If you are a fan of Maple Shade history, you probably know of me because of my "den's Maple Shade History Website." I really became a historian over several years due to the desire to add information to the website.
I started my Maple Shade history website in December of 2002, which I had online until August of 2012, exempting a year down during 2008. Verizon took away their FTP service in mid-2011 which meant the site remained stagnant for its last year. I recently put the site back up on October 12, 2013.
Researching- After a while the County Clerk's Office isn't unfamiliar but it feels like you could easily work there, you start to know where everything is in historical book collections at historical societies and libraries, you spend more than a few Saturdays staring at and scrolling through microfilm of old newspapers until you are dizzy and say, "I got to get out of here and go eat something."
I joined the Maple Shade Historical Society in June of 2003 and have been an active member ever since. If heavy history scares you off, don't worry. I noticed that over the years the meetings are enjoyable to all and it is actually a social type club. Exciting things have happened like the Schoolhouse being restored for its 200th anniversary, the Collins Lane house being saved and a beautiful park being built around it, and the train station being utilized for informal "parade and Main Street events" open houses.
In October of 2008, I was the speaker at a Maple Shade Historical Society meeting. I had so much information to cover so I made a DVD movie slide show for people to watch and learn the history of the "Collins Lane house." The meeting started off badly! When I arrived for the meeting about a half an hour early, the TV in the Senior Room at the Municipal Building wasn't working- so I ran out to Sears and bought a TV and got back with about 5 minutes to spare. It all worked out and that’s when I upgraded to a 32" flat screen digital TV! Everyone enjoyed the “movie” and we had a birthday cake with the Collins Lane house photo drawn with icing on it, and we went over to tour the house. I wish I had taken a photo of the cake, etc… but there wasn’t a big turn for the event and it broke my heart.
The Collins Lane house was a tenant farmer house for John S. Collins, developer of Miami Beach Florida, and his son Lester, for apple orchards. Further back though it was owned and rented out by Samuel Burrough of Evesham (even after he died by an Executor of his will) with a portion of the rents of this and another plantation to go to "the building of a meeting house for the Friends at or near Cropwell School." (1809) This was until August 1808 when Samuel Burrough Jr. turned 21 years old and got all the plantations.
The second time I spoke at a Maple Shade Historical Society meeting, I was ready with enough material for like 2 or 3 meetings! I then had to just brush by the main points that I could get through in a few hours. The meeting was in February of 2011.
If you are familiar with the Cutler family's book "Maple Shade A Story of 300 Years," they discuss the Benjamin Stiles family but leave out the Stiles branch that owned the land on the southwest side of town descending through Ephraim Stiles.
Each Stiles family farm was discussed. And you learned something about each family, the early deaths, land being divided, etc...
I took the local chapter in the book "The Stiles Family in America" and Asa Matlack's notes on members of the Stiles family as my two main sources. From there I went to the State Archives in Trenton and made copies of late 1600s to 1700s deeds.
A development occurred along the way when I said to myself, "I can't figure out all these old lands, so many chains southwest to this oak tree etc.... There must be software that could do this. There was, and I downloaded a free trial version and started entering co ordinances and seeing the survey outlines emerge. Over a 1925 Maple Shade sewer ordinance map I feel somewhat confident in having ascertained the original pioneer's lands.
I then read how acres and miles are based on the furlong, or how far a horse could pull a plow before given a break to rest. I spent like 5 hours and made a homemade surveyor's chain. (well- a half chain) The Studies of Stiles material was made into an 89 page PDF "book.”
These Chains were used for a few hundred years or more! Now they use GPS!Ever wonder why an acre is 208.71 feet square or why a mile is 5200 something feet? They weren't based on feet and inches!
They and the Gunter's chain are based on the distance a horse could pull a plow before it needed to rest. (a furlong)
A furrow means a groove such as a plow would make.
Chains, Acres, and Miles are based on "the Furlong."
Read all about it here-
Furlong basis for chains, acres, miles
It was an agricultural world in the 1600s!
There was quite a mixture of my friends, neighbors, and fellow Maple Shade Historical Society members at the “Studies of Stiles” meeting at which I was the speaker. The above photo is John Ravikio and Coles Roberts. The next photo is of Richard Toone, me, the President of the Maple Shade Historical Society Betty Procopio, and Jonathan Mott.