Early Settlers of Vineland, West of Malaga Road
Written for the Historical Society by Mrs. Mary E. Schley.
The settlers of western Vineland might appear in a very different light were their achievements recorded by one who not only narrates the events of an epoch, but gives to each its due position and significance. The dominant ideas of an epoch philosophically considered, the fixing of the relations of man to man, are a necessary part of the work of the historian.
The present writing is a simple record of events. In the early days of the settlement of the Vineland tract no records were made of the experiences of those who changed the country from an uninhabited waste into fertile farms, orchards and gardens.
M. E. S.
At the close of the Civil War, when many thousands of soldiers were mustered out of service and returned to their northern homes, they found the conditions of life prevailing at the time of their departure materially changed. Machinery performed much of the labor formerly done by hand. The minds of men had been occupied with the problem of providing for large armies in the field. Now all was changed. The survivors of many bloody fields had returned to take their places in the ranks of peaceful citizens. But the places left were no longer open to them. Many who had been absent during the war found it necessary to begin, not where they left off, but under new conditions.
Physicians were without patients, lawyers without clients, chaplains without pulpits; men generally without business connections.
But they had brought home with them many ideas of the resources of the southern states and what might be accomplished by a judicious investment of capital and labor, backed by northern enterprise.
These states had suffered much from the devastations of war. They were sparsely populated by whites and these unaccustomed to labor. The recently liberated slaves were wholly unequal to the task of developing the resources of the country. Something like a wave of immigration to the South passed over the unemployed northern people.
It was at this time that a quantity of Vineland papers containing reports and descriptions of the climate, soil and productions of southern New Jersey were distributed throughout the northern and eastern states. The advantages of this locality as a place of residence were glowingly portrayed. The climate was mild, the near proximity of the ocean filled the atmosphere with invigorating ozone, the water was pure and soft, and already the nucleus of a prosperous settlement existed on the Vineland tract.
The land was to be sold in small parcels, a farm containing from five to forty acres, upon which a house must be erected and improvements made. Only actual settlers were to purchase land. Shade trees must be planted, and fruits and berries raised for the New York and Philadelphia markets.
The water power of Maurice River was to be utilized by numerous factories and machine shops. The street cars were to run from these to the station in less than a year. All streets were to be planted with double rows of shade trees. No license was granted nor could any intoxicating beverage be sold on the tract. This was the pleasant picture placed before people seeking health and homes in new localities.
And people came from the eastern, middle and western states. Many invalids were attracted by the mild temperature and tempered ocean breezes.
Mrs. Susan Howard, a daughter of Corlis Hinds, born in Watertown, N. Y., in 1801, having buried her husband and three of her four children, decided that Vineland as represented in the descriptions published by C. K. Landis, would be an agreeable place in which to pass her declining years. In the spring of 1866, in company with her sister, Mrs. Dille, wife of Judge Dille, of Washington, D. C, she visited Vineland, and the two purchased a fruit farm of ten acres on the north side of Almond Road west of Orchard. Mrs. Howard was a woman of much literary culture, of sound judgment, of cheerful disposition and philosophic trend of thought. She had faith in the future of Vineland. Mrs. Howard's letters to my mother, Mrs. Minerva Hinds, of Watertown, N. Y., influenced the latter to believe that the genial climate of southern New Jersey would prove conducive to her health, which had not been good during the previous winter.
My mother was born in southern Vermont, February 17, 1803. Her early life was passed in Connecticut. After her marriage she resided in New York. Her maiden name was Burroughs. She was a descendant of the Rev. George Burroughs, who was with his friend Cotton Mather, much interested in the subject of witchcraft. Cotton Mather accepted the idea of witchcraft. George Burroughs disbelieved and preached against it. Burroughs was condemned and executed.
In the spring of 1868 my mother came to Vineland and purchased a fruit farm of five acres on the south side of Landis Avenue, east of Orchard Road.
I was teaching in the schools of White Pigeon, Mich., at the time, and not until the summer vacation did I find myself at liberty to visit Vineland. The first of July, 1868, I started for the land of vines and berries. I travelled on a through train to New York City. Several delegates to the convention which nominated Grant for President were on board. A day or two in the city and leaving my travelling party I crossed to Jersey City and started for Vineland. The route lay through Bordentown, Trenton and Camden. About four in the afternoon I stepped from the cars at the station. I sought information in regard to my mother's residence. I knew it was west, but when I asked was told there was no West Vineland. A visit to the post office afforded the desired information. When I returned to the station no conveyance could be obtained. Omnibuses were not in evidence. I did not mind the walk of something over a mile and a quarter and started out quite cheerfully. I found some things had been omitted in the descriptions given in the Vineland Rural. Nothing was said of the sand into which one's feet sunk at every step; nothing of mosquitoes which settled on face, hands and clothing. These insects deserve attention. They did not remain idle for a moment. They sawed, they bored, they pumped, using with swiftness and dexterity the six tools with which each is provided. I had come to learn, and in my first walk two lessons had been taught to me with ample practical illustration. The knowledge obtained I placed on the credit side of experience account. It was a relief to enter the house. Here every door and window was barred by screens. I was told that only strained air could be breathed in the mosquito season. I afterward learned that a south wind drives them in from the swamps, while a northerly breeze takes them away.
