Historic home presents a rare restoration opportunity!

106 Lippincott Avenue, Riverton, NJ, PHOTO CREDIT: Roger Prichard
Home of Mr. Alfred Earnshaw ca. 1887 Coll. Riverton Free Library

Attributed to Frank Furness, this grand 1880 high-Victorian mansion is on a big corner lot on a beautiful street, one block from the Delaware River.

The Historical Society of Riverton, including its officers and board, has no financial stake in this property. We bring this home to your attention because it is our mission to discover, restore, and preserve local objects and landmarks – and what a landmark this house was, and can be again!

In a town of distinctive architecture, the 1880 Alfred Earnshaw house at 106 Lippincott Avenue is a standout for the right person to restore it.

Agent Cecilia Still of Keller-Williams Realty – Moorestown (856) 316-1100 listed the property. See more property details and photos on realtor.com.

It really needs someone who will love it. The previous owners really did, investing major effort to reveal that amazingly-intact exterior from under awful siding.

Bob and Aggie Kennedy took their stewardship of this treasure seriously for the more than 20 years that they lived here. Both were longtime members and enthusiastic supporters of the Society and were fine citizens of Riverton, who rolled up their sleeves and supported many projects on behalf of the town.

Now their beautiful paint job is long overdue for a knowledgeable painter to bring it back. Even to a casual observer, it is clear that good stewardship means much more than just a paint job. As the realtor’s listing says, this historic home “needs TLC”. Note well that the listing on realtor.com reads “This is an AS-IS estate sale”.

But with the right contractors and vision, this will be a stunner.

Lots of intact detail

It looks to us like all of the original exterior detail is still there, except that the porch has been replaced.

PHOTO CREDIT: realtor.com
PHOTO CREDIT: realtor.com

On the inside, the first thing you might notice is that a miracle has occurred – somehow no fool ever painted over that amazing 1880 woodwork.

Victorian house lovers: how often does THAT happen? Did we mention “miracle”?

If you’ve ever had to restore a staircase like that, you know how unusual this is.

The Frank Furness connection

Frank Furness in 1901, from Moses King, Philadelphia and Notable Philadelphians

If you’ve ever wanted a house by a “celebrity architect,” there was no more vivid a personality in the late 19th C. than Philadelphia’s Frank Furness. He is best known today for the amazing Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts,
the University of Pennsylvania Fisher Fine Arts Library,  and a dazzling array of grand suburban homes, many of which look like this one.

Furness designed over 600 buildings in his vigorous career and documentation of them can be challenging.

Michael J. Lewis is the author of the main biography of Furness, Frank Furness: Architecture and the Violent Mind (New York: W. W. Norton, 2001).

In an interview for this post he observed:

The Alfred Earnshaw House is generally believed to be the work of Philadelphia architect Frank Furness because of its strong resemblance to some of his most distinctive houses of the 1870s.

Its cross-gabled composition is found in Furness’s Emlen Physick House at Cape May, New Jersey, as is the prominent flaring chimney. Other details recall the Fairman Rogers House at Newport, Rhode Island, particularly the bold jerkinheads and overhanging third story.

These houses and others of the period show the special attention to the expression of the wood frame that Furness absorbed from his mentor, Richard Morris Hunt. But most characteristic of Furness’s 1870s work are the elongated knee-braces of the porch, which mix angular forms and vigorous curves, incision and notching, with a muscularity that none of his imitators achieved.

Along with George E. Thomas and Jeffrey A. Cohen, Michael J. Lewis is also a co-author of the exhaustive catalog of the work of Furness’ office, Frank Furness: the Complete Works (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, Inc., 1996), page 344E, catalog #660A.

Sister houses: As Lewis observes, its construction date of 1880 falls directly in the midst of several very similar Furness houses. The family resemblance is striking:

(See more information about the 1879 Emlen Physick Mansion in Cape May and the 1881 Knowlton Mansion at Rhawn St. and Verree Rd. in Philadelphia on wikipedia.org.)

Who were Alfred and Alice Earnshaw?

The couple who built this home came from influential families and their histories are well-documented. They owned the property from 1880 to 1892. According to the National Register nomination for the Riverton Historic District, the builder was Abraham Merritt of Beverly.

(If you open the PDF for Riverton’s 1999 National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, note that pressing Ctrl+F opens the Find field, which allows you to search the text for “Earnshaw.”)

