ROBERT WILLIS GORDON was born in Ireland in March of 1865 to Thomas and Maria Gordon. The family came to America in 1873, and first appears in Camden City Directories in 1874. The 1874 City Directory shows Thomas Gordon having a liquor store at the southeast corner of Locust and Division Streets. By 1876 the Gordons had relocated to 807 South 2nd Street. This was the family home. Thomas Gordon operated a saloon and livery business out of 801-805 South 2nd Street. He also made political connections. Daughter Mary Ann married Samuel Bailey, the brother of Frank Bailey, in 1878. Bailey served on City Council in the 1880s, while Thomas Gordon served in 1886 as a Camden County freeholder from the Fifth Ward. The 1880 Federal Census and the 1885 New Jersey State Census shows the family consisting of Thomas and Maria Gordon,  sons James, Thomas W., and Robert W., and daughter Mary Ann Gordon Bailey and her husband Samuel Bailey.

Robert Gordon was educated in Camden's public schools. He followed his brother James Gordon and his brother-in-law Samuel Bailey and apprenticed as a printer 

at the West Jersey Printing House and in the office of the West Jersey Press. In 1888 he founded a job printing business, operating out of 801-805 South 2nd Street, which he ran successfully into 1894, then with brothers James and Thomas W. took over the family's liquor and livery businesses. Samuel Bailey died suddenly of pneumonia in January of 1894. Thomas and Maria Gordon parent both passed early in 1895. James Gordon died of injuries in September of 1897 from injuries sustained when thrown to the cobblestone street from a hearse he was driving.

Robert Gordon married Emma Augusta Compton on February 7, 1900, of whom more will wrote of below. The Census of 1900 shows Robert and Emma Gordon, brother Thomas, widowed sister sister Mary Ann Bailey and nieces Maria and Mary Bailey living at the home at 807 South 2nd Street. Census and City Directories indicate that Robert Gordon looked after the saloon while Thomas attended to the livery business. When Robert Gordon entered into politics, which saw him elected to City Council in 1904, newspapers of the day referred to him as being in the livery business, as saloonkeepers were often demonized in the years leading up to Prohibition, in a manner not at all unlike that undertaken by leftist agitators a century later. 

Sadly, Thomas W. Gordon died at the age of 51 on April 26, 1912. He had been ill for some time. Robert Gordon was extremely popular and was reelected to City Council in five times. He contracted a severe cold on election night in November of 1914, which turned into pneumonia. Robert Gordon died on December 19, 1914, leaving a widow. There were no children.

Mrs. Emma Gordon ran the bar through 1919, until age, changes in the neighborhood, and the onset of prohibition gave her cause to move away and lease the business. This did not turn out to be a very good idea. The 1924 Camden City Directory shows that Joseph Devine was operating under a "soft drinks" license, which meant he could sell low alcohol beer. Joseph Devine's real name was Joseph Deven. He was better known as Polack Joe Devon (newspaper accounts spell his name in various ways, Deven, Devon, Devine, etc.) and was a somewhat notorious character as a political leader and gangster in Camden's Third Ward. Emma Gordon had moved back to 807 South 2nd Street by 1924, and lived there a late as 1927. By 1929 Jerome A. Mauro had both the home at 807 South 2nd Street and the bar at 801 South 2nd Street, which, as Prohibition was still in force, he operated under a soft drink license.

Robert & Emma Gordon's great-great-niece Beth Crane wrote in 2008:

Emma and Robert Gordon were my great-great-aunt and uncle and I grew up (in the 1950's) hearing stories about this saloon. According to which family member you were listening to, it was either a magnificent Taj-Mahal-palace of a saloon, where all the best people in Camden hobnobbed ... or it was a filthy hellhole where all the lowlife hoodlums congregated, and Satan was the bartender. I've always wondered what was the truth about the place. 

Robert Gordon was a Camden city councilman, so the saloon was first in his brother's name (Thomas Gordon) then in Emma (Compton) Gordon's name. I guess he didn't want the teetotalers in town voting against him!

