Scholars glean new understanding of region’s role in the Civil War

P.S. Duval & Son, United States Soldiers at Camp "William Penn" Philadelphia, PA:"Rally Round the Flag, Boys! Rally Once Again, Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom" (Philadelphia: Published by the Supervisory Committee for Recruiting Colored Regiments, 1210 Chestnut Street), 1863. Chromolithograph with hand-coloring.
P.S. Duval & Son, United States Soldiers at Camp “William Penn” Philadelphia, PA:”Rally Round the Flag, Boys! Rally Once Again, Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom” (Philadelphia: Published by the Supervisory Committee for Recruiting Colored Regiments, 1210 Chestnut Street), 1863. Chromolithograph with hand-coloring.

Learn how a church cemetery in Cinnaminson and a young black man from Riverton are linked to the decision to enlist African Americans into the Union army and to train them just across the Delaware River in Camp William Penn.


Jay Howard presents his findings to a well-attended meeting Jan 2014
Jay Howard presents his findings to a well-attended meeting Jan 2014

We pass along notice of this event received from our friend, Jay Howard, of Palmyra’s Historical Society.

Readers will remember we mentioned here in 2014, that Jay and others have studied Civil War muster sheets and a donated diary gaining great insight into the part this area played in that conflict. Presumably, this new presentation grew from that research.


African American Soldiers in the Civil War – Trinity A.M.E. Church Cemetery, Camp William Penn, and Henry Poke

Presented by Donald Scott, author of Camp William Penn 1863-1865: America’s First Federal African American Soldiers’ Fight for Freedom, and Jay Howard, Palmyra Historical & Cultural Society

Thursday, 17 December 6:30pm-8:00pm

Cinnaminson Branch, Burlington County Library

1619 Riverton Road Cinnaminson , NJ 08077

Phone: 856-829-9340

Diaries donated to PH&CS illuminate Cinnaminson’s Civil War era

Jay Howard presents his findings to a well-attended meeting
Jay Howard presents his findings to a well-attended meeting

The Palmyra Cultural and Historical Society had a huge turnout for its free presentation on the Civil War at the Palmyra Community Center on January 9, 2014.

The publicity blurb promised material history archives and comprehensive research on the socioeconomic impacts of the war specific to Palmyra.

Jay Howard of the Palmyra Cultural and Historical Society delivered on that promise and gave a detailed analysis of Palmyra’s social and economic condition during the 1860s.

He based his conclusions on an incredible present that a very generous Cinnaminson resident gave them–a set of Civil War diaries.

one of Capt. Hall's Civil War diary volumes
one of Capt. Hall’s Civil War diary volumes

We could look at, but not touch, one ledger of the multi-volume diary written by Capt. Charles Hall, Fourth New Jersey Volunteers, which was passed down through his family. His great-great-granddaughter Virginia Harding donated it to the Palmyra organization a few months ago. .

Muster sheets list names of Union soldiers
Muster sheets list names of Union soldiers

Jay Howard, who is also a professor at the Community College of Philadelphia, has been engrossed with their contents since. He coordinated the names mentioned in the diaries with names listed on local Civil War muster sheets and consulted Adjutant General William S. Stryker’s two-volume Record of Officers and Men of New Jersey in the Civil War, 1861-1865.

I confess that I went hoping to freeload some information about Riverton’s involvement in the War between the States because at that time, the towns of Riverton and Palmyra were still part of Cinnaminson Township.

While the focus that evening was definitely on Palmyra, there may be some Civil War vets from Riverton we’ll hear about later when the PH&CS finishes transcribing the diaries. We have a short list of Riverton Civil War vets compiled, but part of the difficulty is sorting out names of Riverton residents from the Cinnaminson records.

Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writer Edward Colimore interviewed Mr. Howard about the author of diaries, their donor Virginia Harding, and the information he has gleaned from them.  You can find the article here.

PHCS screenshot
Palmyra & the Civil War screenshot

Here is a link to his a PDF file for Jay’s slide presentation in which he examines Palmyra society of the Civil War era. Note slide #7 which gives a general overview of the economic situation in Riverton. You’ll want to see this separate  Word .doc which includes Jay’s explanations of the slides.