Alfred Earnshaw (1844-1896) was an iron broker in Philadelphia who founded a steamship line with his brother and served as its president until his death. He had recently come to the U.S. from Cambridge, England in 1872, first to New York, then set up his business in Philadelphia and commuted from Riverton.

Alfred’s father was a noted clergyman, mathematician, and physicist, known today largely for his “Earnshaw’s Theorem” of magnetic fields.

1895 advertisement from the Hand Book of the Lower Delaware (archive.org)

The steamship line was called the Earn Line Steamship Co. and it prospered despite bad luck with its first ship, the S.S. Earnmoor. “Earn more” didn’t have a chance to earn much, as it sank in a gale in 1889 just two years after launching. Of a crew of 24, only seven survived. Sensational accounts of their three weeks adrift in a lifeboat in the Gulf Stream were widely reported at the time.

The company did prosper, though, and bought at least five steamers in the next few years.

A few years after the Earnshaws left Riverton for Philadelphia in 1892, Alfred died suddenly of a stroke at 51 years of age.

Alice Rebecca Strange Earnshaw (1850-1945) coll. Susan B. Strange

The real estate was purchased solely in the name of Alfred’s wife, Alice Rebecca Strange Earnshaw (1850-1945), which wasn’t unusual for people of means at that time. Alice was the daughter of Edwin B. Strange, a wealthy New York silk importer. He had commissioned the house in Dobbs Ferry in which Alice grew up, a Gothic Revival Hudson River castle named Ingleside, designed by architect Andrew Jackson Davis in 1854. That house still exists, now owned by St. Christopher’s School.

Later owners

In a remarkable tenure, from 1910-1954, this was the town doctor’s house and office.

Philadelphia Inquirer, February 8, 1914

Dr. Charles Street Mills (1878-1954) and his wife Lillie Belle Leibert Mills (1879-1970) moved here in 1910 with their 12-year-old daughter Mildred. The home was called “Twin Pines” for many years, though whether they had named it or inherited the name isn’t known.

When their daughter turned 16 they held “a small dance” in her honor here – a small dance of 75 people! Is this the right house for that, or what?

In the 1920 Census, after Mildred married and moved away, the household was just Dr. and Mrs. Mills – plus three servants, all people of color. John E. Lodine was the gardener (age 22), Charles Reed was the butler (age 23), and Luzella Davenport was the cook (age 35).

– Roger Prichard, HSR Board Member

Bygone Moorestown Airport once promoted flight on former Lippincott farmland

Waco Model 10 aircraft IMAGE CREDIT annarborchronicle.com

Harlan Radford, Jr.

After nearly fifty years since its closure, information about Moorestown’s nearly forgotten airport is sketchy at best. We are indebted to Paul Freeman for allowing the use of information and images from his informative website entitled “Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields” in developing the following story.

It all started in 1928 when some South Jersey aviation enthusiasts created an organization known as the Burlington County Aero Club. Just one year prior, Charles Lindbergh’s historic solo non-stop crossing of the Atlantic Ocean had captured the heart of the nation. Americans gained new confidence in air travel and suddenly, everybody wanted to fly.

Across the United States that enthusiasm fostered the creation and formation of something called flying clubs, or “aero clubs.” Such private member-run aero clubs were generally not-for-profit.  The clubs offered their members affordable access to aircraft and often provided flight training opportunities along with many related services and facilities that enabled aviation enthusiasts to pursue flying as a hobby.

Waco Model 10, IMAGE CREDIT Public domain

In February 1928, the newly formed Burlington County Aero Club acquired the use of a fifty-acre rectangular tract of farmland from the Lippincott family on Westfield Road. That year the club also purchased two new Waco Model 10 biplanes. This particular airplane was for general aviation and was excellent for training purposes. A popular 3-seater with open-air cockpit, the Waco 10 was a fixed-wing aircraft with two main wings stacked one above the other.

The Burlington County Aero Club constructed a large steel hangar on the north side of the newly secured land and employed a full-time chief pilot and an instructor.

