In some degree every person who has made Vineland their home is indebted to the pioneers and early settlers, who in the early days of the settlement laid the foundation of the beautiful and prosperous place it has since become.
Few of the present generation ever think of the privileges and benefits they now enjoy as the result of the labor and sacrifice of others. The feeling of gratitude and obligation seldom if ever enters their mind. There are however a few individuals who take an interest in the past and are glad to learn of those who once peopled the community in which they live. For them and others who have a general interest in history and biography, and for the preservation of the facts recorded here, this account is written.
The writer makes no pretensions to literary ability and it is with some reluctance he attenpts to portray the life and work of the men and women who won for Vineland the reputation of being the literary centre of South Jersey. Those qualified to write, who in well rounded sentences and faultless diction can make the past live again in pleasing story and delightful reading, have neither the time nor inclination to engage in such work. The various activities and engagements of the day, the pursuit and acquisition of riches, the love of pleasure and ease, with the lack of incentive, preclude in a large measure more than a passing thought of those who lived, moved and took an active part in the former life of Vineland.
To a person interested in gathering and preserving the records of the past, it has seemed worth while, in default of a more capable biographer, to place in an enduring form some account of the residents of Vineland who have devoted more or less of their time and effort to study, scientific investigation and writing, and have given the result of their thought and research to the public.
The story of Vineland's early settlement is unique in the annals of South Jersey. A large tract of land, practically a wilderness, covering thousands of acres, came into the possession of one man, who with large executive ability, saw the possibilities awaiting development, and with faith in himself proceeded to work out a cherished ideal-a model town with broad well shaded streets, divided into small farms and village lots, to become the home of a contented and happy people.
As the advantages of location, climate, water, and a soil adapted to the growth of small fruit, became known, people from New England, the Middle States and elsewhere came to the new settlement, to see, to buy and locate within its borders.
The class of settlers who became inhabitants were above the average, among them were persons of superior intelligence and culture. As the town grew in size and numbers, churches and schools were established, societies organized, and as business improved, its desirability as a place of residence became more and more manifest, retired professional men with their families sought and found homes in the growing and prosperous settlement.
While Vineland cannot boast of any of the great names to be found on the pages of history, science and literature, it may claim some who are widely known and whose life and writings have influenced and benefited mankind.
It is of these men and women, most of whom were numbered among the writers friends and acquaintances, that he proposes to place on record, that their names and achievements may not be entirely forgotten in the community in which they lived.
The Civil War with all its attendant horrors of strife and bloodshed had barely commenced when on the eighth of August, 1861, amid the peace and quietness of the forest Vineland came into being. The man who on that eventful day took the first steps in laying out an ideal town was a broad-minded, far-seeing young man of twenty-six years who undertook the self-appointed task with the energy and determination to succeed that admits of no defeat. That he and his associates were successful is evident to anyone who sees Vineland today.
Had Charles K. Landis, the founder of Vineland, been less engrossed in the many problems involved in building a town he could have developed a talent he possessed and have become a successful writer, as anyone may see who has read his journal now being published in this magazine. Those who have heard him address an audience may remember the inflection and persuasiveness of his voice, the clearness of description, the beauty and purity of language and charm and dignity of manner.
Mr. Landis not only made it possible in opening up the wilderness for habitation, but desirable to settle in a new country, the early purchaser having the choice of location.
Among the first visitors was Capt. Samuel F. Holbrook, a veteran of the Seas, who at first, very much dissatisfied with the appearance of the prospective settlement, was soon induced by the faithand enthusiasm of Mr. Landis to purchase a 10 acre farm. On settling here he became one of Vineland's most enthusiastic citizens. While Capt. Holbrook was more of a sailor than author, his auto-biography has been published giving an account of a most interesting career.
Among the pioneers who came to the new settlement in 1862, were Henry S. Spaulding and his talented wife, Anna Marie (McMahan) Spaulding, who gifted in poesy, after six months wrote:
"The very name of Vineland charms,
The weary one elsewhere,
The beauty of its meaning warms,
Desire to breath its air."
Although a native of Pennsylvania, where she was born, November 20, 1835, Mrs. Spaulding's girlhood was spent in Illinois. Her school teacher was Miss Lucy Larcom, a Massachusetts woman of pronounce literary ability who later became distinguished as a poetess. Her natural ability to write was doubtless strengthened by her association with Miss Larcom whom she afterwards met at the Monticello Female Seminary, where both were engaged in teaching.
In 1855 she married Henry S. Spaulding and settled in Alton, Illinois. Later they moved to Lewisburg, Penn. and from there came to Vineland in the month of June, 1862. The seeds of consumption were alreadly fastened upon Mrs. Spaulding and it was hoped the change to a milder climate would prove beneficial to her health.
The Civil War soon called her husband into the army, and she, at the home of her father on East Avenue wrote verses of patriotism to cheer and inspire him and his comrades on the tented field. With failing health, her dreams of fame, when riper intellectual power developed, slowly faded as she realized it was not for her to experience the fulfilment of her cherished hopes and ideals. With due recognition of what was to be, and desiring to leave some tangible proof of her presence in friendly hearts and homes when folded away in invisibility, she collected her poems, fifty of a patriotic nature, and over one hundred other forming in all a book of nearly three hundred pages, which with a dedication to the Founder of Vineland, was published in 1865, the first of a long list of the publications by Vineland authors.
Mrs. Spaulding, Vineland's first poetess, weary from long suffering passed from this life to that unknown realm, whither we are all moving, November 16, 1865.
A worthy tribute was paid to her memory by Dr. J. A. Conwell, Ex-Mayor of Vineland, Chairman of the Dedicatory exercises on the Completion of Landis Avenue, October 20, 1922, in having Mrs. Spaulding's poems on "Vineland" read on that occasion. The reader, Hon. John A. Ackley, was in excellent voice and rendered the verses in an impressive and feeling manner.
"Brothers and sisters we become,
On touching Vineland sod,
Inmates of one expansive home
Children of one time God."
Three score years and ten is said to be the span of life. How few attain that number? What then shall we think of over seventy years spent in study, educational work and literary pursuits? This we may claim for Prof. Marcus Willson, one of Vineland's most eminent citizens.
Prof. Willson was born in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts, December 8, 1813. He graduated at Union College in 1836, and engaged in teaching. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1839, expecting to make the law his profession, but owing to the failure of his voice through a bronchial affection from which he was several months in recovering, he resumed his earlier profession of teaching. From his experience as a teacher he conceived of a succession of school books in graded series. He explained his plan to Harper Brothers of New York who engaged him on his own terms, gave him an office in their building, and for five years he devoted his time to that project. When published the books met with favor and his royalties brought him from that source $240,000. His first visit to Vineland was to purchase a farm for his son Pierpont. He was so well pleased with the place that in 1866 he decided to make it his permanent home. He built a handsome residence amid extensive grounds on Landis Avenue, east of Main Road, now the "State Home for Feeble-minded Women.
Prof. Willson and his family consisting of two sons and two daughters, one son living elsewhere, made a very noticable addition to Vineland society. Prof. Willson at once became a conspicuous figure in the life of the town, he identified himself with all that made for the betterment of the community, and with his attractive wife and daughters gave to the social life of the place an air of distinction readily recognized in the new and growing settlement. His home was pointed out to strangers as the show place of Vineland, the story of his success told and retold, and many a visitor envied his good fortune. Gen. Grant, who when President visited Vineland to lay the corner-stone of the High School building was entertained by Prof. Willson and family with that gracious hospitality characteristic of them.
But reverses came and the fortune his hand and pen had wrought slowly melted away and after the death of his wife he was obliged to leave his beautiful residence and make his home at the Grove House, then owned by his daughter, and kept as a family boarding-house. Here he continued his literary work, publishing several books both for school purposes and general reading, the most noticable being the "Wonderful Story of Old," an illustrated work on the Bible in two large volumes, none however realizing such financial returns as his first series of school-books.
He was much interested in the Historical Society and its work. At one time he was Trustee and Vice-President and at several of its meetings gave most interesting and scholarly addresses.
During his later years, after the re-organization of the Society, he was a frequent visitor to their rooms on South Seventh street, where in a reminiscent mood he related incidents in his early career, told of his association with the prominent men of his time, all most interesting and well chosen, proving a veritable treat to the secretary of the Society, who was honored by his friendship, and is now glad to pay tribute to the talented gentleman and scholar he once knew so well.
Prof. Willson died July 1, 1905, and is buried in Siloam Cemetery. As yet no stone marks his last resting place and few persons know the location of his grave. It would be a grateful act on the part of his friends and those who have profited by his writings to erect there some suitable memorial.
Another distinguished writer who made Vineland her home for upward of a half-century and whose long life exceeded that of Prof. Willson was Mrs. Mary Treat the well known Botanist.
Mary (Allen) Treat was the daughter of a Methodist clergyman. She was born in Trumanville, Tompkins County, N. Y., September 7th, 1830. On January 1, 1863, she was united in marriage to Dr. Joseph Treat, a man of intellectual attainments, who wrote and lectured on scientific subjects.
Dr. and Mrs. Treat came to Vineland in 1868, she to study the flora of South Jersey and write of her observations. In this repect she was most successful, her articles were soon in demand by Scientific journals and magazines. Mrs. Treat made excursions into what were once known as the "Pine Barrens" of South Jersey, where her observant eyes noted every vine, plant, flower and bird, calling them by name and writing about them in so charming a manner as to interest every lover of nature in the result of her researches. Many of her sketches of the "Pine Barrens" were published in "Garden and Forest," and the writer has had them arranged in a scrapbook now in the library of the Historical Society. Mrs. Treat was not only a Botanist, but was also an accomplished Entomologist. One of her books is entitled "Insects Injurious to Vegetation," another "Chapters on Ants," still others: "My Garden Pets," "Home Studies in Nature," "Through a Microscope," (with Samuel Wells) and was the author of numerous papers for "Atlantic," "Harper's," "Lippincotts," and other magazines.
