Mayor Brown fashions a new July 4th parade baton

Fourth of July at Riverton, July 3, 1865 Philadelphia Inquirer p.2
Fourth of July at Riverton, July 3, 1865 Philadelphia Inquirer p.2

The July 3rd, 1865 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer announced “The Democratic citizens of the beautiful and flourishing town of Riverton… intend celebrating the Fourth of July in grand style.”

Children's Parade, vintage postcard scan courtesy of Nick Mortgu
Children’s Parade, vintage postcard scan courtesy of Nick Mortgu

As the Great Day approaches, some may wonder how some of our July Fourth traditions started. Here is a sequel to the origin story of the mayor’s parade staff.

The subject of the parade baton that the mayor wields as the July Fourth Parade traverses Main Street has been touched on in these pages before.

Mayor Martin with 2nd banded staff and President of Borough Council, Bob Smyth
Mayor Martin with 2nd banded staff and President of Borough Council, Bob Smyth, July 2011

We reprinted here the findings of former Town Historian Betty Hahle and learned there were not one, but two staffs.

And it seems she reached a different conclusion from what been reached earlier in the 1965 Riverton Yacht Club Centennial Booklet – that the staffs had come from India. Admitting that history is not static, and the discovery of new materials can change the our interpretation of events, she reasoned that they instead originated from Switzerland.

Whatever the ancestry of those first two staffs, we can be certain of the provenance of the most recent addition to the Borough’s collection of parade batons.

This past November, I was talking about the parade baton with Mayor William C. Brown and he mentioned in passing that he had to fashion a new staff himself for the 2014 July 4th promenade.

Wait…what?

That is the very definition of Riverton history so I pressed the former marine for details of the news that was already several months old.

Mayor Brown explains:

Riverton Mayor Edward Stoughton, Philadelphia Inquirer, January 2, 1898, p.35
Riverton Mayor Edward Stoughton, Philadelphia Inquirer, January 2, 1898, p.35

The Mayor of Riverton’s tradition of carrying a staff during the Annual Fourth of July Parade, was started by Mayor E.C. Stroughton in 1897.

So that every year since then, a metal plate was added with the current mayor’s name, the year, and the number of children that marched in the parade.

There are three staffs in the Borough office, and legend has it that they came from trees located in Riverton. I’ve not found anything written about the first two, however I can state that the current staff did come from a Riverton tree.

I searched the wooded area along the park till I found a tree floating in the Pompeston Creek. I cut it loose, trimmed it out, and took it home, where I stripped, sanded, stained and applied two coats of varnish to preserve it.

Mayor Bill Brown, July 4, 2014
Mayor Bill Brown, July 4, 2014

One has to admire Mayor Brown’s unpretentious and no-nonsense account of how he humbly came to add another page to Riverton lore. And to think that we would have missed it if I had not brought it up.

History of flag parade staff, New Era, June 28, 1934, p.1
History of flag parade staff, New Era, June 28, 1934, p.1

This column from a June 28, 1934 New Era outlines the history of the Flag Parade Staff and lists the number of children participation from 1897 through 1933.

The  loss of those old hometown newspapers left such a gap in our historical record. If you have not yet explored them, browse though some pages. You might find someone mentioned you know.

If you have any issues we do not have, please donate them or allow us to scan the pages.

July 4th Parade batons
July 4th Parade batons

While Riverton history of old is worth preserving, so too, it is worth recording events of today. The approach of our Glorious Fourth is sure to cause much reminiscing and retelling of family tales.

Leave one below in the comments box, or let us know what draws so many to return to this “unique” place each July Fourth.

Have a great holiday! – JMc

Odd Bits of Past July Fourths

Mayor Robert Martin with banded staff and President of Borough Council, Bob Smyth

The July 4th post, How did Riverton’s “Glorious Fourth” start? referred to a number of July Fourth traditions which Mrs. Betty B. Hahle explained in her classic series of “Yesterday” columns published over her four decades of research and writing for the Historical Society of Riverton. I omitted her explanation of one longstanding parade tradition—the Mayor’s walking staff— until I could make certain of its status. As any observant parade spectator has noticed throughout the years, the Mayor always holds a long cane ringed with dozens of silver-colored bands as he or she walks.

Consider the above photograph of current Mayor Robert Martin with said walking staff.

To further explain the origin of this tradition, read below the complete text of our recently passed Town Historian’s “Yesterday” column from the September 1997 issue of Gaslight News entitled, “A Cane’s Name.”

A Cane’s Name

History is not static, as some might think. A different interpretation, or the discovery of new materials can change a historical concept at any time. And slightly different accounts of an event provoke questions of which is accurate; age, perspective and re-telling all influence the development of a legend.

