Charles K[line] Landis.

The founder's own story of the founding of Vineland online

. (page 2 of 2)
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be lined with shade trees and hedges, and I know that it will be one cf
the most beautiful places upon the face of the earth." He simply
stared at me, and said nothing, but kept moving off. When I had
stepped speaking, he went up to one of the workmen named Loder, and
talked very earnestly to him. I afterwards learned that he strongly
advise i Mr. Loder to get his pay as often as possible, for he was sure
that the man, (meaning me) was crazy. Not to digress, I shall merely
add that that man lived to see all that I had said fulfilled.

During the week, though my force was small, the work progressed
rapidly. I had carefully reflected upon the question of labor and wages.
In deciding this question I first considered what was right; next, what
was best for the proposed colony, and what was best for the laborer
himself. I believed that labor inadequately paid was bad for every-
body. It would keep the laborers in a condition of squalor, and make
the place appear by no means prosperous. What would a man think,
if, when he asked the price of labor he should be told that it war,
fifty cents per day ? I decided to pay one dollar per day in god,
upon which at that time the premium was very small. At the end of
the week, instead of giving the men orders upon the stores at Millville,
at the rate of fifty cents per day, as they expected, I paid them
in gold at one dollar per day, at that time the current wages else-
where in civilized places. They were much astonished, and two
of them did not want to take it, saying that the clerk at the store
knew better what they wanted than the}- did themselves. This will
scarcely be believed. It shows the depth of the ignorance that then
existed in this wilderness I remarked that it was time they had learned
the use of money, and paid them. Low wage: are decidedly injurious


to humanity. It degrades all, rich and poor, giving one class more
than sufficient for their needs, encouraging luxury, selfishness and self-
conceit, at the expense of the other class who are robbed and impover-
ished, and deprived of all opportunity for self-improvement. My colony
was not made for a class; but in all things I adopted a policy which
would comprehend the whole. I also felt that in this way I would gain

I made no attempt to advertise or to sell land until, my avenue
should be opened to Main Road, then called Horse Bridge Road, a dis-
tance of a mile and a half. I employed myself in getting up the first
number of the Vineland Rural, and on my map, having it drawn off
from my own outlines. In the latter work I was greatly annoyed at the
unfeigned astonishment of my surveyor, and his sarcastic questions and
remarks. I felt, however, that I might reasonably expect a good deal
of this for some time to come, and I hoped that as he saw people buying
land and improving it after a while this would wear off. I also engaged
in the buying of some pieces of land, lying within the bounds of mj T
tract, which Mr. Wood did not own. Those who had such pieces of
land were anxious to sell. John M. Moore of Clayton had about 800
acres, which I bought on mortgage. He afterwards said that this sale
started him in business. He also consented to act as my agent in New
York, he having an office there. I was occupied with these matters
until October, when I inserted my advertisements in several New York
papers, and went to Vineland to take up my residence there and per-
sonally manage my work.

Owing to his strong recommendations and assertions of what he
could do, I then engaged a man to sell land as an agent. This man
was highly recommended to me b)^ an old friend, and as he was ac-
quainted with property holders in South Jersey, I thought he could
help me in buying up the exceptions — that is, the small tracts within
the boundaries of my purchase, held by other parties. As a general
thing those parties were anxious to sell, and no wonder. There had
theretofore been no demand for the land, except for wood. When I
purchased from Mr. Moore his anxiety to sell was amusing. From the
time I saw him he never let go of me. He invited me to his house at
Fislerville (now Clayton) to stay all night. The next morning he
took me to Philadelphia to the office of his conveyancer, and never let
me go until the papers were all made out and executed. I humored
the thing on the principle that the time to strike is when the iron is hot.

