR Awards Night at Calvary Church

The Historical Society of Riverton recognized some citizens for excellence in historic preservation and stewardship at a ceremony on May 24, 2023, at Calvary Presbyterian Church.

Phyllis Rodgers called it “A truly successful evening for the HSR and all Rivertonians who share the passion for preservation.”

All of the fine people who put so much effort into restoring these rescued properties really seemed pleased with the HSR’s efforts to recognize them. They include Riverton Steamboat Landing Foundation, Mark & Paula DiLeo, Tom & Beth Rafter, Joe and Maggie Fusco, and Jim Shae.

Phyllis Rodgers and Pat Brunker hold up the sheet cake from L&M; where else?

Board members set up the room and provided refreshments. Roger Prichard put together a PowerPoint presentation that provided an excellent visual of the homes and Yacht Club while the awards were being presented.

Dan Campbell

Thank you to past president and newsletter editor Dan Campbell for carving out time from his busy schedule to participate in presenting the awards.

L-R: Roger Prichard, Bill Brown, Bill McDermott

At the end of our program, I was completely surprised by the recognition I received from the Board. It is something that I will never forget. The card contained such meaningful comments, the gift card, and that plaque that I can hardly wait to place on the front of my house.

If I made a difference, it was because of my board members. We accomplished so much because we communicate well, work together, have the same interest, and are friends. -Bill Brown

Editor’s note: Bill Brown served as President of the HSR from 2017-2023. Of thirteen presidents who have led the organization, Bill’s length of service is second only to Dan Campbell’s (1991-2003).

Ada E. Price, A New Woman Competes in a Man’s Realm

by Patricia Smith Solin and John McCormick

416 Lip‬pincott Ave, Riverton, NJ, google maps, Apr 2023

This article started with an email from Ms. Carolyn Mattern in Wisconsin to the HSR editor asking what seemed to be a simple question: Why did my relative move from Camden, NJ, to Riverton about 1908? The great-granddaughter of the former owner of 416 Lippincott Avenue wanted to know why her family moved from an already thriving business and home in Camden to Riverton.

The specific answer to Ms. Carolyn Mattern’s query involves some speculation but also demonstrates how greatly the endeavors of an individual can shape the character of Riverton. Like her realtor father, Charles Eaves Price, the activities of Ada E. Price helped determine the pace of property development in 19th-century to mid-20th-century Riverton.

The Price Family

1905 Camden Business Directory detail

Charles Eaves Price (1846-1905) lived with his wife, Arabella Hannah Eaves Price (1841-1917), in Camden, NJ, with his two daughters, Emma (1870-1959) and Ada (1872-1948). Charles established himself in the real estate profession in 1875. Note that they all reside at 665 North 36th Street, Camden.

Then 33-year-old Ada’s occupation is listed as a bookkeeper; Charles is listed as a builder; Emma is a music teacher.

The Philadelphia Inquirer published Charles’ obituary on July 25, 1905.

The clippings below trace Ada’s transition from occupation as a bookkeeper to a thriving independent realtor, a truly brave career choice for a woman in the male-dominated real estate market of early 20th-century America.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, 10 Dec 1905, p24

After her father’s passing, Ada conducted the realty business from her Camden home. Perhaps reluctant to divulge her female status, this December 1905 rental listing simply says “key at owner’s” without giving her name.

Courier-Post, 14 Sep 1906, p7

Oddly, this Sept 8, 1906 ad still uses the Camden office address but continues to allude to Charles Price.

Courier-Post, 09 Jul 1907, p7

Several more ads from 1906-1908 mention 336 N. 36th St. without giving the seller’s name. This is one of several 1907-1908 ads introducing the owner with the non-gender specific name “A. Price.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer, 23 May 1908, p12

Charles’ widow, Arabella Price, purchased the home at 416 Lippincott Avenue, Riverton, in January 1908. In short order, Ada transitioned her real estate enterprise to Riverton.

Arabella Hanna Eaves Price, wife of Charles; mother of Ada and Emma

By 1910, the US Census has Arabella Price, widow, 64, as the house owner at 416 Lippincott Avenue, living there with her sister Cassandra Sarah Eaves 50, along with Emma, 39, and Ada Price, 37. Strangely, the column for trade or profession states “none” for all four women.

1910 US Census, Price, 416 Lippincott, Riverton

Emma, a music teacher, and Ada, still in real estate, had their workspace on the first floor, with the upper floors as the family living space.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, 21 May 1910, p13

Perhaps the move to Riverton prompted Ada to finally come out, so to speak, in 1910 and boldly declare her female appellation, a custom she kept in ads after that.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, 31 May 1911, p15

By 1911, advertisements for area properties prominently displayed the successful realtor’s name in all caps.

Jackson’s Real Estate Directory 1912-1913, p621

A 1912-1913 real estate directory includes her in a list of six prominent Riverton-based agents; the other five are men.


The Real Estate Landscape of Early Riverton

Porch Club’s “New Plan of Riverton” map GWShinn Store detail

To circle back to the character of Riverton, the establishment of the village occurred in 1851. A string of Founders’ summer “cottages” set on broad lawns extended along the riverfront, perpendicular to Main Street. The Riverton Improvement Company, incorporated in 1852, established a general store at “the point” directly across from the railroad tracks where interested buyers could purchase lots. The town was thus poised for the growth that lay ahead.

The Historical house plaque by the front door reads RIVERTON’S FIRST DRUGSTORE c. 1855. Proprietor Milton Cowperthwaite also doubled as postmaster there for ten years from 1888—1898. PHOTO CREDIT:  JM 2008

An array of institutional and commercial buildings developed on or near Fourth Street, and within a generation, a “business district” grew near the railroad tracks.

Wolfschmidt’s Barbershop1894

Milton Cowperthwaite’s Pharmacy on the first floor at 304 Main Street, Wolfschmidt’s Barbershop at 513 Main Street, Jan’s Family Bakery at 408 Main Street, Dr. Alexander Marcy, Jr’s medical practice at 406 Main, and other establishments helped expand the economy of the unique suburb and contributed to the growth of the community.

Early development of Lippincott Avenue

1886 Hunter and Richards Map of Palmyra and Riverton, Riverton detail

In 1877 Riverton was expanding parallel to Main Street along Lippincott Avenue and Howard Street. This detail of the Hunter and Richards Map of Palmyra and Riverton attests to that growth.

Charles E. Price Map of East Riverton, c1890

By 1890, Riverton had grown to include some homes along Thomas Avenue.

Coinciding with this expansion, Charles E. Price produced a map of East Riverton, c1890, showing lots to sell as commercial and residential properties. Note the Riverton Gun Club grounds on the map.

Opening of the new grounds on the Delaware 1892, from the Riverton Gun Club History 1877-1906

Already organized in 1877, Riverton Gun Club was incorporated on May 26, 1891, to purchase land to build pigeon lofts.

The club leased land in East Riverton from Charles Price to stage its live-bird shooting competitions. The club ultimately purchased 30 acres in 1892.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, 09 Jul 1905, p23

Price had hoped East Riverton would be incorporated with Riverton, but voters rejected that option in 1913. This suggests that the family knew the area and did business here in Riverton for some years before moving their residence in 1908.

Why did the family move to Riverton, and where/when did Ada establish her real estate office?

An earlier 1858 map marks the site of the church. The cemetery is visible in this detail from the 1886 Hunter and Richards Map of Palmyra and Riverton. The remains were exhumed and moved to Morgan Cemetery in Palmyra.
Riverton Market House, Price Bldg. c1926 (today, Milanese Pizza and Tillie’s Trinkets & Treasures) from Romance Of Riverton

Several factors may have affected the family’s decision to move from Camden to Riverton. Contemporary newspaper advertisements demonstrate that both Charles and his daughter Ada sold real estate in Palmyra, Riverton, East Riverton, and Camden.