In 1965 Riverton Yacht Club published a Centennial Booklet that contained two pages of memoirs of Ogden Mattis, an active member for many years. He also suppled a photograph of an early 4th of July Parade that was published with the caption “the Marshall’s baton is a Calcutta Cane brought from India by Og Mattis’ grandfather.”

The grandfather referred to was Louis Corner, who had come to Riverton from England circa 1863, and lived on Main Street.

Recently Sally Jane Mattis shared with me something her husband, George, had written in the late 1930s, when he was a student at Palmyra High School. A requirement of Miss Edna Ziegler’s Senior English class was the student’s autobiography. In his, George had written that his great-grandfather, Louis Corner, born in England…“travelled abroad many times visiting his parents and foreign countries.

On one visit to Switzerland in 1897 he brought back two Alpine Sticks and presented them to the town for the purpose of recording year by year the number of children in the annual parade on 4th of July… by placing silver bands on them…”.

We know that various kinds of walking sticks were popular in the late 19th century, and both records agree on who brought back the cane (s) that are a part of Riverton’s traditional 4th of July Parade. At first the Marshall carried the cane, but for many years now it is the Mayor who carries it. A silver band bearing the year, mayors name, and number of children participating that year is added to the cane after the event. In 1952 the last band that would fit on the original cane was placed on it, and 1953 started a new cane. Since 1958 the bands are of stainless steel instead of silver.

Another Corner legend about the 4th of July Parade is that Louis Corner’s young nephew, George, led the first Parade, in 1897. The Mt. Holly Herald carried a detailed account of the 1898 Parade, which said that it “was led by two 3-year-olds, George Corner, dressed as Uncle Sam, and Clarice Frishmuth, dressed as the Goddess of Liberty.” They were followed by ten little boys in Dewey suits (for the recent Dewey victory) and then by 250 children parading. (Gaslight News 1986, vol. 12 #4, told that story) There was no mention of a Marshall or of his baton. Would it have been called a Calcutta Cane or an Alpine Stick, if it had been described that day? – BBH

As the above photo of Mayor Martin shows, the tradition persists of adding a band to the cane each year engraved with the number of children in the parade. According to Phyllis Goffredo Rodgers, the official kid-counter for the past several years, the number this year was 185, about a half of last year’s showing and a fraction of the 600 tallied in 1908.

Frank Mills’ plane, 1923
undated photo – plane in Delaware at Riverton

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scouring my hard drive for other references to that July 4th airplane drop of paper tokens good for penny candy resulted in the above scanned image of a stereograph from the collection of Mrs. Elsie Waters with the caption, “Frank Mills’ Plane, 1923” and a scan of an undated photo from the collection of recently elected HSR Board Director Mr. Ed Gilmore. Elsie told me that it was Frank Mills who gave airplane rides for a fee, but I’ll have to confirm with her (or another reader) if he is the one who dropped the penny candy vouchers and if it was done for more than just the year 1921. Regular readers may recall that Mrs. Hahle reported on such a paper shield penny voucher plane drop for the year 1920. So far I have been unable to account for the difference in dates. Further, can any aircraft expert determine if the plane in Elsie’s stereograph and Ed’s photo are the same?

1920 Fourth of July Celebration Program

 

Segue to this 7.28MB PDF file of a 1920 Fourth of July Celebration Program that almost got away. The original once belonged to Mrs. Mary Jane Mento, widow of Mr. Danny Mento, a popular local musician. When she passed away, her daughter living in the South inherited it, and she placed it on an eBay auction. Gerald Blaney, a recent homeowner transplant from Palmyra to Riverton and very keen on local history, prevailed as high bidder and has generously allowed the use of the image seen here. Would that all such great finds be shared with the community by such altruistic persons.

 

 

THEN – Riverton Fire Department 1925
NOW – Three Generations of Dorworths 2011

Classic cars and fire engines are always a part of the parade. Here’s an old one from 1925, again from Elsie’s stereograph collection, and a recent 2011 pic of Riverton Fireman Charles Dorworth with his daughter Nicole taking advantage of a photo op with her husband and son in the driver’s seat of Riverton’s 2005 Pierce 100 foot ladder apparatus, or “fire truck” to us civilians. The RFD, established 1890, is a respected institution with its own historic past which you can visit at this website link.

 

 

military unit in undated parade photo

 

 

undated July 4th parade photo
Although undated, Mr. Gilmore’s set of remarkably well-preserved photos may each have been taken around the same time. Another one, presumably from the same parade, shows what must be the mayor holding the cane with the silver bands. Are there any who history sleuths would care to deduce a date for the Gilmore photos? If you have a theory, please send it in.