Before advertising, I had the postofficc established at Vineland. I
first made the necessary application, and was refused on the ground of

having no population. I then went to Washington and saw the Second
Assistant Postmaster General, but I could not move him, as he said the
department had to be economical. Going back to Willard's hotel, I
there met Robert Tyler, son of President John Tyler, whose acquaint-
ance I had made in Philadelphia. I explained to him my failure, when
he said that the Second Assistant was a personal friend of his, and that
he would go back with me. The next morning we called there. The
official explained to Mr. Tyler the absurdity of establishing a postoffice
in such a wilderness where there were no people. Turning to him Mr.
Tyler said, "It is no wilderness since Mr. Landis has resolved to build
a city there. He has it in his head, and all he has to do is to transfer
it to the land. He is the man who founded Hammonton — an enterprise
I should have counted among the impossibilities had I not known of it.
From what he tells me I am sure that Vineland is a much greater
affair." I was amazed at Tyler's remarks, and still more so at the
effect it had upon the official. He at once withdrew his opposition,
and said that he would give me the office if I would agree to pay twenty
dollars per year toward the expense of mail carriage, which I did. I
was then appointed postmaster.

I had at this time Landis Avenue opened through from the railroad
to Main Road. I then got out my paper, the Vine/and Rural, and in-
serted a short advertisement in the Boston Journal, the New York Her-
ald, and the Public Ledger.

I then went to Vineland for permanent business, and engaged rooms
of Andrew Sharp at his place on the corner of Main Road and what is
now Park Avenue. I had the room in the northeast corner, and the
rooms opposite I had for my maps, and business table, and the draught-
ing board of the surveyor. I began soon to get letters which I would
answer, and to all correspondents also I sent the Vmcland Rural.

Mr. Wood had become quite impatient to see something done, and
often asked when the work was to begin. I answered that it was going
on; but, like any outsider, he of course could not see what I was doing.
Finally, a little Englishman came down from New York. I took him
to Sharp's farm, showed him my maps and explained my objects. The
next day I went out with him and sold him some land on the Boulevard
near Oak Road. He wanted his deed at once. I drove him down to
Millville and had the deed signed by Mr. Wood and his wife, who were
both there. I paid Mr. Wood his portion, and kept the balance. Under
my arrangement with him I was to pay him a certain amount per acre
for every deed he signed, until I had paid him enough to take a deed
myself. I shall never forget his look of astonishment as he received

this money. He was astonished at the whole transaction — to think that
a man should come down from the state of New York, and purchase a
piece of this land for cash! At the close of this transaction he said
that he would accompany us to the Sharp farm. When we got there
he took Mr. Sharp aside an J had a long conversation with him. Sharp
came into the house laughing. I wanted to know what about. After
enjoining me not to repeat what he would tell me, he said that Mr.
Wood told him about the sale just made, and charged him to help and
facilitate Mr. L,andis in every possible way; for, said he, "He must be a
great man." Such was the effect produced by the first sale.

I now asked the lessees of the railroad to build a platform station
at the Landis Avenue crossing, to land my passengers. The lessees
refused, as they had no confidence in the enterprise; — did not believe
that a station would ever be required there, or that it would ever do
business enough to get their money back. Finally I had to furnish the
few dollars' worth of rough lumber to have the platform built. I think
I also built it.

I was now very much annoyed by the want of confidence on the
part of my surveyor. He evidently thought it a chimerical scheme to
build such a place as I contemplated in this South Jersey forest. I
looked upon this want of faith as an impediment in my way. He was
also exceedingly consequential with strangers — a thing I very much
dislike. Assumption in my view is not only the concomitant of a small
mind, but also of a small heart. It was important for me to have the
conditions around me all right, as I was working up to that most diffi-
cult point, getting a start. I had a number of people coming down,
"jut after Mr. Colson's purchase it was difficult to make sales. There
vas such a desolation in the appearance of the place that the idea of
locating in such an unattractive locality sickened people.

Finally, a Capt. Post came from New England, and bought 60 acres
of land opposite Sharp's farm, on a new road which I was then opening
and which in honor to him I called Post Road. He paid me cash, and
this enabled me to make a strike which I had contemplated for some
time, to give my settlement a start. I had noted my best workmen,
and found out who of them understood farming and gardening, and
proposed to them to buy ten acres each, offering at the same time to
furnish them lumber and a carpenter to build for each a small house,
payable on long time. This proposal astonished them so much that at
first they held back, but I had gained their confidence by paying cash,
and by the work they saw going on, and they soon fell in with it. This
started a number of homes in different places, so that when I drove my

visitors around the tract they would here and there see a new iraprove-
nijnt going on, which gave the thing a look of reality and business.