Charles built the Price Building in 1891, made of brick, at the corner of Broad and Main Streets after the old Episcopal Church was moved and turned over to the Palmyra Parish in 1885.

Sanborn Insurance Map, 1900, Sheet 3 detail, Price Bldg

The Adams Express Office, a gas fixture store, a bicycle repair, and a paint store each occupied office space for a time there. In 1892, The New Era moved to the third floor of the Price building. Later, the telephone exchange operated from the second and third floors. Ada Price converted the second floor into apartments in 1931.

John (Jonathan) Kirkbride Hibbs and Anna Waples Kirkpatrick lived with their four children in the home at 416 Lippincott Avenue before it was sold to Anabelle Price in 1908 after Charles’ death in July of 1905. Hibbs had lived in Camden, working as a salesman in the Carriage Trade since 1880.

Hibbs belonged to Ionic Lodge, No. 94., The Morning Post, 22 Dec 1891, p1
Courier-Post, 25 Feb 1888, p1. Charles Price belonged to the Camden Free Masons.

Perhaps coincidentally, Jonathan Hibbs and Charles Price each lived in Camden and were members of different Camden masonic lodges, but we could not determine if the Price and Hibbs families knew one another there.

Charles Price belonged to the Camden Free Masons. Other Riverton members of his lodge were Edward PancoastbuilderJos. Roberts – merchant, Ogden Mattis – postmaster,  Louis Corner – RYC member, and Wm. Faunce.

Charles Eaves Price, undated

It is tempting to conclude that there was at least a nodding acquaintance among Charles Price and his Mason brethren who resided in Riverton that opened investment doors for him in this area.

Despite Charles Price having a real estate interest in the area before 1905, there is no evidence that he or his daughter Ada conducted any business out of a Riverton location before the 1908 purchase of 416 Lippincott.

Charles continued to use 665 N. 36th Street, Camden, as his business address until his death in July 1905.

The Morning Post, 23 May 1902, p8

That property was a farm in 1902. Once Charles passed, perhaps the women could not care for such a large property. They likely found their new Riverton home a manageable property in a well-planned community with many amenities. Speculation aside, on January 11, 1908, “…in consideration of the sum of nine-thousand dollars,” Arabella Price purchased 416 Lippincott Avenue.

As established, Ada had sold building lots and homes and rented properties from her Camden home from at least 1905 or perhaps earlier.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, 23 May 1908, p12

She wasted little time after the January 1908 conveyance of 416 Main in again diving into the waters of the local real estate market.

The New Era, May 13, 1948, p7

Newspaper ads of the day indicate that first tentative splash and the torrent of activity that followed through the next three decades.

1909 The New Era Christmas Issue, p6

Ada advertised extensively for years in the local newspapers: The New Era, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Morning Post (Camden, NJ), and Courier-Post selling land, fire insurance, and automobile insurance and acting as a commissioner of deeds.

The 1926 film, The Romance of Riverton, shows Ada Price at 416 Lippincott and illustrates one of her developments.


The pages of contemporary periodicals recorded her accomplishments and her social activities.

The idea of the “New Woman” in America emerged during the late 1800s and early 1900s. The New Woman was a response to the earlier limiting roles of domesticity of the Victorian Era. Independent, autonomous, and exercising control over their own personal, social, and economic lives, she was positioned to enjoy a degree of equality and freedom that would later become mainstream. The New Woman ventured into commercial pursuits, culture, and politics outside the home.

Ada Price, undated passport photo

The confident woman in the passport picture did not need a man to prosper. That her considerable success allowed her to honorably provide for her family after her father’s death, wear fashionable clothing, and travel speaks to her resilience, determination, and talent.

Clearly, Ada was a “New Woman”


Readers: This was my last newsletter. Remarkable, if only for my longevity, I’ve been the editor under five HSR presidents since 2007 – the longest of any HSR editor. I hope that you have found the work here to occasionally be of consequence, informative, and maybe even entertaining.

HSR Editor John McCormick and Linda McCormick managed the merch table, 11-15-2022

I could only devote the considerable time that I did to this job because of the indulgence and understanding of Linda McCormick. (Coincidentally, we celebrate our 45th anniversary today.) New computer, software, Epson photo scanner, more software, portable hard drive – whatever I needed, no problem. Kept me out of bars, she says.

Gerald Weaber meets Queen Victoria, AKA Alisa Dupuy.

I thank former HSR President Gerald Weaber for having the vision to create a more robust and engaging website. I am indebted to Michael Solin for creating and continually tweaking the website that has been my playground since that first post twelve years ago.


Pat Solin, 2019 recipient of an award for authoring many articles in the Gaslight News
Paul W. Schopp 2014 HRCentury speech

Collaborating with Patricia Solin and Harlan Radford, my friend across the miles in Ohio, on several lengthy articles was a particularly gratifying part of this experience.

Thank you to Paul W. Schopp for occasionally providing expert guidance and damage control.

If only the effort had induced more people to actively support the mission of the HSR with their membership or a donation. Only about one in ten Riverton households do so.

After 586 published posts and 10,117 media items uploaded, it is time to hand over the keys to this marvelous vehicle to the next editor. It has been a pleasure. -JMc


2023 July 4th Program ad



Gaslight News – February 2023

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February 2023  Historical Society of Riverton  vol. LIII, no. 1 (#194)

A “Mystery House” found

by Roger Prichard

Over the years, Riverton has lost far too many fascinating houses, some quite exceptional. One which we’ve always wondered about occupied 505-507 Bank Avenue, on the downriver corner of Howard.

1860 Stone and Pomeroy Map DETAIL

We knew something was there as early as 1860 from the Stone and Pomeroy map; it shows a tiny rectangle for a house.

This house and the one next door (which we call the Caleb Clothier House, the blue “Mt. Vernon” at 503) were owned by the same person, just legible as “J. Willis.” Note that “First Street” (today’s Carriage House Lane) continues from Penn Street all the way through to Howard.

507 Bank Ave, Google Streetview, 2022-05

What kind of house is that rectangle? Certainly not the mid-20th Century rancher that stands there today with its magnificent view of the river.

1890 Super High Res Scan 505 Bank DETAIL

A tantalizing tiny sketch in the 1890 bird’s eye view lithograph by Riverton residentbird’sKoehler provides another clue.

And who was “J. Willis”? When was the house built, and when was it lost? A mystery mostly no one ever thought about because the house was long gone.

Riverton Yacht Club, c1898-99, coll. SBRussell

Then we recently hit pay dirt. HSR’s good friend Miller Biddle (great-grandson of Charles Miller Biddle, who built the mansion at 207 Bank) donated a large number of photos (some scans and some originals) from his family by way of his cousin Stephen Biddle Russell. Two images in that collection stood out.

First was a magnificent picture of Riverton Yacht Club locked in the ice. Note the house in the background by the red arrow.

CROP of 505 Bank from Riverton Yacht Club, c1898-99, coll. SBRussell

This enlarged view shows the mystery house better.

At first, its identity was puzzling because it looks a lot like Ezra Lippincott’s house at 303 Bank, now part of Riverview Estates.

But it’s not Ezra Lippincott’s house.

Miller Biddle’s paper archives donation then hit the jackpot. Included was a highly-detailed original print by prolific Riverton photographer David Lothrop of a substantial stone house.

505 Bank Ave., Lothrop Photography, coll. SBRussell

This is 505 Bank Avenue, in a photo taken from almost the same angle as the 2022 Google shot of the rancher, from the little park at the foot of Howard Street.

