Burlington County offices were closed Friday in recognition of Juneteenth, and a large contingent of County employees and officials used the holiday to help out at the site dedicated to the life and legacy of one of the county’s most important historical figures.
Commissioner Deputy Director Dan O’Connell led a group of more than 30 County employees in the volunteer service project at the Dr. James Still Historic Office and Education Center.
Throughout the morning, the group weeded. raked and planted at the preserved site and education center in Medford. Members of the group also helped cut branches and clear debris and overgrowth from a nature trail, installed fence posts for the new community garden being cultivated at the site, and cleaned the exterior and interior of the new building the Center acquired to house some of its exhibits.
“On Juneteenth we commemorate the date when slaves in Texas found out they’d been freed more than 2½ years earlier by President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, but it also celebrates the triumphs and achievements of Black Americans in the face of racism,” O’Connell said. “Dr. James Still was one of our county’s great historical figures so we thought performing some service at the site of his historic medical office and the center dedicated to him would be an ideal way to spend part of the holiday. The Center is a fantastic place, and we’re very pleased with what we were able to accomplish today.”
Dr. Still was born in 1812 in Shamong and was the son of two former slaves. He was largely self-educated but would become one of the wealthiest landowners in Burlington County and became known as the “Black Doctor of the Pines” because of his successful medical practice featuring natural herbal remedies. He treated hundreds of patients, curing some, it was said that licensed doctors could not heal.
The Education Center in Medford is the preserved site of Dr. Still’s medical office. It was purchased by the State of New Jersey in 2006 with the intention of restoring it to how it appeared in the 1800s when Dr. Still operate his medical practice. It was the first African-American historic site purchased with New Jersey Green Acres funding.
The education center dedicated to Dr. Still’s life was created in 2013 at the Bunning Farm, which sites to the east of the Still property. In 2017, the Dr. James Still Nature Walk was created on the farm by a group of Boy Scouts so that visitors could explore nature as Dr. Still did.