Early Settlers of Vineland, West of Malaga Road
Mrs. Mary E. Schley
On the north side of Landis Avenue, east of Mr. Gerow's farm, was a small place of 2>y 2 acres occupied by an Englishman by the name of Fenna. He cultivated some very handsome shrubbery and trees. He left the place and moved into town. After a time it came into the possession of George Fish, a son of Winslow Fish. He pulled down the old house and erected a handsome brick one in its place. The place has received excellent cultivation and its products have materially aided him in supporting a family of eleven children. At the present writing Mr. Fish resides on his place, although he has spent many years as a cutter in a shoe factory.
East of Mr. Fish's farm extending to Malaga is an unoccupied lot bought by a Mr. Hazelwood, an absentee owner. It is now owned by Mr. George Fish. The house has been removed. At the intersection of Malaga Road and Landis Avenue one-fourth of an acre of land was left in each corner to be converted into a public park. A hedge of arbor vitae was planted about these squares, but no trees were set out. These were reserved by the town for public purposes and were part of the plan of the founder of Vineland for beautifying the public thoroughfares.
On August 8th, 1868, I attended a celebration in honor of Vineland's seventh birthday. It was held in the park. At that time the park grounds were nearly in their native wildness. There were speakers from Philadelphia. These gentlemen told of the great achievements during the past seven years and indulged in much flowery language and many happy auguries for the future. They quite convinced me that the name of Vineland would shortly appear on the map of New Jersey. Some funny things were said of the seven-year old child which never had a mother, but had grown in strength and beauty under the father's assiduous care. This was before the marriage of Mr. Landis. I soon after left the place and did not return for two years, not until 1870.
I was glad to leave the sand of Vineland and look again upon green grass, hills and mountains. There was nothing on the tract that could be dignified with the name of hill. There were some slight elevations of ground, but the landscape was exceedingly monotonous. The few streams of water moped along over low, swampy ground, spreading out on each side and loitering over every slight obstruction as if getting to the end of its journey was a matter of no moment. It would seem that living on such a dead level would in time affect the minds of the people. Hills and valleys, rapids and waterfalls rouse the energies, the imagination; mountains stir the strongest feelings. But in the absence of these, will not the human race become mediocre in thought and feeling, ceasing to find inspiration from their surroundings, or feeling aspiration towards that which is above and beyond them?
In 1870 a new brick school house two stories in height had been built on Orchard Road, midway between Chestnut and Landis Avenues, in a grove of native trees. An acre of ground mostly on the west side of Orchard Road was presented by John Gage for the purpose. At my mother's earnest entreaty I cancelled my engagements in Michigan and returned here. The two years of my absence had wrought considerable change. More roads had been gravelled and were smooth and hard. New roads were laid out and graded.
Sidewalks extended west beyond Orchard Road. Peach, pear and apple trees had begun to bear fruit. There were some patches of grass. Vineyards of Concord grapes were yielding a quality of fruit that had already given them precedence over other grapes in the New York and Philadelphia markets. From ten to fifteen cents a pound was realized by shippers after deducting all charges for freight and commission. Blackberries, raspberries and strawberries brought good prices in the city markets. Commission men bought products at the station and shipped on their own account. Sweet potatoes acquired a reputation, which at this writing they still hold, as excelling all others in the market. A considerable increase in population had taken place. The founder of Vineland had married and at last the place had a mother.
Several school houses had been built. With true New England forethought early provision was made for the education of youth. The building in which I was to teach was still unfinished when school opened. District 44 included the borough, an outlying school on Wheat Road and the school on Orchard Road. The last took in all pupils west of Malaga. There were three trustees, one of whom was elected district clerk. The examination of teachers took place in August. Only two of the many teachers assembled passed first grade examinations. Mr. Charles Kingman, a brother of Mrs. D. C. Gerow, and myself. Mr. Kingman did not teach in Vineland. Dr. Ingram was district clerk.
When I entered my school room I found the pupils of all ages and grades. One young lady wished to read Horace and take an advanced course, another wished to begin Latin, and so on through all grades to the little one of five who entered a school room for 1 the first time. It taxed my skill and energies to reduce this heterogeneous mass into an orderly system. There were German pupils who had not yet mastered the English language. All were good-natured and helpful; together we succeeded in making a record for faithful and efficient work. Some pupils came from outside the district. We closed our spring term with an exhibition, which the trustees desired to have repeated in the borough. There were reasons why it seemed best to decline this proposal. During this year I became acquainted with many more of the residents of West Vineland.
West of Orchard Road on the North side of Landis Avenue were two houses with an acre of ground attached to each. The corner house was the home of a young man, Jacob Davison, who came from Michigan and bought here in 1862. His wife was the daughter of Mr. William Bush, who occupied the second house. They had two children. Mr. Davison worked at his trade, that of a carpenter. In 1877 he returned to Michigan. In 18 the place was sold to John
B. Laighton, a retired Baptist minister, who sought health in this locality. Mr. Laighton was from New Hampshire. His family consisted of himself, wife, a daughter and three sons. Mr. Laighton canvassed for books and other articles. He died in
Mr. William Bush owned and occupied the second house west of Orchard. He came to Vineland in 1862 and bought land on Landis Avenue and Almond Road. He and his wife were both invalids. One of his sons resided with him. One daughter was the wife of Jacob Davison, another married Ezra Bailey. Mr. Bush had two sons and three daughters. They came from Michigan. Many invalids sought Vineland, hoping to find in its healthful breezes, pure water and mild climate relief from their ailments. In many instances beneficial results followed. The ocean breeze is exceptionally invigorating. The water is clear, pure, soft and abundant. Wells are dug from twelve to sixty feet in depth. These wells yield never-failing supplies of water. The whole ground acts as a filter, removing impurities. Nature has provided so bountiful a supply of water, has made it of so delicious a quality, the people of the place can well afford to eschew stronger beverages, and vote each year for no license. No wonder Vineland is a temperance town. But some invalids come in whom organic lesion has taken place to an extent impossible for ocean breezes or pure water to benefit.
"Because the sick are not all cured, therefore medicine is no art," says Cicero. Would it be equally true to deny the virtues of ocean breezes, pure water and mild climate because the sufferings of all are not alleviated?
The third place on the north side of Landis Avenue consisted of three and a half acres with Little Robin running across it. It was purchased in 1862 of Landis by John Apsley. In 1864 he sold to Henry Wing. Mr. Wing came from Albion, Mich., where he had been teaching in the high school. He was accompanied by his invalid wife, a daughter of eleven, and a son younger. The daughter thus describes their arrival: "We alighted from the cars in the evening of December 31, 1864. My father hired a man to drive us a mile and a half to the home of my grandfather, Mr. Durkee. The man thought he knew the way, and drove us a mile and a half east. He then found he had taken the wrong way, and we all returned to Vineland. The man had one of the 'horse frames' that were used here, and the poor animal was much exhausted. We now drove west. My father walked. At eleven o'clock in the evening we arrived at my grandfather's house, wet and nearly perished with cold. The rain added much to our discomfort." A concrete house was built by Mr. Wing on his farm. He was a skilled workman and found employment in the Kimball and Prince shops, doing the fine work. Mrs. Wing was a daughter of Mr. Durkee. She was troubled with spinal disease and amused herself with fancy work. She was fond of society, and her husband would bring her in the wheelbarrow to spend a day with my mother. Mr. Wing sometimes attended the debating society of my pupils. The side upon which he spoke considered itself fortunate. Mr. Wing sold his place and moved into the borough. Afterwards he moved to Boston and died there. His wife survived him several years, married again and died in 1904.
The daughter became the wife of William Allen, to whom I am indebted for the following narrative:
"My father came from Woodstock, Vt, the 13th day of February, 1862. His trade was that of a carpenter. He took contracts and built houses. When he came there were no finished houses on the Vineland tract. Two houses were begun, one on Main Road built by Captain Post; the other on the south side of Landis Avenue, west of Malaga, built by Gilbert Washburn, of Woodstock, Vt. My father built on the north side of Landis Avenue, west of Orchard Road. The avenue was chopped over from Main Road to the swamp, but the stumps were still standing. On alighting at the Vineland station the family stepped upon a platform thirty feet in length and eight in breadth, uncovered, and surrounded on every side by woods. My father's first stop was at the Sharp place. There were nine children in the family. My mother had been dead several years. She died in 1854. Two of my brothers were killed in the Civil War. I was nine years old at the time of my mother's death. My father worked at his trade. My sister Augusta died. My other sisters were married. My brother Charles married Alice Spangler and went to Kansas City. My father died in 1882.
"In April, 1862, Mr. Dempster Clark, a brother of my mother, came to Vineland and bought five acres from the west side of my father's farm. This land lay next to the swamp of Little Robin. Mr. Clark and his wife came from White River Junction, Queechy Run, Vt. He built a house in 1863. This swamp contained a great variety of flowering trees and bushes. Bright mosses grew luxuriously, tempting the unwary to step upon what appeared solid ground, but proved only mire slightly covered. Magnolia trees, dogwood, and, on a little higher ground, the laurel flourished in profusion. Wintergreens and wild berries abounded. Here grew in abundance that loveliest of flowers, the star-shaped pyxidantherra, the flower of the fairies. "Pixie," the children called it, and gathered its delicate flowers and pink-tinted buds to adorn themselves. This swamp was a rich field for a botanist. Mr. Clark died. His wife left the place, and the premises fell into a ruinous condition."