503 Bank Avenue from Howard Avenue, Howard, 1912

The tip-off isn’t so much the house itself, but look next door – see the cupola, or “belvedere,” looming over the trees?

We know that house! It is what the house at 503 Bank looked like before being “Mt. Vernon-ized” in the 1930s, and we know this from a wonderful 1912 postcard.

(That cupola, by the way, still exists, down on the ground in the backyard, restored, and is used as a pool cabana.)

Some months after getting those great images from the Biddles, HSR was contacted out of the blue by a rare book and print dealer in North Jersey who said he had a lithograph of a riverfront villa in Riverton, and on the back was a vintage real estate ad, with lots of particulars. (Lots to be said for HSR having a good web presence.)

The dealer didn’t know what house it was, but we sure did! Have a look:

Lithograph house for sale by Jas. Willis, 505-507 Bank Ave., c1860

The artist probably stood where David Lothrop later took his photo!

After much debate, the HSR bought it. (This is why your contributions to the Society are so important, so we have resources to grab things like this before they vanish.)

The detail on it is exquisite.

Just as interesting is the real estate sale advertisement glued to the back:

Label on back of framed litho of house for sale by Jas. Willis, 505-507 Bank Ave. c1860

The details are fun but note the name of the person selling the house on the last line. “JAS. WILLIS” is the same name that appears on the two side-by-side dwellings on the 1860 map.

We haven’t yet done a deed search, but at this point, our hunch is that James Willis owned the original Clothier house at 503, along with the lot on the corner, and subdivided off the corner to build this beautiful new stone house in 1860 or just before.

James Willis Cottage for sale, Public Ledger, April 26, 1860, p4

With Willis’ name now known, we found a sale advertisement in the Philadelphia Public Ledger in 1860 that is unmistakably for this house.

So who was James Willis, a name not generally found in Riverton stories? So far, we know that he was a Philadelphia Quaker manufacturer of ladies’ shoes. His business is listed in the Philadelphia Public Ledger starting in the 1840s occupying various buildings on 4th or Arch Streets.

1842-09-15 Natl Anti-Slavery Standard ad for James Willis’ free labor shoes

We know that Willis was sympathetic to the movement to abolish slavery because at least two of his advertisements for shoes appeared in anti-slavery newspapers, the National Anti-Slavery Standard in 1842 and the Pennsylvania Freeman in 1851.

Those ads mention that he sells shoes “entirely free from the contamination of slave labor.” (Close students of Riverton’s history might recall that early Riverton founder J. Miller McKim edited the Pennsylvania Freeman at various points while he was running the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, and McKim and Willis likely knew each other well.)

Much more research is needed on the life of James Willis and on the house. Who were its owners and residents over the years, and what were their stories?

All are still mysteries waiting time to uncover.

Boffo Box Office: Roger Prichard’s presentation on the History of Riverton informed and delighted an SRO crowd

HSR President William C. Brown Jr

The presentation on The History of Riverton by Roger Prichard on November 15 last at the Porch Club was the excuse we needed to break a two-year COVID-induced moratorium on meetings of the Historical Society of Riverton.

HSR President William C. Brown Jr introduced Roger Prichard to a full house

On a dreary night on which few would normally venture out, we were standing room only in a venerated century-old building whose members have long played an integral part in Riverton’s history.

There, we heard an innovative spin on Riverton’s founding from Roger Prichard, Borough Historian and HSR Board Member. The historic venue only served to amplify Roger’s compelling and insightful interpretation.

Comprised of many images not seen by the public before and containing Roger’s new research on Riverton’s founders, the program connected the dots between people, places, and events of early Riverton in an enlightening and entertaining way.

As the story unfolded, it could have been a script for a best seller or a historical screenplay.

It had drama, humor, a sweeping story, and a colorful cast of characters, some of whom changed America, not just Riverton.

History of Riverton screenshot 1
History of Riverton screenshot 2

The central thread that ran through the presentation was that many of Riverton’s original founders were related by blood or marriage and that every one of them had a connection to the Abolition Movement.

Entitled The History of Riverton, Part 1, it was the subtitle, celebrating the founding of an unlikely village, that really addressed the uniqueness of Riverton’s founding.

Roger illustrates his “unlikely village” thesis:

Robert Biddle, 1890s, from Stephen Biddle Russel’s glass negative

Overall, no one had ever thought of having a summer resort village that was within commuting distance so that the men could still go to work every day while their families enjoyed the clean, quiet countryside.

first mention of Riverton founders, Public Ledger, 9 Apr 1851, Page 2

These were all sober, hardworking people (nearly all Quakers) with many businesses and charitable interests which must have filled every hour of every day. Their character seems in unlikely conflict with the concept of “a place of resort” as the Public Ledger called it. These weren’t “resort” kinds of people.

If this was simply a business venture, it seems unlikely to the point of absurdity that ALL of those families who decided to invest were active in the abolition movement.

Given their committed abolition interests, this exact time seems very unlikely for following a distraction of developing a resort at just as their anti-slavery activities were being thrown into chaos by Congress’ passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 (just a few months before purchasing the Lippincott farm).

Incredibly, they built all ten founders’ houses AND a steamboat wharf AND the riverwall AND sundry other supporting work in just a few months!

Founders homes, Plan of the New Town of Riverton, 1851

They bought the farm in February 1851, and only advertised for a contractor for the wharf in May, but the Public Ledger in early September said the NJ governor came to visit and stayed overnight. All ten founders’ homes were built (most occupied), the wharf and riverwall were complete and the riverbank was “sodded.” It was unlikely to do all that between February and September!

HSR Editor John McCormick and Linda McCormick managed the merch table

Afterward, business was brisk at our merchandise table as folks bought holiday gifts and gifted themselves as well with our new historically-themed mugs* and other items.

People quenched their thirst for history with purchases of Riverton*, our Arcadia Images of America book, our Romance of Riverton DVD, Bay Ruff’s Ruff Copy, and Bill Washington’s Historic Riverton and History of the Riverton Fire Department.

Altogether, the night was one for the history books. -JMc

*Copies of Riverton, an Arcadia Images of America book, and a selection of mugs are available for sale at The Early Bird and at Tillie’s Trinkets and Treasures.

Thank you to Mary and Tom Bailey for donating PHS yearbooks

Mary Bailey sent us a Facebook message: Hi, My husband Thomas Bailey has 14 yearbooks from Palmyra HS, spanning 1927-1947. Do you know anyone who may be interested in these?


Tom, who lived in Palmyra and Riverton for a time, explains that his father collected the Tillicum volumes. Tom drove all the way from Lumberton on February 19 and dropped off the following yearbooks for us at Riverton Library: 1929, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1946, 1948. We will store them in our archive space with some other earlier PHS yearbooks. -JMc

A Message from President William C. Brown Jr.

One of our goals this year is to increase membership and support for our marker program. We are most thankful for the support that has us more than halfway towards our fundraising efforts.

308 Main St., 11-22-2023, L-R Bill Brown, Roger Prichard, John Laverty, Dennis DeVries
Groves Mansion teardown started Feb 1, 2023

The Marker Program has replanted the Campbell marker at 308 Main St. after the post had been damaged in an auto accident. We also placed the panel for a new marker at 303 Bank Ave. (see related story below)

With no law in effect to protect it, the Superior Court has ordered that the Groves Mansion be demolished.

