A Brief History of Rancocas Village


Rancocas Village is a National, State and Local Historic District within Westampton Township. A visitor to the Village steps back through time into a quaint crossroads village with its origins in the mid 1700s.


Humble Beginnings

After completion of the Centerton Bridge and public road in 1832, several local men began to sell lots and build homes. Joseph Lundy, Samuel Wills, and Ezra Haines were all instrumental in the growth of the Village, which had only a few buildings prior to that time.

Commerce was an important facet in shaping Rancocas as an independent town. It eventually had a post office, stagecoach service and a lamplighter. There was a gristmill, blacksmith shop, wheelwright shop, a candy store, and two general stores. A butcher, a barber, a carpenter and builder, a cigar manufacturer, a dressmaker, and two doctors all found their way to the Village.

A Central Location

Rancocas was known as a center for culture and the arts in the early 19th century. The first literary society was organized in 1814, and was known as the Literary and Philological Society. Other social and intellectual organizations soon followed – The Beneficial Society in 1838, and The Select Literary Society in 1862. The Rancocas Lyceum, perhaps the most famous literary society in Burlington County, was organized in 1871 and met for a number of years in the schoolhouse. Shakespearean recitals were given occasionally and so capably that the Lyceum was referred to as the Quaker Theatre. In 1877, the Lyceum erected a building for their own use – this building later became the town’s fire house and is currently the Rancocas Community Center.

Landmarks

The Rancocas Friends Meetinghouse was built in part in 1772, surrounded on this site by an oak forest. The west side was added in 1827 to house the newlyfounded Hicksite group.

The entire front of the building is Flemish bond brickwork; inside there is an unusual partition that separates the main rooms. The newest feature is the Quaker Library and social room where exhibits of Quaker clothes are on display.

The little one room brick schoolhouse was built in 1822 to replace a wood-framed schoolhouse erected in 1773.

Education has always been a priority for Quakers and the first Rancocas Friends School was established in 1681 near the Rancocas Creek. The school continued with the exception of a 20-year period when the schoolhouse was used as a private residence. In 1948, the school re-opened and has been a Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten since. The school is the only active one-room schoolhouse in Burlington County.

The Rancocas Society of Friends

The Rancocas Society of Friends erected their first Meetinghouse in 1703 in front of the Friends Cemetery on Centerton Road. The present Meetinghouse on Main Street in the Village was erected in 1772. Soon after the 1827 separation in the Society of Friends into the Hicksite Friends and the Orthodox Friends, the building was enlarged so that both groups could meet at separate sides of the building. This created an interesting structure with interior walls that can be raised and lowered to separate the two groups. This also created two distinct porch styles to distinguish the two sides. This setup continued until the two groups reunited and the Orthodox Meeting was laid down.

Modern-Day Rancocas Village

Although most of the businesses have become private residences, and the literary societies are long gone, Rancocas cherishes its landmarks, heirlooms, heritage, and gracious residences, and has limited growth in favor of retaining its original charm.