This is a perfect example of the tremendous value that primary source materials serve in documenting local history. We thank Ms. Harding for her extraordinary generosity to the community and Mr. Howard and his research team at the Palmyra Cultural and Historical Society for their contribution to our understanding of the region’s history.

I certainly look forward to the next chapter in Jay’s investigation. Let us know what you think and we’ll pass it along to Jay. – John McCormick

Revised 2/10/2014: Note that the Word file explaining Mr. Howard’s slides has been revised, and if you visited earlier, you may want to see his much amplified version.



Civil War muster sheets and diaries lend new insight to War’s local impact

THE PALMYRA HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL SOCIETY logo2You ARE in the right place, but our friend Will Valentino of the Palmyra Historical and Cultural Society asked that we remind you of this upcoming presentation. Local history buffs, genealogists, family tree makers, and Civil War fans will not want to miss this timely presentation that compliments our nation’s celebration of the Civil War Sesquicentennial , or its 150th anniversary.


P  R  E  S  S     R  E  L  E  A  S  E


For additional comments /questions /photos

Contact:  JIM MAY, PHCS President  @ 856 829 6725 or  JAY HOWARD @



The Palmyra Historical & Cultural Society and The Palmyra War Memorial Committee invite you to revisit The Civil War and its local impact on society, culture, economics and politics. A recent donation to the Historical Society of Civil War era Muster sheets and diaries by Virginia Harding has sparked renewed interest in Palmyra’s role in America’s only Civil War .

Join Jay Howard of The Palmyra War Memorial Committee and The Palmyra Historical Society’s Genevieve Lumia in this unique free presentation.

The evening will feature Mr. Howard’s presentation on his research on the War’s effect on our local residents, and Genevieve Lumia will  discuss her involvement in transcribing these historical documents that lend greatly to the understanding of Palmyra’s contribution and sacrifice to this struggle. Come discover what we have learned through this important donation to our archives !

The free event will take place at 7PM on Thursday January 9, 2014 at Palmyra’s Community Center located in the heart of Historic Palmyra at 20 West Broad Street. Light refreshments will be served.

Residents are encouraged to contact Jay Howard at the above email with any information on local veterans and to bring any artifacts or photographs on Palmyra they wish to donate to The Palmyra Historical Society for preservation.  Become a part of Palmyra History…TODAY!

After more than 20 years, the Palmyra Historical & Cultural Society is still going strong vitalizing and instilling pride in our community through free events and the conservation of local history. In addition, every month, join trustee Will Valentino as he journeys “Back In Time” in the pages of THE POSITIVE PRESS exploring our towns unique contributions to the local historical  tapestry.

For more info go to  Help us in making Palmyra a better “Place to live and grow”. Permission is granted to copy , distribute and post the attached flyer on our event. Thank You.
Commemorative Abraham  Lincoln postcard, 1909. courtesy Mary Flanagan
Commemorative Abraham Lincoln postcard, 1909. courtesy Mary Flanagan


Mr. Bob Gleason, a highly regarded historical interpreter associated with the American Historical Theater will visit the HSR in the Bank on Main as he channels one of his most complex and fascinating historical figures on the very anniversary of the Great Emancipator’s birth.

Once a real bank, built in the late 1920s, The Bank on Main is on the United States Federal Register of Historic Places and is a marvelous venue for such an extraordinary Society meeting. More details to follow. – John McCormick

Plum Run gig at Riverview Estates well attended; Find more of their music here

Forecast: Cloudy, drizzle, with 100 percent chance of entertainment inside by Plum Run
Lisa Godino and Chuck Winch – authentic looking and sounding Civil War era musicians
Last Friday, Feb. 24, 2012, the performing duo known as Plum Run played to a full house at Riverview Estates while a light drizzle fell just outside 303 Bank Avenue. Inside, spirits were not dampened by the misty scene that served as the musicians’ backdrop for the evening performance. Refreshments provided by the staff of Riverview Estates diminished any residual chills remaining.

Songs of the Civil War: History and Myth was a  free concert, part of an ongoing series of HSR history programs to commemorate the Sesquicentennial.of the American Civil War.

Part-historical interpreters, part-storytellers, part-music instructors, and part-accomplished musicians and talented songwriters as well, they fiddled and strummed, plucked and sang for the enjoyment of the public and the residents of the Baptist Home.  