303 Bank Avenue gets a historic marker

L-R: Bill Brown, Nancy Hall, Marj, Ben Kurland, Roger Prichard, Tyler Putman, Lippincott marker dedication, 303 Bank Ave., Photo by Bill McDermott

The panel for the new marker at 303 Bank (Ezra Lippincott/Baptist Home, now Riverview Estates) arrived at the end of November, and Roger Prichard arranged a little get-together there to celebrate its installation.

The event honored Nancy Hall and her daughter Marj (Ezra’s great-granddaughter and great-great-granddaughter and also served to welcome to Riverton Ben Kurland, who is the CEO of the company that now owns the Baptist Home, Allaire Health Services. -RP

Heather MacIntosh Huffnagle reports on fundraising

As of February 20, the HSR has raised $6,125 toward our $10,000 annual appeal goal!

Thanks to the following members for your generous support: Lara Ballard, C. Miller and Joan Biddle, Anna Blake, Bob and Amanda Boulton, Annette Brown, Bill Brown, Pat Brunker, George and Cynthia Cammarota, Steve and Nedra Cawley, Norman Coone, Joseph and Michele Daniel, Joe and Eileen DellaPenna, Dennis and Janet DeVries, Richard and Iris Gaughan, Granite Health and Wellness, Paul Grena, James Griffin, Henry Hackett, Bill and Nancy Hall, Helen Hughes, Mark and Karen Jendrzejewski, Michael and Mary Kate Kearney, John and Terri Laverty, Alan and Helene Lilholt, Adele Lippincott, Weir Lundstedt, Barbara Mayberry, Steve and Tricia Moore, John and Barbara Palko, Bryan and Phyllis Rodgers, Steve Russell, Paul Schopp, Pat Solin, Brad and Maryann Young, and Harold and Judith Zimmerman.

Gusky Rides Again!

Photos by Susan Dechnik

From former resident Rob Gusky and originator of 2014’s Historic Riverton Century:

Dec. 10, 2022: About a week ago, I asked if there were any Riverton residents interested in reading some poetry to a group of ten riders I was leading from Philadelphia to Riverton.

Well, the Historical Society of Riverton came through in spades providing not only one but two volunteers. Susan Dechnik read poetry, and Roger Prichard gave us an overview of Riverton’s interesting history.

Thanks to Milanese Pizza – Riverton, NJ, for serving us a great lunch. You all live in a great community, and it sounds like exciting things are in store for 2023. As a former Riverton resident, I just want to share how proud I am of having grown up there, and look forward to biking there again next year!

From the “You can’t make this stuff up Department”

by Roger Prichard

Cathy Martin asked me to do a quick research on the history of 802 Main Street for the Candlelight House Tour booklet. The house turns out to have been a wedding present from the bride’s father. The bride was the second cousin of famed accused-but-acquitted ax murderer Lizzie Borden. See the complete research here.

Troth’s hams and mince meat ad Gopsill’s Philadelphia City Directory 1895

Kerry and Jen Brandt also asked for a quick summary of the history of their house at 719 Main, which was also on the tour. No murderous connections here, apparently, unless you count pigs. The house and its twin next door, the Sencindivers,’ were likely built in the early 1890s by the family who butchered and processed “Troth’s Hams and Famous Mince Meat” in Philadelphia. See the complete research here.



Gaslight News – November 2022

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November 2022  Historical Society of Riverton  vol. LII, no. 4 (#193)

History of Riverton, Part 1 Presentation by Roger Prichard at the Porch Club, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 7 pm

Back by popular demand, Borough Historian and HSR Board Member Roger Prichard will reprise his lively and informative slideshow presentation that delighted a Porch Club audience last February.

“History of Riverton, Part I” comprises many images you may not have seen. The program explores who our founders were, their accomplishments and sorrows, and why they may have chosen to reside here.

Copies of the Society’s new Arcadia “Images of America” book will also be available (great holiday gifts!).

You can also order copies online from the publisher, where you can peek inside.

John Fraser & Son, Architects

by Patricia Smith Solin

In 1851, the founders of Riverton engaged the services of architect Samuel Sloan to devise a plan for their new village. He also designed many of its first homes, especially along Bank Avenue. John Fraser, another architect who lived in Riverton and a contemporary of Sloan, not only created some of the most beautiful structures in the country, he offered his talent here in Riverton. John Fraser’s life was one of professional triumph and personal tragedy.

Early Life

Born in Scotland on 18 October 1825, John Fraser emigrated to the United States, but sources do not agree when. He likely arrived in Philadelphia in 1848, wed Sophie Dorethea Niemann in April 1855, and resided in the imposing Italianate home at 101 Main Street from 1866-1902.

Riverton Connection

1886 Hunter and Richards Map of Palmyra and Riverton, Fraser detail

Samuel Sloan had initially designed 101 Main Street for James Clothier, but instead, his brother Caleb Clothier lived there in 1853. The 1860 US Census has Fraser, his mother Agnes, his wife, a baby daughter, and a housekeeper residing at that address. He installed one of the earliest burglar alarm systems known in this home.

As noted in the 1877 Hopkins map and the 1886 Hunter and Richards map, Fraser owned land from 101 Main Street down to Second Street.

Architectural Gems

Union League, Philadelphia, Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Fraser’s architectural practice flourished during these years. In 1857, Fraser briefly partnered in Philadelphia with civil engineer Andrew Palles. In 1867 he formed a new partnership with a former student, Frank Furness, age 28, and George W. Hewitt, age 26, after creating one of his most spectacular buildings, Philadelphia’s Second Empire High Victorian on Broad Street — The Union League of Philadelphia (1864-1865).

In 1871, he left the firm after securing contracts in Washington, DC, and established an office there. Notable buildings include:

The Philadelphia Inquirer listed his Philadelphia office at 410 Walnut Street in 1899. Fraser was a founding member of the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and a member of the T-Square Club, the Franklin Institute, and St. Andrew’s Society.

Calvary Presbyterian Church, vintage undated postcard

In 1878, John Fraser donated his talent, gratis, to design the Gothic Carpenter Calvary Presbyterian Church at 300 Fourth Street in Riverton. An accomplished organist, he played at the dedication ceremony in June 1879. (Calvary Church underwent extensive alteration and expansion in 1926, including new stone cladding.)

Christ Church and Rectory

Fraser turned to work on his family’s place of worship, the High Victorian Gothic Christ Episcopal Church in Riverton at 307 Main Street, built in 1883 and consecrated in 1884. Before working on the church, he had completed work on the rectory, a Second Empire with a Mansard roof, in 1868.


In a town full of successful people, the Frasers stood out as one of the most fortunate families. With an accomplished architectural career with offices in Philadelphia and Washington, DC, he seemed to be in an enviable position.

By the 1860 US Census, he, along with his wife, daughter, and mother, had taken up residence somewhere in Riverton. A deed search records his purchase in 1866 of 101 Main Street. The family made that Italian villa their home for more than 40 years.

101 Main St., June 2022 PHOTO: Pat Solin

Active in civic affairs, he served on the Riverton School Board. Fraser socialized with others in his field as well as with Riverton locals. Newspapers reported him taking business trips to New York City,  entertaining at home, and commuting to Washington, DC.

Despite this outward success, he faced multiple tragedies, including the stunning loss of five out of six of his children during his lifetime.

Calvary Church windows in memory of Fraser children PHOTO: Pat Solin
    • Sophie Cecelia Fraser, born 21 Jun 1858, died at age six on 25 April 1865
    • Agnes Bruce Fraser, born about December 1858, died at the age of twenty months on 6 Aug 1860
    • Anna Augusta Fraser, born 9 April 1865, died at age 11 in Riverton of diphtheria on 3 Jan 1876.
    • Marie Elizabeth Fraser, born 1 June 1873, died in Riverton at age two on 13 Jan 1876, just ten days after her sister Anna died, perhaps also from diphtheria.

