Burlington County’s diverse and rich history was showcased again with this year’s History Recognition Award recipients.
Awarded annually by the Burlington County Commissioners for more than 25 years, the program honors those who directly or indirectly preserve historic structures and sites in the county, as well as those who explore, record and promote history or serve as leaders and educators in the field of history.
“Burlington County’s history spans from Native Americans and early Colonials through modern times. Critical Revolutionary War battles were fought here, life-changing scientific discoveries were made here, and historic figures such as Clara Barton, Alice Paul and Dr. James Still all called Burlington County home,” said Commissioner Linda Hynes, who is the Board’s liaison to the County Department of Resource Conservation. “We’re proud of our county’s history and are thrilled to continue the tradition of recognizing those individuals and organizations that help preserve it for present and future generations.”
This year a total of ten awards were made by the Commissioners in seven different categories honoring published history, achievement and leadership, education, historic projects and outstanding history organization.
Nominations for the awards were solicited and reviewed by Burlington County Parks staff and the Commissioners.
This year’s recipients are:
- Brittany Rae and Alice Smith of the Riverside Historical Society for published history. The two are responsible for researching and compiling The Lizette Gazette, a monthly newsletter of the Riverside Historical Society that has articles about Lizette Zurbrugg, a former Red Cross nurse and wife of the town’s famous entrepreneur and watchmaker Theophilus Zurbrugg, and the Riverside area during the 19th century.
- Hal Pshunder for achievement and leadership. Pshunder is a longtime Hainesport resident and member of several county historical societies. He is a frequent volunteer and presenter and is credited with helping to translate numerous Riverside Historical Society records from Olde German to English.
- Dan Wolverton for achievement and leadership. Wolverton has been an active board member, event coordinator and researcher with the Chesterfield Township Historical Society since he was 17. Among his contributions, he developed exhibits on the Crosswicks Union Fire Company, Crosswicks baseball memorabilia and the Crosswicks Community Association, and he is also credited with organizing the 100th anniversary of the Crosswicks Tree Lighting.
- Bordentown Historical Society for education with its Harrowing History interactive series. The series consisted of 12 one-person costumed stage performances focused on true crime stories from Bordentown history during the 19th and 20th centuries.
- Evesham Historical Society for education. The Society developed a coloring and activity book focused on the historic preservation, local history and artifacts that is distributed on the group’s website and during tours of the John Inskeep Homestead, school visits and other community events. The content was developed by historical society members.
- The Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of New Jersey for History Project. The group created a virtual tea series during the COVID-19 pandemic. The teas took place via Zoom and helped entertain and educate residents with speakers from the Whitesbog Preservation Trust and Pinelands Commission and re-enactors from the American Historical Theater. ticipants received a tea bag, themed napkin and recipes for tea sandwiches and a desert.
- Bordentown Historical Society for History Project. The Society created a documentary, tour and exhibits called “Untold Stories: Achieving Furthered Expectations” that highlighted the two segregated schools in Bordentown – the Bodentown Manual Training School and School No. 2 -- and the impact segregation had on the nation and local community.
- Shipman Mansion/Red Dragon Canoe Club in Edgewater Park for preservation and restoration of the historic property. Built in 1869, the large mansion’s roof was replaced and a privy on the property was restored, along with the interior and windows of the mansion. Archeological investigations were also conducted during all three phases of the restoration. The work was funded with a Superstorm Sandy disaster relief grant and with grants from the 1772 Foundation and New Jersey Historic Trust.
- Whitesbog Preservation Trust for archival records and documentation. The Trust has created a Harvesting Histories program that records oral histories of individuals who have lived, worked and experienced Whitesbog. The interviews are posted on the group’s website and YouTube.com.
- Friends of the Mansion at Smithville for outstanding history organization. The Friends were named the History Organization of the Year award recipient for their work to remain viable and connected to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic. The group mansion in the fall with limited tours and hours and strict cleaning protocols and they were able to decorate the Mansion for Christmas. Volunteers also continued to work to archive items, including documents and textiles, that have been in storage.
A video presentation of the award winners was posted on the Burlington County Parks YouTube page at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gO_nBZk6W0M.
In addition to recognizing those who help preserve and promote Burlington County’s history, the Board of Commissioners remains committed to providing financial backings to these local organizations.
This year, the Board awarded more than $31,000 in grant to local history groups like the Armed Forces Heritage Museum and the Timbuctoo Historical Society. For many of them, the funding was critical for their operations during the pandemic.
Burlington County has also undertaken major projects to preserve historic sites such as Smithville in Eastampton, where industrialist Hezekiah B. Smith lived and manufactured high-wheel bicycles in the late 1800s, and the Prison Museum in Mount Holly, which was the one-time home of Albert DeSalvo, the Boston Strangler.
Burlington County has also created the Burlington County Lyceum of History and Natural Sciences in Mount Holly. Located in the historic home of James Langstaff, the Lyceum is a museum dedicated to Burlington County’s extraordinary history, from prehistoric times to the turn of the century.
“Burlington County is blessed to have so many historic sites and artifacts. It’s a big part of what makes our county so wonderful, but it also takes a lot of resources and labor to preserve,” Hynes said. “That makes those of work and volunteer all that more important. It’s because of their efforts that our history is kept alive for everyone to explore and enjoy.”