Lisa Godino explains
Plus, whatever you call it when you clack those bones together. Lisa tells more about her fly swatting technique of getting sound from the percussion instrument with an ancient past.

Plum Run album cover

Besides singing and playing songs authored during the Civil War, the pair performed new original songs from their album “No Longer Gray Or Blue” which sounded just as authentic as the ones from the 1860s.

Between our Publicist, Susan Dechnik, and myself, we captured the still shots that you find displayed on this post. Click here to view a 3 minute 167MB MP4 movie file with several video clips of their performance that evening. Give this big file a few moments to load.

Lisa and Chuck told about the instruments
You can find out more about the harmonious collaboration that is Plum Run at and on any one of several other places on the web like  that post some of their music.

For a concert on your computer, check out and click on play all to listen to 19 full versions of their songs plus two videos. The selections there represent a wider range from the pair’s musical repertoire than just the historical variety.

Riverview Estates 303 Bank Ave. Sept. 2008

A good part of the real estate of the current Riverview Estates, or the Baptist Home, once belonged to Mr. Ezra Lippincott whose home and family have been the subject of many of Betty Hahle’s Yesterday columns in the Gaslight News over the years.

Use the search box on this website and you’ll find some of the more recent text and image references to  Lippincotts and 303 Bank Avenue. Riverview Estates publishes a history of beginnings and website located here.

This program was funded by the Horizons Speakers Bureau of the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

As always, comment, challenge, complain, or contribute, if you please. – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor

Let’s do this more often.

HSR Board Members Mrs. Cheryl Smekal (left) and Mrs. Nancy Hall (right) make displays ready for our Museum-for-a-Day

A longer entry follows than most, but it’s been awhile and I have some catching up to do.

A week ago Saturday (Dec. 3) evening from 4-9 p.m. the Historical Society set up shop at the New Leaf for a one day only exhibition of seldom seen treasures from its collections and the consensus among visitors was, “You should do this more often.” People stopping by during their Library sponsored six-stop Candlelight House Tour examined the various displays and often left us with as much information as they took away.

Daniel Goffredo as scanned and restored
I set up my laptop to run the Riverton Veterans Honor Roll Album which reminded our hostess, Mrs. Phyllis Rodgers to loan me a copy of her father’s service photo.

One woman who came through our Museum-for-a-Day found some vintage postcard reproductions that evoked a memory for her, and she paused by my laptop to look at the veterans’ photos, some of whom she knew.

McDermott Bros L-R – Bill, Paul Carl
The conversation drifted to Irish Row when we came to the photos of the McDermott brothers. (I only recently obtained these photos of Carl and his two late brothers when he answered our website appeal asking for veterans’ photos)

I have since updated the Riverton Veterans  Honor Roll Album to include the names added this past Veterans Day and scanned in several more photos of vets. If you can help by adding a photo or clipping to go with any name on the Memorial please contact me so that we can add it to the online album. Regular visitors will recall that eligibility for inclusion on the Honor Roll now reads:

Any present or former resident of the Borough of Riverton, living or deceased, who served on active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States of America, during a time of war, is eligible to have their name placed on the memorial.

Charles Miller Biddle Residence, 207 Bank Ave., Riverton, NJ courtesy
Charles Miller Biddle Residence, 207 Bank Ave., Riverton, NJ courtesy

She casually mentioned that her mother had been a house maid for the Biddle household and that she had lived on Cinnaminson Street.

I showed her some of Joseph Yearly’s photos of Riverton’s own Irish Row stored on my computer and she became very animated, adding a running commentary. She pointed out people and places she knew in Mr. Yearly’s photos. I will have to get them posted after the New Year. We may hear some more from a Riverton Irish maid’s perspective in an upcoming post when the woman locates some of her late mother’s possessions.

Ezra Lippincott wedding party, Niagara Falls 1862

HSR Board Member Mrs. Nancy Hall is a granddaughter to Ezra Lippincott, one of Riverton’s founders. She brought a treasured family photo of granddad’s wedding party at Niagara Falls in 1892 to display.

Later at home, I scanned it and did some restoration on it, but I was a nervous wreck working on a glass photograph. The result is at left. Where are all the tourists and souvenir stands?

display of local antique bottles

Mr. Bill Hall, Nancy’s husband, related a story about his days selling Millside Farms milk. It seems that the creamtop bottles with many of us are familiar were not just a novelty but also served as a salesman’s pitch in the days before homogenized milk.

After witnessing Bill beat up some fresh real whipped cream from the few tablespoons of high-octane milkfat which he had poured of from the top of that cleverly designed bottle, the lady of the house was often convinced to try his product.

former location of Cole Dairy raw milk depot at 501 Main, three Cole bottles in foreground

The milk bottle display must have prompted Mrs. Helen Mack to ask about buying a copy of the remarkable interview we did with Mr. Francis Cole last year about his experiences as a young man working in his family’s raw milk business at 5th and Main right in Riverton during the 1930s.

I had none for sale, but she did motivate me to post the video which Mr. Cole so graciously recorded with us in August 2010, partly because it so perfectly illustrates why the oral histories of Riverton’s people are part of what makes Riverton’s history.

Francis “Franny” Cole August 2010

You can see the November 2010 Gaslight_News article about the interview, but until now I had difficulty posting the huge video file. So here it is in three parts, about 30 minutes total.  Mr. Francis Cole Remembers Cole Dairy Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. If you would like to leave a comment about Franny’s interview, I’ll be sure that he gets to see it.

Another woman visitor has her ancestor’s Civil War diaries and wants to know if the Society is interested and would we take care of them? WOULD WE? I pointed her toward Gerald and am hopeful that we can connect with her again.

Since the nation is observing the  Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, the HSR has made it a goal to try to document Riverton’s role in that conflict. Can any family historians out there with Riverton roots help with supplying individuals’ names, anecdotes, documents, etc. which might help us reconstruct what must have been varied responses of citizens? We are interested in Civil War veterans, of course, but also want to research the actions of women, Quakers, and how various groups and the business community contributed to the war effort.

One man spent at least two hours carefully examining the vintage postcard reproduction prints that we brought in to sell. Like a kid in a candy store, he pored over nearly every image category in the boxes until he settled on a handful of pictures to buy. During lulls in the museum traffic I went over and talked with him about his selections. He had a story about every picture.

What is it about these old photos and artifacts which induces us to reminisce and wax nostalgic? The times to which we look back may not be more comfortable or safer than now, but being in the past, at least they are known.  The recollections that I saw seemed more wistful and pleasurable and not melancholy, even though the holiday season can also a time for reflection and remembering those whom we miss.

At one point I heard Bryan Rodgers say emphatically, “I want it back,” as he gestured toward what was in his hand.

I looked at him puzzled since he obviously already had it, but he went on to explain.

“I want back what is in the picture – the town’s train station.”

Riverton, NJ PRR Station late1930s
Now I get it. Yeah, I know. Wouldn’t that have made a great permanent museum.  I do get jealous when I see that the Riverside and Moorestown stations have survived. Bryan and Gerald and I all agreed that it would be cool for Riverton to have an old train depot like those towns, and we wondered what happened to it.

Later, at home I consulted Betty, as I always do on such matters, and opened my file of Gaslight Newsback issues. The waaay back issues.

There on page 3 of the May 1980 issue was another one of Betty Hahle’s long-running and informative”Yesterday” columns. The answer is there if you care to look.

Business District of Palmyra, N.J., Broadway Theater marquee at left

In it, our first and only official Riverton Town Historian, the late Betty B. Hahle, also describes the Broadway Theater in Palmyra since the Society had recently shown the Romance of Riverton film to a capacity crowd at the Porch Club.

There are many more pearls of wisdom and historic information hidden away in those back issues. If there is interest among readers we can post more issues, perhaps scanned with some word recognition software so that readers can search the contents. What do you think?

The problems and dilemmas of historic preservation are not confined to Riverton, nor were they concluded decades ago. One person’s redevelopment and renewal is another’s demolition of culture and tradition; one’s preservation is another’s impeding modernization and dwelling on the past. It’s finding a balance which can prove elusive, and decisions once made may be regretted later. Staying informed about the history of one’s community is a step in the right direction.

Say, I really do wish we could do this more often.  – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor

P.S. I’ll have many more photos of our Museum-for-a-Day displays posted shortly under the Programs & Events section.  As always, leave a comment, a question, or correct an error that you find.


Members brave the rain to hear Jane Peters Estes

HSR members returned to the familiar setting of the Riverton Public School library Tuesday evening to hear historian, Hagley Museum guide, and costumed presenter Jane Peters Estes’ compelling presentation, “The Battle of Gettysburg: Where Were the Women?”

The take-away from this meeting and the short answer to Ms. Estes’ rhetorical question is: The women were everywhere – it’s just not always written in our history books.

Members socialize and enjoy refreshments after the presentation. Jane even showed some of the ladies her bloomers and the crinoline cage under her dress.

Ms. Estes has distilled the best parts from her bibliography of over three dozen listed sources and she quotes from period newspaper accounts, letters, diaries, journals, and eyewitness accounts to make her powerful case.  We heard how women hid in basements, faced their foes on the battlefield, nursed the wounded, and buried the dead at Gettysburg. She lectured dressed as a woman of the Civil War era, right down to the bloomers and corset.

A rhinestone-studded pumpkin decorates a refreshment table loaded with Mrs. Kloos' famous white chocolate covered pretzel snacks, Mrs. Rodgers' pumpkin mousse cupcakes, Mrs. Waters' homemade ginger snaps, donut holes, and two kinds of cider.

Click here for a one minute excerpt from the presentation that explains how a woman could join the army and not be detected.

The presentation concluded and we mingled afterward for conversation and refreshments. It may have been for longer than usual, but there was much to catch up on since this was the first presentation of the season.

An evening’s seminar on the varied roles of women in the Civil War, snacks and apple cider, socializing among others with a passion for understanding and preserving history  –  priceless!  This is a great time to join as a new member.  – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor


The last virtual field trip to the Farm Fair

Sgt. Edwin L. Kaewell still needs a few Yahoos

In a earlier blog entry you met Edwin L. Kaewell, a Civil War reenactor who endured near hundred degree temperatures in his replica Union woolen uniform for four days at the recent Burlington County Farm Fair July 20-23, 2011, as he tried to recruit new volunteers for his reenactment unit based on the 23rd NJ Regiment Volunteer Infantry known as the Jersey Yahoos.

Another soldier of an earlier era cheerfully explained to onlookers how to load and fire a Revolutionary War type flintlock firearm. Jeff Macechak, Education Director at the Burlington County Historical Society,  demonstrated the weapon at several intervals throughout the day right outside our History Faire tent. And I couldn’t help from jumping every time he did it.

Jeff’s flintlock demo was the centerpiece of the special exhibit that members of the Children’s History Center at Burlington County Historical Society created that obviously held appeal for kids of all ages. The Children’s History Center knows how to tailor hands-on local history lessons to the interests of school groups and families.

In full Revolutionary War garb, Jeff endured the elements to instruct the rabble in loading and firing a flintlock firearm.

With my short-sleeved shirt and cold drink in hand, I felt like a piker watching another sergeant overdressed for the weather carrying out his duties without complaint. But here he was, pitching his history-lesson-in-disguise to the kids, explaining terms like “flash in the pan” and inviting them to smell the rotten egg odor of the sulfur after firing the weapon. Here’s a video I shot with my iPhone of Jeff loading and firing the flintlock musket.

I went back to my perch beside the fan in the tent and my thoughts wandered to past family vacations and day-trips to Philadelphia, Williamsburg, Jamestown, Boston, Washington, DC, Plymouth Plantation, St. Augustine, and other such historic sites.

I guess because I grew up with my grandmother taking me to New York City in 1957 to see the Mayflower II, it seemed natural for me to take my own kids to see the same ship at Plimouth Plantation 30-odd years later. I grew up with a love of history, even if I was not always a fan of the school version of history. With all the uncertainty about our future, do you think there is still a value in emphasizing our history?

Keeping cool in the History Faire Tent

My kids probably thought that all parents planned such educational outings. They took it well because they knew that after that next Civil War battlefield might be a stopover at Busch Gardens, Sea World, or Disneyworld.

I was gratified to see that many parents took the road less traveled at the County Fair, away from the amusements and food vendors, and ventured over to our History Faire tent with progeny in tow. If you attended, what did you think of our first History Faire? And what ideas or suggestions do you have for the next? I know at least that I’ll need to bring a bigger cooler and more ice.  – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor

Gotta love the Internet

seated at left and standing at right: HSR members Barbara and John Palko. Barbara has run the Home Arts & Crafts Tent for some 15 years at the Burlco Farm Fair.

Last week HSR President Gerald Weaber and I went to our History Faire tent at the Burlington County Farm Fair prepared to preach a litany of Riverton history sermons to the multitudes. There was some proselytizing on our part, to be sure, but I had the best time listening to the recollections of members of our own and other historical societies.

Too, there were visits from other local history buffs such as Nick Mortgu and wife Beth Lippincott who came hoping to find a source for searching some family genealogical information, which I believe, they found in County Historian Joe Laufer. They’ve been trying to find the burial site of one of Beth’s 17th century Quaker ancestors.

Nick is the historian for the RYC and an avid collector of all sorts of Riverton memorabilia. (Beth and he live in the historic 1860s era home that had been the site of Riverton’s Cole Dairy which was the focus of a Nov. 2010 Gaslight News article.)

While Beth and Joe were talking, Nick told me that Beth’s first ancestors to immigrate to the US, the Lovecott family, decided to rebadge the clan as Lippincotts.

I did not know that.

Then, Kim, one of my former students (so sweet that she didn’t introduce me to her young man as “my old teacher”) stopped by hoping to find a picture of her house or street in with the box of reproduction prints of vintage postcards that we had brought. No luck, but if you have looked for a particular street in our images collection, and don’t see it, ask for it at the end of this article and maybe the Universe will hear you.

Lucy Evelyn, Long Beach Island, NJ
Recently, Ms. Lois Gorbe, now residing in Florida, sent us two snapshots of the burned remains of the schooner Lucy Evelyn that once served as a one-of-a-kind gift shop in Beach Haven. She has fond memories of visiting the ship/shop as a child during the 1940s. It’s so cool for me to be able to help her and others remember the good ol’ days back in the neighborhood.

Now gone, like so many other landmarks and buildings in our Images compilation, perhaps the entire collection might better be called, “Things That Aren’t There Anymore.”  You can find them under Long Beach Island, NJ Images under the Images tab. Such unexpected bonus finds from across the miles were never possible for us before the launch of this website. Thank you, Lois.

Don't you love to get mail? We do, too.

Readers, wherever you are, please know that we would like to hear from you about your memories and images of Riverton and the region. We wish for this website to be a virtual meeting place for anyone who wants to know more about this region’s local history or has something to bring to our readers’ attention.  What could we in the HSR do to help you?

Historical societies from each corner of this largest of New Jersey’s 21 counties exhibited displays celebrating the founders, landmarks, and various movers and shakers throughout their respective histories which have made each community so unique. HSR President Gerald Weaber and I viewed the affair as a kind of mini-convention in which we could network with colleagues at other tables, as well as showcase our organization’s preservation efforts to the public.

Pierre Lorillard and his dog - Library of Congress

I so thoroughly enjoyed David Smith’s PowerPoint presentation summarizing his four-year long research project on the Rancocas Stud Farm owned by Gilded Age tobacco millionaire Pierre Lorillard IV that I listened to it twice.

David’s account of the life of this extraordinary entrepreneur and sportsman who traveled in the same rich and famous social circles as the Astors and Vanderbilts intrigued me, and it left me wondering how I hadn’t heard of him before.

Lorillard advertisement 1789

I mean, the Lorillard Tobacco Company is older than the United States! And it “invented” the cigar store Indian in order to advertise its products.  According to one school of thought, the tuxedo was invented by Pierre Lorillard IV and named after Tuxedo Park, a sportsman’s preserve and enclave of mansions he created out of 2,200 acres of mountain wilderness 40 miles outside New York City.

Certainly Pierre Lorillard IV had a head start when he inherited a large fortune from his father which included one of the most extensive tobacco companies in the world, but under his shrewd stewardship he shortly further increased his fortune at least tenfold.

Such history bits initially drew me in, but the tobacco magnate’s lofty triumphs in the sporting world coupled with his unimaginably extravagant lifestyle and colorful character makes for a compelling story of achievement and, at times, head-shaking disbelief.

David Smith hopes to write a book that begins with the tobacco company’s 1760 founding which created such fabulous wealth for the Lorillard dynasty that they could engage in horse breeding and horse racing, dog breeding, yacht racing, financing excavations of Mayan ruins in Central America, the building of incredibly lavish homes and estates, and the development of a country club and luxury retreat for the super rich.

NYTimes headline: How Mr. Lorillard Divided His Estate, July 14, 1901

Lorillard died at 67 in 1901, and willed Rancocas Stud Farm, now known as Helis Stock Farm, to his mistress Lily Livingston (AKA Lily Allien), and the sensational scandal that resulted played out in the pages of the New York Times for all to see.  A book that could tell the epic story of the tobacco heir’s bigger than life bio along with all of his diverse sporting and commercial interests plus include the development of his company would be weighty, indeed.

I’m thinking a blockbuster movie or maybe an HBO mini-series a lá the glitz and glam of Boardwalk Empire (without the gunplay) would be the way to tell this story. Who could play Young Pierre? Who would you cast for Mrs. Lorillard, Older Pierre, and Lily?

Each of our historical societies has colorful characters and persons of achievement perhaps just as compelling Pierre Lorillard, even if not as rich. For our diminutive borough, it’s the Ogdens, Grices, Dreers, Lippincotts, and Dorrances of years past, with new names of people who have effected recent change such as Betty Hahle now added to that honored roll. Who’s on your town’s list?

Unidentified Union Soldier - Library of Congress

We are always looking to expand our virtual image collection and add to our knowledge base. The latest plea was for information from anyone with a Riverton Civil War veteran tucked back in one of those branches of their family tree.

Ultimately, we hope to investigate the position taken by Riverton women, area Quakers, the general public, the business community, and various Riverton institutions toward the Civil War, so please let us know what you can. – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor





Report from the Front (of the History Faire at the BurlCo Fair)

Edwin L. Kaewell shows his unit's colors

A recent USA Today article claimed that as many as 50,000 persons in the US take part, at least occasionally, in the hobby of Civil War reenactment. One of the most impassioned and enthusiastic students of local history that I met at the History Faire at the County Fair in Columbus, NJ last week was the solitary Civil War reenactor who bivouacked at the entrance to our tent each of those four sticky searing days.

Edwin L. Kaewell hopes to capitalize on the resurgence in interest for reenactment for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War by forming a squad for the 23rd Regiment NJ Volunteers—a regiment in which at least two Riverton residents served during the Civil War.

Gerald photographed all 3 sides; then I joined the views.

Since HSR President Gerald Weaber and I had just spent the previous two weeks readying our Society’s History Faire display on Riverton’s response to the Civil War, I was drawn to Mr. Kaewell’s earnest recruiting appeals to passers-by and was already imagining that his success could eventually benefit a part of our own mission as well—to create an awareness of our borough’s Civil War  heritage.(See a 2 min., 45 sec./28.7 MB video clip here.)

Many reenactors assume a “persona,” of a historical character which they create, complete with backstory, while others represent real people. Using first-person interaction, Civil War reenactors often recreate the daily activities, thoughts, and behavior of these characters and speak as if they were living in the 1860s.

Historical interpreters staging a living history encampment stay in character as Civil War soldiers, giving visitors the feeling that they are learning first-hand about life in the 1860s. All participants–presenters and spectators–engaging in such an authentic living history experience will probably understand the legacy of freedom and unity that the Civil War bestowed upon our Nation as well as the soldier’s experience and sacrifice in a way that no book can convey.

Imagine a future July Fourth in which a squad of Civil War reenactors dressed in their Prussian blue woolen coats, sky-blue trousers, and heads topped with kepis marches in the parade or stages an encampment as part of those festivities.

Even better—imagine if we in the HSR could give enough research and support to the unit that would encourage some members to role-play the part of a historical Rivertonian and incorporate actual events into their person’s backstory.

History Faire tents housed Civil War displays made by historical societies

To mark the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, each of the participating historical societies at the Burlington County Farm Fair displayed information and artifacts relevant to their respective community’s response to the conflict. A check of past newsletters shows that the topic has received little attention, except as it related to other subjects, so we have some catching up to do.

With so many Civil War history and genealogy enthusiasts, quite possibly, some readers of this column may have a head start on us, so we sincerely invite anyone with more facts or suggestions for sources of information to please contact us.

What we are initially looking for are additional names of Civil War veterans who have spent some part of their life in Riverton, either before entering service or afterward. A preliminary examination of records yielded at least 16 veterans’ names associated with at least eight different regiments in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. See that veterans list here. We appeal to our readers to dust off those family albums and shake those family trees to see if we missed anyone.

Ultimately, a comprehensive treatment of Riverton’s response to the Civil War needs to include much more—the actions of women on the home front while men were at war; the support of some normally pacifist-believing Quakers who fought to defend their abolitionist views; the effects of conscientious objectors; the influence and support of clubs, fraternities, churches, and various institutions; and the contributions of the business community to the war effort, and more will all be investigated.

The following brief abstract of the 23rd NJ Volunteer Infantry Regiment is part of the research on Riverton and the Civil War which we exhibited, and we post it here as a down payment on what is certain to be a larger body of research over the course of this four-year observance of the Civil War’s Sesquicentennial. The chronicle of this unique regiment may stir someone to enlist in Edwin Kaewell’s reenactment unit or perhaps support his effort materially.

A short biographical sketch of the two known Rivertonian members of the Jersey Yahoos completes this segment. Here is the bio for Private Job K. Bell  and here is the bio for Private Albert VanSciver.

For more information on the four-year-long commemoration of the Civil War, and a foot-in-the-door for starting your own research, here are three suggestions:

We thank County Historian Joe Laufer for a great experience at the first History Faire at the County Fair in Columbus, NJ, and we look forward to doubling our display area for the second. It afforded an unmatched opportunity to interact and network with members of other historical societies as well as a chance to try those amazing pulled-pork sandwiches at the nearby Amish food vendor stand. There will be more to report about our Farm Fair encounters in another post. – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor

P.S. Here’s another old Moorestown image, courtesy of one of our patrons of postcard collecting. He writes:

“An early view of 101 E. Main Street at Chester Ave. in Moorestown.   Afterward, this store would become Doughten’s and then later Matlack’s store.  This is an early view and is a card that I had never seen before in all the years I have been collecting postcards.  Please add this to the Riverton website.”

A Favorite Corner in Moorestown







P.P.S . Regarding the comment made about the above Garrigues’s Cash Grocer post card by resident fact-checker Paul Schopp. my postcard collector friend who contributed the above scan writes,”Thanks, and Paul is quite right…. Thanks for keeping me accurate.”

I must echo my friend’s remark. Pullleeeze do not hesitate to tell us when we get something wrong.  When I was in the classroom and one of my students pointed out a mistake I had made, I encouraged them to keep score as a devious way of getting them to pay closer attention.  So start counting. I’m just glad that Gerald and I aren’t the only ones reading this column.  – John McCormick

The man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything. ~Edward Phelps

The HSR takes our show on the road – July 20-23, 2011

Save the Date: The Historical Society of Riverton takes our show to the road next week as we join every local historical society in the County for a “History Faire at the County Fair.”

We will set up an information table in the new History Faire Tent where we will share information with visitors. In honor of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, we will explore Riverton’s response to defend the Union during the Civil War.

Riverton’s response to the conflict can be interpreted more broadly than simply who served in the military. Readers, if you are aware of any Civil War veterans who would have at some point lived in Riverton,, before or after their service, please advise. Some people may have been involved in manufacturing or providing a service which supported the war effort. How did a community founded by mostly Quakers deal with the War? Those strong Riverton women folk must have played a part, but information is scant.

If any Readers can help with any information in this regard, please contact us.

You can find out more about the Burlington County Farm Fair on the official website and get more details about the History Faire on the website of Joe Laufer, our incredibly creative and prolific County Historian.  Joe does not overstate when he bills the website as YOUR ONE-STOP LOCAL HISTORY RESOURCE.  Visit his comprehensive website and you will want to bookmark it as a favorite. But please keep stopping back here to see what’s new.

The Burlington County Farm Fair has a new location for 2011.  It will be held at the new and bigger Burlington County Fairgrounds at 1990 Jacksonville Jobstown Road; Columbus, NJ 08022 (corner of Route 206 & Jacksonville Jobstown Road).  Just 1/4 mile south of the Columbus Farmer’s Market.  Here’s a link to a Philadelphia Inquirer article about the new venue. – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor