Brides, grooms and ghosts

County marries six couples on Halloween at 'haunted' Smithville Mansion

Albert J. Countryman Jr./The Sun
Ray Hall put the wedding ring on his bride, Blare Bolden, as they were married by Burlington County Clerk Joanne Schwartz.

There was romance in the air all around the Smithville Mansion in Eastampton on the afternoon of Halloween.

Six brides and six grooms greeted their friends and family in the parking lot as they awaited their upcoming nuptials. In half-hour intervals beginning at 1 p.m., they entered the mansion living room of the late Hezekiah B. and Agnes Smith to be joined in wedlock by Burlington County Clerk Joanne Schwartz.

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Using her magic wand like the good witch of the North in “The Wizard of Oz,” Schwartz reminded the couples to “keep on loving each other with all their heart – even through life’s obstacles.” She then pronounced them man and wife after the exchange of wedding rings and the words “I do.”

But besides guests, the couples’ weddings may have been joined by two ghostly energy forces that also wished them well. Hezekiah and Agnes Smith are buried in St. Andrew’s Cemetery in Mount Holly, but their spirits are rumored to haunt the mansion, acquired and preserved by Burlington County in 1975, along with the rest of Smithville Park.

“There have been reports of footsteps being heard in empty rooms in the mansion and of the kitchen door opening on its own and of lights turning on and off when the building is empty,” said county spokesperson David Levinsky, who was on the grounds of historic Smithville Park helping to organize the wedding event.

“The house is haunted,” Schwartz said emphatically after marrying the first couple of the day, Blare Bolden and Ray Hall of Westampton. “The piano plays by itself.”

Next to be married on Halloween were Laura Megliore and Nick Reed of Lawrence Township, followed by Emerson Rose and Dakota Solomon of Eastampton and Steven Jablonski and Nicole Bunyan of Columbus and East Windsor, respectively. The last two couples married on Halloween were Kelly Kykeman and Robert Danta of Eastampton; along with Alex Bottrell of Queensland, Australia, and Stephanie Armstruster of Medford.

“I love marrying couples and making people happy,” noted Schwartz, who has performed more than 1,000 ceremonies during her five-plus years as county clerk. “Last year, we did the Halloween weddings at the haunted prison museum in Mount Holly, but this year, it is being renovated, so we decided to do them at the Smithville Mansion.

“Sometimes the couples come in costumes,” she added. “One couple was dressed like Beauty and the Beast, and the guests included the teacup and the candlestick.”

Schwartz said there are also special weddings on Valentine’s Day and during the summer county farm fair. And nearly every Wednesday, she marries couples at the Burlington County Lyceum of History and Natural Sciences in Mount Holly.

Once the couple gets marriage licenses from their local towns, the county does the rest.

“We do all the paperwork for the couple,” Schwartz said, such as obtaining their marriage certificate and offering a packet of information, including how to get the name on a driver’s license changed by the New Jersey Division of Motor Vehicles.

The mansion was built by Hezekiah Smith, the wealthy industrialist and inventor who purchased the village of Shreveville in Eastampton in 1865 and transformed it into a thriving industrial town where cutting-edge woodworking machines and the famed American Star Bicycle were manufactured, according to Levinsky.

“Smith was a bit of an eccentric, and he and his wife Agnes kept a menagerie of animals on the estate, including a moose named February,” he shared.

But not even the mansion’s rumored hauntings could keep six couples from saying “I do.”

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