Mercer Cemetery

The Mercer Cemetery in Trenton, NJ, was created in the 1840s. There were few new internments after the 1930s. Unlike the Riverview Cemetery, which is still active, no one has been buried in Mercer since 1973. In the 1990s, the city spruced up the cemetery, but it became neglected, landscaping and maintenance was deferred, and conditions within the cemetery deteriorated. Fortunately, Trenton is now looking to rehabilitate the Mercer cemetery, beginning with a recent volunteer cleanup effort.

Source: TCM
Source: TCM
Source: TCM
Source: TCM
Source: TCM

How did Lamoka Lake get its name?

Lamoka is a word that you don’t see used much other than for the lake itself, and the prehistoric archaeological culture found along its shores. Does anyone know where its name came from?

On early maps, including the 1829 Atlas of New York and the 1869 New Map of the State of New York, Lamoka is named Mud Lake, and Waneta Lake to the north is called Little Lake. By 1874, in an atlas of Schuyler County, Lamoka Lake appears on the map, although Little Lake is still used for Waneta. In the 1879 book History of Tioga, Chemung, Tompkins and Schuyler Counties, New York, “Lamoka” is used repeatedly, and Little Lake has become “Wanetta.”

1874 Map of Schuyler County.

I’m not surprised they changed the name – there are at least 30 other Mud lakes in New York, and Lamoka has a nice sound to it—but I’d like to know where they got the name from.

If anybody knows, or has any clues, please leave a comment!

Canal Bridgetender’s Houses

These three small houses are located along the Delaware and Raritan Canal in Trenton, where movable bridges formerly crossed the canal. Houses were provided so the bridgetenders were always available to swing the bridge out of the way as a canal barge passed through.

The Hanover Street house was renovated when Thomas Edison State College built the large building that partially surrounds it. The Calhoun Street house appears to be stabilized, while the Prospect Street house looks occupied.

Hanover Street Bridgetender’s House. Source: TCM
Hanover Street Bridgetender’s House. Source: TCM

Hanover Street Bridgetender’s House. Source: TCM

Calhoun Street Bridgetender’s House. Source: TCM


Calhoun Street Bridgetender’s House. Source: TCM
Prospect Street Bridgetender’s House. Source: TCM

Lee Union-Alls : Union-Made in Trenton

Lee Union-Alls Building, E. State Street, Trenton, NJ. Source: TCM

The H.D. Lee Mercantile company was founded in Salinas, Kansas, in 1889, but by the early twentieth century, it was focused on making clothes and had factories in several cities, including Trenton, New Jersey. Lee Union-Alls, a jumpsuit for mechanics and other blue-collar workers, were created in 1913 and became their signature product. The name touted the fact that they were union-made.

H.D. Lee Mercantile Company Factories, 1920s. Source: H.D. Lee/www.union-made.blogspot.com
Continue reading “Lee Union-Alls : Union-Made in Trenton”

Assunpink Firewalk

Scenes from the first Assunpink Firewalk, part of the City of Trenton’s Patriots Week, which celebrates George Washington’s revolutionary victories at the Battles of Trenton.

Assunpink Firewalk, Trenton, NJ. Source: TCM


THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.

Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, 1776

The Firewalk was held along Assunpink Creek, near where American soldiers repulsed three British attacks at the second battle of Trenton on January 2, 1777.

Source: TCM

After night fell, Washington left a rearguard to light campfires and fool the British into believing the Americans were holding their positions. In actuality, the American troops were marching away. The next day, Washington would win another victory at the Battle of Princeton.

The Firewalk included the lighting of 13 torches, symbolizing both the 13 colonies and the fires lit by the Americans to cover their retreat, and a reading of Thomas Paine’s The American Crisis, written on December 23, 1776, and read to American troops before the first battle of Trenton.

Continue reading “Assunpink Firewalk”

General Philemon Dickinson’s Hermitage and Washington’s Crossing

The Hermitage, Trenton, in 2018. Source: TCM

Philemon Dickinson,  called “one of the truest patriots of the revolution” by historian William Stryker, was from a wealthy family that owned land in several states, but he chose to establish a country estate, which he called the Hermitage, at a site outside the town of Trenton, New Jersey.  He bought the property, which included a house and barns, in July of 1776.

Not long after he bought the property, Hessian troops seized the building and established a picket there, which guarded the approach to Trenton from the north. Dickinson, who was a general in the New Jersey militia, was stationed across the river in Yardley, where he could observe the Hessians occupying his home. After crossing the Delaware on Christmas night, American troops marched past the Hermitage on their way to Trenton, driving the Hessians before them. General Dickinson, still stationed in Yardley, contributed to the effort by ordering the artillery to shell his own home; fortunately for his real estate, the effect was mostly symbolic.

Continue reading “General Philemon Dickinson’s Hermitage and Washington’s Crossing”

The c. 1721 Trent House, Trenton, New Jersey

Trent House. View of South elevation. Source: TCM

The Trent House was built around 1721 (although a plaque on its wall puts the date at 1719) by William Trent, after whom New Jersey’s state capital is named.  It replaced an earlier house built by Mahlon Stacy.

The house was modified and expanded over the next 200 years. In the 1930s, a WPA project removed the later additions, uncovering the brick well and  restoring the house to its original appearance.

The Trent House prior to the removal of the eastern wing and greenhouse. The well was located beneath this addition. Source: Library of Congress/Historic American Buildings Survey

Continue reading “The c. 1721 Trent House, Trenton, New Jersey”

1969 Murder of Jane Britton, Harvard Archaeology Grad Student, Solved by DNA Testing – No Primitive Rites Necessary

“Remember me any way you like, but remember me”
-Jane Sanders Britton

Jane Britton’s Anthropology Notebook. Photo released by Middlesex County (Massachusetts) District Attorney Office.

Almost 50 years after her murder, police in Massachusetts say they have solved the murder of Jane Britton, who was a graduate student in Harvard’s anthropology department. DNA evidence indicates that Britton was  murdered in her apartment by Michael Sumpter, who died in 2001 while serving a sentence for the rape of another woman in 1975. He has since been linked to two other murder/rapes.

Britton’s death was sensationalized at the time, not only because she was a Harvard coed, but because newspapers, quoting a police detective, reported that her murder was part of a “primitive rite” involving red ochre found on her body and the walls of her apartment. Britton, as an archaeologist, had done fieldwork at Tepe Yahya in Iran and in France, and some people made a connection with the red ochre sometimes found in prehistoric burials. Furthermore, a sharp stone tool (possibly a prehistoric hand ax?) that an archaeologist friend had given to her was reported missing from her apartment. Her boyfriend, who found her body, was also an anthropology grad student, as were two of her neighbors, who had been with her before her death, and a “Peru hippie” she had previously dated. Rumors later tried to link her death with other Harvard anthropology students who had died or disappeared, and other women in the Cambridge area who were murdered before or after Britton.

Police and anthropologists at Harvard quickly denied the “primitive rites” story, and the chief instituted a news blackout because of “inaccuracies” in the reporting. No one was ever arrested for the crime. Anthropologist Don Mitchell, one of the last people to see her alive, said he

had long suspected the killer was someone Britton knew at Harvard. “I was surprised,” Mitchell said Tuesday. “Very few people at the time thought it was somebody random who came in and killed her. Everyone thought it was connected to the anthropology department.”

Yet the man now identified as responsible for her murder had no other connection to Britton. The missing stone tool was found soon after the first newspaper reports came out, and the “red ochre” was, according to the new report, from painting supplies that Britton had.

Details on the DNA investigation are at The Boston Globe. More details in a 2017 article, when amateur investigators and a reporter were trying to get the prosecutors to release records of the investigation. Official press release of the Middlesex County District Attorney