The next presidential debate for Democratic candidates is coming up on September 12th. In light of that and also with thoughts about the kind of discourse Americans are having these days, it seemed appropriate to publish Mr. Bush’s article on a practice that went out of fashion long ago—local debating societies. Somehow it was possible for 19th-century neighbors to dispute current issues without making enemies of each other.
Many thanks to Barbara Charles for sharing her transcription of this article.
Old-Time Debates Went to
the Bottom of Many Questions
Debating School Set People to Thinking on Public Questions
Few Active Members Remain
by Egbert T. Bush, Stockton, NJ
Hunterdon Co. Democrat, Jan. 23, 1930
One must be growing old to understand what the rural Debating Society of former days was like. By whatever name known—and sometimes the name was high-sounding—the Debating Society was an institution in its day. If all was genuine that old people told us boys, who are now as old as they were then, the Debating Society was on the wane even at that time. And it kept on waning, year after year, until now it is only a tradition to most people and a matter of memory to the rest of us. If a neighborhood debate is held now and then—say about as often as a hen has a toothache—it bears little relation to the debates of older days.
Since Mr. Bush was born in 1848, his boyhood memories must date to the period of 1855 through 1865, being the prelude to and duration of the Civil War. Old folks of that time were probably born around the time of the Revolution.
It appears from checking on notices in the Hunterdon Gazette that local debating societies came into existence as a result of the country’s fascination with the Lincoln-Douglas debates, which took place in 1858. The first mention of a debating organization in Hunterdon County was published in the Hunterdon Gazette for January 12, 1859:
We understand that a Debating School is held in the School House, near Copper Hill, one evening in each week, with a good attendance. Also, one at Ringoes, in a flourishing condition. Good. May these organizations spring up all over the Country. The mental cultures thus derived is [sic] incalculable.
Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas were debating as candidates for U.S. Senator from Illinois. Because the principal topic was slavery and its expansion into the new states, and because both Lincoln and Douglas were already well-known as expert debaters, the seven debates got intense newspaper coverage, with transcriptions of what was said published in papers throughout the country.1
Returning to Mr. Bush’s article:
The village school-house of one still more rural was generally the place of meeting. Hence the organization was often called a “debating school,” tho there was nothing about it to remind one of a school except the walls. It had its uses. It made a place to go, and broke the monotony of rural life. But it did more. It set people to thinking along other than the accustomed lines, it encouraged concentration of thought and tended to broaden the mind.
Of course most of the speeches were crude, but that was one of their charms. Whoever thinks those unlearned and untrained debaters never came near to touching the bottom of any important question, will do well to modify his opinion. Many a nugget of pure gold showed thru the dross of crudeness.
A Debate at Drybrook School
The need for clarity may excuse one for using the first person a little too freely at times. That seemed to be unavoidable in such articles. My first acquaintance with rural debates was made very early in life. I was allowed to go with my father to attend them in the Drybrook school-house on condition that I would “set right still and listen.” Both were done with enthusiasm, if not with understanding. The house was crowded, and how the speakers did wrangle over the arguments! Things were too lively ever to grow tiresome. Little is remembered about the debaters; but Jacob S. Pierson stands out clearly, big, jolly fellow that he was, everywhere delighting to get up a laugh.
In his article, “Recollections of Drybrook School,” published in the Democrat on August 29, 1929, Bush wrote that the school was located a quarter mile north of Croton, about 150 feet north of the arch bridge over the “Dry Brook.”2 The schoolhouse was made of unpainted clapboard, and was later replaced by the Croton schoolhouse shown here.
Here are some of the localities where Debating Societies were organized: Baptistown, Clinton, Copper Hill, Flemington, Locktown, Quakertown, Sandy Ridge and Stockton. Most likely there were other locations not mentioned in the Gazette and the Republican.
Mr. Bush resumes:
Something or somebody induced me, when about 15, to try speaking on a question that was way beyond boy’s size. The speech was not oppressively long for anybody except the speaker – about thirty seconds. The whole line of prepared argument having been thrown out in an unseemly mess, without form and void, I sat down and was immediately “sot down upon” by the next speaker. That was debate in plenty to last four years.
Then came another spasm. The society at Quakertown had been going along at a lively rate and had worked up quite a reputation. Three of us “Swampers” – William C. Barrick, Emery S. Barrick and myself – were so strongly attracted that we walked up to see what they were doing and how they were doing it. We found a lively organization having a spicy paper, “The Quakertown Slasher,” to enliven the weekly meetings. William, always ready for a debate, at once became an active member.
The term “Swamper” was used to identify residents of the Great Swamp surrounding the village of Croton. Mr. Bush explained the term in his article “Gathering Nuts Was Once an Industry.”
The Quakertown Society
The name of the organization, if memory is not playing characteristic tricks was “The Quakertown Literary Union.” I recall that the good old secretary always got it “lititary,” but he did his work just as well. Among the leading debaters that winter were the following: George O. Vanderbilt, then the teacher there, and later a prominent lawyer of Trenton and, at various times, Assemblyman and Senator for Mercer County; George N. Best, teacher at Pittstown, later the noted physician and botanist of Rosemont; William C. Barrrick, later admitted to the bar, and once a candidate for Congressman from the Fourth District; and Emery S. Barrick, who later graduated from Lafayette, took a course in law, and became law instructor for his Alma Mater.
Vanderbilt was ready, ornate, sound and pleasing. Best essayed no oratory, but was sound and convincing. Emery did not specialize on debates or really care much about them, but was good when he chose to speak at all. William C. was ever the enthusiastic debater – ready, quick to turn a point, logical and oratorical. Even the critical journal, the powerful Quakertown Slasher, wrote of him as “the eloquent gentleman from the Lower Regions.” The writer merely came along with those who “also spoke.” Nobody ever coupled “eloquent gentleman” with his name, however, it may have been associated with “the Lower Regions.”
Old Time Debaters
In later years that organization, or one of its kind in Quakertown, had among its leaders: J. Dayton Stires, then a merchant in the town, and later a lawyer in Iowa, a bright and ready debater; Enoch B. Suydam, a commission merchant of New York, a good reasoned and forceful speaker; Charles M. Trimmer, farmer, quick, persuasive, with an easy flow of language; Abram B. Wyker, slow, deliberate, but always making some good point; Elias L. Dalrymple, an easy and effective talker, always interesting but talking too seldom.
The society discussed some rather trivial questions, of course. That could hardly be avoided in such organizations! Questions were weighty—perhaps too weighty at times—and called forth the best effort of the ablest debaters. While the simpler questions had their uses and benefits, the more difficult ones were really profitable.
This makes me wonder about the form that these debates took. Clearly there were people arguing for and against a proposition, and there were judges whose job it was to declare who had won the debate. But in addition, the audience was allowed to ask questions of the debaters and those questions seem to have been an important part of the program.
Now comes a question that we are still debating:
One debate stands out sharply because of the circumstances, and of the deep governmental principles involved. One night our society was surprised to receive from a similar organization in Frenchtown a challenge to meet them in their hall and discuss the following: “Resolved, That the President of the United States should be chosen by the popular vote, instead of by an Electoral College.” It sounded big and looked still bigger. But our debaters were not disposed to flinch at anything. They accepted, with seeming alacrity, but most of us doubted that there was any great joy over it anywhere. We were to take the affirmative—the easier side for which to make effective appeals to many judges of such debates; but for solid argument! Well—we were going anyhow.
“Young Bobby” Williams
We knew the reputation of some of their debaters. They had several good ones, and one fine young orator, Robert L. Williams, Jr., “Young Bobby,” son of the old fanning mill man and auctioneer. We had now no George O. Vanderbilt, no George N. Best, no William C. Barrick. All these were just entering or had entered professional life. But you know the old saying about those who “rush in.” Very well; we rushed.
It was something of a debate. We gave them some elaborate calculations showing the unfair advantage that a voter in the weakest State had over a voter in the strongest—then about five times the power in the election of a President. By artful arrangement of the weaker and the stronger States into separate groups—a most unlikely supposition—we showed them that a President might be elected by our system, tho millions more ballots had been cast against than for him. Of course our speakers emphasized the injustice of all that in a land where all were supposed to be free and equal. But our opponents met our onslaughts bravely and with fair arguments, and the eloquence of “Young Bobby” helped very much to send us home vanquished, if not disheartened.
Turning the Tables
Our society was so well keyed up that they immediately challenged the victors to reverse the sides, meet us in our hall-the schoolhouse, of course—and discuss the question again. They promptly accepted the challenge, and met us as suggested. It was a warm debate, generally well handled on both sides. That time the Frenchtown society went home beaten, but with plumes still flying. They had every reason to be satisfied with their work, however they might question the judgment of the judges. At this distance, I feel quite sure that both decisions were right.
I would not be surprised to learn that the audience and the judges could not believe that it was possible for someone to win the Presidency without winning the popular vote. Such a lack of imagination!
Mr. Bush mentioned that “Questions were weighty,” and the newspapers show how right he was. Here are some of the topics that were debated:
Locktown, Jan. 13, 1860: Should Slavery be abolished in the United States.”
Locktown, Jan. 4, 1861: “Which has the greater influence over man, Woman or Wealth?”
Flemington, Feb. 19, 1862: “Is Floyd a worse man than Cameron?”3
Flemington, Feb 17, 1864: “Ought the Constitution of the United States be so amended as to exclude slavery from the Union.”
Flemington, August 1, 1872: “Shall the right of suffrage be extended to women?”
Ringoes, Jan. 12, 1882: “Should corporal punishment be abolished?”
Ringoes, Jan. 26, 1882: “Resolved, that trial by jury should be abolished.”
Flemington, Feb. 15, 1883: “Resolved, That the pen exercises a mightier influence than the sword.”
Mr. Bush continues:
During more than fifty years that have passed since those challenge debates stirred us so deeply, statesmen and able writers have been closely scanned for sounder arguments on the fundamental principles of our government involved in that question, than were brought out, tho sometimes crudely, by the debaters then engaged. The scanning has never yet been successful. Things may have been said in better ways, but if better things have been said the saying has escaped observation. One still feels justified in having faith in the latent power of the rural mind; but must still regret that those powers are too often allowed to remain latent.
Dear Readers: The following three paragraphs are offensive. I considered deleting them from this post, but that would be dishonest. The fact is that in the 1930s, racist attitudes that would be unacceptable today were then taken for granted.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to mention all the debaters and others who did their part well and gave much aid to the society. There was John A. Laing, well educated, well-read and able to express himself effectively, but rarely caring to do so, yet ever a friend and supporter. Several pastors of the M. E. Church helped much by their presence and moral support, and some by their actual participation. I recall the Rev. Mr. Horton, who was quite active, and particularly his jolly way of “rebuking Black Ben,” an inoffensive Negro who always wanted to be one of us, and who was made such as far as possible, by being allowed to say something when nothing was at stake. All he could do was merely state his positive opinion this way or that, and this he delighted in doing very emphatically and by curious twists and turns. On one occasion he became so earnest that he blurted out: “The liar is wuss than the thief, a __ sight!”
Rebuking Black Ben
Mr. Horton was instantly on his feet, suppressing a smile as best he could. “Mr. President,” said he, with all the gravity at his command, “I rise to a point of order. The gentleman is using profane language, which is contrary to the rules of this society!”
Poor Ben! There he stood, hurt and speechless, scratching his wooly head in perplexity. At last he caught breath to mumble, “Scuse me, Mr. Horton, ‘scuse me. I didn’t mean to say dat. I was a little ‘cited, I was. P-p-please ‘scuse me, Mr. Horton!” The audience laughed, Ben was “scused,” and everybody was happy.
Keep in mind that local debating societies were inspired by the Lincoln Douglas debates and the challenge of deciding what should be done about slavery. This probably explains why Black Ben became interested in local debates in the first place.
Visitors to many societies come to mind with pleasant thoughts of most debates and of more debaters; but this is spreading over too much ground. Just one more society insists upon being remembered. In the winter of 1892-93 the writer first met the debaters who had held meetings for some years in the Van Dolah schoolhouse. They were doing well and evidently enjoying it. It so happened that the old question of electing a President came up once more. Among the debaters on that question the following are particularly remembered: John W. Smith, of the Prallsville Mills; Henry G. Bowne, then living near; and John E. Barber, now of Lambertville.
Smith was quietly and solidly impressive; Bowne, fluent and flowery, spread-eagled the thing beautifully; Barber, then a young man, quick-witted and shrewd in debate, was at his best that night; and the rest of us came along in straggling order. Again the Electoral College won, as it will probably always do when properly handled in such contests; and there is little doubt that it will always win in more important contests, should such occur, unless the people should become so befogged as to lose sight of their moorings.
Value of Debate
Such debates are all out of date—changing conditions again. It is now too easy to reach what are far greater attractions for most people; and the air is loaded with so many good things that may be had for the trouble of tapping the reservoir. Yet it seems a pity that they should have died so suddenly, without leaving behind anything more attractive yet equally good as mental trainers. They did bring out latent powers that were often unsuspected. They did develop habits of logical thinking. They did give one some measure of self-reliance by forcing him to dig things out for himself, instead of relying upon encyclopedic conclusions of others, consciously or unconsciously adopted as his own.
Reading Mr. Bush’s article, one gets the impression that women were not involved, either as participants or members of the audience. But in fact, they did get involved, especially when the subject was education. In 1881, the Hunterdon County Teachers’ Association held a debate on a School Law prohibiting corporal punishment. Women took part on both sides: Miss Mary A. Reading in the affirmative and Miss Sarah A. Cook in the negative.4
Mr. Bush Debates
It seems fitting to end this post with the last debate mentioned in the Hartman transcript of the Hunterdon Republican, on April 13, 1887. It was a debate held in Clinton on the subject: “whether a Prohibition Party is necessary to the success of the temperance cause.” Mr. Hartman decided that this letter to the editor was so informative that it merited being “printed in full.” Another reason for sharing it here is that representing the negative side of the question was none other than Egbert T. Bush. (I made just a few grammatical & spelling corrections.) I found it noteworthy that the author of this letter had very a low opinion of political parties in general.
A very interesting debate was held in Temperance Hall, in Clinton on Saturday evening last, on the question as to whether a Prohibition Party is necessary to the success of the temperance cause. The meeting was called to order by John T. Leigh, Esq., who nominated Asa Suydam, Esq., of Quakertown, as chairman. There being no other nomination, Mr. Suydam was elected and took his seat. The disputants were George Fleming of Valley and Egbert T. Bush of Quakertown. Mr. Fleming was first introduced and took the affirmative – arguing, or trying to argue, for fully forty minutes the necessity of a Prohibition Party to the success of the temperance cause. Mr. Fleming is a good reasoner and appeared to be well posted and well prepared. