Journal of Charles K. Landis
Founder of Vineland
Feb. 9, '68.
Morning dull and rainy. Weather moderating. Raining hard all day. Did not go out. Wrote agricultural articles for "The Weekly." Read Dickens' "Bleak House." Retired early.
Feb. 11. Morning clear and cold. Streets covered with ice.
Col. Bostwick called and talked railroad. Gave him directions to discharge Haines, the engineer. No use for him at present. He called again and said he had discharged him, but he was going to remain in the place.
Dr. Dunton called and introduced me to two young men from Maine. They talked as though they would purchase.
Walked out a short distance in the afternoon with Davis, but found it so slippery that we could not get along, so we returned. This is dreadful weather for all kinds of business.
Read Judge Kelly's speech upon contraction. An able speech. Unless Congress legislates to encourage and promote our manufacturing industry, it appears to me that the country will be involved in universal bankruptcy. There is not one man in twenty who gets to Congress who has the slightest idea upon the subject. Their statesmanship having been confined entirely to pot-house politics, as how to make good political speeches. Always speeches. Most of the speeches delivered in Congress are mere stump speeches for the effect they may produce upon their constituents at home. They also send too many lawyers to Congress. In regard to the creative sort of faculty which is essential to the genius of a legislator, lawyers, as a general thing, have none of it -far less than most other classes of business people; but so long as gab is taken for brains and statesmanship how is this to be remedied ?
In the afternoon looked at my new house. May as well call it a new house, at once.
In the morning of this day ended the canning factory. The history of this institution is curious. It was started by John Gage and M. D. Cook, and being favorably received, they made a considerable flourish of trumpets. They elected myself president. They said it would enable them to sell stock and establish the concern. It was of great importance to Vineland and thinking that it would result in good, I consented to serve, at least until they obtained a charter from the legislature. We called a meeting of the board and it was decided to call a meeting of the stockholders and have the charter accepted, and that the directors should resign in order to enable the stockholders to elect. We only had five and it would be best to have seven. The meeting was called and I presented the constitution for acceptance and the resignation of the directors. An hour after this had been done, M. D. Cook got up and said he had never agreed to resign. To my surprise the rest of the directors did not resign. I resigned, however. The stockholders then passed resolutions to the effect that the directors should make effort to increase the capital stock, and appoint a canvasser to go amongst the growers of the place and sell stock. I left the meeting and had ended my personal connection with the canning factory. The directors afterwards met and elected W. H. Earle to fill my vacancy. This was a strange selaction, as he was very unpopular. Not one stockholder in ten would have voted for him. The directors went on to administer the company, Mr. A. L. Edgett superintending the work. Mr. Edgett was a director, but had no influence whatever. Tate in the season Mr. Edgett called upon me and told me the directors had refused all offers to sell the goods and he thought "that they wanted to run the machine in the ground." Afterwards he called and said he had been ordered to stop work and close up the concern. This was done without the consent of the stockholders and would have violated all the contracts made with growers for tomatoes, greatly to their loss. Mr. Kirk said that they had refused $3.25 per dozen for strawberries from Kirk & Co., Philadelphia. That their goods would sell and that they were placing the company in bad condition from sinister motives.
With others I then called a meeting of the stockholders. I told Edgett to be at the meeting to make his statement that the stockholders might understand the real position of affairs. The evening of the meeting Edgett came to me and said that he could not speak before the people. That he was too nervous, that he would rather stand before a row of muskets than to face so many people. He was very nervous and trembling. I told him that he need not make a speech, but simply a statement in the same way he had talked to me.
"But, Mr. Landis, I cannot talk to an audience. I will break down."
This made me very uneasy. I was convinced that if something wasn't done the canning factory would break down. I then said:
"Mr. Edgett, get upon your feet resolved to tell the truth, and, my word for it, the Lord will come to your assistance. Get up with this resolution and put your entire trust in the Lord, and you will be helped with speech." In this I am a firm believer.
Edgett promised to do his best and we went over to the meeting together. A moderate number of people were present. Dr. Cook and Mr. Earle made a statement denying they had ordered the factory to be closed, denying that they had refused any offers and threatening terrible exposures if they found it necessary. I knew that their statements were both false and disingenuous, but I had obtained this knowledge through poor Edgett, who sat there quiet as a statue and about frightened to death at the threats of Cook and Earle.
The meeting, however, had a salutary effect. These men found out that there were stockholders. The stockholders passed some resolutions, and the effect was that the factory did not stop. Things ran on through the tomato season, Gage advancing the money at the rate of ten per cent, interest to the company. Edgett states that no effort was ever made to sell goods.
The money borrowed came due. Then a meeting of the stockholders was called. I did not attend and took no prominent part, as I saw the thing was beyond redemption. I knew also that the directors would attempt to compromise me. They then got a majority of the stockholders to sign a paper instructing the directors to sell out the concern to pay the debts off, and divide the balance of the money amongst the stockholders. As though there would be any balance. They advertised the entire property for sale yesterday in Vineland, giving but short notice, and not advertising in New York or Philadelphia. The goods were sold for from one-third to one-half the value. One of the directors, Sidney Sweet, bought a considerable amount. Edgett went off to New York and succeeded in getting several parties to bid. The fixtures were struck off at only $550 to Freeman Mulford, of Millville, and the curtain fell. The questions arise:
First: Why did the directors refuse to allow an election to the stockholders after the charter was obtained?
Second. Why did they not send the canned fruit to be auctioneered in New York?
If they had studied to sacrifice the interests of the stockholders, they could not have done it more effectually. This is a great blow to Vineland. It gives me more work to do. The evil must be remedied in some way.
