Old Centreville Families
Dr. Donges, Mills,
Schepperkotter, Covely and Other Men
Wrought Through Years to Bring Needed Improvements to District
By BEN COURTER
WHEN a larger community annexes an adjoining district the newer area is generally regarded, for a time at least, as a step-child. Older residents of
East Camden will bear out that truism when they recall how difficult it was to obtain improvements. Years before, Newton Township which became part of Camden, had had the same experience. Under such circumstances, it requires tireless energy on the part of leading men to get what their district needs. Demands often go unheeded unless the community is fortunate in having those of spirit who insist on street improvements, water extension, lighting facilities and schools. That was more in evidence half a century ago than now, of course, for Camden itself was little more than a large village.
Down in Centreville there were men who looked after the interests of their constituents, who slowly but surely obtained, improvements and who insisted on being recognized by the powers that be. No one may think of old Centreville without thought of
Dr. John W. Donges, whose value to not only that section but Camden at large, has been expatiated upon in these annals. He was not only a leading physician, with a practice extending into Camden, but a leader in many civic movements, and any article on that era would be incomplete without allusion again to the doctor whose services as a real family physician are part of the traditions of many old families.
Came Here In 1872
He came here in 1872 from Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, when his health was affected by overwork through loyalty to his patients. He bought the drugstore at
Ferry Avenue and
Broadway, remaining there for many years. It was there Supreme Court Justice
Ralph W. E. Donges spent his boyhood.
Dr. Clarence B. Donges and Attorney
Raymond Donges were boys.
Grant E. Kirk, clerk in his store, later becoming a physician and for several years a member of council and at one time being prominently boomed for mayor, married their
sister. Dr. Donges was elected to council in 1878 on the Democratic ticket, itself an evidence of the high regard in which he was held, for the Eighth Ward generally was rockribbed Republican. Until the early part of this century he resided in his old place, but later went to
Streets. In later years, after he had retired, he was city assessor, "just to keep busy." He died a few years ago, well in his 80s, mourned by a great host of
There was another widely known Centreville family of the old days, that of Samuel Mills, who had his own abattoir at
Broadway and Jackson Street, where city-dressed meats were provided before the days of car refrigeration brought supplies from the great packing places in Chicago. His son, Charlie, was long a member of the Board of Education, while another, William, was a city councilman. Edward
Mills, another son, was excise commissioner 35 years ago in the days when there was plenty of trouble with Sunday sellers.
Cornelius Schepperkotter was a factor in politics down that way, too, having a grocery store on
Ferry Avenue at Ninth, later moving to the southwest corner when the
School was built. That school was torn down two years ago for the recreation center. Schepperkotter was a member of the old Board of Public Instruction in the late 90's, named by Mayor
Cooper B. Hatch. In later years and until his death, he was superintendent of Evergreen Cemetery. He was father of Mrs. Frank S. Albright, wife of
City Clerk Albright.
Shortly after the New York shipyard was opened, there moved to the "Hill" Frank D. L. Covely, who became a joiner and for years was foreman of the joiner shop. He was widely known as a secret society man and also as an effective campaign speaker for the G. O. P. He was a member of the Board of Education.
He sought to go to council, but that was at the time
Kirk was a power in the ward. Covely laughingly used to tell of a meeting all set for him from which all save the colored folk were drawn away through strategy of his party opponents. But for ten years he was a member of the Board of Recreation Commissioners.
That movement owed much to his work. Nor did he forget his colored friends, for he had a playground established for them at
Ferry Avenue and Phillips Street and the large one
[Staley Park- PMC] at Seventh and Jefferson streets. Long afterward that was named for another city official, but Covely's friends said it should have been for him, as a monument to his services for the boys and girls of Centreville. He died a few years ago at Bellmawr in his 70s, after a hectic experience as a chicken raiser at Port Norris.
There, too, was William Dorrell,
superintendent of the old "Narrow Guage" who was one of the leading spirits in the paving of Broadway, nearly 60 years ago the big issue of that section. He lived in a house along the railroad still standing, as the hospital and dispensary of the shipyard.
Mention has been made of the Ferrises, the Helmbolds, the Yeagers, of Squire James D. Chester and Squire
F. Joseph Rouh. There was also William O. Thompson, the leading contractor down that way for many years and
Theodore Tiedeken, who established the wagon works on
Hook Street, Martin Ewe, who had the hotel at Broadway and Emerald, and down the street a bit
James Croker, who operated Tammany Hall. Forty years ago there was one of the best young athletes of the city,
Thomas Nicholas, now retired Camden fire chief. He was down in old No. 3 with Bill Rose, long a fire captain, Bill Miller, Al James, Sam Lodge,
Gus Dold and John
Many of these old timers have passed on, but others are still in the flesh but scattered to all parts of the city but it may be said the survivors look back on the days that were down there in Centreville with an interest that does not dim with the passing years.