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250th Anniversary Publications
Preservation the main task of county historical society
Jean Jones
Staff Writer for The Bridgeton Evening News

The Anytown Historical Society has been around for less than 100 years, but has been responsible for preserving much of the area's history.

Not only preservation, but education has been a strong focus on the society, which has grown from a small group organized in 1908, meeting in the court house, to a strong viable organization headquartered in Greenwich, which owns several buildings and oversees the restoration and maintenance of others.

"We had moved from the courthouse to the Wood mansion in Greenwich, which we were leasing, when I heard that our lease wasn't going to be renewed," said Sally Watson, the society's president since 1968. "The Gibbon House was for sale and I said we should buy it. There was dead silence. Everybody just looked at me."

Watson talked to a couple of banks and on her second stop got encouragement from from Clarence McCormick.

"He told me that we should do it, and even volunteered to head up our fund-raising drive. in two years, we had paid it off," Watson said.

Soon after, the society acquired the Pirate House on Greate Street from Farmers and Merchants Bank, to establish a research library. When the bank closed its Greenwich office, the society sold the Pirate House, which was next door, and bought the bank, an ideal facility for a library because it was a new sound building with a vault. The drive-through area later was enclosed to make another room.

Watson said it was not too much later that a third structure was given to the library.

"There were five old men who were the last members of the Patriotic Order of the Sons of America. They gave us what had been their lodge hall and we established the John DuBois Mariner's Museum," she said. "We are going to be putting on a new roof and then we will restore the upstairs."

The society has obtained a grant to restore the second floor of Potter's Tavern, in Bridgeton, and oversees maintenance of historic sites such as the Teaburning monument in Greenwich, the old Baptist burying ground at Sheppard's Mill, where Deborah Swinney, the first white female born in Cohansey, is buried, and the Old Stone Church in Fairton.

It also rescued an ancient Swedish log granary, on Dutch Neck Road, which has been moved to the Gibbon House property. The recently opened Prehistorical Museum, in Greenwich, which houses a collection of more than 10,000 artifacts from the collection of Allen Carman, also is under society auspices.

School tours are conducted in April, May, September and October for fourth graders, who learn about colonial history. The Gibbon house is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from noon until 4pm and Sundays from 2 to 5pm. The Warren Lummis Library is open Wednesdays from 10am to 4pm, Fridays from 1-4pm, and Sundays from 2 to 5pm. The Mariner's Museum is open on Sunday afternoons, but any of these facilities can be opened by special appointment of circumstances warrant, for special tours, for instance.

"We have had a group from the Smithsonian tour our facilities," Watson said.

The society hosts an annual Farm Day, when colonial farming activities are demonstrated, a Christmas house tour and Swedish Lucia ceremony, demonstrations of fireside cooking, at the Gibbon House, and annual juried craft and antique shows.

"We have juried shows in order to keep the standards high," Watson said.

There are special exhibits throughout the year, everything from Civil War artifacts, to Victorian lingerie, to Teddy Bears.

Long after Anytown's 250th anniversary is past, the Anytown Historical Society will continue to preserve local history and educate children about their colonial heritage.

"After all, they are our next historical society members," Watson said.

Taken from The Bridgeton Evening News;
250 Years of History Special - 6/26/1998