Burlington County Aero Club, Dedication Day IMAGE CREDIT Paul Freeman’s Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields
Moorestown Airport Dedication, first-day cover, collection of Harlan Radford

During the weekend of October 13-14, 1928, the Burlington County Aero Club held a special “Air Meet and Races.” On this occasion, the Moorestown Airport was officially dedicated, and to commemorate this event, the club created (as described in The American Air Mail Society/American Air Mail Catalogue – Volume One, Sixth Edition, 1998) a special magenta-inked cachet and processed some 2,000 airmail envelopes postmarked on each of these dates at the Moorestown post office. Most notably, Moorestown’s Airport was the second oldest airport in all of New Jersey; Newark’s Aviation Field became the first in 1918.

Trans-Atlantic Airship Hindenburg, Lakehurst, NJ 1936 IMAGE CREDIT collection of JMc

According to local press reports, the Moorestown Airport in 1931 was actually being considered to be a base for the German Zeppelin transoceanic mail route. Lakehurst Naval Air Station, also located in South Jersey, finally won out and was selected for the prestigious but short-lived Zeppelin mail route. We all know that on May 7, 1937, the Hindenburg (LZ-129) would burst into flames during a landing at Lakehurst and thus end for that time the promise of a global airship passenger, freight and mail service.

The early years of this country’s Great Depression took its toll on the Moorestown Airport and one source states the airport went through a period of abandonment between 1932-35 and even the 1937 Airports Directory did not list it among active airfields.

The first and probably only “official” Air Mail flight in the history of Moorestown occurred on May 19, 1938, in conjunction with the Post Office Department’s celebration of National Air Mail Week conducted all across America between May 15-21. Proclaimed as a week-long event to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the inauguration of airmail service, Postmaster General James A. Farley and President Franklin Roosevelt promoted and implemented an opportunity to gain wider support and usage of the Post Office Department’s airmail service.

Postal officials encouraged many cities and towns to create their own means to conduct aviation-related activities during that time by promoting and actively participating in special events. For example, 24-hour airmail duty by volunteer pilots all across the nation allowed many communities like Moorestown to get one-day of airmail service.

National Air Mail Week cover, Joseph Stow pilot IMAGE CREDIT eBay auction

Riverton Postmaster Mrs. Mervil E. Haas had a commemorative National Air Mail Week (NAMW) 1938 cover with a special cachet prepared for the occasion. Palmyra also sponsored a special cover for the event. On May 19, 1938, East Riverton’s Joseph W. Stow donated his services to pilot the aircraft that carried airmail from Palmyra, Riverton, and Cinnaminson post offices out of Moorestown Airport to Camden’s Central Airport. The cargo that day included the envelope at left bearing the new airmail stamp. Canceled at Riverton and backstamped at Camden, it is addressed to Dr. J.E. Brown at 416 Linden.

Postmaster General James Farley IMAGE CREDIT Public domain

This novel idea proved immensely popular. Trumpeting the slogan, “Receive To-morrow’s mail today,” the Postmaster General even requested every American to send an airmail letter during that week. Shown at right is a photo of Postmaster General James Farley sitting with some of the hundreds of thousands of airmail letters mailed during National Air Mail Week.

IMAGE CREDIT Paul Freeman’s Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields

By the end of the Depression at the close of the 1930s, the Moorestown airfield had become a pumpkin field. However, a 1940 aerial photo and later a 1942 USGS topographic map shows Moorestown Airport open and operational with three runways. Note in the illustration at left the configuration and the lengths of the three unpaved runways along with the airport hangars, buildings, and the obvious wind-cone, or sock, for determining wind direction.

During the years of World War II, eyewitness accounts recorded the presence of military aircraft occasionally using Moorestown Airport. Unfortunately not much else is known about the role of the airport at that critical time.

After the war, two enterprising individuals ran what they called the “GI Bill of Rights Flying School” at the airport and by the mid-1950s the airport saw much greater use. Facilities expanded to include an additional hangar; one hangar  sported a painted checkerboard-roof design and the other roof proclaimed “MOORESTOWN.”

IMAGE CREDIT Paul Freeman’s Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields

By 1958, the airstrip saw the installation of the first landing lights which
enabled planes to take-off and land at night.

As the decade of the 1960s arrived, the encroachment of residential development and the completion and opening in 1965 of the new Moorestown High School that bordered on airport property jeopardized the future of Moorestown Airport. The location of the high school necessitated the closing down of the northeast/southwest runway leaving just two active runways.

