Edward Ansley Stokes and the William Trent House

Stokes Monument
Edward A. Stokes (1869-1939), son of Trenton photographer Edward H. Stokes, was a lawyer, author and poet. He was also the last private owner of the William Trent House which he donated to the city in 1929. After extensive restoration it was opened as a museum in 1939.

The Trent House is the oldest of Trenton’s landmarks. An excellent example of Early Georgian Colonial architecture, it was built in 1719 on an 800-acre tract of land as the country estate of William Trent, a prominent Philadelphia trader and merchant, who laid out a settlement around his house in 1720 which came to be known as Trent’s Town, later Trent-Town, and finally Trenton.

Over the years the house has been known by several names. At one time it was named “Kingsbury Hall,” then “Bloomsbury Court,” and finally “Woodlawn.” It was occupied by Hessian troops in December of 1776, and has been the home of three New Jersey governors, Lewis Morris from 1742 to 1746, Philemon Dickerson from 1835 to 1838, and Rodman McCamley Price from 1854 to 1857.

Trenton’s First Lunch Wagon

Peter G. Curtin and his pioneering lunch wagon
Born on October 17, 1859, in Brooklyn, N.Y., Peter G. Curtin was the son of a New York City harbor boatman. He obtained his early education in New York and later in Elizabeth, N.J., where he gained employment at the Singer Sewing Machine Company and learned the machinist trade. It was there that he kept a watchful eye on the city’s lunch wagon business and took advantage of an opportunity to take over a lunch wagon while its owner was on vacation, he decided to enter the business himself.

Moving to Trenton he was employed as a tool maker at Warren Kimball and Company, but afterward returned to Singer. Coming again to Trenton he established a restaurant, and noting there was not a lunch wagon to be seen anywhere in the city, he hired the carriage maker Fitzgibbon & Crisp to construct a wagon with which he realized his dream.

The Fatal Leap of Charles Richmond

Gathering at community parks to watch balloon ascensions was once a favorite national pastime. At Cochran Park on Morris Island in the Delaware River, as they had days before, a crowd gathered on June 5, 1893, to watch aeronaut Charles Richmond (abt.1860–1893) make a parachute jump from a hot air balloon. The leap proved fatal, however, as his parachute failed to open and he plunged several thousand feet into Sturgeon Pond and drowned.

Henry W. Antheil Jr., American Diplomat

Henry W. Antheil Jr.
Henry W. Antheil Jr. was born in Trenton on September 23, 1912. Educated at Trenton Central High School, he enrolled at Rutgers University (now Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey), but cut his higher education short when through the efforts of his older brother George Antheil, a composer and pianist then-living in Paris, he obtained an interview with William C. Bullitt, a family friend who had just been appointed ambassador to the Soviet Union, and subsequently accepted a position at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

Bullitt presented his credentials to the Soviet government on December 13, 1933; Antheil and other newly-minted foreign service employees arrived at the embassy several months later.

After serving five years, during which Antheil was responsible for maintaining cryptographic communications devices and their codes and ciphers in the Soviet Union and Northern Europe, he obtained a transfer to the U.S. Legation in Helsinki, Finland, a country for which he developed a particular appreciation during his travels.

When the Soviet Union concluded mutual assistance treaties with the Baltic States in 1939, and moved toward their occupation in 1940, Antheil was dispatched to close the U.S. Legation in Tallinn, Estonia, and retrieve sensitive documents. On June 14, 1940, he boarded the Finnish airplane Kaleva for the return flight to Helsinki, with several diplomatic pouches in hand, but the plane crashed over the Gulf of Finland ten minutes after takeoff from the Tallinn airport.

John Taylor and the “Taylor Pork Roll”

John Taylor
Born on October 6, 1836, in Hamilton Square, N.J., John Taylor was the son of James F. Taylor, a brick manufacturer, and Rebecca Borden Taylor. Working at his father’s brick yard at an early age, he was but fourteen years old when his father died, at which time he took a job as a clerk in the grocery store owned by Anthony R. Rainear, and two years later he gained an interest in the business.

In 1856, he became associated with James Ronan under the firm of Ronan and Taylor, and, after Ronan’s retirement in 1860, he associated himself with Daniel P. Forst under the firm of Forst and Taylor, both of whom were wholesale grocers. When the latter firm was dissolved in 1870, he organized Taylor and Company (it was incorporated as Taylor Provision Company in 1889 and reincorporated as Taylor Provisions Company in 1939) and engaged in pork packing and livestock dealing.

The Combination Atlas Map of Mercer County, New Jersey (Everts and Stewart 1875) includes an illustration of Taylor’s meat packing house and livestock yard, and the map of the city’s “First and Fifth Wards” shows the location of the plant—simply labeled “pork packing est[ablishment]”—at the end of Perrine Avenue on the bank of the Assunpink Creek.