 

Readers, please leave a comment, criticism, or even a correction, lest how else am I to get the record set straight? “Like” us on Facebook and tell your friends and family, whether local or across the miles, about the rivertonhistory.com website. With increasing visitor counts and membership support comes a greater chance to “connect the dots” and make sense of the separate pieces of our individual collections of artifacts, collectibles, and ephemera. – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor

 

How did Riverton’s “Glorious Fourth” start?

The New Leaf ready for the 4th
Is there anything that evokes memories of Riverton more than its Fourth of July celebrations? Part parade, part family reunion, picnic, 5K run, field day, soap box derby, and crazy raft races on the Delaware River, Rivertonians of all ages look forward in anticipation to another one of this borough’s old-fashioned fun-packed Independence Day celebrations.

 

Former Rivertonians from near and far return for the event to re-connect with family and friends. The grand parade includes homemade floats, a Pet Pageant, kids with decorated bikes and wagons, classic autos, marching bands, musical groups, and military units. Throughout the town homeowners proudly display American flags and patriotic bunting.  A parade route lined with hundreds of exuberant spectators attired in patriotic dress completes this Norman Rockwellian masterpiece. But Riverton’s Fourth of July observances were not always so spectacular.

The approaching festivities are all the excuse this former Riverton School history teacher needs to examine the beginnings of what the 1892 New Jersey Mirror was calling over 100 years ago “Riverton’s Glorious Fourth.”

I again defer to the research of our Town Historian, Mrs. Betty B. Hahle, who recently passed away after devoting many years to discovering and preserving Riverton’s past. From the May 1981 Gaslight News comes this origin story of this 114th Riverton Fourth of July Children’s Parade. As she wished, the excerpts below are copied as she wrote them:

“… July’s celebration in the growing village of Riverton was soon being called ‘Riverton’s Glorious Fourth’. In 1892 newspaper reports said ‘the quiet Quaker town put on holiday attire…’ and described the yachts and all smaller boats decked out with flags of all nations, and the competition among home owners in decorating their homes. That year the 28th annual Regatta at the Yacht Club was held. Celebrations focused on the children’s flag parade and on athletic events as well. … Wheelmen’s Clubs were formed, and meets became a part of the growing interest in athletic events. Riverton’s team used a track on Fulton street, below the railroad, and then a larger one above the railroad, whete Lippincott, Thomas, and 7th streets are today. June of 1894 saw the new track completed there, in time for the riders to begin training for the big meet on July 4th.”

Riverton Yacht Club 6-29-2011

Betty’s “Yesterday” column in the May 1986 Gaslight News reveals another chapter in the holiday’s development:

“And Summer soon follows…wooden tubs of Crane’s ice cream, packed in chunks of ice and delivered by steamer from Philadelphia to the Riverton pier. And then…the Fourth of July!

The Lawn House, located at the corner of Penn Street, and the river bank, was for many years, the summer rendezvous for members of society in this section. Numerous guests from Philadelphia, New York and other points, spent the entire summer at this well-known hostelry.

In 1886 Riverton celebrated the Fourth ‘in the old fashioned way, with houses decorated with bunting and flags…and lighted with Chinese Lanterns’.  The Chinese Lanterns at the Lynch home, 2nd & Main, merited special note.  Races at the Yacht Club had to be called off because of lack of wind, so pair-cared scull races ware substituted. Winners were Lawrence and Haines Lippincott.  The Lawn House had some activities, and then the Calico Club paraded around town.

It was in 1897 that Charles W. Davis and Albert Briggs had the idea of a children’s parade for the celebration, and the Yacht Club liked the idea and set it in motion. The parade formed at the Roberts store on the point, each child was presented with a silk flag, and all preceded to the riverbank, where singing and oration followed. Acquatic events and then fireworks ended the day.

Robert's Store

The next year more than 250 children were in the parade, headed by the Metropolitan Band of Burlington. An article describing the day said that two 3-year-olds, Georgie Corner, dressed as Uncle Sam, and Clarice Frishmuth, as Goddess of Liberty, led the whole procession.  Then there were 30 little boys, dressed in Dewey suits (the Spanish fleet had just been destroyed) and commanded by Captain Walter Wright, who had been drilling them for 2 weeks.  Then came the 250 children with their silk flags, ‘prettily costumed’.  At the riverbank, Rev. Charles Kevin, son-in-law of the 1st mayor of Riverton, gave an inspiring address.  And evening fireworks climaxed the day.