In her study and investigation of insectivorous plants, Mrs. Treat rendered valuable service to Charles Darwin the eminent English scientist.
Mrs. Treat spent some time in Florida, and also visited California. She was the discoverer of several species of plants and insects hitherto unnoticed which were named in her honor.
Some time after the death of Dr. Treat she purchased a small place on Park Avenue, west of Valley Avenue with the intention of making it her permanent home. Here on the grounds about the house, which she subsequently enlarged, she set out and cared for a great variety of plants and shrubs, which she exhibited to her friends and fellow naturalists who visited her, with pardonable pride. Here among the trees and vines was a place for the birds to congregate, bathe and sing with none to molest or make afraid.
Her home was an attractive one and she the central figure surrounded by her books and papers, studied and wrote as only a lover of nature can in seeing the wonderful process of unfoldment in plant and flowers or watching the marvelous ability displayed by Ant and Spider.
In her home she received her many friends, kindred spirits coming long distances to meet her. Did they show appreciation of her work she soon became enthusiastic in her efforts to explain and interest her visitors in the wonders revealed in the study of plant and insect life.
An accidental fall crippled her and she was compelled to limit her activities, and as age increased the once brilliant mind became somewhat clouded.
During the long sickness that followed, her sister, Mrs. Nellie Brown, imperilled her own health that she might have every care and attention.
At last it was thought best to dispose of the Vineland home and move to New York State where among relatives she could be made more comfortable. She died at Akron, N. Y., April 11, 1923, in her ninty-third year. Her remains were brought to Vineland for burial in Siloam Cemetery.
Dr. Joseph B. Treat, husband of Mrs. Mary Treat, was born in Windham, Ohio, November 8, 1823, the son of a Presbyterian clergyman, who intended him for the ministry. He early joined the church and was active in Sunday School work. He became a convert to the Anti-Slavery cause then being agitated. Finding his father and most of the church opposed, he withdrew and entered the lecture field resolved to do what he could to liberate man from every form of slavery. He also lectured on scientific subjects and was a man of great intellectual ability, honest in his views, but by his cotemporaries considered somewhat visionary and impracticable. He died in New York City, February 5, 1879.
In 1869 a history of Vineland, then in its eighth year, was published. It forms an interesting pamphlet of one hundred pages or more, and was written by A. G. Warner, born in New Haven, Conn., June 3, 1836, who came to Vineland in April, 1863, and taking an active part in the development of the place, was familiar with its history.
With his brother, O. D. Warner, he published the "Vineland Advertiser" in 1868, later changing its name to the "Vineland Democrat." As the Editor did not support the party candidate, favoring the Republican nominee, they lost the support of the Democrats and the paper was discontinued.
Augusta Cooper Bristol, and her husband, Louis Bristol, became residents of Vineland in 1872. They were both highly intellectual, Mrs. Bristol fond of music and poetry, while her husband was interested in the improvement of the social state through currency reform, upon which subject he thought and wrote.
Vineland welcomed the newcomers to the literary circle already growing in numbers and strength.
Mrs. Bristol, a native of New Hampshire, born in 1835, published her first volume of poems in 1868, which was followed by other works of a moral and social nature. Becoming a close student of the writings of Spencer, Carey and August Comte, she prepared and delivered a course of lectures on their philosophy.
She visited France to investigate the "Equitable Association of Labor and Capital," at Guise, as conducted by M. Godin. The result of her observations she embodied in a lecture which she delivered to interested audiences. She was a delegate to the Liberal Congress in Brussels in 1880 were she spoke on "The Scientific Basis of Morality." In 1881 she was appointed lecturer by the National Grange and for two winters travelled and spoke through the West.
Both she and her husband became deeply interested in the principles of the Greenback Party and when Mr. Bristol was nominated for Congress she accompanied him in his canvass of the district and no doubt won many votes. She was a delegate to the Greenback Convention at Chicago, where her speech suggesting Butler as a candidate for president was vociferously applauded.
As a lecturer, Mrs. Bristol's manner was one of grace and charm, her language flowing like a rippling stream undulating with melody and rhythm.
Mrs. Bristol spoke at the meetings of the Vineland Historical Society several times, once sketching life on a New Hampshire farm as she saw it in childhood, and again on "The Territory of Age," and on reaching her seventieth birthday on "Three Score and Ten." She died at her home on Sixth and Wood streets, Vineland, October 3, 1910. Mr. Bristol, born in New Haven, Conn., died in Vineland, December 21, 1882.
(TO BE CONTINUED)