The American Sycamore, or Platanus occidentalis

Platanus occidentalis, a colored
plate by Henri-Joseph Redouté in
North American Sylva, published
in 1819
Wikimedia Commons
The American Sycamore, whose botanical name is Platanus occidentalis, has common names that include American Plane, Buttonball, Buttonwood, Eastern Sycamore, Occidental Plane, and Whitewood. It is a deciduous tree, native throughout the Eastern United States and westward into the Central Plains States, and is generally found in moist soil, particularly along streams and lowlands, where they can reach up to 130 feet in height. In planted landscapes, however, they typically reach heights of 75 to 90 feet.

It has a distinctive yellow-white trunk with exfoliating bark, and its palmate leaves measure eight to 12 inches in length and four to eight inches in width.

A colored plate of the American Sycamore’s leaf, flower, seed ball, and seed, drawn by Henri-Joseph Redouté and engraved by Gabriel, appeared in the English edition of North American Sylva, or A Description of the Forest Trees of the United States, Canada and Nova Scotia, published in 1819.

Written by French botanist François Andrew Michaux and translated by Augustus Lucas Hillhouse, it noted that: “Among trees with deciduous leaves, none in the temperate zones, either on the Old or the New Continent, equals the dimensions of the planes. The species which grows in the Western World is not less remarkable for its amplitude and for its magnificent appearance than the Plane of Asia, whose majestic form and extraordinary size were so much appreciated by the ancients.”

The American Sycamore is indeed a beautiful tree, and Riverview Cemetery has a number of specimens on the grounds.

Loren Holdridge, Portrait Photographer and Crayon Artist

Ephemeral items connected to persons interred here at Riverview Cemetery always draw my attention, and some months ago while browsing an online auction site I came across the portrait of an unidentified infant who was photographed by Loren Holdridge (1847-1933), a leading portrait photographer and crayon artist in the city. Needless to say, it was a “must-have” item.

Portrait of unidentified infant photographed
by Loren Holdridge, c.1890
Author’s collection

“Photography in all its branches is here carried on, and the best and finest work is produced” notes his business profile in Quarter-Century’s Progress of New Jersey’s Leading Manufacturing Centres (International Publishing Co. 1887). “Portraits are likewise made in oils, water colors, pastels, India ink, crayon, etc., in the highest style of art from locket to life size, from original pictures, or from life. The instantaneous process is used … and particular attention is given to the portraiture of little children.”

Yucca flaccida, or Weak-Leaved Adam’s Needle

Yucca flaccida, colored plate by
S.A. Drake in Edward’s Botanical
Register
, published in 1836
While Riverview Cemetery has a significant tree inventory, the grounds also include a rather large collection of perennials and woody plants. I am always on the lookout for those that have a “history,” especially when they are found in our historic cemeteries.

Yucca flaccida, commonly known as the Weak-Leaved Adam’s Needle, is a member of the Asparagaceae family, its Latin epithet deriving from weak sword-like outer leaves that generally fold under their own weight, supporting the inner leaves. Native to Eastern North America from Ontario to Florida, they stand about 1-1/2 feet tall and two feet across, and panicles of bell-shaped creamy white flowers rise four feet above the foliage in early-summer.

A hand-colored lithograph of Y. flaccida drawn by Sarah Ann Drake in London’s Garden of the Horticultural Society in 1835 appeared in Edward’s Botanical Register that was published the following year.

Indeed, the literature is replete with descriptions of Y. flaccida, including The Horticulturist, edited by landscape designer, horticulturist and writer Andrew Jackson Downing, which in 1852 noted that the plant “blooms in our northern gardens as freely as the common white lily—throwing up its beautiful pyramidal flower stalks, two or three feet high, about the end of June, and bearing a profusion of fine milk-white flowers, all the month of July. It is one of our favorite evergreen plants, beautiful at all seasons.”

A stand of Y. flaccida is located along Elm Avenue in Section N.

Riverview Cemetery’s Receiving Vault

The Receiving Vault at Riverview Cemetery
A “receiving vault” is a structure designed to hold the bodies of the deceased during the winter months when the ground is too frozen to dig graves, but they are sometimes used to store a body that is to be transported elsewhere, or a family mausoleum is to be constructed.

With the charter of the Riverview Cemetery Corporation in 1858, the company began construction of a receiving vault into the hillside along what is today Valley Avenue. It was completed the following year. Built of stone and brick, it has four arched-ceiling vaults, two on either side, each of which originally had wooden shelves capable of storing three caskets. Above the iron door is found “Receiving Vault 1859” on the lintel.

The receiving vault found use during the blizzards of both 1888 and 1899 as noted in the Trenton Sunday Advertiser of February 19, 1899. “Whether the blizzard of last week was more severe than the one in March 1888 has been a topic of discussion. There are two classes of men, however, who are satisfied that 1899 outdid 1888. These are the undertakers and the sextons and grave-diggers at the cemeteries.”