Here is an interesting story about Emma Compton that I think should be preserved for posterity: Emma lent money to Rev. Carl McIntyre for him to build that church of his in Collingswood, so she held the mortgage on the church. When she died, Rev. McIntyre was horrified to learn she had left the mortgage to her nephew, Ed Compton, who owned Compton's Log Cabin, a seafood restaurant on Cuthbert Boulevard where "demon rum" was served. He was so afraid that it would become public knowledge that his church's mortgage was held by the owner of an alcohol-serving establishment that he immediately showed up at Ed's with the CASH to pay off the mortgage in full.

I heard their livery stable specialized in providing fancy horses (I'm not sure that is the correct way to put it) for funeral corteges. What I mean is, the horses would be wearing elaborate silver and black harnesses with long black feathers sticking straight up from their foreheads.

My grandmother told me that when my grandfather was just a little boy (he was born in 1897), Emma would save the corks from the champagne bottles from the saloon for him to play with. And if the saloon served champagne ... well, it couldn't have been such a den of iniquity.

The truth of the matter of palace of hell hole lies somewhere in between. When the Gordon's were operating the business, and as Robert Gordon was active politically, serving as a city councilman, the Gordon's saloon would have been a top of the line, for those times and in that neighborhood, establishment. South 2nd Street was a much more traveled road in those times. It connected the Market Street Ferry and the Kaighn Avenue Ferry, and from South Second and Kaighn Avenue one would pick up Ferry Avenue to travel southwards to Gloucester, Woodbury, and the rest of South Jersey. For all intents and purposes, every traveler who came to South Jersey over the Market Street Ferry to go southwards into New Jersey and who did not continue by rail would pass by the Gordon's business.

THEN things changed.

The introduction of the automobile and improvements to Broadway didn't help business, Thomas Gordon died in 1912 and Robert Gordon passed away in December of 1914.When Prohibition came on in 1919 and with Robert gone, the bar apparently was rented. There were A LOT of shady characters in that part of South Camden, and Polack Joe Deven (or Devon, or Devine) was one. Polack Joe was politically active in the 1920s when oftentimes you couldn't tell the gangsters from the politicians. There is no doubt that when he was running the bar, Camden's more notorious characters would have been his clientele. 

The 1947 Camden City Directory shows that the house at 807 South 2nd Street was still occupied, but no mention is made of 801 South 2nd Street. 807 South 2nd street was destroyed by fire in February 23, 1950. The Giordano Waste Material Company had a warehouse at 801 South 2nd Street in 1951

Philadelphia Inquirer - May 8, 1888

Joseph Logue - Harry Mellon - Joseph Stratton 
Robert Gordon - South 2nd Street - Pine Street 
Charles H. Peters

Camden Post
April 19, 1892

Loyal Orange Order
G.A.R. Post No. 5
 Joseph Logue - Fannie Ellingsworth
David Logue

Archibald Ross
Thomas Willis
George Jones - Lizzie Anderson
Joseph Paul
J. Kirkpatrick
Samuel Reeves
John Lee
John McFarland - Martha Willis
James Ervin - Rosetta Kirkpatrick
John Marshall
John Robinson
Jennie Willis
John Edgar
Robert Gordon
Hugh Riley - Ellen LaMont
David Anderson - Emma Elliot
George Fabrion
Robert McCarl
William Weir - Miss Hughes
David Henry
Mr. McVicker & Miss Gillin
The Protestant Standard
F.G. Bailey

Philadelphia Inquirer - March 12, 1899
Walter J. Stanton Sr. - Fireside New Year's Association
A.K. Snyder - Emil Geer - Paul Faussel - R. Murr
Robert Gordon - Harvey Dumphey - E. Kellogg
C. Lock - Edward Walls - W. Sillings
W. Kinzler - C.E. Stripe - S.P. Verga
C. Davis - D. Smith

Philadelphia Inquirer - August 22, 1906
Robert Gordon - Budd Eggert

Philadelphia Inquirer - December 17, 1910


Camden Lodge No. 293, Benevolent Protective Order of Elks
Camden Lodge No. 111, Loyal Order of Moose
Seventh Ward Republican Club - John Broome - Robert Gordon - E.E. Read - Abert De Unger
Dr. WIlliam Kensinger - Robert Hollingsworth - Wissahickon Dye Works
South Eighth Street - South 11th Street - Cherry Street

Camden Post-Telegram - April 26, 1912 


For years associated with his brother Robert in the livery business, Thomas W. Gordon died this morning at his home, 807 South Second Street, after a lingering illness with dropsy. He was 51 years old, and single. Mr. Gordon was one of the best known men in the Fifth Ward, enjoyed a wide circle of friends. Arrangements for the funeral will be announced tomorrow.


Throngs Jam Court House While Body Lies in State for Two Hours.


Not since the memorable funeral of Chief of Police Foster ten years ago, has there been such a genuine public tribute paid an official of Camden as was in evidence last night at the bier of the lamented Fire Chief Worthington, and today at his funeral. It is hard to estimate the number of persons in a crowd, but from 7 until 9 o’clock last night there was a steady stream of men, women and children, two abreast, who passed from the main entrance, through the center corridor and beneath the illuminated rotunda, where the body lay, and thence out by the west corridor. There was never a stop, and it is estimated that at least 10,000 persons were there, perhaps more.

There could not have been a more ideal location for the repose of the casket containing the honored dead, and the great array of beautiful flowers than beneath the rotunda. It seemed to be a sacred shrine in itself where the citizenry dropped a tear for the lamented departed. The effulgence of the soft lights from above specially installed by Electrical Chief Kelly but lent to the scene and as the dark garbed escort of firemen, the active pall bearers, stood, on guard, the scene was unusually impressive.

Chief Worthington, aside from the pallor that comes to the dead, looked as he did in life, for the thread had been snapped so quickly that it was while he was in his full vigor that the vital spark had taken its flight. There were some marks on his face that indicated the intense though momentary suffering through which he passed on his fateful plunge from the roof of the burning building to his quick death, and the passing crowd remarked this. But withal there was that calmness and repose feature which seemed to indicate that the gallant leader of Camden's fire fighters but lay sleeping rather than that his soul had taken its eternal flight.

Public grief may be a mere ephemeral emotion, born of the moment and only to be succeeded by the acclaim of the newly arisen public idol, but last night's encomiums seemed to come from hearts that overflowed with genuine and permanent sorrow over the untimely passing of so excellent a public servant. Many tear-suffused eyes indicated this, many expressions of grief, of sorrow, of condolence of those left showed this. The sentiment in evidence everywhere can only be likened to the sweetness of the wonderful flowers whose odor spread thorough all the corridors and in all the rooms of the great marble building. 

High in the clock tower of the City Hall the bell began tolling at 6:30 o'clock. At half-minute intervals its doleful strains went forth on the cold blustery east wind which had succeeded at day of spring sunshine. The bell and the screeching wind seemed to combine as a knell indicating the passing grief of the city. It was the preliminaries to the marching of the funeral cortege from the stricken Chief's home on Penn Street to the resting place at the Court House.

There were forty policemen in dress uniform with Chief Gravenor at their head. There were twenty-six fire heads from Philadelphia, with Chief William Murphy in the van, a tribute in itself of more than passing moment. There was the caisson on which was the black draped casket containing the body of he who all honored. There was the little red car in which Chief Worthington was wont to speed through the city at every alarm and there was his helmet and coat. There was Acting Chief Stockton and forty of the men who fought flames under the direction of he who lay so still. There as the family in cabs with curtains drawn, the members of City Council and the active pall bearers- Daniel Leach, Peter B. Carter, James White, William Patterson, Elmer Burkett, Samuel Harring

When the cortege reached the Court House the Camden boys took up their position on the inside beneath rotunda while the Philadelphia visitors made an imposing array on the granite steps outside. And then came the public in its steady and unending stream.

Later the Philadelphia delegation was escorted to the Board of Freeholders room where tribute was paid to the dead and where a mingling of the two cities took place. Besides Chief Murphy the visitors included Battalion Chiefs William T. Barrett and George P. McConaghy, Captains L. F. Bunting, William Lindsey; H. Dinlocker, J. Higginson, J. E. Talbot, D. Campbell, T. O'Brien, F. Hughes, E. Basenfelder; H. Hutt, William McCusker, G. Rheim, R. Wilsey, J. Webb, H. Goers, H. Haines, Insurance Patrol Captain Joseph H. Shermer William Hickman, William Rodgers, John Wyatt, David Phillip, John Clyde, H. Wilkinson.

President of City Council James E. Hewitt spoke of the work Chief Worthington had already accomplished, of his plans, of his value and worth to Camden. Chief Murphy responded in a fitting way and this incident in itself was one to be remembered.