In their grief, the Frasers donated a set of magnificent stained-glass windows to Calvary Presbyterian Church in memory of his daughters. The panels face Lippincott Avenue and oddly bear the names of only three of the four daughters.

John and Sophie had two more children. Archibald Alexander Fraser was born 11 October 1861, and another daughter, Julie Antionette, was born 5 April 1868. She is called Nellie in her baptismal record.

Archibald, or Archie, became a beloved choir director at the Calvary Presbyterian Church and “an accomplished organist.” By 1888, he entered a partnership with his father – John Fraser & Son, Architects in Philadelphia at 1413 Walnut. Archie married Julia Adeline Ward in Essex, NJ on 17 November 1892, and they had a son, Archibald Eliot Fraser, born in Riverton on 21 Mar 1894.

On 12 July 1895, at 33, Archibald Fraser, “a distinguished young architect, died suddenly of pleurisy.” Young Fraser’s work on Grace Episcopal Church’s Parish House, started in 1894, was completed after his death in 1895.

After his death, his wife, Julia, returned to her home in East Orange with their young son.


The crushing loss of so many of John and Sophie’s children undoubtedly seriously impacted their lives. The number and size of his commissions declined, and the loss of his partner and son, Archibald, “. . . sank (Fraser) into a financial and mental depression” and would later die in reduced circumstances.

Perhaps, as a sign of diminishing prospects, Fraser sold off some of his land on Main Street to Philadelphia merchant John Boyer in 1880.

The 1885 NJ Census shows only John, his wife, and daughter Julia inhabiting the Main Street house without a housekeeper. The couple lost their home in a sheriff’s sale in 1897, but the 1900 US Census shows them living there in 1900 along with a 15-year-old housekeeper, perhaps as renters.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, 09 Apr 1897, p10

The Philadelphia Inquirer in 1897 announced that “Architect John Fraser is preparing plans for the addition of a large boiler house to the Hotel Chamberlain at Old Point Comfort, Va.” Even though the Chamberlain was considered “one of the grandest resort hotels in America” when it opened in 1896, Fraser was asked to complete only the boiler house. Occasional projects continued to come to him through 1899, but nothing like the former work he enjoyed.

By the 1900 US Census, there was a mortgage on his home in Riverton. In 1902, unable to afford to stay in his Riverton mansion, he, Sophie, and Julie moved to 729 North 43rd Street in Philadelphia.

Woodlands gravesite, PHOTO:

According to death certificates, on 7 December 1906, at the age of 75, Sophie died of cirrhosis of the liver complicated by senility. John, age 81, followed 19 days later, dying of chronic alcoholic diarrhea and contributing factors on 26 Dec 1906. Many Fraser family members are interred in Woodlands Cemetery — without headstones — except for the cross for Archibald Alexander Fraser.

No Known Family Images

You may wonder why no portraits of the Fraser family are displayed here.

While preparing for a book on Fraser Furness & Hewitt, Michael Lewis from Williams College in Massachusetts reached out to former Town Historian Betty B. Hahle in the 1990s. Lewis hoped that Betty might have a photo of John Fraser as he had heard that Fraser appeared to be a particular quest for Betty.

But there was none.

After Lewis’ discussion with Hahle, he happened to be discussing his project with friends of his, who had been great friends of Archibald Fraser and were executors of his estate – they called him, affectionately, “Uncle Archie.” Still seeking a photo of John Fraser, Lewis asked the couple what became of Archie’s belongings. The couple responded that, at his request, other than donating a communion dress to the Presbyterian church, the rest was burned.

What an extraordinarily sad ending to such an exemplary architect and his family!

Archives Rule

by Roger Prichard

Keith Betten, archives presentation, Sept 22, 2022 PHOTO: Tyler Putman

On September 22, Keith presented a program introducing us to how he and his volunteer assistants have worked to organize and preserve the many historical photos and documents amassed over our 52 years of existence. Riverton Free Library was the program’s generous host, and we appreciate their hospitality.

Storing these treasures so they are preserved for the future AND organizing and indexing them so that researchers can use them to learn about people, homes, and buildings are both considerable challenges. HSR Board member Keith Betten is uniquely qualified to run this vital function for us. He is a retired Deputy Executive Director of the New Jersey State Archives. We are incredibly fortunate to have him living here AND volunteering his time and expertise to see that this is accomplished to professional standards.

Keith Betten, archives presentation, Sept 22, 2022, PHOTO: Roger Prichard

Keith’s exploration held the attention of a room full of Riverton history aficionados, showing us how documents need to be stored to ensure they don’t deteriorate and how they are organized. Using an elegant hierarchy, then sub-groupings within that provide that items can be found with a relatively simple search. More detailed “finding aids” are prepared for each group, serving as indexes to individual items.

Keith also mentioned the firm rules that items do not leave the premises and are used here only under the supervision of HSR Archives Committee members.

Carlos Rogers presents a check to HSR Pres. Bill Brown, Treasurer Pat Brunker, and Archivist Keith Betten, 2019

After questions and answers, many attendees visited the HSR archives room in the RFL basement to admire the new shelving, professional acid-free archival boxes, and other materials that are now being used exclusively.

Many of the expenses to purchase these professional materials resulted from a generous donation by Carlos Rogers from the Historic Riverton Criterium bicycle event several years ago, for which we are very grateful.

Riverton Peace Pole Re-dedication in observance of the Sept. 18, 2022 International Day of Peace

Anne Creter PHOTO: Wanda Swanson

Anne Creter, MSW, a retired Licensed Social Worker and long-time “peace advocate” who has served the U.S. Peace Alliance in many capacities, presided over a re-dedication ceremony of Riverton’s Peace Pole on September 18.

The ceremony included unveiling a plaque to mark the 15th anniversary of the installation of the Peace Pole at 8th & Cedar Sts.

Peace Pole plaque PHOTO: Wanda Swanson

The non-denominational, non-partisan event intended to show that while we have diverse opinions and cultural differences, we support peace for all people everywhere.

Among the speakers were Dennis Creter of the Riverton Peace Pole Coalition, Riverton Mayor Suzanne Cairns-Wells, Palmyra Mayor Gina Ragomo Tait, Councilmen Edgar Wilburn, and Jim Quinn, UN Rep Katie Karr, Rev. Leslie Harrison of Mt. Zion Church, police officer Lt. Andrew Beushchell, and HSR Board Member Bill McDermott. Read Bill’s remarks here.

Ben Olarsch, a representative from Andy Kim’s office, attended and read a proclamation mentioning the celebration that he read on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Now a global movement, the Peace Pole Project seeks to spread the universal message, “May Peace Prevail On Earth.” Riverton’s is one of an estimated 250,000 Peace Poles planted in every country. See more on Riverton Peace Pole’s Facebook page and learn about the global movement at

Thank you to Wanda Swanson for the use of screenshots from her Peace Pole 22 YouTube video.

This just in…

Riverview Estates 303 Bank Ave. Sept. 2008

HSR Board Member and Town Historian Roger Prichard has just completed the design layout for a new historical marker for the former Ezra and Anna Lippincott House at 303 Bank Avenue, now part of Riverview Estates.

While we wait for our volunteer Sub-Committee on Excavations to erect the illustrated sign, Roger suggests that Fall is a great time to explore your neighborhood and look for these signs:

Save the Date – Christmas Village Saturday, 2 pm – 8 pm, Dec. 3

Christmas Village Flyer 2022
Christmas Village 2021, Iris G, Pat B, Nancy H

We plan to set up a table like we did last year, with membership brochures, copies of Riverton Walking Tours, and assorted merch for sale.