In 1908 there was threatening weather–but some 600 children marched in the parade, led by Mayor Brown and Chief of Police Major, and the Metropolitan Band.  1932’s parade had a special feature: two of the marching Riverton Firemen wore fire hats that had been donated by L. A. Flanagan.  They had been worn ca. 1842 by members of his family in Philadelphia, and bore the date of 1800, the year of their Fire Company’s founding.

The Grove, Palmyra, NJ 1938

By the 1940’s and ’50’s the children’s athletic events in the Park took up most of the afternoon, with relays, sack, potato, 3-legged, and other races for various age groups, and prizes of skates, cameras, rings, and other things donated by local merchants.  And free refreshments for all the children (from Riverton).  Palmyra had its children’s events in the Grove, and often included a Punch-and-Judy show, then joined Riverton for fireworks on the riverbank.

 

Time brought some changes, but ‘Riverton’s Glorious Fourth’ became a well-established tradition, a day of shared activities, family gatherings, reunions with former residents and friends.  In 1964 wooden wash-tub races and tilting were scheduled again, for the first time in some years.  Floats were popular: some were individual, some were group entries; all showed imagination, enthusiasm, and many, many hours of work.  The Porch Club, in 1965, had a large platform truck made to look like a front porch, with ladies in costume and seated in rocking chairs depicting a meeting in 1890.  John Parker had made a large float of the Yacht Club; Frank Lockhart and Charles Foster made a large replica of Barnegat Lighthouse; and the Parry family celebrated the New Era’s 75th year of publication with scenes of their office as it was in 1890.

For a few years there were no fireworks to climax our Fourth of July celebrations, although other traditional activities continued.  They were welcomed back enthusiastically recently, at the Park instead of the Riverbank—and once again the Fourth ended spectacularly.”

Riverton has a long history of honoring men and women who have served in the armed forces as this August 1983 installment of “Yesterday” reports:

WWI signet ring top

“Memorial Park was dedicated on July 4, 1931.  It had been a long while coming…after WW I an athletic field was decided upon, as a fitting memorial to those who had given their lives in service to our country, and to those who had returned. After many delays, a part of the Dreer property above the railroad was purchased from the company, and the Park was realized. Killam Bennett was Mayor when the land was purchased, and Howard Rogers was Mayor at its dedication.  A decade prior to this 100 men and women who were veterans from Riverton were presented with rings, chosen by a Citizens’ Committee headed by Edward Flagg jr. Their names were published in the New Era.  (Anyone have, or know of, one of these rings today?)”

July 4 1921 - leaflet dropped from plane

This series of Betty Hahle’s “Yesterday” columns from past issues of the Gaslight News concludes with this anecdote from February 1982 and a most endearing photograph loaned by Mrs. Elsie Waters.

“A shield-shaped card in red, white, and blue from a 1920* Riverton Fourth, and a photograph showing children scrambling for the cards along the riverbank turned thoughts to warmer weather. The cards were dropped from a low-flying plane, and entitled the bearer to a 1¢ purchase at the stores of Theodore Schneider, John Adolph, or D.D. Bastion.”

July 4 1921 - children on riverbank

Certainly, today’s events are the ones that historians will study tomorrow. Help document the next chapter in this chronicle by adding your “Glorious Fourth” recollection from the past or present to this archive. You can find us on Facebook, too. Remember, folks, these are the good ol’ days.  – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor

* Betty’s article states “1920” for the airplane story and Elsie’s paper token shows “1921.” I do not know for how many years the tokens were dropped.

P.S. For any Rivertonians who could not make it back for the parade this year, here is a link to the official site for the Riverton Fourth of July Committee so you can see all of the awesome activities that those dedicated volunteers have come up with for this year’s “Glorious Fourth.” You can download the a PDF file of this year’s whole program if you wish.

 

 

Bicycle Races – Past, Present, and Hopefully, Future

History may indeed have been made on June 12, 2011, if the recently held Historic Riverton Criterium turns out to become another borough tradition as many hope.

HSR member Mrs. Pat Solin had a ringside seat for the main event from her front door at Fourth and Main .

She writes:

photo by Lee Rogers

“…all cars had to be off the streets.  Police set up barriers and town maintenance folk cleaned the street of debris to ensure a safe ride for the participants.  The weather was beautiful for the race… We could hear a live band, and folks lined the street along the route to cheer for their favorite riders.  Our neighbors had company over and made it an ‘event.’  We watched the riders from time to time either from the curb or from within the house because, as you noted, they sped by directly in front of the house.”

I knew that the race was coming because  HSR President Gerald Weaber had copied me on an email that he had received. Someone helping with organizing the Historic Riverton Criterium had a question about the age of a house.

Riverton Athletic Assn. quarter-mile bicycle track – note roof of old passenger PRR station in distance at right; roof of present-day Zena’s near center

First off, I had to look up “criterium.” in the dictionary.

