Journal of Charles K. Landis
Founder of Vineland
In the summer of 1861 Charles K. Landis, of Philadelphia, then a young man of twenty-eight, entered into an agreement with Richard D. Wood to take over a great tract of wild land, containing some 16,000 acres crossed by the newly completed railroad from Glassboro to Millville. This wilderness of sand and swamp, pines and scrub-oaks was destined to be converted into the beautiful town of Vineland and the fruitful farms of the Vineland tract.
The man who accomplished this transformation was one of those rare idealists who combine the power to dream large dreams with the practical ability to execute them. His purpose in starting the settlement is best expressed in his own words:
"To found a place, which to the greatest possible extent, might be the abode of happy, prosperous and beautiful homes; to first lay it out upon a plan conducive to beauty and convenience, and in order to secure its success, establish therein the best of schools also manufactories and different industries, and the churches of different denominations; in short, all things essential to the prosperity of mankind; but at the same time, under such provision for public adornment, and the moral protection of the people that the home of every man of reasonable industry might be made a sanctuary of happiness and an abode of beauty, no matter how poor he might be."
The early years of his struggle to accomplish this aim are unrecorded, but in 1868 he began to keep a journal in which is written much that must prove of interest to those who now enjoy the benefits he procured for them.
It is in this belief that the following installment of Mr. Landis" earliest journal is offered to the readers of this publication.
Vineland, Jan. 28, 1868.
Have decided to keep a diary. What a loss that I did not start with one. What a volume of experience it would have made. It would have read like a romance. But I hope to write the history of Vineland, I never, however, can do it with the same interest or advantage as with a good journal.
Arrived home last night from Washington. Had been there a week with my sister, for recreation and the benefit of my health. Had an agreeable time. Senator Wilson of Massachusetts expressed great admiration for Vineland, and a desire to see it. I invited him down.
This day cleared of my table of correspondence by dictating letters to my conveyancing clerk. In this way can get rid of a large pile of letters in a few minutes.
Col. Bostwick called and informed me that the malignants with Dr. Cook the Millerite at their head, was making war upon the Vineland railroad project, circulating false reports, advising stockholders not to pay their subscriptions, and that those who had paid would be able to get their money back by suing the company. Also that they were going to hold a public anti-monopoly meeting with a view to injure the company. After this C. B. Campbell called in and informed me that Cook had got the meeting up, and that it was called for Thursday P. M. at 2 o'clock. This will prevent my going to Trenton in the morning in reference to important legislation, as I may be wanted at this meeting. The progress of Vineland war.
Mr. Taylor from Liverpool, England purchased a place to-day for himself and two places for other families. He brings a wife and five children. He was here last year, all the way from Liverpool, to see how he would like it. This is the result. He talks like an intelligent and earnest, as well as worthy man. I hope he will succeed. I sent out for my farm agent, who is also an Englishman, and directed Beacham to facilitate him all he could with proper advice, so that he may not fall foul of any sharpers. He is a carpenter. When he gets his own house done I will try and get him some employment at his trade.
Heard this morning that K_________ is hobnobbing with West, the notorious forger of titles. This is a bad sign. It means evil. Mr. John L. Burk, my bookkeeper, has just returned from the city and informed me of this circumstance.
Ought to go to Trenton, to-morrow, but will have to postpone it on account of this meeting of Cook's. Will try and go next week. Wrote at once to Jas. H. Nixon, our representative, and gave him some suggestions.
Have just been examining my accounts and find that business has been better in 1867 than it was in 1866.
My father is to-day in Hammonton.
Have not been out of the house the entire day. Weather bad. Snowing.
January 29, 1868.
Col. Bostwick, vice president of Vineland R. R. and Marcius Willson, treasurer of Vineland R. R. called upon me this morning and arranged to attend the meeting. This meeting is really called by those in the place who make malignant opposition to my plans for the advancement of Vineland. I have just been informed that they propose to bring up all sorts of charges against myself. We will see what they will do. No man in the world can point to any act of my life that is dishonest. I have often wondered as a curious point in philosphy, as to what those persons mean who oppose me without reason. I suppose it must be from a desire to render themselves notorious, and thus from a species of envy and hatred which some naturally feel towards those who attempt to accomplish anything extraordinary.
Mr. Tucker, of Northern Jersey, this day bought out the Avenue House from Webb, for $14,000. This will be a great advantage to Vineland, as Webb prevented many sales and did all the injury possible. He is intimate with a man by the name of Cook, and also of Earle, who have been the most malignant slanderers I have been compelled to endure. Mr. Tucker looks like a jolly, good-natured man who would injure no one and please his customers. This movement is something for the good future of Vineland.
I was amused to-day at a curious circumstance. Hearing sometime ago that a young lady from the South was straightened in circumstances and could get nothing to do, (in fact my sister noticed that her shoes were worn through) I enclosed twenty dollars in an envelope and sent it to her at South Vineland, and disguised my hand. To-day a person called at the office with the envelope and the paper upon which was written, "This is for Miss _____," saying that the young lady had been notified of a remittance of $25.00 sent her by her brother, and she supposed the money had been stolen, at least five dollars of it. She had received the $20. She had sent to my office to know whither I could find any clue to the thief. Mr. Burk brought me the letter and I laughed heartily. The young lady could not have imagined that I sent it, and could it be possible that she lost some money that her brother sent her. I am afraid that it is so. If so, my money must have been very opportunely received. It is laughable to think how this matter will puzzle her brain, especially if she gets her brother's remittance. The young lady is trying to get scholars in music and French. Hope she will succeed.
Looked to-day at the house I am repairing for my residence, at the southeast corner of Landis Ave. and the Railroad Boulevard. It used to be the Magnolia Hotel. Work gets along slowly. I think that it will make a pleasant residence. I do not know how long I will live there. It is sort of dreadful to live in the same house with your business. One is at it all the while. Thus I have lived since I started Vineland. It is well that I have done so, though perhaps it may account for my hair turning prematurely gray. It is worth the cost, however. Vineland is all to me.
Wrote during the day a few resolutions to present to the meeting to-morrow afternoon, if things go all right.
Dr. Lansing called in the afternoon and kindly offered to order my furnace for me, for the other building, and see it up all right. He understands this business and is very kind. This also saves me a discount on the furnace. Must do something for the doctor.
January 30, 1868.
This morning visited the house of Marcius Willson to examine the range and bath room arrangements prior to putting the same in my own house. The Willsons are highly educated and agreeable people. Had an animated talk about Vineland and the proposed railroad meeting. The ladies are all alive to anything that concerns Vineland. Mrs. Willson was of the opinion that I would have a severe personal attack made upon me by Dr. Cook.
Returned, and went at 2 o'clock in company with Col. Bostwick to the railroad meeting. A large audience was assembled. John Gage was called to the chair. Dr. Cook explained the objects of the meeting, anti-monopoly, but very general. Mr. Baldwin, their speaker from Camden, was introduced and, whilst he was opposed to monopolies, favored the Vineland R. R., and considered that in our position we had better do nothing to injure ourselves. This astonished me as coming from so unexpected a source. Dr. Cook spoke next and was furiously angry with Baldwin. Said that Mr. Baldwin's observations were insolent and uncalled for, and made a furious tirade against the Camden and Amboy Company, the State of New Jersey and our Legislature. Said that New Jersey was a kingdom between Pennsylvania and New York, and that its citizens were selfish and ignorant, nothing better than Arab Bedouins. That his grandmother was born in Jersey, that he was thankful that he was not. That the people of Vineland should levy war upon our railroad companies until all railroads would consult the interests of the people. His remarks, in short, were very fiery and general, calling the companies corrupt and making the like assertions and abusing our state and Legislature. I replied generally upon the interests of Vineland in the case, and denied the doctor's assertions concerning our state, legislature and people. My remarks were much applauded. Mr. William H. Earle offered a resolution which he called anti-railroad monopoly, and after a certain amount of Pecksniffism cant about his truthfulness and his dislike to be personal, made the personal attack upon me which I expected from Cook. I replied and settled the personalities of Mr. Earle, when the meeting tabled the resolution of Earle by nearly a unanimous vote.
Mr. Tucker, the new landlord of the Avenue House, got up and said that his great-grandfather and mother, his grandfather and mother, his father and mother, himself and wife and five children had all been born in New Jersey; that he did not feel dishonored; that he was glad Dr. Cook was not born in the state, if he was satisfied. That he had traveled many thousands of miles, in many places, and had finally come back to Jersey because he had found no better place; and that if we would tolerate such an old Bedouin Arab, he would live and die in Vineland. He advised us to throw no fire brand in the legislature when we were asking for special acts which might give us a railroad to New York and add greatly to our prosperity. That we should not involve ourselves in unnecessary difficulties, etc. In short, he took a good Vineland and patriotic view of the subject. The meeting was a grand success for Vineland and will no doubt do us good.
Query: Why do Earle, Cook and Gage desire to move in a matter which might do no serious injury and wherein nothing can be gained? What is the motive with them? Also, why do Earle and Cook say so much against me, when I have done them both favors and never injured them? However, nature is a strange thing.
After the meeting was introduced to Baldwin. He said he did not know the situation of affairs in Vineland before he came, and that after he came he would not incite the people to a course of conduct which would injure them. This was noble in him. He has something good in his look.
To-night wrote a few articles to the Weekly.
Was consulted to-day by an old man who complains of his wife. Poor old man! By his own account he must have a hard time. She steals his money and scolds him beside. He has been to see me twice about his troubles. I never interfere between man and wife, but I must hear the old man as he does not appear to know a soul in Vineland.
Heard from Nixon that my suggestions arrived in the nick of time, that difficulty had sprung up in the Senate about one of my most important bills. Must go to Trenton next week.
(To be continued)