Literary Vineland, Its Authors and Writers

By Frank D. Andrews


The early settlers of Vineland coming from different sections of the country, familiar with the customs and peculiarities of their particular locality and with views and opinions of their own, found some difficulty in assimulating and harmonizing with the habits and thoughts of others.

The stronger and leading minds among them were not satisfied with the condition of things as they found them in Vineland, and when the first weekly newspaper advocated views to which they were opposed, they financed another which they could control. As they desired to be free from any clique or party but their own, they named the new venture, which made its appearance Saturday, March 6, 1867, "The Vineland Independent."

William Taylor and E. H. Hale were chosen to conduct the paper, the former being its editor. Mr. Taylor was a young man of a quiet disposition and Quaker extraction and well qualified to publish a family newspaper, for in those days the weekly paper was a welcome guest and generally read by every member of the household. The editor did his part well, although not always to the satisfaction of the financial backers who clashed swords with "The Weekly" and apparently enjoyed the fight.

It is not the rival papers of which I propose to write but of the editor of one, who had literary talent and exerted an influence for good upon his readers. Perhaps he was not aggressive enough to please the controlling interest, at least he left Vineland after awhile and established the "Register" in Woodstown, which came to be called the "Woodstown Bible" from the moral and spiritual influence it had upon its readers.

Mr. Taylor spent the greater part of his life as an editor and proprietor of newspapers, always doing a good work. He removed to California where unable to keep his pen idle, he, in his eighty-third year, published a book bearing the significant title "Physical Life and Higher Life, Written for the Thoughtful." Mr. Taylor numbered among his friends some of the prominent men of his time, and it is one of the regrets of the writer, that on arriving at Camden one day in his company he did not accept his invitation to accompany him on a visit to Walt Whitman.

The greater number of the literary men and women who settled in Vineland obtained their education and acquired their ability to write before coming here. One very noticeable exception presents itself in the case of Henry W. Wilbur, who at the age of sixteen came to Vineland with his parents from Easton, N. Y., in the late fall of 1867.

Like many other families who came in the early days of the settlement, they made the change to escape the cold winters, and to be where the open saloon was not.

Mr. Wilbur bought a place on the south-east corner of East Avenue and Walnut Road and cultivated a small farm.

The children, Henry and his sister Phebe, attended the High School, then held in Plum Street Hall, walking to and from the school a mile and a quarter, there being no transportation for pupils in those days, where under the teaching of Prof. Charles H. Wright, they made good progress in their studies. After graduation Henry entered the printing office of "The Vineland Independent" with a determination to make himself master of the business. This he accomplished and in less than five years he was editor and later owner of that paper. He conducted "The Independent" with ability and skill, and with a high regard for the intellectual and moral welfare of his readers. From close association with him during that period the writer came to know him well, and was able to form an estimate of his character, one somewhat different in its composition than is often found in the editor's sanctum, where usually policy instead of right and justice prevails. What Henry W. Wilbur believed to be right that he worked for, adhered to, and did his best to establish. He was an earnest and fearless worker in the Temperance cause and made many sacrifices in his endeavors to keep the evil of drink out of Vineland.

With an extensive reading of the best books, with experience and reflection, he gave his best thoughts to his editorials and in his public speeches was logical and convincing.

After selling "The Independent" he started and edited other papers, with but little financial success. For awhile he was connected with a New York paper and later was chosen Secretary of the Committee for the Advancement of Friend's Principles, with headquarters in Philadelphia. While thus engaged he travelled, wrote and spoke in their behalf with great success. At the General Conference of the Society of Friends at Saratoga, N. Y., he was suddenly stricken and died of hemorrhage of the lungs September 5th, 1914.

From his long acquaintance with Mr. Wilbur and some knowledge of the environment of his young manhood, the writer believes the principles of the church of which he was a member, the influence of personal friends, combined with his Quaker ancestry were the controlling factors in forming and developing his career. Henry W. Wilbur was a product of Vineland, and a credit to the Nation.

In an estimate made in his thirty-sixth year he had written sixtythousand newspaper columns equal to fifty books of four-hundred pages each. In the years that followed he wrote extensively and published several books. His was an active life and one of service.

Among the lovers of good literature who indulged that love in the acquisition of the writings of his favorite authors, was Mr. E. G. Blaisdell who gathered quite a library. His selactions exhibited good taste and were of the best. For awhile he indulged in the rather costly experiment of running a newspaper in Vineland. Later he removed to Camden, where he died. His valuable library of first editions and other volumes of interest and rarity were dispersed to book lovers by auction.

Another newspaper editor before making Vineland his home, and who kept up newspaper work as a voluntary contributer to the local press, was John W. Hum, a native of England, born in Norwich, February 8, 1823.

Mr. Hurn was a great reader, particularly of ancient and modern history and philosophy. With a retentive memory he was able to present the facts of history, or the views held by the old philosophers from the fountains of knowledge at his command. In his articles for the press he expressed himself with vigor and clearness. He also wrote good poetry. In conversation he was at his best, always bright, often witty, and brilliant at repartee. Having retired from an active business life when coming to Vineland, his energetic temperament would not allow him to be idle, and although living quite a distance from the center he was in town often, frequenting the newspaper offices and attending the meetings and entertainments of that period. Mr. Hurn died August 26, 1887.

Another Englishman of literary ability who made Vineland his home for many years was C. B. Bagster, who at the close of the Civil War, during which he had served in the paymaster's department, came here to recover his health, lost in the service of the Government. Mr. Bagster was an able scholar, well posted in science and a writer of prose and verse. His father, Samuel Bagster of London, was the founder of the famous printing house of Samuel Bagster & Sons, and publishers of the Bagster Bible. In Vineland Mr. Bagster recovered his health and engaged in farming, insurance, real estate and editing a newspaper. He died in 1893 aged 78 years.

Retired ministers have found Vineland a pleasant place to spend their remaning years; although their activities have in a measure ceased, they have found pleasant and congenial companionships, have taken some part in the religious life of the community and have in many instances prolonged their years far beyond the allotted three-score and ten.

The Rev. Dr. George A. Hubbell, on retiring from the New York Methodist Conference, made Vineland his home. Always a busy man he could not be idle so he industriously set about writing a history of his country, an undertaking of some moment for one approaching four score. This was not completed when the summons came to join that invisible host that has passed beyond our ken.

Dr. Hubbell was the author of "Studies in Christian Doctrines" of which several editions were published and had nearly completed a work on the "Harmony of the Gospels."