Welcome to The Medford Historical Society

The MHS is a non-profit organization that supports and promotes Medford New Jersey's rich history, now for over 60 years. We invite you to take some time to look around our site, find out about us, our events and activities, and consider joining us!

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Kirby's Mill Historic Site
275 Church Rd, Medford NJ 08055

Kirby's Mill was declared a State Historical Site in July of 1971, and was placed on the National Register of Historic Sites in September of 1972. The Medford Historical Society continues to restore the complex to working order so that our generation and future generations can wander back into the past and see part of early Americana. The Mill complex also includes a storage barn, sawyer's house and a carriage barn.

Click Here for more.

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MHS 2020 Calendar of Events

The Medford Historical Society hosts informative and educational programs and events throughout the year, designed to educate, inspire, and provide a glimpse of Medford NJ's rich history. Click the button below for the current schedule.

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Historic Cross Keys One-Room Schoolhouse
Mill Street, Medford NJ 08055

The Cross Keys School was built circa 1857. It was one of several one-room schoolhouses that provided early schooling for the children of Medford. The school stood near the intersection of Stokes Road and Dixontown Road where McDonald’s is currently situated. The building was moved to its current location on Mill Street in 1976.

Click Here for more.

News, Notes and Remembrances

Medford’s Historic Business Properties - Stokelan Winery
by Kyle Mason April 2021

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This is the first in a planned series on Medford historic locations and the businesses that call them home. Stokelan Winery was an easy first choice. It’s a stone’s throw from Kirby’s Mill, the well-known property of the Medford Historical Society, and has a rich history back to Medford’s early days. Located near the corner of Eayrestown and Church Roads in Medford NJ, the winery was established in 2019. Owner Deepa Lal and her team including vintner Andrew Dick have transformed the property in two short years into a working vineyard and are awaiting final approvals to begin operation. The establishment of the winery is an exciting development; however, it is only the latest chapter in the long history of Stokelan and its surrounding farmland. Native Americans occupied the land for thousands of years before the first European settlers arrived. For the purpose of this article we will begin with the “recent” history that lead to Stokelan’s creation. In 1691 Thomas Evans purchased 400 acres of land in what was the West Jersey. Later, in 1721, the land was sold to Joseph Stokes. It remained in the Stokes family and eventually Joseph Stokes inherited the land in 1847 and built Stokelan in 1853. Joseph’s brother, Joshua Stokes, built his own home nearby in 1855 on Eayrestown Road, near the present day Wawa. That home still stands today.
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Joseph Stokes, the builder of Stokelan, was a bachelor and died at the age of 61 in 1866. In his will the property descended to his nephew Joshua Wills. Joseph’s sister, Lydia Stokes Wills, is seen living at Stokelan on the 1860 and 1870 census records. It was Lydia’s daughter that first named the property Stokelan. Later Joshua Wills and his family occupied the house and undertook major renovation/improvements, including the addition of a bathroom, one of the first in the area. The home also featured an ice house, a necessity in the days before electricity and refrigeration. Ice would have been harvested locally in the winter and stored in the ice house, remaining for many months, often until the following winter. In 1910 Joshua and Rebecca Wills sold Stokelan for $10,000 to their nephew, Ezra Evans. Ezra occupied the home with his wife and daughters. At that time Medford was home to dozens of dairy farms, in the area and also highlights the danger of fire in the days before sprinkler systems and smoke alarms. The news article reported on a fire at the farm of Ezra Evans [Stokelan] stating “The burned buildings were part of one of the finest dairy farms in Burlington County”. Fortunately no lives were lost and the main houses escaped damage, however 4 horses and several head of cattle perished and the barn and outbuildings were destroyed. Although no longer standing today, the barn was rebuilt in 1922.
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The dairy farm at Stokelan remained in operation through the middle of the 20th century. One common thread that unites the generations at Stokelan is the Quaker faith. Many of the early settlers in what would become Medford were members of the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, including the Evans and Stokes families, in particular Joseph Stokes. His commitment to Quakerism was maintained by subsequent generations at Stoklan. Finally the new owner Deepa Lal developed a friendship while living in India with members of the Stokes family, who originally traveled to India as missionaries. Those Quaker missionaries were, remarkably, descendants from a branch of the same Stokes family that founded Stokelan. Today the winery sits on 10 acres of land with the beautiful main house surrounded by newly planted vineyards and several outbuildings. Approximately 112 acres of preserved farmland surround the vineyard ensuring the land around Stokelan will remain open space for future generations to enjoy. The author would like to thank the owner and staff at Stokelan Winery. Special thanks to Alice Andrews for providing extensive background information and photographs and John Roohr for access to preserved farmland that surrounds the winery.

Country School Association of America Annual Conference

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Dear Country School Supporters:

If you appreciate the history and preservation of our remaining one-room schools, this is a conference for you!

For the first time in our 20 year history of holding annual schoolhouse conferences across the United States, the Country School Association of America will offer the presentations on our website.