Show your hometown pride by buying one of our exclusive new history-themed mugs and score a copy of our Arcadia Images of America Book for yourself or for a Riverton expatriate across the miles.

Please join or renew your membership now!
Adele Baker donates Little Boulevard Lamp as Pat Brunker looks on.

In the September 2022 Gaslight News, we thanked Adele Baker for her generous contribution to the HSR of a miniature Welsbach Boulevard gas streetlight.

Little Boulevard, The Welsbach Family, Jan 1964, back cover

She contacted us again to add more information about the diminutive lamp.

Glen Baker, The Welsbach Family, May 1963, back cover

Now living in Georgia, Adele passed on to us the tiny replica gaslamp that her father, Glen Baker, an accountant for Welsbach, once kept in his home.

One page of The Welsbach Family newsletter shows information about the model gaslamp, and another shows her dad (2nd from right) encouraging everyone to vote.

Also, good advice for today, whatever your affiliation.

In 2010, Jeff Cole, a grandson of Riverton resident Robinet Cole who served as the president of the Welsbach Corp. during the 1960s, and I collaborated on a presentation about gas street lamps. Learn more here about the history of Welsbach gaslamps and Riverton’s battle with the NJ Board of Public Utilities during the 1970s to retain gaslight street illumination. -JMc

Tom and Michelle Kearns, Elm Terrace, just joined our membership rolls.

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Gaslight News – September 2022

September 2022   Historical Society of Riverton   vol. LII, no. 3 (#192)

Archives Presentation by Keith Betten at Riverton Free Library, Thursday, Sept. 22, 7 pm

Keith Betten set up shelving in which to store items in our collection, Feb.19, 2020

Keith Betten will give a presentation on the Archives Committee’s ongoing effort to organize and catalog the Society’s documents and images at the RFL on Thursday, September 22 at 7:00 pm.

Historical Society of Riverton collections

Carlos Rogers’ $5,500 donation to the Society in June 2019 financed the project. The purchase of shelving and archival-quality storage materials, such as non-acidic boxes, folders, and sleeves, allowed us to store the collection according to archival standards and best practices. A Finding Aid, or directory, helps locate everything.

Mr. Betten, a retired Deputy Executive Director of NJ State Archives, chairs the committee that includes Patricia Smith Solin, Pat Brunker, and Iris Gaughan. The team painstakingly sorted, cataloged, and stored hundreds of items in our collection.

Keith plans to use the Society’s “Images” collection to describe the organization scheme for each of the various “Record Groups” and explain how we may locate and access them with the help of the Finding Aid that he will provide attendees.

The aim is for the Finding Aids for the various Record Groups and Subgroups to be made available via the Society’s website ( so that researchers can find selected records online.

Free admission to members and the public. Light refreshments will be served.

-Keith Betten


The marker dedication on Mt. Zion AME’s 125th anniversary sparks a look back at its founding and rich history

Mt. Zion historical marker

Riverton’s Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church had a big day on Sunday, June 26, 2022, celebrating the 125th anniversary of its founding and dedicating a new historical marker at the front door on the corner of Third and Penn Streets. The occasion prompted us to examine the remarkable history and legacy of that esteemed institution.

The day began with a special worship service led by Brother Kevin L. Tucker, with the church’s pastor, Rev. Dr. Leslie Robin Harrison, and preaching by Rev. Dr. Robert C. Wade, Presiding Elder of the AME Camden-Trenton District. Sister Natalie Tucker was the 125th Anniversary Chairperson, and Sister Annie Marie Ross spoke about the church’s history. The festivities concluded with the unveiling of a historical marker at the front doors.

To everyone’s great relief, PSE&G and electricians restored the electric power just in time, following an outage caused by a large limb from a tree on Third St. falling in a storm some weeks earlier and tearing off the entire power feed to the church.

The Beginnings of the Mt. Zion congregation

The founding of this congregation in 1897 marked a significant transition point in the history of African Americans in Riverton. Until then, the need to search out limited employment opportunities meant the Black population was necessarily transient. The founding of this church congregation helped form the nucleus of a stable community that then grew around it for many generations.

A comparison of the names and data on the detailed Census records for Riverton in the 20 years that bracket the founding of Mt. Zion (1880 and 1900) reveals that of the 18 Black residents of Riverton in 1880, only one was still here in 1900. That was George W. Lee, who worked as a gardener and was one of the early trustees of Mt. Zion. He and his family lived in a home at 501 Howard St. (now gone).

Newcomers quadrupled the Black population in that time frame. About two-thirds of these African American residents in 1900 were unaccompanied young women from the rural South, coming to work in Riverton as live-in domestic servants in the larger houses. (Before this time, servants were predominantly young women who had immigrated from Ireland.)

It seems highly likely that a principal reason for founding this church was to help these young women have a community in which to feel at home in what must have seemed like a very unfamiliar world.

Rev. Harrison relates that these young ladies were typically high school graduates who migrated to the Philadelphia area through an incredible network of contacts created decades before by Bishop Richard Allen and Mother Bethel AME Church in Philadelphia. Rev. Harrison describes how Sister Alice B. Taylor, considered the founder of Mt. Zion, would support these young ladies by acclimating them to the area and providing wise counsel and spiritual leadership as they worked in the homes of Riverton and Palmyra residents.

Reaching out to this population in Riverton was typical of the mission of the African Methodist Episcopal church. The church was then already more than a century old, founded by Richard Allen, Absolom Jones, and others in Philadelphia in 1787.

Robert’s Store at the inspection of Main & Howard Sts., 1939 New Era Anniversary Issue

The fledgling congregation, started by the Mite Missionary Society and first known as the African Methodist Episcopal Church of Riverton, held its services in the meeting hall on the second floor of Joseph Roberts’ Brick Store for the first dozen years starting in 1897.

According to a small article in The New  Era Christmas issue for 1909, all of the officers were women, and the Trustees were all men.

The first president was Sister Alice B. Taylor, known as the “Mother of Mt. Zion.” A magnificent stained glass window in today’s church honors her.

In Memory of the Founder Alice Taylor

A domestic worker herself, Sis. Taylor was born in Virginia in 1848; whether enslaved or free, we do not know. She had married and moved to the Cinnaminson area by the 1870 Census.

She was the widow of Charles Taylor, a Civil War veteran of the 45th United States Colored Infantry Regiment. In yet another Riverton coincidence, the 45th was formed at Camp William Penn. Early Riverton founder J. Miller McKim strongly advocated the creation of that camp specifically to train Black soldiers. Abolitionists Lucretia and James Mott, who were close friends of McKim and associates of several other Riverton founders, provided the land in Cheltenham. Charles died in 1890, and his body rests at Trinity AME Church on Fork Landing Rd.

Building this church

As the congregation grew, it became feasible to create a permanent church. Sis. Taylor was in the midst of this project – and turns out to have provided surprising resources to do so.

Deeds show that in 1903 she purchased four lots on Penn Street, not just the lot on the corner for the construction of the church, but including what are today 300 through 306 Penn St.  Deeds in the name of a Black woman in that era are very, very unusual.

The deed shows she paid $1,200 for the land, about 1/3 of an acre, including a frame house. In 1907, she sold the vacant corner lot to the “Trustees of the African Methodist Episcopal Church of Riverton” for $300, on which they would build the church we see today.

The price of $1,200 for her initial land purchase is fascinating. This sum is likely many times the annual income of a housekeeper during this era. Sis. Taylor was 55 years old in 1903 and had been a widow since the death of her husband, a farm laborer, a dozen years earlier.