Then I anticipated that the organizers might want to know that Riverton once held bicycle races and even had a bicycle track, now long gone. I didn’t hear anything further after I sent along a link to Mrs. Pat Solin’s September 2009 Gaslight News article, “The Fine Grounds of the Riverton Athletic Association,” and another link from the New York Times archives showing a map of the old bicycle track near Thomas Avenue and Broad Street.

In her September GN piece, Pat traces the development of the Riverton Athletic Association from its beginning in July 1865, just after the Civil War, as simply some amateurs playing baseball in Biddle’s apple orchard to its involvement in an array of other popular sports, including bicycling. A highlight of the story is the account of a contest which will probably never again be duplicated, a 150-mile race from the steps of the New York Times building in New York City and culminating at Riverton’s packed to capacity bicycle stadium. Click here to read the whole incredible story.

1890 map detail – Riverton Ball Club Grounds at Broad and Thomas later became the bicycle stadium

In any case, I imagine that the information eventually made its way to Jeannie O’Sullivan, staff writer for the Burlington County Times, who wrote a delightful story cleverly contrasting the old and new races.  You can find the complete article, photos, and a YouTube video by clicking on this link.

You can read the chatter between the members of the Historic Riverton Criterium Facebook group as the event progressed from planning and development, to race day, and posting of the results by clicking here. In addition, there are dozens of photographs of the day’s activities, posted by several different photographers. The students of Mr. Christian Hochenberger’s Shawnee High School Photography Club posted over 300 photos here. Do not miss viewing the set taken by Lee Rogers, owner of Bicycle Therapy, a race sponsor, and posted on flickr, the photo sharing site.

If you’d like to see more New York Times articles of yesteryear, use the advanced search option of the New York Times archive to search issues from 1851-1980 for Riverton related articles. Browse at your own risk, however, as it can not only become addictive, but hours can fly by reading about those times past.

graphic for 1890 bicycling column in The Sporting Life

Another place to look for sports news of all sorts related to Riverton is in the pages of The Sporting Life, a weekly sports news publication printed in Philadelphia from 1885-1917, and now found online at the sports research library of the LA84 Foundation. There you can read about the famous Riverton Gun Club, the legendary “Riverton Nines” baseball team, yacht races, football, bicycle races, swimming–even cricket. Here is the link for the LA84 search page.

In addition to enlarging my vocabulary, further investigation into this cycling phenomenon has resulted in finding yet another “Yesterday” column written by Mrs. Betty B. Hahle over thirty years ago for the May 1981 issue of Gaslight News which sheds more light on those bicycle races of the late 19th century. Following is an account of the opening of the Riverton Athletic Association’s new quarter-mile track in 1894. As Betty wished, the re-publication of her work which follows is printed exactly as it originally appeared:

“As bicycling grew in popularity, Wheelmen’s Clubs were formed, and meets became a part of the growing interest in athletic events.

Bicycle Century Run under auspices of Riverton Athletic Assn. Camden to Atlantic City via Gloucester – Gloucester-Woodbury Turnpike, Westville Toll Gate – Sept. 8, 1894

Riverton’s team used a track on Fulton street, below the railroad, and then a larger one above the railroad, whete Lippincott, Thomas, and 7th streets are today. June of 1894 saw the new track completed there, in time for the riders to begin training for the big meet on July 4th. It was the widest 1-4 mile track in the world, designed by O.S. Bunnell of Philadelphia, a much respected cycler who would also be referee on the big day.

Night Bicycle Race Medal – July 1, 1895

And what a day it must have been! Riverton, with a population numbering only a few hundred, had an attendance of nearly 4000, according to the papers. There were 8 class-A events, trick riders, an exhibition ½-mile ride by Harrison Barcus, a 5-year-old, on a 10 lb. wheel, and a 5-mile event that ‘kept spectators at fever heat from start to finish’. Julius Blauberg, a prominant caterer from Philadelphia, had charge of refreshment stands, and prizes–oh, the prizes…5 diamonds, gold and silver medals, jewelry, and many other valuable articles. A.J. Briggs, Riverton’s Athletic Association manager, kept things moving, and was careful that all activities and decisions were fair. Soon color was introduced into the meets by having riders wear brightly colored shirts instead of numbers to identify them–and shortly there followed items of vandals breaking into the athletic building on the grounds and making off with ‘articles of clothing’. Fireworks were held at the bicycle grounds after the races.

In 1894 W.F. Sims was out to break his record of a mile in 2.11. He aimed to do it in 2 minutes–and made it. (Speed on the track was one thing; it was something else along the streets and paths of town, and increasingly there were reports of children being knocked down, teeth being lost in the process, and broken bones of older victims. Tempers grew short with this behavior–even on Sunday–and there were calls for dealing more severely with the culprets.”

