Literary Vineland, Its Authors and Writers

By Frank D. Andrews


Vineland, in the early days of its settlement, offered many attractions to the semi-invalid, the over-worked business man, the brain worker, and men and women of literary ability and culture. To the semi-invalid and worn out business man, the out-of-door life, mild climate, pure water and cheerful surroundings, seldom failed to restore the exhausted vitality. The tired brain worker and literary men and women found peace and rest, freedom from the distractions of city life, and time to exercise their talents. For all classes there was society to their liking, or if they chose, retirement from social activities.

Among the active brain workers who sought life on a Vineland farm as a health restorer, was Eugene W. Gray, an editor and journalist from Newburg, New York. His home on Oak, west of Malaga Road, was, in a literary sense, an ideal one. Mrs. Gray, the daughter of a Congregational clergyman, was highly educated and refined; their three daughters had the advantages of books, music and culture. One of the daughters, Elizabeth K., who subsequently married Capt. Henry S. Spaulding, was a fluent writer and accomplished musician. Sometime after the death of her husband, Mrs. Spaulding removed to Ipswich, Mass., where she died

The settlers in the neighborhood were of exceptional character, and in 1867 organized the West Vineland Farm and Garden Club, an organization still active. Although from its name it would appear to be devoted to agricultural pursuits, its meetings were of a literary and social character, prominent speakers from abroad, as well as home talent addressing the members and friends at their annual and semiannual gatherings.

For years, Mrs. Mary C. Hutchings was the secretary, Wilson J. Purvis, recently deceased, held the office of president. Mr. Purvis was a man of many attainments; his mind was stored with historical lore, he was an authority on the local history of Malaga Road and its environs, about which he has contributed several articles to this magazine. With a fund of reminiscence and personal experience, he was an interesting speaker and conversationalist. His death, in Rosenhayn, occurred January 20, 1924, at the age of seventy-nine years.

Another enthusiastic member of the Farm and Garden Club was Richard A. Williams, who coming to Vineland in 1865, located on the corner of Wheat and Malaga Roads. Mr. Williams was born in East London, England, November 17, 1829. When a boy his parents sent him to that school made famous by Charles Dickins in "Nicholas Nickleby," known as Dotheboy's Hall, Wickford Squeers, Master, whose real name was Shaw. Mr. Williams was, by profession, a wood engraver; on retiring, he entered the journalistic field, editing two or three of Vineland's minor newspapers, and corresponding for the "Elmer Times." Mr. Williams was also a writer of poetry, for which he had considerable talent. His death occurred October 31st, 1911.

Another resident of Malaga Road, of a literary character, was Philip Snyder, who was connected with newspapers in Albany, N. Y., and Quincy, 111., before settling here. He was also a lecturer of some ability.

On the corner of Park Avenue and Malaga Road lived Alexander W. Pearson a naval officer in the Civil War, whose extensive acquaintance included many of the prominent men of the period. Col. Pearson was a frequent contributor to the local press.

A short distance west of Malaga Road on Landis Avenue was the home of Miss Mary Hines, an accomplished teacher, whose pupils, now grown to manhood and womanhood, respected, revered and loved her. She possessed a remarkable memory, wrote with ease, and was, withall, a talented woman. Somewhat past middle age she married James Alan Schley, a Chicago journalist, an unusually talented and brilliant writer, who on retiring from a very active career, made Vineland his home for many years. He died February 20, 1919 and Mrs. Schley died January, 1920.

Their neighbor, Eugene Presbrey, a playwriter of some prominence, made Vineland his residence for a few years. Another neighbor on Landis Avenue was Dr. Clement B. Lowe, for many years connected with the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science, and in 1897 elected to the chair of Materia Medica. He was an able writer and lecturer. His death occurred February 5, 1923.

Returning again to the Malaga Road, we find that on the corner of Garden Road, once lived Mrs. Mary A. Gillett, who, under the name of Joy Allison wrote many stories for the press. Her first husband was Francis W. Cragin, the distinguished naturalist. On leaving Vineland she settled in Farmingham, Mass.

Not far from the hospitable home of Albert P. Arnold, where the Farm and Garden Club has held its meetings for so many years, is the old Tavern, old when Vineland came into being. This, I understand, was once the property of Hjalmar H. Boyesen, the distinguished novelist, and the home of his father, Capt. Boyesen, and his two sisters, one of whom bid fair to become an authoress.

Although the authors and writers recorded in this article were mostly early residents, two later additions should at least be mentioned. They are, Dr. T. O. Chisholm, the hymn writer, and the late William G. Beacroft, former editor of "Forest and Stream" and "Outing."

In this article the West Side is credited with a good share of Vineland's literary talent.

(to Be Continued)