Capt. Post decided to build at once,' and this also was a great help
to me. I sent for a builder at Hammonton, and another at Millville, to
make estimates. The talk of the Hammonton man afforded great
confidence, as he had seen what I had done at Hammonton, and his
faith in me was unbounded. It appeared to place me in the position of
an already victorious general. These builders arrived in the afternoon,
and after supper went out for a walk together. When they returned I
noticed Packard, the Hammonton man, enjoying a hearty laugh by
himself. I desired to know what the fun was. Said he, "Mr. Laudis,
that man was quite overcome with astonishment and fear when we
walked along Main Road and came to Landis Avenue. Looking at that
avenue ioo feet wide, he said such a road would not be needed for a
hundred years, and that you would $e stopped. I asked him how you
could be stopped from building on yoi\r own land. He replied that you
must be stopped; that there were plenty fools in Millville, who would
be wanting to imitate every improvment, ^ you call it, that you should
make?" It afterwards turned out that therfc were a good many such
fools !

I kept pressing on and pushing my business, and visitors increased
in number. Sharp's farmhouse was crowded, much to his surprise.
When there were more ladies than there were beds for, I always gave
up my room and slept downstairs upon the floor, rolled up in a buffalo
robe. I would have slept out of doors on the sharp edge of a plank if my
success required it. Moreover, the example enabled Sharp to fill his
floors all over, with people with much less grumbling. My engineer,
being of no use to me as a salesman, owing to his utter want of faith, I
had to shoulder the spade myself, and attend to all the visitors. I think
that for some time my daily walk might average twenty miles. I found
that I could talk the obstinacy and opposition out of a visitor •much
more easily if I walked him down tired. I soon discharged both assist-
ants, and engaged a young engineer by the name of Jones, whom I had
employed at Hammonton after Brown had left on account of ill health.
Brown is now chief engineer of the Penn. R. R. Jones was as full of
faith as Packard; never talked about his family connections or self-
sacrifices in coming to Yineland, but had a practical idea of his business
which he had acquired at Hammonton.

In selling land I had a standard rule, which was, to sell to a visitor
the best location I had for the objects he had in view, and to make the
sale and improvement of the good locations sell the le^s valuable. In,


this way property was certain to rise in value in the hands of the pur-
chasers. They were sure to make good reports, and that would bring
a yet more rapid increase of population. I noticed however that many
who bought land w 7 ere not farmers, but I thought the}' might learn.
Still, there were some that I should have refused to sell land to had I
known them as well as I have since, by the light of subsequent experi-
ence. Yet even these did well. - Their property increased in value
greatly, and they could sell out to advantage, getting something over
and above what they paid me. This was uniformly the case and there
was no change until after the speculative rise in the value of improved
places, years after. I now sought to make sales of the farm lands only,
making no effort to sell town lots. I thought it advisable to turn the
wild laud into farms first, in order to give the town some support.
Lumber and goods began to come in by railroad, but I was greatly em-
barrassed for the want of a station. The railroad lessees still pretended
a lack of faith.

The place* was also in great need of a blacksmith. I arranged for
one to come from Philadelphia, but he changed his mind. I then
made arrangements with a man from Vermont, and located him on
Main Road. He bought lumber for his shop and bought his tools.
While he was at work, starting his place, wine old Jersey teamsters
came along, and asked him what he was doing. When he stated his
business, they wanted to know who he expected would want black-
smith work in such a God-forsaken place as that. They so discour-
aged him that he moved away with all his lumber and tools. He was
panic-stricken. Nothing that I could say could change him. He left
Vineland the next morning.

