Fall Exhibit: Eyewitnesses
Click here to read the article about our exhibit in the New Town Press.
Read the article about the exhibit in the New Town Press.
Taking their cue from the old saying, “if these walls could talk,” the artifacts included in the Harrison Township Historical Society’s Spring exhibition will be doing just that. Through an on-line audio soundtrack sixteen objects from the museum’s collection will lead visitors through an entertaining exploration of the past, from 70 million years ago to the 21st century.
“We think visitors to our new exhibition, ‘Eyewitnesses,’ will enjoy this innovative way to discover our heritage,” said Suzanne Grasso, the Society’s president. “The stories are amusing, surprising and sometimes dramatic.”
The narratives cover a variety of topics – an apple tree that changed the apple industry around the world, war heroes, women’s suffrage, a notorious local business, airborne asparagus, Abraham Lincoln, immigration, and extinct sea creatures.
“The stories are very local, but they are not disconnected from events taking place beyond the Township’s borders,” said exhibition curator, James Turk. “They show how local history reflects regional and national happenings and contemporary themes.”
For the first time, the Society is offering its exhibition on-line at its website as well as in the museum gallery, and visitors will access the audio soundtrack with their mobile devices.
“We want to make it easy and fun to connect with our history,” added Grasso, “and we believe this expansion of our website will engage a wider segment of our community and beyond.”
Both on-line and gallery visitors will be invited to participate in the project by voting for their favorite object and story. Museum visitors are also encouraged to share a “selfie” with their favorite object.
“Eyewitnesses” is open Saturdays and Sundays, 1-4 pm, October 10- December 12, 2015 and admission is free.
CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE EXHIBIT!
COBBLER’S BENCH. ca. 1750. Marcus Kurman, maker (attributed). Gift of Vineland Historical and Antiquarian Society/Frederick Carman and Betty Jane Carmen Heggan.
EYEWITNESSES – The Votes Have Been Tallied!
The Society’s current exhibition, Eyewitnesses, features sixteen objects from the collection telling their own stories for the first time. Our visitors at the museum and on-line tell us that they are enjoying the experience and have told us which are their favorite tales. We have counted the votes for the Spring season and the results are in.
The most popular story is “The Big Apple from South Jersey,” followed closely by “Asparagus Takes Off.” Both narratives recount the important contributions local farmers have made to American agriculture. Our farming heritage is very rich and remains a prominent part of what makes our community such a unique and wonderful place.In addition to voting for their favorites, our visitors have also shared comments.
Here are some of their observations:
• Everything was very interesting. I also enjoyed the website.
• Visiting the Jersey Shore I was interested in the story “Voices from the Bottom of the Sea.”
• I learned how the soccer complex got its name, William Wilt.
• Votes for the Ladies? – this ceremonial gavel led the path to future elections that eventually allowed women to vote. I am voting now, instead of at home doing “womanly things,” because of the initial struggling moments.
• I enjoyed learning about everything, but this one – High Times in Richwood – stood out for me.
• It is difficult to pick just one item, but a tavern table from the “fly on the wall” perspective” is hard to beat.
• Very interesting to learn more about our wonderful town. This was great! Thanks!
It was also interesting to learn that 53% of the respondents were Harrison Township residents. 37% were repeat visitors to Old Town Hall.
The Museum and the exhibition reopen on Saturday, October 10, and will continue on weekends through Saturday, December 12 – your last opportunity to experience Eyewitnesses. Of course, if you can’t stop by in person, take a virtual tour at our website, www.harrisonhistorical.com, and be sure to vote on-line for your favorite story.
Will “The Big Apple from South Jersey” retain its lead? We’ll find out when the exhibition closes in December.
A SAMPLER DISCOVERY
In one of the earliest surveys of American samplers conducted at the beginning of the 20th century (Ethel Stanwood Bolton and Eva Johnston Coe’s American Samplers), entries from New Jersey were only outnumbered by those from Massachusetts[i]. Clearly needlework instruction flourished here, however, no doubt because of the lack of large population centers, the many schools and academies were small and often short-lived. The body of work produced at any one of these institutions was probably not abundant, but continued scholarship has led to the discovery of schools of instruction throughout the state.
A sampler stitched by Elizabeth Zane that Beryl Skinner recently donated to the Society has suggested the possibility that Mullica Hill’s Quaker School may have been one of these previously unrecognized schools where needlework instruction was provided in the late 18th and early centuries.
Although it appears that Quaker education was available in the township as early as 1720, it is certain that a schoolhouse existed next to the present-day meetinghouse lot prior to 1779.[ii] When Jacob Spicer bequeathed the meetinghouse and school properties to the Society of Friends in his will (7/10/1779), he noted that the presence of a schoolhouse building. This structure, sometimes referred to as “Spicer’s School”, is said to have replaced a primitive log schoolhouse in 1756. Clearly Spicer was concerned that education be available here for he specified that the schoolhouse lot was to be used for educational purposes forever.[iii] A decade later, Friends determined to build a new school building at that site, funded by contributions by eleven men and women.[iv] This building opened in 1790 and was said to have been heated by an immense stove, considered quite a luxury at that time. Unfortunately institutional records listing students and teachers do not appear to have survived, however, the list of subscribers supplies a link between some of the scholars and needlework.
One of the major subscribers was Samuel French was a large and locally well-to-do landowner whose plantation comprised almost 600 acres along Raccoon Creek and Clems Run west of Ewan; his home was destroyed by fire about 35 years ago. According to family history his younger children and some of his grandchildren attended the Quaker School, and his son, Charles French, was one of the trustees in charge of the school and meetinghouse properties from 1801 to 1833.[v] It’s interesting to note that the 1790 building was subsequently replaced three more times by newer buildings, the last being the Union Academy, now owned by Friends School.
