Early Settlers of Vineland, West of Malaga Road

Mrs. Mary E. Schley


In 1883 the Clark place was purchased by Mrs. Sharp, widow of the man who invented Sharp's rifles. She built a very pretty little house and moved into it. She was not alone. With her were Mr. Robinson, his blind mother, his sister, Mrs. Charles Reynolds, who was deaf and very much of an invalid and a great sufferer; Mr. Charles Reynolds, the husband, and their son, Ansel Reynolds. Mrs. Robinson, wife of Mr. Robinson, remained in Philadelphia. She was a spiritualist, a medium. Mr. Sharp had been a spiritualist, has helped these people and left them to the care of Mrs. Sharp. Mr. Reynolds was considered a good actor and could command good wages, but had left the stage. In the spring of 1884, Mrs. Sharp married Mr. Winslow Fish and with her son, a youth of seventeen, went to reside in his family. Mrs. Robinson, the medium, died. Mr. Robinson became blind. The house had passed into the possession of a married niece, who did what she could to aid her relatives. After a time it was thought best for them to be removed to the County House. Here they remained until the death of the elder Mrs. Robinson, when they returned. Mrs. Reynolds died and then her brother, Mr. Robinson. Mr. Robinson had become blind.

They spoke very highly of the treatment received at the County House. Mrs. Robinson said it was like living at a hotel. Whatever of repugnance there may be in the thought of ending one's life in such a place, in lying in an unknown and unmarked grave, reason, philosophy and religion teach the fallacy, the hopelessness, the impossibility of making ours "One of the few, the immortal names that were not born to die," why then should we not, when misfortune and necessity compel, accept with cheerful thankfulness the public provision, close our eyes in peace and, "Wrapping the drapery of our couch about us, lie down to pleasant dreams" ?

West of Little Robin Swamp on slightly rising ground James E. Dodge had located. He came to Vineland in 1865 and bought seventeen acres of land on the north side of Landis Avenue. His family consisted of himself, his wife, a son and a daughter. They came from near Utica, N. Y. Mr. Dodge had been engaged in mercantile pursuits and found farming unprofitable. The soil west of Little Robin is very light, loose sand. In farmers' phraseology, it leaches. No fertilizer remains in the soil for the use of plants, but filters down as successive rains fall upon it.

West of Mill Road, on the north side of Landis Avenue, Mr. John Faunce purchased a farm and built a house. With his wife and three children he came to Vineland in 1862. He was from Woodstock, Vermont. He bought of Landis and in 1865 built a house. He worked at his trade, that of a carpenter. He sold to Dr. Mann, who came from Bedford, Pa. No buildings were erected or farms cultivated west of the Faunce place.

On the south side of Landis Avenue west of Orchard Road, the first house was occupied by Mr. Davis, who came from Vermont. He bought of Landis in the early part of 1862 and sold to Mr. Durkee in the fall of the same year. Mr. Durkee resided several years on the place. His wife was dead but his daughter resided with him. He sold out and after a time the farm came into the possession of B. C. Skinner. He rebuilt and enlarged the house, put up a barn and rented the farm for several years. It was finally sold to Jonathan Carter, a native of New Jersey.

On the south side of Landis Avenue, near Mill Road, George Matthews, of Maine, bought of C. K. Landis twenty acres of land in 1862. He was a young man without family and did team work for those who did not keep horses. At first he boarded with the Clark family, but finally went to live with Daniel Gerow. Here he was taken sick and died. He deeded his land to D. C. Gerow. It has never been cultivated.

West of Mill Road, opposite the Faunce place, on the south side of Landis Avenue, lived Mr. Spangler. He bought of Landis in 1866. He came from Ohio with his invalid wife and five children. In Ohio he had carried on a large business as a cooper. He worked at his trade and also cleared his land. He raised watermelons. In company with Mr. Skinner's people, my mother and myself were invited there to eat watermelons. It was the summer of 1868. Accustomed to the melons raised in northern New York, these were a surprise, a revelation. Size and quality were wonderful. The soil was new, the season favorable and an enormous crop had been raised. They were readily sold at good prices in the city markets. Mr. Spangler's daughter, Alice, became the wife of Charles Allen and went to Kansas. The eldest son went West. The next son became a printer and settled in Camden. Both Mr. and Mrs. Spangler are dead. For a number of years Mrs. Spangler was supported by her youngest daughter, Emma, whose filial care is deserving of recognition.

Many people wanted to sell after trying ineffectually to make a living by raising fruit. Notices with "For Sale"' on them were numerous, but customers could not afford to pay the prices demanded. The owners had bought when land, lumber and labor brought high prices. Many of the original purchasers sold their holdings. From Malaga Road to the river every piece of property changed proprietors. Mr. Richardson's place on the corner of Landis and Malaga passed into the possession of Mr. Hendee. He sold to Edwin Manks in 1890. Mr. Manks built a fine house, put up a wind mill for pumping water and made many improvements. In 1895 he sold to Mr. Patterson, of Philadelphia. Two years later Mr. Patterson sold to Mr. Tronnem, of Norwegian birth. The Fenna place, after passing through other hands, became the property of George Fish, son of Winslow Fish. For many years he was employed in the shoe factory as cutter. He built a substantial brick house where he now resides.

About 1874 Mr. Winslow Fish sold to his sister, Mrs. Lydia Fenn, one-fourth of an acre of ground, upon which she built a house.

I am indebted to Mr. William Walker for the following narrative:

"My father, Calvin Walker, came from Wilmington, Windham County, Vt. He was a shoemaker by trade and nearly fifty years of age when he married my mother, Mary H. Mellen. They went to Massachusetts to live. I was born in Franklin County not far from Hoosick tunnel. In February, 1864, my father started for Vineland. He had twenty miles to travel by stage before reaching the station at Brattleboro. Snow lay on the ground several feet in depth. Fences were invisible. It took six and eight horses to pull through. Arrived in Vineland he found bare ground and people plowing. That settled him. In February, 1864, he purchased ten acres of land on the south side of Almond Road, west of Orchard. There were then thirteen families on Almond Road. He could find no place nearer town. On the 17th of September, 1864, we moved here. The hotel was the old Landis House. Mother was very ill with headache. We went to a boarding house on the corner of Elmer and the Boulevard. The proprietor's wife gave up her own room to mother. The town was a wilderness. Our land was still in timber. Mr. Landis sold, the land, but the timber belonged to Mr. Wood, of Millville. If the settler wished to retain the timber he paid separately for it. If not retained Mr. Wood sent choppers to remove the timber. Stumps were in the road. Everything was to be cleared. Brush was everywhere. We built a house and prepared the ground for planting. Prices were high. The settlement of Vineland was better than a gold mine to nurserymen. Father paid sixty dollars for five hundred grape vines and twenty-five dollars per hundred for blackberry plants. The roots of these plants were cut in small pieces, having one bud on each piece. They planted more ground when thus divided. Sweet potatoes were planted. Raspberries and strawberries started. Our first crop of blackberries sold for fifty cents per quart and our raspberries for sixty cents per quart. They were packed in baskets holding one-third quart in each. But provisions of all kinds were high. Butter was sixty cents per pound and other things in proportion. Our farming was fairly prosperous. Prices of the fruit declined with increase of production, but the cost of living became less. People raised many things that at first were very expensive, and sometimes not to be obtained at any price. The native Jersey people had little faith in the success of Vineland. One of them asked my father if he had come here to starve. He said the Vineland people would all be starved out, and asked if my father did not go to bed hungry. Father died in July, 1880. Mother died in 1899. I still live on the place. I married and have two children. After a few years it was only the first part of a berry crop that paid the trouble of raising. The last part either barely paid expenses, or brought the shipper in debt. Sweet potatoes declined in price until little was left after paying fertilizer bills. I worked as a cutter in the shoe factory until my health required a change. Then I built quite an extensive hennery and tried raising chickens. I did not fail in any of these operations, but my success was not equal to my wishes. I am now United States mail agent for one of the rural districts/'

In 1862 Mr. Shaw purchased on the north side of Almond Road west of Orchard. He was from Maine. He built a house, in which he lived, but never brought his family. Health was the motive of his residence here. In 1863 he sold to Mr. Ames. Mr. Ames was from Massachusetts. He was also seeking health. His family remained in Massachusetts. The house built by Mr. Shaw was of concrete and was blown down by the whirlwind of 1878. In 1865 Mr. Robert Walker bought ten acres on the south side of Almond Road, between the (arm of Calvin W r alker and Orchard Road. lie served during the Civil War. was discharged in 1865, worked a short time in a Philadelphia seed store, then came to Vineland. pre built a small house, cleared his ground and planted it to fruit. He married a lady in the borough, enlarged his house and soon after purchased the Ames property. IK' put the farm in fruit and sweet potatoes, built a commodious house and seemed to prosper in his farming. Later he enlarged the house and resided in it until his death in 1898. Later his widow resided on the place and managed the farming.

Mr. Nathaniel Haines, of Buffalo, N. Y., with his widowed daughter, Mrs. Manly, and her two children, came to Vineland in 1863. He purchased on the northwest corner of Almond and Orchard Roads and built a house sixteen feet by fourteen feet Mr. Haines was an invalid and came for health. A son, a dentist, came but remained only a short time. The son died soon after his return to Buffalo. The old gentleman's health did not improve. He would walk around, then lie down on the sand to rest. In the summer the sand becomes very hot, perhaps not to the same extent as the sands of Egypt and Sahara, but sufficiently to penetrate shoes and stockings. Mr. Haines did not understand this, and one hot day lay down and fell alsleep. When he awoke his bald head was badly blistered. He died in the spring of 1864. Mrs. Manly and her children returned to Buffalo. The house was occupied by Calvin Walker and family while building their own. It is now a ruin.

Mr. Crowell bought on the north side of Almond Road, between Orchard and Mill. He built a house and barn. While digging a well, at the depth of twelve feet the quicksand commenced caving in upon the man at the bottom. It was several hours before the body could be extricated and life was extinct. Mr. Crowell sold ten acres on the east side of his farm to Mrs. Howard, of Watetrown, N. Y., and her sister, Mrs. Dille, of Washington, D. C. It was the intention of Judge Dille and his wife to make a place to which they could retire for rest and quiet when weary of the city's turmoil. Mrs. Howard was to remain in Vineland. A few years' trial proved the fallacy of their expectations. Mr. Dille died and his wife remained in Washington. Every winter Mrs. Howard went north to stay with her son. In the spring she would return for the fruits, but she grew more infirm and died in her son's home. She was philosophic in her modes of thought and wished her body interred among the poor in "God's acre." Her desire was not gratified. Her body was borne to Brookside cemetery and laid beside her husband and children. Mrs. Dille died a few years later in Washington. The farm went to ruin. A tenant carelessly set the house on fire and burned it to the ground. Mr. Crowell sold the remaining five acres of his land to Mr. Thorpe, of Cleveland, Ohio. He built a house and brought his family. Mr. Walker describes them as altogether too "high toned" to live in the brush. They left in a year, the place passing into the possession of Mr. Shaeffer in 1866. Mr. Shaeffer sold out in 1870 and went West. At this time the place belongs to Cuno Becker, of Vineland.