The Rancocas Valley Chapter of the National Society Colonial Dames Seventeenth Century unveiled its 18th historic marking last month at the Burlington County Lyceum of History and Natural Sciences on High Street.
The nonprofit is made up of women who qualify as members based on their genealogy prior to 1701 in the original American colonies. Among its main objectives is to recognize and mark important historical structures in the county, which have included Mount Laurel’s Farmer’s Hall, site of the township’s first settlers; and its Jacob’s Chapel AME Church on Elbo Lane, which dates to 1813 and has ties to the “Black Doctor of the Pines,” James Still.
Other sites designated by the women’s group include the 18th-century Smith-Cadbury Mansion in Moorestown; Braddock’s Tavern in Medford, established in 1823; and the Darnell Homestead at the former PAWS Farm, established in 1722 in Mount Laurel. The nonprofit also gives back by awarding an annual $250 Heritage Award scholarship to a graduating senior at Rancocas Valley High School.
The chapter’s historical markings chairman, Barbara Morgan, explained that the process of marking a historical site involves several steps.
“We mark them by first getting together all of the historical significance of the structure,” she said. “(Next we) apply for national permission to mark it, then we raise funds, buy the bronze marker and host a ceremony.”\
Morgan added that one focus of the nonprofit has always been to shine a spotlight on lesser-known local gems.
“I seek to mark the places in our towns that are historically significant but have not been recognized,” she noted. “The reason I choose these structures is to ensure that they will never be forgotten and to also help bring them to the public’s awareness.”
The Burlington County Lyceum of History and Natural Sciences is housed at the 19th-century James Langstaff Mansion, a Georgian structure with features including eight Prussian blue marble fireplaces, stained glass, crystal chandeliers, North Carolina yellow pine flooring and original furnishings. The building, designed by famed architect Samuel Rush, became home to the Mount Holly Library in 1957 and contained the collections of the library of Bridgetown.
The Lyceum’s exhibits include inventions, archeological artifacts and information on significant people who have lived in the county, Special talks and presentations are also typically held at the building which is open weekly from Thursday through Sunday.
“The Lyceum was a perfect place because they have rotating museum exhibits on the history of the Rancocas Valley area and they’re open as a museum a couple days a week,” Morgan noted of the newest marking there.
“It is a beautifully historically significant structure, and I’m glad we got this done.”
Meanwhile, the Rancocas Valley Chapter of the National Society Colonial Dames Seventeenth Century is seeking members.
“We’re open to women of 18 years of age,” she said. “(To be accepted), you have to prove your ancestry through direct lineage, not cousins, aunts or uncles, but parents, before 1701 in one of the original Colonies.”
Morgan said the process can be daunting and that potential members need to present documents such as wills and land records. To join or find answers to other questions, contact Morgan at (609) 790-8021.
For more information on the Burlington County Lyceum of History and Natural Sciences Association, visit www.bclhnsassoc.org.