Mr. Samuel Boutelle bought the place in 1866 and built a good sized house upon it. The house was not quite finished when he sold to my mother. Mr. Boutelle came from Stoneham, Mass. His wife was the twin sister of Mrs. B. C. Skinner. Mr. Boutelle was a man of strong opinions, and knowing himself to be in the right thought any other views erroneous. When a man in conversation with him upon political topics expressed sentiments at variance with Mr. Boutelle's, Mr. B. proved the correctness of his views by promptly knocking the man down. Here was another lesson. I pondered over it for some time, but concluded Mr. Boutelle was adopting the principle which the northern armies had recently justified. The North and the South differed in political views. The North had knocked down the South, and so substantiated the correctness of its own opinions. Why should not an individual adopt the same method? Another credit for experience account.
Among the first acquaintances I made was the family of B. C. Skinner. Mr. Skinner was born in Dana, Mass., October 4, 1816. He was the fourth child in a family of six. He had few educational advantages. Only a few months' schooling before he learned the carpenter's trade. He braided hats and bought his first suit of clothes. He married young and had three children, one girl and two boys. His wife's name was Mary R. Stockwell. His boys were drowned and then his wife died. His daughter married in Athol. In the spring of 1865 he married again. The lady was a widow with seven children, Mrs. Mary Amsden, of Athol, Mass. They were spiritualists and came to Vineland for the enjoyment of the congenial society afforded by the large number of that persuasion located here. They bought the northeast corner of Orchard Road and Landis Ave. He built a large house with barns, sheds and a number of out buildings. Mr. Skinner, his wife and her children and an old lady, the mother of his first wife, constituted the family. Mr. Skinner soon became interested in township affairs, and under his direction Landis Avenue was graded and gravelled and a bridge built across Maurice River. People sought his aid and counsel in their private affairs. He was elected superintendent of roads and served many years in that capacity. On occasions of sickness or death he was always on hand to afford assistance. He was regarded as a public-spirited man of good practical sense and much interested in the affairs of the town. His cheerful, kindly manner, his great benevolence, his readiness to aid those who needed help, made him a most desirable acquisition to the neighborhood. The Rev. William M. Gilbert, pastor of the Unitarian Church expressed the general feeling when he said: "When I look upon his countenance and listen to his words, I am impressed with a feeling that he would like to take all humanity in his arms and be their shield against care, trouble and pain." The bridge over Maurice River enabled the farmers of Salem County to bring into Vineland supplies of food and other needed articles.
Many of these teams daily passed our house. To my inquiries the answer was returned, 'They come from over in Jersey." It was perplexing at first, but I soon learned that Vineland and its inhabitants were to be considered by themselves. All outside this tract was foreign territory, or "over in Jersey." The horses of Vineland were poor and for the most part looked unable to draw loads or plough fields. Horseframes was the nick name given these feeble animals. Yet among them were some which had served on battlefields and still bore the brand J. D.
Our nearest neighbor on the west was Davis O. Bailey. His residence was on the southeast corner of Landis Avenue and Orchard Road. The house, situated on an eminence, commanded a view of the surrounding country. Mr. and Mrs. Bailey came to Vineland in 1863. Mr. Chester Bailey relates his experience thus:
"My father and mother came from Orleans Co., N. Y. They stayed in the Landis House while looking about. At that time there were only two houses in the borough. People slept under their wagons who came to purchase farms. My father purchased twenty acres on the south side of Landis Avenue just east of Little Robin. Here in a grove of trees he built his house. While building, my father and mother boarded with the family of Dempster Clark on the north side of Landis Avenue. When the house was finished they occupied it with their eleven children. Landis Avenue had been chopped over, but the stumps were not removed. Two years later my father bought ten acres on the southeast corner of Landis and Orchard. This place was bought of Mr. Sage who purchased of Landis. The family resided on the late purchase. The house was better adapted to a large family. My father died of cancer in 1888, and my mother died several years later."
Farms could not be made productive immediately. They must be cleared and planted and the berries and trees have time to grow. To tide over this waiting time, various industries were introduced. Sewing straw braid into hats, the making of gloves, and making clothing for the Philadelphia stores helped to support families while crops were growing and vines and trees gaining strength to bear fruit. With these helps it was not easy to make a living in Vineland. Many became disheartened. Some gave up their holdings and left.
(To be continued.)