She worked as a live-in domestic (for the Howard Parry family on Main St.) and seemed to have had no living children (the 1900 Census indicates that she had borne one child, but no children were then living). All Census entries during her life show that Sis. Taylor could not read or write. How had she managed to save such a substantial amount of money to purchase this land in her name?

Judging by her towering role in the day-to-day activities of the church for the rest of her life, Sis. Taylor must have been an impressive and formidable figure.

Mt. Zion Church, 1939 New Era Anniversary Issue

The congregation had taken on its permanent name of “Mt. Zion AME Church” by 1909. According to The New Era Christmas Issue of 1909, “in August of this year, the congregation dedicated their own church building at Third and Penn streets, which had been erected at a cost of $1,400.” The membership totaled 19 at that time.

From the start, the surrounding areas of Palmyra and Cinnaminson (especially East Riverton) were well-represented.

Building a community

Members began moving to this area of Penn St. and Third St. immediately. By the 1915 NJ Census, Sis. Taylor was living in her own home at 302 Penn, right next door to the church, one of about a dozen Black families living within a short block of the intersection, many with children who attended Riverton school. (Most surrounding schools in the area were segregated by race at the time.) In a measure of the stability brought by building the church here, about half of these families owned their own homes.

The congregation grew over many decades, with Mt. Zion at its center holding near-daily activities: services, dinners, guest preachers, church school and other youth programs, multiple choirs, weddings, funerals, and every other thing you’d expect from a lively community.

Sis. Alice Taylor was right there next door, in the middle of it all, right up to her death in 1923 at the age of 75.

Mt Zion fire, The New Era, Jan 14, 1932, p1

On January 14, 1932, The New Era reported that the congregation had rebuilt the church in 1929 and installed an organ. Still, tragedy struck barely two years later when a fire extensively damaged the interior, the roof structure, and the new organ. Losses were estimated at a staggering $12,000.

Mt Zion, The New Era, Nov 24, 1949, p1

The congregation rallied and rebuilt, meeting in the meantime in space provided by other churches in Riverton. Unfortunately, many of Mt. Zion’s early records were lost in this fire. The congregation was generous in donations, and they were able to celebrate the retirement of their mortgage in 1949.

Believing that “good works spring out of a true and lively faith,” Mt. Zion has never wavered from the AME’s vision “to seek out and save the lost, and to serve the needy.” AME congregations are intentionally organized to look out for those in the community who may be sick or who might be struggling. In addition, the congregation also engaged in mission work in Africa. They built a school in Nigeria and worked to keep the school supplied with books and teaching materials.

Rev. Harrison describes Mt. Zion as always being at the forefront of the community. Many trailblazing members have served as postmasters, military service personnel, domestics, blacksmiths, and builders. Also included are renowned opera singers, musicians, educators, and business owners.

Families and extended families were very important. Well-remembered are the special “Virginia Day” festivals held over many years that recognized how many Mt. Zion members had deep roots there. Many Mt. Zion families counted three generations of members at the church.

In the mid-1970s the congregation acquired the home at 208 Penn St. for a parsonage, which is still in use today.

A beacon of hope, Mt. Zion has provided for those seeking spiritual, emotional, financial, and at times physical refuge during the trying times of the Great Migration, the Great Depression, and most recently, the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Jones Family and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The church’s rich history even includes a visit from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. King rearranged his schedule so he could travel to Riverton to pay his respects and offer comforting words to his trusted friend, Clarence B. Jones, at the funeral of his father, Goldsborough B. Jones, a member of Mt. Zion.

Attorney, speechwriter, and confidant of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Clarence B. Jones was born in 1931. His parents met when they worked as butler and cook, living in the home of Edgar and Eleonora Lippincott at 806 Main St. When Clarence was young, his parents purchased a home at 2109 Hunter St. in East Riverton. Clarence graduated from Palmyra High, Columbia University, and Boston University School of Law.

Dr. Jones began representing King in 1960 and served him in many ways in the remaining tumultuous years of King’s life. He co-wrote King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963, smuggled out King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” and helped organize the March on Washington.

Dr. Jones’s father, a devoted Mt. Zion member, passed away in 1962. Dr. King arrived quietly at his funeral here, unannounced and unexpected, and asked if he might say a few words.

Dr. Martin Luther King and Clarence Jones press conference, Birmingham, AL, 1963-02

Standing in the pulpit above the open casket, Rev. Martin Luther King began, “I know my friend Brother Clarence is probably surprised that I am here. I did not know the deceased, his father, Goldsborough Benjamin Jones, … but I know his son.” Looking into the casket, King began preaching directly to Dr. Jones’ father, “Brother Goldsborough, you can rest and go home, because your son …” and he spoke beautiful words of comfort.

Dr. King then left as quietly as he had entered.

Marking the history of Mt. Zion

To help commemorate this important anniversary, a ceremony on June 26, 2022 included the unveiling and dedication of a new historical marker.

Left to right in this group photo are Congressman Andy Kim; Prudence H. Wade; Rev. Dr. Robert C. Wade, Presiding Elder, Camden-Trenton District AME; Rev. Dr. Leslie Robin Harrison, pastor of Mt. Zion; State Senator Troy Singleton; Mayor Suzanne Cairns Wells; and Roger Prichard, Riverton Borough Historian and Board Member, Historical Society of Riverton.

Valerie Still and Rev. Leslie Harrison

A collaboration among church officials, the Historical Society of Riverton, and Valerie Still of the Clarence B. Jones Institute for Social Advocacy created the marker.

Mt. Zion Church, the Historical Society of Riverton, and Valerie Still of the Clarence B. Jones Institute for Social Advocacy collaborated on creating the historical marker.

Mt. Zion Historical Marker, 300 Penn St.

The ninth in a series of such markers created by the Historical Society of Riverton, it now stands prominently at the entrance of the church, right on the corner of Third and Penn Streets. Edited and designed by Roger Prichard, it includes research by Prichard and Sister Annie Marie Ross, with the Dr. King content provided by Valerie Still.

It is the first marker the Society has placed that commemorates a house of worship, and the HSR is delighted to be able to honor Mt. Zion in this way on this momentous occasion.

article by Roger Prichard, photos by Susan Dechnik


Membership Chairperson Heather MacIntosh Huffnagle reports the glad news that we have several new members: Jon Havicon, Daniel McGinnis and Kerri Blissett, Steve Russell, and Harold Zimmerman.


We gratefully acknowledge the following donations:

Tammi Minnix wrote us to tell us that she wishes to designate the Society to receive donations in memory of her father, William Trauger. We extend our condolences to the family.

To date, we have received donations totaling $590 from Michael Sindoni, Barbara Wurtz, Karen Dutton, Custom Environmental Management, Paulsboro Education Association, and Nancy Wasilewski.

From the “Someone is Noticing Us Department” comes an unexpected and very gratifying $1,500 grant from the Caplin Foundation (Wilmington, DE), which directs us to use it to support our efforts “To help defray any legal costs you may have defending your properties and your historic preservation ordinances. Good luck!” We appreciate the support very much and will put it to good use.

We have a separate Riverton History Defense Fund on our books for that purpose. We urge anyone to contribute to it. Either mail a check to PO Box 112 Riverton 08077 or click the “PayPal Donate” button down the left side of our website at     -JMc


Well, this is very cool! Adele Baker offered us a miniature working Welsbach gas streetlamp

Little Boulevard gas streetlamp PHOTO: Adele Baker

June 15, 2022, Adele writes: “I would like to donate the Little Boulevard gas lamp depicted in these photos to the Riverton Historic Society.   I believe that it is a smaller version of the gas lamps that are located throughout the Borough.