David Lukens and the Underground Railroad

I recently came across the obituary for Sarah Lukens Woolman in the Trenton Times of December 8, 1903, which noted that “She was the widow of Samuel Woolman of Fallsington and daughter of David Lukens, whose farm near Morrisville was a station of the underground railroad in slavery days.”

The Underground Railroad, of course, was the loosely organized network of safe havens with no clearly defined routes by which fugitive slaves made their way to the free states and Canada. Secreted away in homes and barns in their journies to freedom, it became a risky endeavor for abolitionists after passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850 which made it a Federal crime to aid those escaping the brutal conditions of slavery.

David Lukens was born at Horsham Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, on March 10, 1793; married Eliza Woolman at the Rancocas Meeting, Burlington County, New Jersey, on November 13, 1817; and died at Morrisville, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, on February 14, 1869.

Gravemarkers for Eliza (left) and David Lukens.
His obituary in the Bucks County Intelligencer of February 23, 1869, provides the account of his passing:

“David Lukens, an old and respected citizen of Morrisville, aged about 75 years, died very suddenly on Sunday evening week. During the day, he was in his usual health, and about five o’clock he went over to Trenton in company with some friends who had been spending the day with him. On returning to Morrisville, he went to the stable and put up his horse, but not returning to the house for a considerable time the family became alarmed, and one of his daughters went to see what had become of him, and found him lying upon the barn floor unable to move. By the aid of his daughter he was got to the house, where he soon after expired on the lounge in the arms of his wife. Medical aid was promptly summoned, but to no effect. The cause of his sudden death was heart disease.”

He and his wife Eliza, their graves marked by modest stones, are interred in the Friends’ Plot.

William Harris Tantum IV, Maritime Historian

William Harris Tantum IV
Courtesy of Titanic Historical Society

William Harris Tantum IV (1930–1980), publishing company executive and maritime historian, was a co-founder and former president of the Titanic Historical Society.

Born in Trenton, he resided in Lower Makefield, Pa., before moving to Greenwich, Conn., and it was there that he became acquainted with Edward S. Kamuda who had founded the Titanic Enthusiasts of America some years earlier.

Given Tantum’s flair for publicity, he was one of the co-founders of the Titanic Historical Society as a successor and the driving force in that organization achieving national acclaim.

He encouraged Robert D. Ballard, Ph.D., to search for R.M.S. Titanic, which foundered after striking an iceberg on April 14, 1912, but died five years before the ship was discovered in the icy waters of the North Atlantic in 1985. In recognition, however, a plaque was placed at the site the following year. The inscription reads: “In memory of those souls who perished with the ‘Titanic’ April 14-15, 1912. Dedicated to William H. Tantum IV, whose dream to find the ‘Titanic’ has been realized by Dr. Robert D. Ballard. The officers and members of the Titanic Historical Society Inc., 1986.”

He was a graduate of Valley Forge Military Academy and Pennsylvania Military College (now Widener University), and retired a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve.

Tantum IV is interred in Section B, Lot 416-418, in the Zerman-Tantum family plot.

The Monument for Welling G. Sickel

Sickel Monument in Riverview Cemetery, Trenton, N.J.
One of my research interests is the histories of monument companies, and the study of the monuments they created and the individuals that were memorialized.

I recently came across an article in the August 25, 1912, issue of the Trenton Evening Times that described how the well-traveled Welling G. Sickel (1858–1911), a wealthy rubber manufacturer and mayor of Trenton from 1897 to 1899, had visited the Vatican Museum while touring Italy with his wife Margaret (1858–1931) where they both admired the sarcophagus of Lucius Cornelius Scipio Barbatus that was on display. After her husband’s death, she decided to commemorate his life with a monument modeled after the sarcophagus they had so admired many years earlier for the family plot in Section U, Lot 81-84, here at Riverview Cemetery.

Henry R. Haven and the Baltimore Riot of 1861

Henry R. Haven, ca.1910
Henry R. Haven (1842–1914), a confectioner by trade, and for a time borough clerk and councilman in Chambersburg, was a veteran of the Civil War serving in both the army and navy.

Shortly after the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, eight southern states seceded during the next five months—South Carolina on December 20, 1860, Mississippi on January 9, 1861, Florida on January 10, Alabama on January 11, Georgia on January 19, Louisiana on January 26, Texas on February 1, and Virginia on April 17.

Virginia’s secession following the bombardment of Federal soldiers at Fort Sumter by Confederates on April 12 and the president's call for troops on April 15, only served to heighten the divided loyalties of Maryland which had business, cultural, and social ties to both North and South.

With the call for troops, Haven enlisted as a private in Company G of the Sixth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers. On April 17, the regiment assembled at Boston and boarded trains for Washington, D.C., by way of New York, Trenton, Philadelphia and Baltimore. Arriving at Baltimore’s President Street station on April 19, the troops marched in formation along Pratt Street toward the Camden Street station where they were to again board trains and continue on to the capitol.