2016 aerial photo IMAGE CREDIT Paul Freeman’s Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields

In addition, this photograph taken in 2016 shows the houses that have been built over the eastern portion of the former airport site while the western portion which is wetlands remained undeveloped. In the upper-middle portion of this image, note the two still-visible structures including the original circa 1928 hangar along Westfield Road.

The eventual closure of the Moorestown Airport would occur sometime between 1972-73 and with it came to the end of an interesting chapter in the history of the community of Moorestown, New Jersey.

A timeline of Moorestown Airport newspaper articles 1928-1972

We welcome your comments and especially hope that this article may serve to invite some first-hand recollections by former pilots, employees, passengers, or spectators who can add their voices to this online history of Moorestown Airport.

Wait – where was that cover photo taken?

July 4th, 2020, the parade that never was. The coronavirus pandemic achieved what other epidemics, economic depressions and recessions, and two world wars could not. It caused Riverton’s treasured July Fourth Parade to be canceled. Here’s hoping we all get to enjoy the next one.

After folks received their July Fourth Program booklets this year, the question of the cover photo’s location arose.

Roger Prichard started it thus, and cc’d the whole HSR Board:

See this year’s program/ad book? I’m drawing a complete blank on the location for the photo… I just can’t place it for any location in Riverton.

Iris Gaughan, Pat Brunker, and others posited that it was taken on Main Street, but where? Our best resources, Nancy and Bill Hall were stumped, too.

Hypotheses involving angles of the sun and whether the parade was going toward or away from the river ensued.

Knowing that the Society had supplied the July 4th Committee with the photo, Roger asked to see the original photo scan to see if it might yield more clues.

Elsie’s scrapbook page

That photo was one of several taken by Robert Knight on July 5, 1920, the year when Riverton thanked over 100 servicemen and one woman, Army nurse Amanda Faunce, by presenting each with a gold signet ring during a ceremony at the riverbank.

Several of the photos appeared previously in the May 2017 Gaslight News article, “A Grateful Community” by Mrs. Pat Solin. Our esteemed past Board Member, Elsie Waters, since passed, had donated the treasured family photos to the Society.

When Roger received the scan with the entire image, he had his eureka moment.

July 5, 1920, photo by Robert Knight, donated by Elsie Waters

AHA!!! Thank you, John! That little bit of extra detail of the house with the cool porch in the background tells the tale! Look at those distinctive double columns and brackets for the 2nd floor porch.

Here’s what Mr. Google has. It’s 101 Main and the open space in the parade picture is where Ed Gilmore’s house and the modern one next to it were built (103 and 103a).  That was always open space since the founding of the town.

Google maps screenshot, Main Street, Riverton

Thus ends another episode of history nerds group emailng each other, desperate to better illuminate the pages of Riverton history, since we have had to cancel all Board and membership meetings for the foreseeable future.

Elsie Showell and brother John, Riverton July 5, 1920

Incidentally, Elsie Showell Waters was not quite two years of age on July 5, 1920. She is dearly missed.

Please join the conversation here and on our Facebook page until we can resume normal operations. -JMc, Editor

The HSR thanks volunteer Mike Solin for 9 years of designing, maintaining, and improving our website

Our huge collection of Gaslight News back issues has just become more accessible with the addition of a dropdown menu at the top of the Gaslight News page.

Just go to the Gaslight News page, rest your cursor on the “Select a Back Issue” box, and select any of over 180 issues from #1, published Dec. 1974 to present.

GN select an issue screenshot

We thank Michael Solin for adding this helpful feature and for doing so much more behind the scenes for the care and maintenance of our website.

HSR Pres. Gerald Weaber and Dr. Cliff Johnson confer as Mike Solin watches Ms. Cheryl Smekal explore the HSR website. In back, Jeff Chambers and Ms. Peggy Trauger Crook check out the site.

Former HSR President Gerald Weaber expressed our thanks to Mike in 2011 for customizing the website template that has made this record of Riverton’s rich history accessible to the public.

Over nine years later, Mike continues to generously volunteer his expertise to maintain and improve this website.

Thank you again, Mike, from your old teacher!
Warm regards,
Mr. McC

A visitor comments on Long Beach Island’s Baldwin Hotel

July 3, 2020: As the temperature soars this weekend and coronavirus restrictions ease, many folks are headed to the Jersey Shore. If you cannot visit for real, at least take a virtual vacation here and see hundreds of vintage postcard views of Long Beach Island.

Baldwin Hotel, Beach Haven, NJ 1908

One postcard in particular seems to have become a magnet for attracting comments from visitors who have vivid memories of the Baldwin Hotel.


Paul Hughes writes from Arlington VA:

Marjorie Helgans

My mom worked as a waitress in Summer at the Baldwin during WWII. She needed that money for college as she was raised by a single mom in Jersey City and they had to scrape together all their nickels to get her through. She eventually went on to earn her Medical degree from Cornell Univ in NYC. She was always an industrious gal! I found a picture of her in her work uniform and a picture of the Baldwin Hotel in her personal items. She passed away in 2018 at age 92.

I immediately replied and offered to post the photos, which he in turn sent. Thank you, Paul, for this very personal addition to this online archive.

Her Mom (my Grandmother) is standing next to the street sign next to one of my Mom’s co-workers – Paul Hughes

If you have a comment, a photo or postcard, or any memorabilia that you wish to share on a topic found here on rivertonhistory.com please contact us at rivertonhistory@gmail.com or use the contact form below. – JMc, Editor

Under the Boardwalk

Under The Board Walk, Stone Harbor, New Jersey

An avid postcard collector recently acquired this classic postcard on eBay. In it, a number of people find shelter from the summer sun under the boardwalk. A young man in knickers, the woman in a long checkered skirt and summer millinery, the fashionable man wearing white slacks and shoes, dark jacket, bowtie, and fedora, and a number of bathers are each captured as they posed over ninety years ago.

Postmarked APR 4, 1929 at Stone Harbor, NJ, and placed in the mailstream to a recipient at the Y.M.C.A. in Binghamton, N.Y., the penned message states, “My nose is all red and it isn’t from drinking either.” The postcard depicts the popular Stone Harbor Boardwalk before the Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944 destroyed it.  These chronologically arranged vintage views circa 1918-1944 document that long-gone Stone Harbor attraction.

The Boardwalk at Stone Harbor, New Jersey

by Harlan B. Radford, Jr.

The boardwalk at the seashore resort community known as Stone Harbor, NJ is a distant memory that few can now recall. The following picture postcards and photographs serve as proof of the one and a half-mile long boardwalk from 83rd Street to 106th Street that once existed there for 28 years.

Scene on the Boardwalk and Beach, Stone Harbor, NJ Aug 15, 1927 Note Coca-Cola and Hires soft drink signs on building

The term boardwalk describes a walkway or promenade, often elevated, typically constructed of wooden planking, and is located along a beach.  Atlantic City became the first seashore resort to construct a boardwalk back in 1870 to curb the amount of sand beachcombers tracked into the train and hotel lobbies. According to National Geographic, the State of New Jersey has 28 boardwalks and promenades – more than any other state.

Those of us who have personally experienced the charm of boardwalks at other locations, either today or yesteryear, are reminded of their immense popularity and the many attractions they offer. “Walking the boards” or leisurely strolling the boardwalk, often at the end of a day, provided countless opportunities for fun and relaxation including souvenir shopping, entertainment, arcades, miniature golf, saltwater taffy, and delicious fudge.

Greetings From Stone Harbor, NJ

If the number one attraction of the Jersey Shore is the sandy beaches, then boardwalks may be the second most popular reason why people flock to seashore communities during the summer months. Stone Harbor built its boardwalk in 1916. But we all know that mother nature and the mighty forces of the ocean have on numerous occasions not been kind to boardwalks and oceanfront properties.

Philadelphia Inquirer, Sept 16, 1944, p1, 16

Stone Harbor boardwalk’s reckoning came on September 14, 1944, when a particularly devastating storm, which became known as the Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944, struck the New Jersey coast. Stone Harbor lost its entire boardwalk to this monster storm. The boardwalks of Sea Isle City, Atlantic City, Ocean Grove, Asbury Park, and Long Branch all suffered similar fates.

Residents assessed the extent of damage and the replacement costs associated with rebuilding not only the Stone Harbor boardwalk but also a 500-foot fishing pier out into the ocean and a covered pavilion at 96th Street. They agreed that there was a greater value of having unobstructed ocean views and consequently decided not to have the boardwalk rebuilt. A few resorts like Atlantic City and Asbury Park would rebuild.