My family lived in Cinnaminson for many years.  My father, Glenn Baker, worked in the Welbach Philadelphia office from 1956 to 1971… 

Little Boulevard gaslamp instructions and mantle PHOTO: Adele Baker

It stands approximately 14 inches in height. There is a spare mantle and a sheet which explains its operation…  The Boulevard was a very popular product for Welsbach.   I remember seeing them along Main Street in Disney World when we visited there in 1974…

Frankly, I can no place more fitting than Riverton to turn over this gas lamp. I always know when I am in the Borough, and it always makes me smile when I see the gas lamps.   They are such a lovely resource for the town. Please let me know if you are interested in this donation and, if so how I can bring it to you.”

Adele Baker donates Little Boulevard Lamp as Pat Brunker looks on. PHOTO: Roger Prichard
Are we interested? Yessss!
(Longtime fans of the HSR might recall the Welsbach Street Lighting Company PowerPoint presentation that John McCormick and Jeff Cole gave some years ago.)
On July 8, 2022, Adele Baker met with HSR board members Pat Brunker and Roger Prichard at the Early Bird Café to donate a toy-sized Welsbach “Little Boulevard” gaslamp to the Society.
We sincerely thank Adele for her thoughtfulness and generosity in getting this to us. Now, if only we had an actual museum in which to display it.     -JMc


A July 4th Riverton book by Arcadia Publishing sale

Bill Brown, Faith Endicott, July 4, 2022 PHOTO: Faith Endicott

President Bill Brown and HSR Board member Faith Endicott moved some more of our recently published Riverton books, one of Arcadia Publishing Co.’s Images of America series, in front of the library during the July Fourth Parade.

From the Acknowledgements page of that book… Faith Endicott, a relatively new board member, boldly proposed that we might do what no one had tried in our 50-year history–creating a book about Riverton…

Faith reports that those who have bought a copy of the book are thrilled with the content and that she has received some very nice (and emotional) notes.  

The one ‘negative’ — some people wished they had sent in their images to be included. Maybe we need to start working on Volume II!

Locally, Tillie’s Trinkets and Treasures and The Early Bird may still have copies OR you can always order and ship any number for yourself and family members online at     -JMc


HSR awards student achievement

Ian Polaneczky, 2022 Betty Hahle History Achievement Award recipient PHOTO: Mrs. Erica Polaneczky

At a special meeting on May 24, 2022, the Riverton School Board presented the 2022 Betty B. Hahle History Achievement Award to eighth-grade student Ian Polaneczky. Ian received a $150 check and a certificate.

HSR President Bill Brown recognizes Ben Small for winning the 2022 Writing Award PHOTO: Small FB page

Congratulations to Palmyra High School’s Benjamin Small, the first-ever winner of the Historical Society of Riverton’s History Writing contest. Ben received a $500 check. We asked Riverton’s high school students to describe, in 1000 words, how the historic context of mid-19th century America figured into the founding of Riverton.    -JMc



Another chapter in the Saving the Groves Mansion saga

Our recent Facebook post (with 7618 People reached and 593 Likes, comments & shares) has re-energized the public’s interest in our battle to save the much neglected Groves Mansion from demolition.

See this Groves Mansion Update for the latest developments.   -JMc


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Gaslight News – May 2022

The feature article of this ten-page issue updates readers on our effort to save the historic Groves mansion from a developer’s wrecking ball.

This new format allows for viewing on a mobile phone as well as on a computer. Open the printable PDF on your device. In the open PDF, click or tap on links to see more content on Click or tap on images for a larger view.

  • President’s Message
  • Spunky historic town bucks national “teardown” trend
  • Reflections on our Arcadia Images of America book cover image
  • Memorial service for Bill Probsting at the Porch Club of Riverton, 11:30-1:30, July 4, 2022
  • Our annual Recognition Awards Meeting will be held on Thursday, May 19, 2022, at 7 PM in the Presbyterian Church meeting room.
  • Thank you to Nicole Rafter, owner of The Early Bird for selling our mugs

Click here to view issue #191 Gaslight News May 2022

Gaslight News – March 2022

This is a huge issue with lots of content in a new format that allows for viewing on a mobile phone as well as on a computer. Open the printable PDF on your device. In the open PDF, click or tap on links to see more content on Click or tap on images for a larger view.

  • Changes at “The Point” 1851-Present
  • Organizing our archives
  • Before & After: Discoveries in Historic
    Preservation, a presentation by Dan Campbell,
    7pm on Thursday, April 21, 2022
  • History of Riverton, A presentation by Borough Historian Roger Prichard
  • Membership Report
  • Writing Prize for High School Students Announcement
  • Riverton Arcadia book is coming July 4

Click here to view issue #190 Gaslight News March 2022


Gaslight News – December 2021

We hope to have a presentation for HSR members and Porch Club members at the Porch Club in February. We plan on one for the general public in March. More details inside this last issue of 2021.

  • Riverton’s Christmas Village was the tonic we needed.
  • Faith Endicott writes about a spontaneous caroling happening organized by Brigette Veasy.
  • Pat Smith Solin outlines our continuing work to organize, catalog, and archivally store our collections.
  • The Society scores a digital scan of a rare 1886 Hunter and Richards Map of Palmyra and Riverton
  • Town Historian Roger Prichard presents “History of Riverton” at the Porch Club Feb. 16.
  • Arcadia Book Project Manager Faith Endicott reports that the first draft was sent to Arcadia and we anticipate a July 4, 2022 release.

In the open PDF, click on links to see more content on

Click here to view issue#189 Gaslight News Dec 2021

Gaslight News – October 2021

We will have public meetings and presentations scheduled for 2022. Keep checking this website and our Facebook page for announcements.

This newsletter covers a lot!

  • Susan Dechnik writes about the “History of Riverton” program that the Porch Club hosted for Moorestown Questers
  • Pat Brunker expresses our sorrow at the passing of William C. Probsting
  • HSR’s intrepid Sub-Committee on Sub-Surface Issues added a new historical marker at 308 Main Street
  • The Society scores a digital scan of a rare 1886 Hunter and Richards Map of Palmyra and Riverton
  • Pat Smith Solin summarizes our progress on organizing our archives
  • The fate of historic Groves Mansion is still undetermined
  • Faith Endicott reports that our Arcadia book is on track for a July 4, 2022 release
  • Membership Chairperson Heather MacIntosh Huffnagle gives a Membership and Donations Report
  • The Editor tells how the Society was dissolved, then restored in 1976, and House Plaque Chairperson Bill McDermott boasts of a new house plaque at 408 Main

In the open PDF, click on links to see more content on

Click here to view issue #188 Gaslight News Oct 2021

Gaslight News – August 2021

We have no meetings or presentations scheduled. Keep checking this website and our Facebook page for announcements for Fall 2021.

  • Roger Prichard updates the status of Groves Mansion, an issue that has had a lot of interest.
  • We have a new Borough Historian
  • Keith Betten updates us on the ongoing project to catalog the HSR’s collections
  • Three web visitors recently asked about the Duster Class sailboat
  • We just received high-resolution scans of 100+-year-old glass slides

In the open PDF, click on links to see more content on

Click here to view issue #187 Gaslight News August 2021

Gaslight News – May 2021

We have no meetings or presentations scheduled. Keep checking this website and our Facebook page for announcements.

  • Roger Prichard explains how the Society is trying to help neglected homes find their forever homeowners in this hot real estate market.
  • Board members give a progress report on our current restoration and preservation projects
  • Two Self-Guided Riverton Walking Tour brochures are now available
  • See many vintage views of Riverton Free Library

In the open PDF, click on links to see more content on

Click here to view issue #186 Gaslight News May 2021