In the evening called upon the Wilson family. Had a pleasant talk. Whilst I was in the house and my servant was in the back kitchen sparking, my horse broke loose and ran home with the wagon. It was reported at once to Beacham, who I found at the door with another horse and wagon. I knew nothing of the affair until I found Beacham. Retired and slept well.
Feb. 12, '68.
Morning clear, weather moderating. Thought about the canning factory before getting up. Endeavored to explain to my mind the conduct of the directors of the canning factory. Was it designing knavery or carelessness and indifference to the interests of the stockholders ?
Colonel Bostwick called. Talked about railroad business, also about the canning factory. It is his opinion that ''these directors designed to swallow the thing," as he called it. That the only strangers there were brought by Edgett, and if they had not come they would have got the articles at their own prices. If this was not the design, that they would have advertised in New York, etc. He may be right, but it appears to me more than suicidal that men should sacrifice their characters for mere gain. Yet we too often see it. In my mind I am undecided.
Cortis called and told me that the directors of the canning company had not paid the rent. I told him to make the rent. There shall be no trifling.
Mr. Gage came yesterday and presented me a petition to Congress. First: To reduce the army to 20,000 men. To reduce general taxes and encourage home industry, which I signed. He came again today, and when I reflected that such a reduction of men would kindle another war in the South, I wanted my name off. He tried to delay about it. Pretended that he had not the petition. I sent Beacham to follow him out. He followed him to the Post Office. Saw Gage place the document upon the table for signatures, when he walked up and ran a pen through my name. Mr. Gage did not like this, and wrote opposite my name, "Mr. Landis wants his name off." It would have been of no importance to me, only that my name was first, and many of my friends would have signed it. It would be fatal to the peace of our country to reduce the army at the present time.
In the afternoon looked at my new house. Drove out for several miles with Dr. McClintock's son, Theodore.
Forgot to mention yesterday that I dictated a large number of letter to Davis.
Read a little today. "The Independent'' is out with an article praising me for what I have done. "Good will of a dog," etc.
Received a long letter from Dr. Hayes, of East Vineland, about marketing fruit. Gave it to "The Weekly" and wrote an article for "The Weekly" recommending a fruit growers' convention to settle upon rates, terms with the railroad, about return boxes and other questions. This is of great importance because this year I do not employ a special agent to attend to this matter at my expense. Heretofore I have done this at great expense. I think now that the child must try and stand upon its legs without being held up. It can do it.
Retired early and slept well.
Feb. 13, '68. Weather clear and moderating.
Letter came from Nixon stating that a bill had been introduced into the House for the purpose of setting Landis Township off from Cumberland County to Atlantic County. This is in retaliation for the Republicans last winter setting Pittsgrove Township off from Salem into Cumberland. This latter was a sensible measure, as by reference to the map it will be seen that the geographical situation required it. This is not the case with Landis Township, but the reverse. The Democrats, however, feel a small spite against the Yankees who have made them rich in this section as well as the others. In this movement they are about as magnanimous as a mouse. It will really make no difference, but if they are to do it they may as well set off the Yankees into a county by themselves.
Mr. House called. He also received a letter from "Nixon. The new county idea is an old one with us, but the trouble is to make it agreeable to the Democrats. John Kandle was at House's office, who is a talking fellow, but not influential. I told House to get Turner to come in and bring Kande with him as he is a member of the Township Committee from the upper end of the township. Samuel Hand came in with them. Colonel Bostwick was also in the office at the time. We talked the matter over. Kandle would have made a perfect botch of the business by propositions of adding Democratic townships to the proposed county. Their only gain will be in making it exclusively Republican in order to get rid of the Republican vote in Atlantic, Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem. I suggested that Hammonton Township be added and the Democratic townships be left out. This may secure us the county. I will prepare a description. Told Turner to draw up the bill. We talked over the name Enterprise, New Era, Summerland and several other names suggested, but nothing decided upon. I think that I had better go to Trenton on Monday night.
Went on a ride in the morning with Captain Wilson to the Blackwater muck ponds, and in the afternoon with Marcus Fry to the Parvin Branch muck pond. These are ponds that I have drained at my own expense in order to give muck to the people. This enables them to get an excellent fertilizer for the mere labor. I endeavored to introduce the use of muck in Hammonton, but the people would not take hold of it. They now use it. I introduced the use of it five years ago in Vineland. Ellis tried it thoroughly. The results have been wonderful. I have dug a number of miles of drains and thousands of loads are carted. This single item has given employment to all the teams the entire winter. Given employment to hundreds of men, and every load hauled upon the land is worth six times the cost of getting it there. Tfind my profit in the success and prosperity of the settlers. The crops will, no doubt, be large this year.
I have a bill in the Legislature this winter which requires the overseers of roads in Landis and Buena Vista townships to drain the swamp lands and assess it upon the property holders owning the land. This will redeem our swamp lands and open up all the muck beds. This is necessary because where other owners were in my way sometimes they would not do their proportion of work in order to compel me to do it for them and to get it for nothing. In several instances I have had to succumb to this outrageous selfishness from considerations of the public good. I think the swamp bill will pass.
Sold two lots for a sash factory. Disposed of the old Blackwater farm to an Englishman by the name of Finner. He says that he will make a good improvement. I was glad to make the sale, as it has been quite dull.
In the evening attended an exhibition given by the Episcopal Church for the purpose of raising a fund for a parsonage. Remained until half past ten o'clock. What I saw of it was very poor. A number of articles were for sale, made up by the ladies. I bought a sofa cushion for $10, made by Miss Carrie Willson.