In all my years of collecting postcards, one thing I have never seen is any view that shows the damaged Stone Harbor boardwalk immediately after that storm.  If you have one, please share it.

The following 38 vintage picture postcards featuring the Stone Harbor boardwalk are arranged in chronological order starting with views taken around 1918 and progressing to the time of the boardwalk’s sudden demise in 1944.

In the absence of the boardwalk, years later, beach umbrellas entered the picture and proved useful and popular as a means of escaping the direct sunlight on those hot afternoons. While we can only anticipate the reopening of shore businesses, beaches, and boardwalks in New Jersey and are excited for ‘Stage 2’ of Gov. Phil Murphy’s reopening plan, check out these views, and at least enjoy this virtual trip back in time!


Solving a Mystery: Who was this shy little girl, Lois Grant?

We love this picture – her expression looks like her mother just told her very sternly, “now HOLD STILL!”  It’s exquisite, the image just 2-1/2” high.  So who was she?

Hint – her father built a number of houses here in Riverton.  (Yeah, that hint wouldn’t have helped us, either…)

We love when our members and readers give us puzzles to solve.  You never know where they’ll lead.

Recently, thanks to a reader’s inquiry sent to this website by Beverly DeFelice of Red Bank, NJ, whose father had collected tintypes and left her one of a little girl who was from Riverton, NJ. – from 1859 – we were faced with a mystery.  Beverly knew the picture wasn’t of her father’s family, but who was it?  She asked if we might know anything and does the family still exist?

(Tintypes, also called ferrotypes, were most popular in the 1860s and 70s and made with light-sensitive emulsion on a thin sheet of lacquered iron.  They were much more durable than the previous photos on glass, such as daguerreotypes and ambrotypes and were very popular.  The process was patented in 1856 so our example here is quite early.)

As you’ll see, it has a gold leaf mat and on the back paper is written, in fountain pen ink and old handwriting “Lois W. Grant, Riverton, N.J.  Taken 1859.  Age 6 years.”

But the picture wire and screweyes don’t feel like 1859 and neither does the sticker that says “Darmstaetter’s, Lancaster PA.”  What’s that about?

Nothing about this rang bells, but then, with a little digging …

Ancestry.com is a great place to start.  A single search of that name, in Riverton, with that approximate birthdate, and – bingo – we have the 1860 Census that shows her living in a family of 6.  Unfortunately, there were no house numbers in those days, but this starts us on our quest. Her father’s name was Joel Grant, and his occupation was “carpenter.”

For those with access to an Ancestry account, we have a huge public tree we’ve been working on, called “Early Families of Riverton NJ” and we added Lois and Joel and a number of relatives to it.  Have a look here:  https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/tree/108021762/family/familyview?cfpid=322186642113  (You can also use the “Tree Search” button to look for anyone else we’ve been adding, Biddles, Parrishes, etc.)

Joel Grant photo coll. Randall Coury on Ancestry

With his name, we find that more than one Ancestry user has made a tree that includes this Joel Grant – and one of them has a picture of him!  Now we know what her father, that early house carpenter in Riverton, looked like.

So now we have a name of the grownup, let’s dig further …

The Historical Society of Riverton did a ton of research back in the early 1990s for our National Register Historic District nomination, and we have placed a copy of it online here:  https://rivertonhistory.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Historic-Riverton-District-app-1999.pdf

Since it’s a PDF, it’s easy to search for “Grant” and – wow – it turns out that our little girl’s father, Joel Grant, was the builder (and real estate developer on a modest scale) who gave us several buildings which still stand today.

Riverton National Register Historic District Inventory:

Also on our HSR website, of course, is our digitized newspaper collection, which helped with more.

Those buildings are: 401 Main, c. 1858; 406 Main Street, 1868; 400 Fulton Street, 1869; 521 Howard Street, 1881 – probably the “butcher shop of Mr. F. S. Pierce,” today much altered.

There were likely others, of course.

Since HSR board member Iris Gaughan and her husband Richard own 401 Main Street and they’ve recently researched all of the deeds for their house, it was an easy matter to find that our Joel Grant actually owned it for a long time, from 1858 to 1872.  Could this have been their home at the time of shy little Lois’ photograph?

detail from 1860 Stone & Pomeroy map shows Grant at 401 Main

Indeed – we have a map!  Attached to the National Register inventory is a dim copy of the Riverton detail of the 1860 Stone and Pomeroy Map of the Vicinity of Philadelphia, with the principal houses identified, and by golly, this one is marked “J. Grant.”