About this time came Capt. Holbrook, of Massachusetts, an old
ship carpenter who had been upon a man-of-war, had also commanded
a vessel of his own, and had traveled largely over the world. When
he got up to Sharp's farm he was very angry. He said that he ex-
pected to see an improved country instead of a wilderness. In fact he
was a raiher high-tempered old seaman. I pacified him as best I could,
asi uring him that I would pay all his expenses if he did not like the
place before he left. At this he calmed down entirely. After being
around a few days he came up to me and said, "Mr. L,andis, I wish
you to locate me twenty acres of land. As you are better able to judge
of the future of the place than I am, I leave it to you to select the
location." I selected for him a piece of ground in a high situation,
southj side of Landis Avenue, near Valle}- Road. He paid me $20. per
acre for it, He afterwards sold a part of it for $500 per acre, After


he had taken his agreements and made his payments, I asked him how
he came to purchase, after having been so dissatisfied as he was at
first. He said, "After a few days' observations I saw plainly that you
are in earnest, and mean business. I verily believe that in time you
will make Vineland a successful and prosperous place." Tnese were
words of real encouragement, and I valued them highly. How blessed
is a word of good cheer in the struggle of a great effort; and yet hew
necessary it often is to struggle along without it.

As a contrast to the conduct of the frank and confiding old sailor,
I shall mention another experience. One evening there arrived a lady.
She wasaione. Her figure was tall and angular. Her face was sallow,
and there were two projecting teeth. Her hair was black, worn in long
curls. She was dressed extravagantly in black silk and flounces, and
wore a profusion of gold chains and rings. She was a maiden lady cf
about forty summers, very airish, and full of talk. She represented
herself as from Georgia but originally from Maine, and as possessed of
a large amount of property in both states. After she had been at
Sharp's some days noticing different people buying, she was seized with
the fever, and requested me to locate for her a five acre lot and a forty
acre lot, upon which she said she would erect handsome buildings in
order to give me a start. I thought that for so good a woman, and so
kind, I ought to do my best; so I ordered Mr. Packard, whom I had
appointed an agent, to sell land for me, to show her forty acres at the
N. E. corner of Eandis Avenue and Main Road, and five acres at the
corner of Landis Avenue and East Avenue, at $20 per acre, locations
which have since become of very great value. Packard went out with
her and did not return until late in the afternoon. My first question
was "Have you sold her a place ?" "Yes." "Where?" "Out of
the world." "How is that ?" "I first showed her the locations you
directed me to show her. After looking at them she then requested
me to show her a location as far in the opposite direction as I possibly
could. She said it was her way to first get the advice of a party inter-
ested in a thing, and then to go as far opposite as possible. I have sold
her a tract of land about two miles west of the railroad, and on an
avenue south of Landis Avenue, directly in the wilderness."

I thought at first it was a joke; but when I came to see her, and
advised her to take the locations first shown her, she cut me short in a
most peremptory manner, and insisted upon taking the land she had
selected. She paid her money, received her deed, and at on:e com-
menced the erection of a house. But this was not the end of it, as I
afterwards found out, before the next season was over.


I did not always have people around, affording me the pleasure and
excitement of selling land. There were many days and weeks during
that long and tempestuous winter when nobody came. My correspond-
ence and postoffice duties were not sufficient to keep me occupied. To
say that I never had moments of depression when I looked out of my
window upon the boundless stretch of wilderness before me, would be
simply untrue. The southeast winds at night would often howl around
the corner of the house where I slept, sounding like wailing voices of
ill omen and mockery. I knew that there was not a human being in
the world upon whom I could lean for assistance or encouragement, and
the financial responsibities I had assumed were simply enormous for
me, and for that matter for almost anybody. I had' others dependent
upon me, and as I listened to the dismal sound of the wind, and thought
of the possibility of no visitors comin'g to buv land, I would be struck
almost by an icy chill. The greatest relief I found was in prayer,
though few would have suspected me of religious proclivities. But I
always had, and have, an abiding faith that God hears prayer, and in
beneficence. There may be many things in this world that we cannot
understand; but perhaps its calamities may even look to us as of small
importance when we look back upon them from the immortality of the
great hereafter. If the reader of this should be in dire distress or mis-
fortune, if he has not done so, let him try the consolation of a silent
and secret prayer, and he will see if he does not rise from it with re-
newed strength, determination, and powers of endurance.

014 209 331 5



Vineland Historical and Antiquarian Society,

Edwin C. Bidweu,, M. D.

Vice President.

Prof. Marcius Wiu^on.

Secretary and Treasurer.

Frank D. Andrews.


Online LibraryCharles K[line] LandisThe founder's own story of the founding of Vineland → online text (page 2 of 2)