The stories and images behind the history of Mt. Laurel have come to life in a new book.
Mt. Laurel is the newest town to be featured in the “Images of America” series of books released by Arcadia Publishing. The book features more than 120 pages of pictures and stories depicting Mt. Laurel’s earliest days and its growth through the late 20th century. The book will be released on July 7.
Arcadia approved Stephanie Marks Sawyer, a long-time resident of the township, to be the author. While she’s always had an interest in the town’s history, working on the book put her on a journey going much deeper than she ever imagined.
“I was fascinated by how much people actually had,” Sawyer said.
In talking with numerous resident and personalities for the work, Sawyer listened to stories and saw pictures she had never seen before. She said a number of the images featured in the book have been hidden away in people’s home for many years.
One of the stories Sawyer details was about the Thunderbird Museum, which once held a collection of Native American artifacts. Sawyer’s book includes a picture of the museum from 1947.
“(Museum curator Dorothy Middleton) donated them all to a museum in New York and the museum went under and the collection was sold off piece by piece,” Sawyer said
Sawyer also discovered history behind some of the long-time families from the township. She spoke with long-time resident Annetta Verner about her family’s home and farm from the township’s rural days.
“She had some great stories about her family back when Route 73 was first developed,” Sawyer said. “Her family had a roadside stand on each side of Route 73 so they could get people going and coming.”
Sawyer had to do a lot of networking in the community to come up with some of the pictures and stories featured in the book. At first, she struggled to find information, especially when she discovered the Mt. Laurel Historical Society had a limited number of resources.
“I was nervous that I wouldn’t find anyone left who had history or old information and I wouldn’t have enough for the book,” she said.
One she began talking to people, finding residents who were holding onto historical photos became easier than Sawyer thought.
“It was a work that evolved from person to person,” she said. “I started out meeting with one person and then they said, “Have you talked to this person?’”
“Mt. Laurel: Images of America” is chock full of stories and pictures, but Sawyer believes there is much more to tell. She is planning to do another book on the township’s history, but hasn’t decided what format to use yet.
Sawyer hopes residents will pick up the book and discover a story they’ve never heard or have information currently missing. She believes her first book of Mt. Laurel is not the end of the story but only the beginning.
“If enough material comes from Mt. Laurel, I can do another one,” she said. “I love the local history.”
Residents who want to share history with Sawyer can meet her in person on Friday, July 11. Sawyer will be signing copies of her book at the Barnes and Noble in Moorestown at 6 p.m.