Communication from Addison G. McKee
In reply to a request for his recollections of early Vineland, Mr. McKee, now of Wallingford, Conn., writes the Editor in part as follows:
At one time soon after I arrived I worked in a grocery in the west basement of Roberts' Block, kept by Burton Cole, and boarded with him at the southeast corner of Sixth street and Landis avenue. Mr. Roberts was a small man and lived next door west from the residence of William A. House, Landis and East avenues. I remember Mechanics' Hall, (now Grand Army Hall) and went to every dance while I was there. At first dances were held in the room (Union Hall), over the Railway Station. The foundation of Plum Street Hall were a foot or so above the ground (December 1865) and entirely hidden from the street by bushes and trees. After it was one story and covered by a roof we held everything there.
I remember Pardon Gifford very well. James Chance, also his wife, who was a daughter of Thomas Cortis—I called to see them when I was in Vineland in 1890. They then lived down on the Boulevard and he kept a coal yard.
Almost as soon as I got to Vineland, William A. House got me into the Episcopal Church Vestry as secretary. I do not remember anything about their doings, except that Col. Wrotrowsky, a brother-in-law of Rev. Chubbuck, the pastor, came down stairs one day, he was a civil engineer, into House and Turner's office and asked me to go upstairs, I did so and he laid out some bonds, which had been authorized to be issued by the church, and asked me to sign them as secretary, which I did. I have no further recollection of them, but no doubt they were sold and later paid. They also got me in their quartette choir—E. G. Fowler was tenor; Bill Ingalls, of South Vineland, soprano; William A. House, alto; E. L. Hughing, bass. He was afterwards killed by the cars at Newark. I cannot now recall where I came in, but most likely I was tenor also, as I was a very high "C" tenor. Miss Fannie Willson was organist, and later Miss Hattie Gay succeeded her.
Very soon after that the Vineland Choral Society was organized. The town was full of musical talent. We met in the hall over the Railway Station. E. G. Fowler was the leader and a very talented one. Mrs. Chubbuck was pianist, and she was a star. We sang nothing but opera choruses. The outsiders packed the hall to hear us, so we had to admit members by ticket. I was secretary of that also and had tickets printed and signed them as secretary.
Later on we organized a Negro Minstrel Company, and we had a good one. The West Jersey Male Quartette did the singing and it was better than the average male quartette. E. G. Fowler and I were tenors; James and Hughing, bass; John Read played a violin; Mr. Felton, a quiet dignified man, was a good flute player.
I must tell you about our brass band. Mr. Landis was always offering prizes for different things, and one day offered a prize of fifty dollars for the first brass band. There was a man living in South Vineland, named George M. Dittoe who had belonged to a band in Cincinnatti, who had brought his old copper key bugle with him. He said to me, "We want that fifty dollars." There were very few men available. I was ready for anything, but knew no more about playing a brass horn than a tenyear-old girl. I don't think I had ever touched one, yet they received me joyously. There was E. L. Hughing, W. L. James,. Albert E. Davies, Jr., and myself, that is all I can recall. We had no horns and Hughing and I went to Philadelphia. Hughing had a $1000 Government Bond with him and we went to Jay Cooke's and sold it. I had no money and did not need any while the thousand lasted. We got a "horn" of beer at most every corner and had a joyous time until I reminded him of what we came to Philadelphia for, then we went to a second-hand store on Second or Fourth street and soon we have been seen marching to the Camden ferry with horns hung all over us. We practiced in Mrs. Hughing's kitchen, a very small room, but it would hold all the music we made. When we thought we could keep in the middle of the street we started out one evening. Fowler begged to be allowed to join, but we had no horn, so we gave him an old one without a mouthpiece and he marched along as grand as you please with his cheeks puffed out and going through all the motions. After a while we decided the physcological time had come to get the money.
Note: Whether the first band fulfilled all the requirements necessary to obtain the prize is doubtful, for although they no doubt did their best, and accepted Mr. Landis' hospitability, Mr. McKee adds, "We never got that fifty."
I forgot to tell you about my Uncle going to Vineland. He was one of the first to buy land west of the railroad. His ambition was not great so he only bought two and a half acres unfortunately. He supposed he was buying a small farm, but he found a little later he had bought on Landis avenue, within the city limits, on the corner of Third street. He rushed to the Land Office and told Mr. Landis he supposed he was buying a farm and he could not build on all the lots. Mr. Landis said, "That's all right, Mr. Graves, you bought them fair enough and the lots are yours." That was a God-send to Mr. Graves as he hadn't much. When I was there he had built four houses, had sold two and lived in one. I will never forget the day I landed in Vineland (September 21, 1865). I wanted to find my Uncle, Mr. Graves, and asked George Felton to direct me, and he did. I started out in the middle of the street (Landis avenue) for there was no sidewalk, only a path. The ground clear to the alleged road was covered with melons. George Pearson was digging in front of his house. No fence, and I hailed him with, "You must have honest people down here! to leave your watermelons out in the road! Hud". He came back at me, "Those ain't watermelons, they are pie melons."
In the evenings my Uncle took me out to view the town. You could view it all right for there were bonfires everywhere burning stumps. I'll never forget one down East Avenue, where Captain Linnekin was burning stumps getting ready to build a big house.
Now I will tell you about the first G. A. R. Post in Vineland. In 1867, the Postmaster of Camden, Captain , came down and made known he wanted to organize a Post of the new society called the "Grand Army." He skirmished around and got half a dozen or so. I can recall the name of Captain C P. Lord, Captain Wilson, one of Mr. Landis' agents. Thomas Cortis, the constable, who lived on the north side of Landis Avenue, west of West Avenue, and I think a fine young fellow, Agnew by name, but I am not sure about him, and myself. I cannot now recall very much, but remember he took us up into the parlor of the Magnolia House, and grouped us around a chair, gave us the "obligation" and we received a charter as Post 7.
The organization was so top heavy with politics that it did not last long, and was disbanded. It was reorganized and Captain Lord was the comrade we elected Commander. We then met in Plum Street Hall. I can recall that the Ritual required the use of a coffin which disappeared when the reorganization took place.
Now about the strawberries. To the best of my recollection, the first shipment of any account was in May, 1865. The farmers held a meeting in Union Hall, which was packed. I wanted to do the shipping and was there. One farmer brought a basket of beautiful berries, for which I offered him a dollar. I got them, also a good advertisement and the shipping of the crop for the season. I was enthusiastic and wide awake, but shy on business lore. When the season was over, not being able to hear from my consignees, I went to New York. I did not see them, but met a man who seemed to represent them and he showed me a statement in detail for each shipment and gave me a check for twelve or fifteen hundred dollars. On my return I banked the check with House and Turner and with monumental cheek, established myself in the parlor of the Magnolia House and sent out word for my shippers to come. They came. I do not believe there was a statement in which they had not returned false figures. For instance: 24 quarts in a crate, where I shipped 36 quarts, and so on. I was a boy and did not know what to do. It made trouble. What I did was this. I gave my check to every farmer for just whatever quantity he claimed he sent. It wiped out every dollar I had in the bank, but it gave me good credit with the farmers and I was invited to handle their crop the next season, but one year was enough and I respectfully declined.