Farmhouse to be demolished

Mt. Laurel Township recently awarded a contract to Jerrell’s Landscapes and Nurseries for $18,100 to demolish the Thunderbird Farms property located at 258 Mt. Laurel Road.

According to township manager Maureen Mitchell, the three-story farmhouse will be demolished soon. As of Tuesday, Feb. 12, Mitchell did not provide a specific date for the demolition.

The property is a part of the township’s open space and is currently leased out for farming purposes, she said. But the historic building could not be repaired due to its poor condition and the lack of funds.

Mt. Laurel Historical Society’s President Fran Daily said the historical society did not have the funds to repair the building.

Built in 1765, the property was purchased by the Middleton family in 1914, Mt. Laurel resident Jarry Jones, 81, said. Jones, who was invited by the historical society to speak about the property’s history, has a smaller collection of artifacts he found in the area and knows about the history of the property and Middleton’s hobby, he said.

“I am a nut for history. I have always had a passion for Indian relics,” he said.

One of three children of the Middleton family, Dorothy Middleton had a passion for collecting Native American artifacts. When her parents died, they willed a portion of the property to her so she could continue her passion, he said.

In the 1920s, Middleton continued her collection and opened a museum on her property. The museum was originally called the Ranch House Museum, but later became a part of the Thunderbird Foundation, Jones said.

By the late 1950s, Middleton could no longer keep up with the cost of the museum.

“She could not do it on her own,” Jones said, adding he remembers visiting the museum in the early 1950s.

“I was in high school while she was getting ready to dissolve.”

Jones remembers that when he visited the museum, Middleton told them she had asked the Smithsonian to take her collection.

“They had enough. They didn’t need it,” he said.

According to Jones, Middleton had the fourth-largest private collection of Native American artifacts.

He said when the artifacts were auctioned at the museum’s foreclosure, unmarked boxes were sold off and never traced.

“No one knew what happed to it. It was her life work. That was what she did,” Jones said, referring to Middleton’s collection.

Jones said if she had the money to keep up with the museum, it would still be around today.

With Middleton’s collection dispersed, the Thunderbird Farms property, where the museum once was, will be demolished.

“It was a fabulous museum,” he said.