An affecting sight was witnessed by the handful of spectators, among them being other firemen, city and county officials and policemen who remained after the big doors on Sixth Street had been closed. The last to view the Chief's remains were a delegation of about twenty firemen. Solemnly the men passed by the bier and gazed upon the features of their departed brother.

As the last of the line approached Deputy Chief John A. Stockton was seen. He stopped and with his cap laid across his breast be looked down into the casket. For almost a minute Chief Stockton stood as though glued to the spot. Then he glanced about him and the sympathetic look upon his face thrilled all.

He heaved a sigh and perhaps the teardrops refused to come, but Chief Stockton, as the lines upon his face showed, was struggling with the inner man. His emotions were tugging at his heart, but a fire laddie cannot give way to his feelings although his brother superior officer and dear friend had answered his last alarm.

The floral pieces surrounding the bier bespoke the love, admiration and respect the donors held for the dead chief. One design particularly beautiful was a mammoth loving cup made of blossoms, f1owers and roses. This was the token sent by members of City Council and other city officials.

Another was the design sent by the Electrical Bureau through Chief Kelly. The original fire box, No. 134, which was pulled on the night of the fire by Chief Worthington was enshrouded by roses, carnations and lilies.

A maltese cross standing several feet high and bearing the initials of the organization was the tribute sent by the Firemen's Mutual Benevolent Association. Chief Worthington was president of this association. 

The Camden police sent a large shield of flowers and Council members offered a vacant chair of roses. The New Jersey Auto Supply Company, No. 2 Engine Company and No. 1 Truck sent beautiful broken circles and a wreath was the offering from the employees of the Victor Talking Machine Company.

 A broken circle from member of the Sixth Ward Republican Club and a wreath from his friends in the sixth precinct of the Second Ward were other beautiful pieces. West Collingswood and Collingswood firemen sent two beautiful floral circles and from the Loyal Order Legion a wreath was received.

Other offerings were from the Camden Liquor Dealers league, a beautiful circle from No. 6 Engine Company, in which house Chief Worthington was captain previous to his elevation to the office of chief; sprays from the Bethany M.E. Church, Ladies Auxiliary of the Loyal Order of Moose; a wreath from the pupils of the eighth grade Sewell school, and a spray from North Baptist Church. There also were designs from members of the family and friends, all of which bespoke the great love held for the departed fire chief.

The impressive services of the P.E. Church marked the last sad rites this afternoon at St. Paul’s Church. The guard of honor and city officials left Fire Headquarters at 1:20 and proceeded to the Worthington home and escorted the remains to the church, where services were conducted by the rector, Rev. R.E. Brestell, and Rev. H.O. Jones, rector of St. Stephen’s P.E. Church. Interment was made at Arlington.

The honorary pallbearers were Mayor Ellis, Hon. David Baird, Frank F. Patterson, John W. Bell, General John A. Mather, Melbourne F. Middleton Jr., Harry R. Reed, Arthur L. Jones, Robert Gordon, David Jester, George Schneider, William Mills, J.O. Grear, William Hall, George L. Bender, and James E. Hewitt.

Camden Post-Telegram - December 10, 1914 


Very favorable is the report that came from Councilman Robert Gordon's sick room this morning. It stated the popular official, who has been desperately ill with pneumonia, had taken a turn for the better and that those in attendance feel very hopeful of the future. For several days his condition had been such as to make the anxious members of his family feel apprehensive; and the fact that he has rallied now is a source of great gratification. 

Councilman George Schneider, who was ill with typhoid fever, was reported to be in a favorable condition and his recovery is anticipated.

Another official on the sick list, Sidewalk Inspector Richard J. Richardson, is still very ill with neuralgia of the heart, and Record Clerk "Lou" Lee of the Board of Health, who has developed a very excellent case of chickenpox, is getting along very nicely..

Camden Daily Courier
December 21, 1914 

Robert W. Gordon
South 2nd Street
St. John's Episcopal Church
Rev. J.H. Townsend
Fireside New Year's Association
Camden Republican Club
Fifth Ward Republican Club
Improved Order of Red Men
Brotherhood of America
Camden Liverymen's Protective Association
Camden Liquor Dealer's Protective Association
Loyal Orange Institute
Frederick Finkeldey
Richard Carney
David Jester
Harry R. Read