Newton's Landing Historical Exhibit

[The Russ Farm History Exhibit debuted Sunday, Oct. 23, at the Clubhouse. More information and an online version of the History Exhibit will appear in the coming days and weeks. ]

By Joseph Busler

It is late summer in 1963, the peaches are ripe, and the three Russ brothers -- Stanley, Howard Jr. and Warren -- are sorting and packing the day's harvest, picked by the youth of Delanco such as the unidentified young man in the background.

Stanley Russ's 92-acre farm, now home to Newton's Landing and The Point, represented a much different way of life, one vanishing from southern New Jersey as housing developments sprout where once grew corn, peaches, soybeans and pumpkins. The Russ brothers are gone, along with Stanley's 20-acre peach orchard and his 55-acre cornfield. Agricultural production here is now limited to the Victory Gardens, and we measure the warm season by the opening and closing of the swimming pool rather than by spring plantings and fall harvests. The agricultural history that began here in 1767 when Samuel Newton purchased a large tract of farmland ended with Stanley Russ's death in 1995 at age 94.

But on Sunday, Oct. 23, that 227-year history of these 92 acres as a family farm will come alive again. After nine months' gestation, the Russ Farm Historical Exhibit comes into the world at an event in the Clubhouse from 2 to 5 p.m. All members of Newton's Landing are invited. So are many of our neighbors who are descendants of the Russes and Newtons or of the prominent Delanco Republicans for whom our 10 streets and the three in The Point are named. Delanco government officials and local historians have also been invited.

The exhibit, temporarily displayed in the meeting room of the Clubhouse, will mix the modern and the old.

  • A wall map will show the contemporary Traditions at Newton's Landing community. But in place of street signs there will be pictures and biographies of the people for whom the streets are named.
  • A Newton Family Tree will trace the Newton years from Samuel Newton (1725-1810) to Florence and Edna Thomas, the Newton sisters who sold the property to Howard Russ, Stanley's father, for $1 in 1925.
  • A Russ Family Tree, from George Russ, who arrived from England sometimes in the 1860s or 1870s and farmed the land as a renter, to Stanley and his brothers.
  • Stone artifacts -- spear and arrow points, an axe head and a mano, or grinder -- uncovered at the farm that were left by the first people to farm, hunt and fish this land, the American Indians who arrived 7,000 years ago. Those that lived here in historical times were the Unami, known as the Turtle People, a branch of the Lenni Lenape.
  • The handwritten records Stanley Russ kept of the farm's finances, including what he paid the long list of Delanco's young people who worked here each summer.
  • A photographic montage of life on the Russ Farm.
  • Pictures from Delanco in years past.

The three-hour event, which is free, will be held in an open-house format. After viewing the exhibit, guests can mingle in the multi-purpose room over light refreshments that will include Russ Farm Sweet Potato Pie and Boost, the hard-to-define beverage found only in Burlington County that has been made right across the creek in Riverside since 1913. A slide show of old Delanco and Russ Farm photos will scroll across the big-screen television. Copies of the pie recipe will be available.

The exhibit is the creation of the Newton's Landing History Committee, which began work in the early spring. The version of the exhibit shown Sunday is just the first version of a much more ambitious project which envisions an enlarged and improved version which will be permanently displayed in the Farmhouse when it becomes available and a Historic Park showcasing the Farmhouse, the five remaining outbuildings, and perhaps a small peach orchard near the Victory Gardens.