Enjoy our entire program from the comfort and safety of your home. Richly illustrated and narrated, you can view them any time you wish for seven full days.

Everyone is invited!

Click Here for Details (PDF)
Medford's Historic Site Markers
It is quite probable that the Historic Site Markers are well known to all Medford residents. The 63 blue and white markers identify many of the significant buildings and locations that are part of Medford's long history. The markers were a project of the Historic Advisory Board, chaired by Betty H. Trumbower over 20 years ago.

The major purpose was to "acquaint the young people of Medford and tomorrow's decision makers with the unique historic nature of the town in which we live." It was the hope that the information about historic persons, sites, and buildings will be a step toward an increased appreciation of Medford's past and the need for future preservation of the rich historical heritage within the community.

The Medford Historical Society is concerned about the use and maintenance of the markers since they are an important way to share our history. Although the markers have held up well, after 20 years some need maintenance or repair. Over the spring and summer 2021 we plan to inventory all 63 markers and make any necessary repairs. If you have a marker on or near your property, let us know if it needs attention.

In 2004 a Self-Guided Tour was prepared in booklet form. It describes each marker site with many photos and a map of their locations. The original printing was supported by local donors such as Zallie's Shoprite, Bob Meyer Communities, Lodge #100 1.0.0.F., and the Twp. of Medford. It is our hope to reprint this useful guide to the historic sites and buildings of Medford in the Fall of 2021

"PRESERVATION IS PROGRESS TOO"

MHS News Feb 2021

The Garden State
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This article is dedicated to the farmers throughout this nation who have experienced great loss during this pandemic.
Here is an excerpt from a poem written in the 1870’s by Samuel Thackara, a member of the Gager family, known as the “Bard of Medford,”
New Jersey state cannot be beat
In anything not even wheat.
It really beats all creation
In variety of vegetation.
We have five feet wheat and six feet rye.
And corn has grown so very high
That hucksters are entertaining fear
They will not be able to reach the ears.
Is there anyone in Medford who does not look forward to eating Jersey corn, tomatoes, blueberries, strawberries, and cranberries? Once these fabulous fruits and vegetables were grown in Medford. Now these crops are mainly grown in Shamong, Southampton, and Tabernacle townships. Blueberries and cranberries are shipped all over the world. At one time all the lakes in Medford were cranberry bogs and Joe Hinchman employed three hundred and fifty to five hundred scoopers and packers.

Also, there were a lot of strawberry patches in Medford. My great uncle Bert, who had a booming voice, would go up and down the streets of Medford yelling, “STR-A-W-BERRIES,” and the housewives would rush out with their containers. The price was a quarter for three quarts. Uncle Bert never yelled anything but “STR-A-W-BERRIES” even in the wintertime when he was huckstering other fruits and vegetables. He was quite a character but so am I. I think it runs in the family.

Today, most of the farms in Medford grow soybeans and corn. Ninety percent of these crops are sent to the Purdue farm in Delaware. Mr. Purdue mixes his own chicken feed which consists of soybeans, corn, and marigolds. This feed is shipped to farmers in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia who in turn raise over a million chickens at any given time. These chickens become Purdue poultry products.

Enjoy your Jersey corn and tomatoes! Edmund R. Gager and
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Medford Remembered
Video
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Medford Remembered - the Video

For 54 years the Medford Historical Society (MHS) has helped to maintain and share the rich history of Medford. An important way that we have shared our history is the creation of a video entitled Medford Remembered.

This video was professionally made in 1996 and is now available to be purchased for $10 at any of our events.

We are fortunate to have capable volunteers and encourage others to join MHS. You make Medford history come alive.

Medford was once a Cowtown
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If a certain politician wants to get rid of cows due to flatulence that pollutes the environment, she definitely would have disapproved of Medford in the forties and fifties. At that time there were 37 dairy farms in the township.
Prickett’s Express picked up the cans of “Udder Delight,” and farmers were paid by the creameries where the milk was homogenized and pasteurized. Besides quantity the farmers were paid according to the amount of butter fat in the milk. No 1% and 2% in those days. If you didn’t have a cow, like we did, the milk was delivered by truck to the people of Medford. The only time my family of ten needed this service was when Susie was dry.
No one worked harder than the dairy farmer. He toiled 15 hours a day, 365 days a year. When they were not milking they were sowing hay and corn, baling hay, fixing tractors, and filling silos. On Friday night Medford was filled with farmers who came to town to cash their milk checks at Burlington County National, the only game, pardon me, the only bank in town.
It was quite a chore to lift so many milk cans that held about 50 pounds (yes, it was pounds) of milk. Creameries thought life would be easier if stainless steel tanks that held thousands of pounds were used. Hoses were used to transport the milk to a truck. This was part of the reason that many dairy farms went out of business. To begin with milk prices were low enough and the extra added expense of the tanks put the farmer’s profits in the tank.

Pictured is Albert H. Forsythe at his Locust Lane Farm on Church Road with his prized Guernsey
heifers.
Albert was the father of Congressman Edwin B. Forsythe (1970-1984). Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge was named in honor of him.

Columbia Bank and MHS Support Medford Police

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Columbia Bank Foundation recently contributed $3889.00 towards the purchase of a new security metal detector to be used by the Medford Police Department. The Medford Historical Society facilitated the transfer of funds. We thank Columbia Bank for their support of the Medford Community!
Medford Historic Quilt
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Click Here to download a PDF of the Medford 1900 Era Resident Quilt.
Medford Historical Images Now Online!
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Stop by and visit our new digital archive and browse the galleries. You too can help with the project - review the photos and their captions, click "Share" and send us any additional comments to info@medfordhistory.org.

Click Below to visit the Archives:
www.medfordhistory.zenfolio.com
At The Mill
By John Hines
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The "Milling Day" at Kirby's Mill resume the 2nd Saturday of April (April 10) from 1-4pm. If you have not yet seen the grinding process in operation, it is a good time to see what all the hard work over the past years at the Mill has accomplished.
A second Boy Scout, Aidan Pembleton, did volunteer work at the Mill for his Citizen in the Community Merit Badge. This past October Aidan cut back weeds and brush behind the Mill and thinned out the patch of bamboo on the corner lot.
Assistance is needed to freshen up the museum displays on the second floor of the Mill. If interested in lending a hand, please contact John Hines at 609-531-1825

MHS News Feb 2021

CrossKeys School Update
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With the closure of the Medford Township Public Schools due to the Covid 19 virus, the schoolmarms and docents of the Medford Historical Society were unable to offer their One Room Schoolhouse Living History Program to the Township’s 3rd graders. Over 300 students from both public and catholic schools annually visit the Cross Keys One-Room Schoolhouse on Mill St. each spring. This year was the first time in 10 years that the program was not offered. For those volunteers who donate their time and energy to provide a meaningful experience, these students were definitely missed.
Despite the lack of students, the schoolhouse was not empty. A lone Historical Society volunteer, Bill Pflug, worked to repair and update the building. Bill worked to replace the glass inserts in the inner door with plexiglass. Completing this project addressed an issue which was a safety hazard for the children. In addition, rotted windowsills were restored and painted. Bill also tried to outsmart the carpenter bees by plugging their numerous holes in the front door. All of us associated with the schoolhouse are so thankful for Bill’s fine efforts. - Aug 2020
A 50-year Restoration Project is now open at Kirby's Mill
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After 50 years of restoration, the centuries-old Kirby’s Mill in Medford has reopened to the public.

Visitors can now experience the water-powered millstones grinding corn every second Saturday of each month until October.

The land has been owned by the Medford Historical Society since it acquired the property from the Kirby family in 1969. Since then, members adopted an ambitious goal: to restore the mill as living history. Countless volunteers over five decades took part in engineering complex mechanisms, recasting gears and building a new water wheel.

Over the years, the Society garnered several important grants and awards, including one from the New Jersey Historical Commission and a special 1976 Bicentennial Award.

But even before then, the mill had a long and vast history, one that the MHS hopes to share to the electronic-savvy visitors of today.

“Nowadays, everybody just turns a switch on and something runs. You got to remember back then that without electricity when this mill was started, they depended on the man power,” said the mill’s curator, John Hines.

The mill was completed and opened in 1778, during the Revolutionary War. According to Medford Historical Society records, workmen at the mill could hear the roar of the cannons during battles at Red Bank.

In the late 19th century and early 20th century, the mill was grinding flour to ship to markets such as Philadelphia. But since the big factories in the 1920s were able to make loads of flour for a cheaper price, the mill quickly turned to just making animal feed and grinding corn.

Hines said that the mill’s place in living history is testimony to the work of the volunteers since 1969. According to Hines, the work continues as others step up. A more recent contributor, Bill Pflug, is an engineer by profession with many hours on the project. Every second Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., visitors can witness this team happily at work.

“Bill has unselfishly applied his expert engineering skills in so many ways to help bring the grinding operation back to life,” Hines said. “He’s been invaluable to us.”

Included in what the multi-generational crew accomplished over these five decades to get the mill working was re-establishing the water course from the mill pond, to the mill race to the water wheel. They also replaced the water wheel, the driving force for complex mechanisms, according to MHS. Gears were recast and restored, including adding wooden teeth to the principal massive gear for a simpler replacement in case of breakage. Even a new foundation had to be built just to hold the building in place.

The Society maintains an extensive calendar of popular annual events, including Apple Festival, House Tours, Quilt Show, Flea Market, Country Day and more. These sustain the mill project as well as the Society’s other undertakings.

The group also has restored the Historic Cross Keys One-Room School House where volunteers demonstrate education history to local schoolchildren. More information about all of these projects, events and open dates can be found on the Society’s web site www.medfordhistory.org.

The Sun Newspapers
ANDREW TURCO
FREEDOM PARK MEMORIAL BOOKLETS
(click each to download)
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Medford Historical Society, PO Box 362, Medford NJ © 2021 MHS
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