East Riverton – Then & Now

Q: What do Riverton Gun Club, a stud bull named Pinochle Prince, a 1990s Halloween hayride, and the Villages at Cinnaminson Harbour have in common?

A: They all occurred at the same place but at different times. Here’s how.

In July 2020, my wife and I moved from Delran to a townhouse in East Riverton, within the Township of Cinnaminson. It’s a stone’s throw from Riverton, just across the Pompeston Creek.

Philadelphia_Inquirer, Feb 28, 1913, p3

If not for a defeated 1913 bill in the New Jersey Legislature that would have allowed its annexation, East Riverton might have been part of Riverton.

For the history of the early development of Riverton, I refer to three of Betty Hahle’s “Yesterday” columns.

Chester Twp detail, Map of Burlington County, Otley and Whiteford, 1849 (2.31MB map)

When the founders established the village in 1851, it was a few streets within the larger township of Cinnaminson, which was itself within the much larger township of Chester. Cinnaminson separated from Chester in 1860.

The village grew. In 1877, it added a section from Cottage Ave. to Thomas, from the river to the railroad. The” ‘Thomas Extension” c1882 moved the border down to Elm, and then after 1900, the land above the railroad opened up. Lippincott land began to be developed from the present upper boundaries toward the center of town. (GN 021, Feb 1981)

In December 1893, Riverton separated from Cinnaminson, as a borough. (GN 062, May 1991)

Courier-Post, Camden, NJ, May 17, 1902, p2

Above the (Pompeston) Creek is East Riverton, largely developed by realtor Charles Price, with the expectation that it would, when developed, become a part of Riverton.

Charles E. Price Map of East Riverton, c1890

However, in 1913 voters rejected the proposal, and so East Riverton has remained a part of Cinnaminson. Early in this (20th) century, the Riverton Gun Club (RGC) had its grounds along the riverfront there. (GN #088, March 1998)

The competitors at RGC shot live birds; hundreds perished during a typical day of shooting.

Sporting Life Magazine, Oct. 8, 1904

In 1904, the NJ Legislature passed a law making it illegal to shoot live birds so two club members decided to test the law’s constitutionality by shooting one in the presence of a constable.

Short story – the club lost.

Trenton Evening Times, May 9, 1907, p14

Pat Brunker catches us up on the disbanding of the club from a newsletter article she wrote on the history of the RGC.

A Special Meeting of the Riverton Gun Club was held at the Club House on July 18, 1906. The club decided to carry out the sale of the Club real estate and the Club property.

All household effects were sold (to David H. Wright), and the amount realized was in the neighborhood of $700. (GN #121, March 2006)

David Wright had opposed the shooting of live birds for sport, and after his purchase of the land, Wright renamed the gun club grounds Peace and Plenty Farm.

Advertisements in The New Era indicate that Wright sold milk and hatching eggs and offered the stud services of Pinochle Prince, a registered bull, for a fee of $5.00.

Wright later sold the farm to Joseph Rieder, who operated a cafe and inn on the premises as the Great Depression loomed. (Online inflation calculators claim that $1 in 1932 had the same purchasing power as $20.71 today.)

Rieder passed in 1932, and presumably, the land passed into the hands of another party. The use of that part of East Riverton for the next few decades is unknown. If a reader knows, please send us details, and we will revise this article.

The next time we hear of use for farmland in that area is for a Halloween hayride that existed from about 1993 to 2005.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, Aug 20, 2004, pR01 illustration

The hayride’s days were numbered as Cinnaminson Township held a hearing in 1998 for a proposed development of 1,000 townhomes.

However, construction did not get underway until 2004.

Sales of the initial phase of homes began in January 2005, and the last haunted hayride occurred in October 2005.

It took about a century for suburban sprawl – the spread of urbanized areas into the rural landscape – to overtake what once had been Cinnaminson farmland.

Of course, suburban sprawl can negatively affect the environment. Realize, however, that when those men founded Riverton in 1851, they not only originated “…the first wholly planned residential subdivision in America” – they simultaneously started suburban sprawl.

No doubt, the Lenni-Lenape of the 17th century thought, “There goes the neighborhood,” as European settlers encroached upon the lands they had lived on for 12,000 years.

Finally, this last “show and tell” sprang from my curiosity about how a map of the old gun club might align with a present-day map.

Charles E. Price Map of East Riverton, c1890
East Riverton satellite google map








View an 18MB video clip that shows how the Riverton Gun Club location compares to that of Cinnaminson Harbour.


A reader’s inquiry spurs a story on Thomas Dando

Recently we heard from Wisconsin visitor Keith Buchert who commented on one of our oldest posts – one from 2010. He was looking for the book on the history 1877-1906 of the Riverton Gun Club so he could buy one.

Riverton Gun Club History 1877-1906

The catch up on the uninformed, the famous Riverton Gun Club (RGC) held trapshooting contests by releasing and shooting live pigeons. Members paid entry fees to compete for prizes. (The RGC was covered briefly in Slides #103-106 in a PowerPoint I presented to a meeting in 2011 called “Do You Remember?“)

Keith writes:

Gun Club Silver Prize, IMAGE CREDIT: Keith Buchert

The trophy pictured on the site I once owned and sold 3 or 4 years ago. I am an advanced sporting collector and would like to know more about the historical part of the Riverton Gun Club. I have a gunning box that belonged to T. Dando and has the date of 1885. The Riverton Gun Club must have been a well-respected club because of the shooters that shot there and the quality of trophies that were given out.

I replied by telling him briefly about the RGC, sent him some of our website links, a Thomas Dando bio, and a searchable online archive for Dando’s Sporting Life Magazine.

RGC open book and slipcase

After another email exchange with Keith, I revised that 2010 post and added more information on the organization: a scanned Riverton Gun Club History 1877-1906 book and two other publications by the Club.

He responded with more information that adds to our understanding of the RGC:

Dando gunning box and plate detail IMAGE CREDIT: Keith Buchert

Thank you for providing all that information. I acquired the gunning box from a collector friend that purchased it at an auction in Maryland years ago. I will send you pictures of the gunning box. He definitely used it and it looks like a prize won at the Riverton Gun Club.

What is also interesting to me is the association T.J. Dando had with Sporting Life magazine as I did not know this. I also collect advertising smalls which include advertising pins from Sporting Life. Sporting life was the Magazine that covered both trap shooting and baseball.

Trap shooting two words signifies pigeon shooting. Trapshooting one word is used for clay pigeon shooting. But you probably knew this.

(He gave me too much credit – I did not know the distinction)

Sporting Life used celluloid pinbacks to advertise the magazine…

I also have a website that can be reached on Google under Keith Buchert’s uniquesportingcollectibles.com

I would appreciate any help you could provide locating Dando’s Book on the Riverton Gun Club.

Well, we have one of the 100 limited copies and we are not parting with it, but maybe someone else seeing this can respond.

More Gun Club minutiae, if you can persevere…

Thomas Dando, Riverton Gun Club History

Seeing that gunning box roused me to search the RGC book for Thomas Dando; it received over 400 results.

One was this high-stakes match that he won in March 1896. It required a $100 entry fee and awarded $1,300 first prize. The shooters killed 485 pigeons in this one match.

(According to officialdata.org, $1,300 in 1883 is equivalent in purchasing power to about $33,668.97 today!)

New York Times May 2, 1883
Charles Macalester, Riverton Gun Club History

In 1883, the Club secured bragging rights when The New York Times reported that New York backers of a British shooter retreated from a $5,000 bet on a match with Riverton’s Charles Macalester and Westmin


One more…

Annie Oakley by NH Rose c1890s
The Morning Call, San Francisco, April 1, 1894

American sharpshooter and star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, Annie Oakley refereed a contest on the grounds of the RGC between a New York marksman and Riverton’s crack shot, Charles Macalester.

Who wants to see more about the Riverton Gun Club? -JM, Editor

Our Museum for a Day came and went

Aggie Kennedy
Aggie Kennedy clothes a dressmaker’s form.
Susan Dechnik
Susan Dechnik took most of the photos here.
Cheryl Smekal, closest;  Aggie Kennedy, at right; Susan Dechnik, back
Cheryl Smekal, closest; Aggie Kennedy, at right; Susan Dechnik, back

The reason for the recent inactivity here on the website is that we have prepared for our display of artifacts that we call our Museum for a Day at the New Leaf Tea Room in cooperation with the Riverton Free Library’s biennial Candlelight House Tour.

The items come out to play for a day, then are packed away until we get another offer for some free exhibit space.
The items come out to play for a day, then are packed away until we get another offer for some free exhibit space.

Once every two years we get to break out of storage some choice HSR treasures to exhibit to the public. Afterwards, the items get packed away, and until the next time, this online virtual museum will have to do until we get a real permanent one.

We brought out some familiar chestnuts such as some Dreer’s Nursery items, our vintage clothing, and the Riverton Gun Club history book.

New additions to our exhibit repertoire include displays about Riverton’s War Memorial and Riverton’s military veterans, Riverton Yacht Club, and Anne Knight Ruff.

museum for a day_37I only just found a box postmarked 2011 in our storage space full of donated items relevant to the Yacht Club, particularly the Duster, that former resident Marty Carhart donated.

More details of the remarkable contents will be forthcoming in a later post, but for now, blueprints for building a Duster and two reels of 16mm movie film taken of the 1949 Duster Championship race were just two of the more notable items.

RYC 100th Anniversary book 1965
RYC 100th Anniversary book 1965

Also in that box, a 1965 book published for the 100th anniversary of the Riverton Yacht Club now serves as a startling reminder that 2015 will be their 150th anniversary. I made a poster outlining some of the milestones in the RYC’s history to go with the table display.

“Tempus fugit,” as my Latin teacher used to say. Tempus fugit, indeed. I think time has even picked up more speed after I passed sixty.

HSR Board Member Bill McDermott also pitched in as a Museum Guide. Turns out he had never heard the story about how Ed Merrill built the Duster in a workshop on the third floor of a house at 301 Main Street. There are probably many things we could all learn from each other if we could pool our resources. We have the bandwidth here if you have something to share.

Readers, please search those boxes tucked away in attics and basements for anything you may have that would help to piece together a history of the RYC’s last half-century. Something spectacular is sure to be planned to commemorate that milestone, and with so many knowledgeable people now living far afield the internet is a great place to collaborate.

I made another poster that explained about Anne Knight Ruff’s book, hoping it would result in some sales, but no luck. This book is a treasury of Riverton history c.1890-late 1900s and should be required reading for anyone living in this zip code.

museum for a day_17An exhibit about Riverton’s veterans included a poster with all the original names plus the names added since 2011. Longtime Riverton resident Daniel Goffredo lent us his World War II service uniform for the day.

Earlier this year the HSR bought a presentation projector that we could use for just this type of situation, so we set it up with a screen to show the much expanded Riverton Veterans Album.

Those old hometown newspapers that we got online in late 2012 have yielded a lot of anecdotal information about the people mentioned on the original War Memorial Honor Roll. Additionally, the newspaper files have been the source of many more news clippings about military personnel whom they described as being from Riverton.

museum for a day_13museum for a day_02That might be the reason if you were to find a person mentioned in the pages of the Veterans Album, but their name is not on the War Memorial Honor Roll.

I showed the presentation to our own HSR Board members Nancy Hall and Elsie Waters, but the best part was listening to them give the color commentary as they watched.  – John McCormick

revised  12/22: added ten photos to gallery below



“Do You Remember?” is a ‘Reader’s Digest’ version of Riverton History

Woolston Carriage Works in undated photo

If you like to look at old photos and postcards, then download the script that accompanies this PowerPoint slide show so that you can sort out the many places and players as you leaf through this huge 115 slide production, full of all kinds of historic facts and images about Riverton, NJ.  First shown at the January 2008 HSR meeting, this presentation does not contain exhaustive details on any one topic. Instead, it contains a little bit about a lot of different topics related to Riverton. (This presentation spawned two shorter spinoffs,”A Short History of Riverton Public School,” which is already posted and “A History of Dreer’s Nursery,” which will be featured later on. )

Regular readers of this column will recall the earlier posting of the shorter January 2007 slide show. This one duplicates some information found in that one and introduces more that I had learned in the interim. Topics in this 2008 sequel include:

Dreer Nursery - Victoria Trickeri Lily Pond
  • Old New Era newspaper clippings relating events from the past
  • Many vintage family photos, school portraits, and Riverton postcards
  • A short history of the famous Dreer’s Nursery
  • News accounts of the Japanese beetle scourge as well as a Riverton sighting of the Jersey Devil
  • Reports of internationally ranked swimmers involved in meets at the Riverton Yacht Club and a 150 mile bicycle race from NYC to Riverton
  • Dozens of views of local historic maps, ephemera, and real photos of places
  • A complete small 16-page booklet about Sacred Heart Church written in 1904
  • Information and photos about the men of the celebrated Riverton Athletic Association and the renowned “Riverton Nines”
  • A description of the exclusive Riverton Gun Club and its high-stakes live pigeon shoots
  • Discover these things and more that you may not know about Riverton, and please consider the slide show’s ending message, “You can help preserve historic  images and information.”
  • If you can help in this endeavor, please contact us so that we may increase the utility of this digital archive and make it available to a larger audience. We welcome your submissions for Gaslight News articles and blog postings, and invite you to support the Historical Society of Riverton by becoming a member.

Click here to download the “Do You Remember?” 38.8MB PowerPoint You’ll need the PowerPoint program or the free PowerPoint viewer in order to watch the slide show. Click here to download the PDF file of notes that accompany the slide show which serves as the narrative that explains the images as well as gives prompts for the animations and advancing the slides.   – John McCormick, Gaslight News Editor

PS – I just uploaded three new categories of vintage postcard images which brings the number of categories listed to 29; Asbury Park & Ocean Grove, 311; Bordentown & Trenton, 44; Hawaii, 9.