Saying, “It makes obvious sense to tie in the racing history and the Historic Riverton Criterium,” Carlos Rogers, a 20 year veteran competitive cyclist whose vision it was to bring the amateur cycling meet to his newly adopted hometown (by marriage to the former Adrienne Gaughn), started planning for the race late last year. Mr. and Mrs. Rogers are owners and  operators of the highly regarded Hush Salon in Philadelphia’s Old City District.

The novice promoter acknowledged the first-time challenges of navigating those uncertain waters of borough government and tradition and was, in the end, elated at the result. Taking stock of the event and the public’s reception to it, Carlos remarked, “By all accounts, from borough officials, riders, residents, and spectators, it was a resounding success.”

Let’s hope that history repeats itself in this case, and that the Historic Riverton Criterium returns again next year. In the process we shall add another chapter to the history of cycling in Riverton, NJ.   – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor

Clothier Clan Returns to Founder’s Bank Avenue Home

503 Bank taken August 2007

I felt like my name had just been listed in Boyd’s Philadelphia Blue Book, that fashionable private address directory for the socially elite of the late 1800s when HSR President Gerald Weaber, myself, and our spouses received invitations to attend the Clothier Family Reunion recently. Society members Mary Louise Bianco-Smith and Ken Smith hosted the event at their Bank Street home on Sunday, June 5, 2011.

Gerald Weaber finds the house on a map

There we mingled with several generations of descendants of Caleb Clothier, one of Riverton’s ten original founders, and listened to tales about their ancestors and Riverton history in the very home where Mr. Clothier had lived.  We toured the grand villa so faithfully restored and decorated that it looks just as if Caleb and the missus just stepped out for a stroll along the river.

Plan of the New Town of Riverton c. 1850

Noted journalist Sally Friedman, writing for the Philadelphia Inquirer, produced a wonderful piece about the day’s events accompanied by several professional photographs.  Ms. Friedman, notebook in hand, earnestly questioned many persons that day as her photographer inconspicuously captured priceless images of this rare convergence of the extended Clothier Family.

Clothier heirlooms and mementoes

When the questions came to me about the history of Riverton and the founder’s home in which we were visiting, I referred the reporter to the ultimate expert. I mean, how does one give a person a crash course on 160 years of Riverton history?

I sent Ms. Friedman the link to the Borough of Riverton’s website to find the concise Town History which Mrs. Betty B. Hahle wrote in 2004. You can see the marvelous result of the correspondent’s due diligence in getting the facts aligned with the Clothier family saga at the philly.com website.

 

 

antique music box once belonged to Isaac and Mary Clothier

Click here for a short video of Robert Taylor demonstrating the intricate imported music box mentioned and pictured in the Inquirer article.

For our contribution to the historical record I consulted some of Betty Hahle’s research stored in our archives which we have not yet posted on this website. The best capsule description of how Riverton began might be in Mrs. Hahle’s 1990 introduction to the VHS videotape version of The Romance of Riverton, a deteriorating nitrate-based 1926 film which she helped rescue in 1980, by first having it transferred to modern safety film, then to videotape.

map detail - note Clothier home

“Riverton was founded in 1851 by a group of ten men usually referred to as ‘Philadelphia merchants’ who were seeking a place to build their summer homes away from the City’s problems, yet close enough to commute to their Center City places of business.

They were familiar with this area from family ties in the area, and from Friends’ meetings, and jointly purchased 120 acres of Joseph Lippincott’s farm that lay between the Delaware River and the railroad line. Robert and William C. Biddle, Prof. Charles D. Cleveland, Caleb and James Clothier, Chalkley Gillingham, Daniel L. Miller Jr., Dillwyn and William D. Parrish, and Rodman Wharton engaged architect Samuel Sloan to design their new village, to be called ‘Riverton.’ His plan included not only the founders’ riverfront villas, but also 105 building lots, streets, a walled and landscaped riverbank, a pier for steamboat landings, a railroad station at the upper end of town, and a small general store on the point opposite it. According to the noted historian of American architecture, Henry Russell Hitchcock, Riverton was the first wholly planned residential subdivision in America.”

View of RYC and Delaware River from the front lawn

From Betty’s “Yesterday” column in the February 1981 Gaslight News we learn briefly of the business dealings of the ten “Philadelphia merchants”:

“The Philadelphians who founded the village of Riverton lived and/or had businesses in Old Philadelphia, shared a love of sailing, and a friendship and trust that permitted arrange­ments to be sealed, with a handshake. The Jersey side of the Delaware was familiar to them not only from sailing into its coves, but also through business contacts. William D. Parrish had for some years advertised in Burlington county papers (wholesale dealer in paper, rags, school books, blank books, writing paper, printing and wrapping paper, wall and. curtain paper, all at manufacturer’s prices), as had others of the group. Dillwyn Parrish was a druggist, Robert Biddle a hardware merchant, Caleb Clothier dealt in bricklaying, Rodman Wharton in paints, and Prof. Charles D. Cleveland”… “had a girls’ school. Miller McKim”… “had an anti-slavery office near Cleveland’s school…”

Clothier 50th Anniversary

Memorial testimony at a meeting recorded in the Friends’ Intelligencer United with the Friends’Journal, Philadelphia, Sixth Month (June) 13, 1885, regarding the “humble and upright life” of Caleb Clothier mentions his involvement in the Abolitionist Movement: “He was early an earnest worker in the Anti-Slavery cause, and many a poor fugitive from bondage received his active and material aid.” Riverton is never mentioned, however, in this lengthy obituary from the Quaker perspective.

From another “Yesterday” column in the November 1979 Gaslight News we learn that Caleb Clothier sold the property and … “Edward Ogden, capitalist and 1st Mayor of Riverton, lived in the Caleb Clothier house at 503 Bank.”

Bing map - screenshot only

Here’s a link to a Bing Map of 503 Bank Avenue. You should see a bird’s-eye aerial photo map with a “pin” stuck in the location for 503 Bank.

You can choose to further explore the Riverton of today by using the navigation controls along the top margin of the map to zoom or rotate your view.

Regular readers may recall the January 30th entry, “Whoa, this is heavy!” which described the new Historypin website in which you can take a virtual drive through some of Riverton’s main thoroughfares.

From the Editor’s Desk: Readers, please note that you can find a summary of the Annual Meeting held at The Bank on Main on June 9, 2011. on the Programs and Events page.

The Society may be on summer hiatus, but please continue to check back here for more history of Riverton and the region. If you have something to bring to our attention regarding a story idea, comments or criticism, or you would like to make a donation which would help us in our mission to  “discover, restore, and preserve local objects and landmarks, and to continue to expand our knowledge of the area,” please do not hesitate to bring it to our attention. Remember our easy address, rivertonhistory.com and tell your neighbors and friends who have moved away about us. – John McCormick, Gaslight News Editor

 

 

 

 

May 2011 Annual Meet Convenes at The Bank on Main

The Bank on Main - open for business once again

The Historical Society of Riverton held its Annual Meeting June 9, 2011, at The Bank on Main, courtesy of the Antonucci Family of Riverton. First constructed for the Cinnaminson Bank & Trust Company in 1928, its new owners have transformed the building’s interior into an attractive venue for business and social events.

In the business portion of the annual meeting members approved a slate of new or returning directors, including Pat Brunker, Donald Dietz, William McDermott, J. Edward Gilmore, Nancy Hall, John McCormick, Phyllis Rodgers, Mary Lou Smith, Michael Spinelli, and Cheryl Smekal.  A number of By-Law proposals received approval with one change, suggested by Mr. Paul Schopp. Members approved his motion to change the quorum for a Board meeting to nine.  Click here find the full text of the By-Laws to passed June 9, 2011.

The massive original vault remains the focal point of the room. Round linen-covered banquet exhibit tables flanked the carpeted part of the room and chairs arranged in rows on a magnificent marble dance floor in the center of the space faced the vault. The high ceiling, large windows, and sparkling chandelier hanging from the center of a huge, ornately carved medallion that dominates the ceiling all served to create an elegant setting befitting the main portion of the meeting; to celebrate the life of Mrs. Betty B. Hahle, Town Historian, who passed away on April 17, 2011. A large photo collage poster of Mrs. Hahle placed next to the vault represented some of her many accomplishments and provided a backdrop for the remarks and accolades of the speakers.

President of the Historical Society of Riverton, Gerald Weaber, started by reviewing the life of Mrs. Hahle, highlighting her contributions to virtually every Riverton organization and stressing her dedication and commitment to preserving Riverton’s history and character.  Her meticulous investigating and record keeping, pursued with passion, earned her a place in Riverton’s history.  Mayor Robert Martin then presented a proclamation to the daughters of Mrs. Hahle, Donna Hahle Kirkland and Marilyn R. Hahle.

Several members of the audience shared memories of Betty Hahle by illustrating examples of her generosity in sharing her extensive knowledge of Riverton while others cited her success in raising her three daughters.