This close connection between the French family and the Quaker school in Mullica Hill provides a possible clue to identifying needlework stitched at this institution. Two samplers made by Samuel and Ann French’s younger daughters are included in Bolton and Coe’s inventory. The description of Sarah French’s sampler (1794) is especially useful, consisting of 3 alphabets, cross, satin, eyelet, queen, flat and cat-stich, with carnation, strawberry and diamond cross borders, and an overall border of a double row of cross stitches. Finally, the sampler included a short verse. This description closely resembles the content and layout of Elizabeth Zane’s work.
Equally intriguing is that another local sampler in private ownership stitched by Mary Moore has surfaced which is clearly related to the Zane example. This example includes elements identical to those in the Zane sampler although arranged somewhat differently and both are dated 1797. Like Sarah French’s work, both these examples feature 3 alphabets and 11 rows and both include two short verses which are similar. The placement of the dates and names are identical. These similarities strongly suggest that they were studying with the same teacher. The Society owns a second sampler sewn by Elizabeth’s sister Mary nine years later in 1806, however, it is smaller and strikingly plainer than Elizabeth’s, most likely under the instruction of a different teacher.
Mary Moore was the daughter of Joshua and Rachel Moore, whose farm was located adjacent to the French plantation on present-day Clems Run Rd. Their brick home still stands west of the intersection of Clems Run and Harrisonville Rds. The Moores were also members of the Society of Friends.
A sampler by Mary’s sister Sibilah (1788) is described in Bolton and Coe’s book, and again features elements in common with her sister’s work as well as the French and Zane examples. Mary’s sampler includes the same verse as that found on Sarah French’s work. Another sister, Keziah Moore, stitched a similar example in 1800, although it includes the names of her parents and initials of all the family members.
One more example in Bolton and Coe seems related to this group. This sampler, made by Sarah French’s sister, Ann Heulings French (ca. 1797-1800), again features 3 alphabets and the same type of stitches and borders, but also includes the names and birth dates of all her siblings. In that regard this piece shares en element in common with Keziah Moore’s work.
Given that the French children attended Mullica Hill’s Quaker school and that a small group of samplers appear to be related stylistically to the French examples, it seems very likely that instruction in needlework was offered there. Unfortunately, the identity of the instructor remains a mystery and that the present-day whereabouts of the related examples is unknown.
Also intriguing is the fact that a few other later samplers from Mullica Hill were identified by Bolton and Coe during the period when the school remained under Quaker supervision. The Gloucester County Historical Society owns Hannah French’s sampler, stitched in 1822. She was the daughter of Samuel French, Jr., (Charles’ brother) and Hannah Ivins and therefore also quite likely a student at the Mullica Hill School. In addition, another sampler surfaced a few years ago made by another Elizabeth Zane, although apparently not directly related to the maker of the Society’s example. This sampler, dated 1818, was more pictorial and included a house and birds. Especially interesting, however, is that the place of Elizabeth’s residence – Woolwich - was stitched into the piece, as well as the name of her teacher – Ann Borton. At that time this part of present-day Harrison Township was part of Woolwich Township, and the original name of the meeting in Mullica Hill was Woolwich Preparative Meeting. Might this be a later example of local needlework connected with the Quaker School? Again, the present whereabouts of this piece is unknown.
We have included a list below of all the local samplers identified in Bolton and Coe. The name in brackets indicated who owned the piece around 1915-1920. We would be very interested hearing from anyone who may know of their present-day ownerships as well as other examples that were made locally.
Samplers identified from Harrison Township listed in Ethel Stanwood Bolton and Eva Johnston Coe, American Samplers, Boston: Massachusetts Society of Colonial Dames of America, 1921.
Chattin Family Register, attributed to Elizabeth Chattin. 1813. Chattinville near Mullica Hill. 16½” x 20” [Clark Chattin Hewitt Esq.]
French, Ann Heulings. 1797-1800. Near Mullica Hill (Ewan vicinity). 12½” x 18½” [Mary H. Clark]
French, Hannah. 1822. Mullica Hill. 8” x 19”. [Mrs. John Gill Whitall; now owned by Gloucester County Historical Society]
French, Sarah. 1794. Near Mullica Hill (Ewan vicinity). 10½” x 15½” [Mary H. Clark]
Moore, Keturah. 1800. Near Mullica Hill (Ewan vicinity). 10½” x 17” [Elizabeth G. Borton]
Moore, Sibilah. 1788. Near Mullica Hill (Ewan vicinity). 12½” x 17” [William F. Edwards, Esq.]
Wood, Eliza C. 1810. Mullica Hill 18” x 22” [Anna Belle Weatherby]
[i] Betty Ring, Girlhood Embroidery, New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1993, II, 467.
[ii] Salem Quarter, Pennsville, NJ: Salem Quarterly Meeting, 1991, 187.
[iii] Salem Quarter, 187.
[iv] The subscribers included Joseph Allen, Hannah Elles, Samuel French, Ephram Gardnier, Joseph Gibson, Junr., Benjamin Hooten, Abraham Iredell, Rebekah Lippincott, Benjamin Moore, Aaron Pancoast, Agnes Roberts, Salem Quarter, 188.
[v] Howard Barclay French, Genealogy of the Descendents of Thomas French, Philadelphia: Privately printed, 1909, I, 396.