Wilson J. Purvis

The death, on January 20th, 1924, of Wilson J. Purvis, takes from us a generous hearted man, a beneficient citizen, a loyal patriot and one of the few remaining old settlers who have touched hands with those pioneers familiar with the early history of this locality.

Born seventy-nine years ago in Westmoreland, Pa., he grew toward manhood in the seething atmosphere of the years just before the Civil War. After the storm broke he enlisted, in 1863, as member of Co. R. 9th Maryland Regiment, was taken prisoner and sent to Libby (whose history makes one of the black pages of the war) where youth and vigor kept him alive; he was exchanged, served as bugler in Co. D. First Maryland Artillery, until, at the close of the War he was discharged and returned to the home of his parents then in Vineland. Later he married and bought extensively in and around the village of Rosenhayn, which he helped develop, and where he spent the remainder of his life busy with his farming, the improvement and sale of his vacant lands and the other activities with which his days were filled.

Being intensely interested in the early life and settlement of the country, his mind became a veritable store house of pioneer struggles, Indian lore and woodcraft, gathered partly from his own experiences, partly from the old men whose memories held many a tale of Indian adventure, many a hunter's story of bear or wolf; the Indian trails crossing South Jersey were all familiar to him, and he possessed quite a valuable collection of relics. He helped found the West Vineland Farm and Garden Club, which is a factor in Cumberland County, was also a member of the Vineland Historical Society, to the pages of whose magazine he was an occasional contributor, and joined Lyon Post, G. A. R., October 6, 1875. But the one out-standing characteristic, the one distinctive quality that made Mr. Purvis remarkable in this locality (and beyond) was his love for children and the beautiful way in which the grief of having none of his own, blossomed into helpfulness and happiness for others, not through the remote channels of charity, but by the direct course of taking into his home, and into his affections, twenty-one little people, to be given of the best he had, until they went out into the world for themselves.

It was but natural then, that he gave hearty support to the Boy Scouts and took an active part in the building of their camp at Parvin's Lake, natural too, that they admired his mastery of the axe, and of the secrets of the woods, but most natural of all, that he could hold them thrilled, their imaginations aflame, with his camp fire stories of Indian days, battlefields and prisons.

His early years held many an adventure; his later years were ones of stirring activity, usefulness and beneficience, and there were many, beside his wife, who looked after him with sad eyes when he left them to take that last "great adventure of Life, which we call Death."