Burlington County Will Distribute Guide to Local Black Historic Sites

MOUNT HOLLY – Burlington County is celebrating Black History Month with the release of a new tour guide of notable African American historical sites.

The 28-page Burlington County African American Historic Sites Tour Guide is an update to one that was first created in 1998 by the Burlington County Cultural and Heritage Department and Advisory Committee. It spotlights 19 historic sites located across nine municipalities, including:

  • Burlington Island – one of the earliest places in New Jersey where Black enslaved people were brought.
  • Oliver Cromwell House in Burlington City – Oliver Cromwell was a decorated Revolutionary War soldier who served under General George Washington
  • The Dr. James Historic Office and Education Center in Medford – Dr. James Still, the largely self-taught physician who became renown “Black Doctor of the Pines” due to his successful medical practice and natural herbal remedies.

“From Burlington Island to the free Black settlement of Timbuctoo and the numerous Underground Railroad stops located here, Burlington County is full of important historic sites and people,” said Burlington County Commissioner Director Felicia Hopson. “We want this history to be celebrated and accessible, and updating this guide will help expose more people to Burlington County’s historic treasures and their continued relevance.”

Three of the sites in the guide are new additions that were not listed in the original 1998 pamphlet. They are: The Underground Railroad Museum of Burlington County in Eastampton, and the William F. Powell Monument and the Richard Watson Gilder House, which are both in Bordentown.

The Underground Railroad Museum of Burlington County is located in the County’s Historic Smithville Park and includes artifacts, exhibits and artwork about the Underground Railroad and the 16 documented hideouts in Burlington County, as well as other parts of Black history, including some of the abolitionist leaders who lived here.

The William F. Powell Monument honors the prominent Black educational administrator who was once the head of Bordentown and Camden’s Black schools. He also served as a U.S. minister to Haiti.

Richard Watson Gilder, born in Bordentown, was the editor of Century Magazine in New York and a close confidant of U.S. Presidents Grover Cleveland and Theodore Roosevelt and writers Mark Twain, Walt Whitman and Robert Louis Stevensen. Prior to the Emancipation Proclamation, his family’s home on Crosswicks Street in Bordentown City was used to hide freedom-seeking enslaved people.

The guide’s update coincides with a statewide effort to preserve and showcase sites important to Black history, heritage and culture through the creation a New Jersey Black Heritage Trail. The New Jersey Historical Commission is currently accepting nominations for the first markers for the trail.

Applications can be found online at https://nj.gov/state/historical/his-black-heritage-trail.shtml  and are due March 8.

State Senator Troy Singleton, who co-sponsored the legislation to create New Jersey’s Black Heritage Trail, commended the Commissioners’ for spotlighting some of Burlington County’s most important Black historic sites.

“Black Americans have made an indelible mark on our county and our entire state. Their contributions and achievements have stretched across hundreds of years and touched all aspects of life,” said Senator Singleton. “Efforts like Burlington County’s and the New Jersey Black Heritage Trail ensure these achievements are promoted and understood by residents across New Jersey and beyond.”

Copies of the Burlington County African American Historic Sites Tour Guide are available online on the Burlington County Commissioners page: https://www.co.burlington.nj.us/201/Board-of-County-Commissioners. Paper copies will also be printed and distributed by the County.

For more information, contact the Burlington County Public Information Office at 609-265-5020.

Original Article