A four-part a capella group called Three Good Men smoothly segued into the entertainment part of the meeting by appropriately choosing “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” as their opening number. They continued the historical theme by serving up an eclectic mix of songs from classic barbershop to Rock & Roll and Doo-Wop, freely seasoned with jokes and puns. The inclusion of “God Bless America” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” on the same set list indicates the versatility of this talented quartet. We even learned history trivia; “Chattanooga Choo-Choo” (1942) was the first ever gold record. Clearly, the foursome achieved their website’s description of “the essence of Barbershop” by liberally “ringing chords” off those stately old bank walls for the entire performance.

Even a mid-meeting power outage which left only dimmed emergency lights to illuminate the chamber failed to dampen anyone’s spirit or curtail the marvelous entertainment from our a capella quartet, which fortunately required no electricity.  At the conclusion, HSR President Gerald Weaber invited participants to enjoy refreshments.  Three Good Men continued their convivial exhibition by harmonizing “Happy Birthday” for two HSR Geminis, Mrs. Linda McCormick and Mrs. Phyllis Rogers and serenading bride-to-be, Keri Antonucci with a song .

We sincerely thank the Antonucci Family for so generously extending to the Historical Society the use of this splendid facility for our Annual Meeting. Find out more about this new multi-purpose banquet hall and event facility at the Antonucci Ventures LLC website.

That was our last meeting for the summer, but check back often for more additions to this website. Our expanded HSR Board will be busy planning for the next 2011-2012 season. Please consider donating items to the Society as you de-clutter or downsize belongings. We also welcome your submissions of recollections, comments, photos, scans, etc. for possible publication in the Gaslight News or on this website.  – Co-written and photographed by: Mrs. Susan Dechnik and John McCormick

 

THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF RIVERTON REMEMBERS BETTY BAILEY HAHLE

On Saturday, April 30, 2011, friends, family, community members, and colleagues from all points gathered at historic Christ Church in Riverton to celebrate the life of Mrs. Betty B. Hahle, Riverton Town Historian, former HSR President and editor of its newsletter, and relentless champion of historic preservationist battles, who passed away Sunday April 17, 2011.

Possessed of an encyclopedic knowledge of all things concerning Riverton, Betty recently expressed regret that writing her book on Riverton’s history had eluded her. Nevertheless, the body of authoritative historical works that she produced is prodigious. Renowned for her thoroughly researched articles on historical subjects, she authored Riverton’s history for the borough website, wrote the history of the Porch Club, contributed to Riverton School’s Riverton Project, consulted on community planning projects, and produced over 100 of her signature “Yesterday” columns for the Historical Society of Riverton’s newsletter, the Gaslight News.

Her tireless activism in the pursuit of preserving Riverton’s heritage has resulted in a number of victories which will stand as her lasting legacy to the town which she so adored. In 1978, in concert with borough officials, Mrs. Hahle helped save Riverton’s cherished gas streetlamps from oblivion; in 1989, she rescued the fragile vintage film Romance of Riverton by preserving it to videotape; and she was one of the main persons responsible for saving rare late 19th and early 20th century New Era newspaper issues to microfilm. In 2009, the Burlington Board of Chosen Freeholders recognized both Betty Hahle and a colleague for their work in preserving the Romance of Riverton and making it accessible to modern audiences. Perhaps her most gratifying accomplishment was her 20 year-long quest to win for Riverton’s historic district a listing on the coveted state Register of Historic Places.

Betty Bailey married Joseph W. Hahle, and they raised three daughters in Riverton. Mrs. Hahle was active in Riverton’s Parent Teachers Association, the Palmyra High School Band Parents Association and was a Girl Scout leader. In the early l970s, Betty became interested in genealogy and local history, favorite hobbies she pursued with a passion. She was a member of the Porch Club of Riverton, holding various chairs there, and in 1989, the group honored her as their Woman of the Year.

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 historic research and writing as Town Historian and her interest in cultivating the interest of young people in the study of history inspired the award.

Mrs. Betty B. Hahle

Always generous with her expertise, just days before she passed, Betty was dictating notes from her hospital bed to encourage one author on the content of a future Gaslight News feature story while supplying an essential fact she recalled from one of her many interviews for the writer of another article.No one can deny her passion for pursuing Riverton’s history or her unwavering commitment to preserving Riverton’s character. Clearly, more than any other single person, Mrs. Betty B. Hahle has made our understanding of Riverton history what it is today. By so faithfully documenting Riverton’s past with her meticulous investigating and record-keeping, Betty has indeed now assured her own place in Riverton’s history alongside the very founders, merchants, industrialists, and social activists she researched, certain to be quoted and cited for years to come. She was 92.

Find the complete Burlington County Times obituary here.

HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF RIVERTON