Guaranteed, this is where the little girl lived when her picture was taken.

So what became of the Grants, do they have surviving kin, and why was the tintype framed in Lancaster?

More fun with Ancestry.com and Newspapers.com came next.

Lois married Isaac Eastwood in Riverton in 1878.  He was a traveling salesman of dental supplies.  They seem to have lived with her parents, even after moving to Philadelphia in 1895, and never owned their own home.  Lois’ mother died in 1901, her father Joel the house carpenter died in 1904, and Lois and her husband boarded thereafter until his death in 1917.  His death certificate reads “cirrhosis of the liver,” an indication of long struggles for everyone.

Lois went to live in Upper Darby in the home of her grown daughter Ellen (“Ella”), and her husband, who had a nice new home in Upper Darby.  He was also a traveling salesman.

The 1920s seem to have been quietly domestic for them.  In 1934, our Lois died there at age 80 but then Ella lost her husband, Ralph, just three years later to a heart attack in 1937, at just 57 years of age.

Ralph had come from Lancaster County, so Ella moved there at some time after 1940, probably to live with or near her in-laws.

This would explain the “Darmstaetter’s” label on the paper on the back of the frame. Google tells us that Darmstaetter’s was a long-time photo and stationery store on Queen Street in Lancaster, so it’s easy to picture that, once she had settled in Lancaster County, Ella must have had the store reframe the tintype of her mother.

We can safely assume, then, that the fountain pen writing on the back is in Ella’s hand, recording for us the facts about her mother Lois.

Ella died there in 1953.  She and Ralph had just one child, a son Robert, who was also a traveling shoe salesman like his father.  He was single and had lived at home until he married at 37.  At some point he went to work for the Reading Railroad.

Robert had no children, dying in 1992 at age 80.

So now we know, Lois has no living descendants.  We contacted the family member on Ancestry who had the picture of Joel Grant (a descendant of one of Lois’ brothers).  He was fascinated with the story but he and Bev agreed that it’d be best for the little tintype to have its new home here in our archives.

We’ll never know how Robert’s cherished photo of his grandmother in 1859 made its way to Bev DeFelice’s father’s collection, but we are very grateful to Bev for taking on its stewardship and bringing it home to Riverton.

Thank you, Bev!  Moral of the story:  always write names and dates on the backs of photographs!  Without that, this would have been just another little picture that had lost all its meaning.  (Now, how do we do this with digital photographs? …a topic for another day.) – Roger Prichard

We urge you to wholeheartedly welcome back local businesses with your patronage

Hey, kids, raise your hand if you remember dealing with any of the businesses advertised on this June 6, 1932 New Era Business Directory.

Business Directory, The New Era, June 9, 1932, p5

Now, for extra credit, how many businesses listed there are still in operation?*

Businesses have come and gone over the years, but let’s not let COVID-19 be the reason that a local business can no longer thrive.

We all long for those times when we could patronize local stores unencumbered by masks, counter shields, and social distancing.

We look forward to June 15 when most — but not all — nonessential retail businesses in New Jersey will be allowed to reopen with shoppers inside stores; capacity will be limited to 50% and both customers and employees will be required to wear face coverings to protect against the coronavirus.

We thank all of the essential businesses that have opened under difficult circumstances.

We urge you to show your appreciation to local businesses by helping them to recover from the shutdown and again prosper.

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

*Yeah, you got it.

Schwering’s Hardware has endured depressions, recessions, wars, and now a pandemic!  Steve and Suzanne Schwering will celebrate the absolutely essential establishment’s 100th birthday in 2022.

Disastrous Storms – Then and Now

Disastrous Storm, Camden Democrat, July 26, 1873, p2

The aftermath of the recent violent derecho storm system reminds us of other times that Riverton has suffered at the hands of Mother Nature.

tree near Cedar Street, Sept. 2013

In our own memory, we recall other trees downed from storms, but this time there were so many, not only here, but in surrounding towns of Palmyra, Delanco, and Palmyra, that PSE&G crews have been overwhelmed trying to restore power.

Please send us your photos and recollections of storm damage from this incident or from others back in the day.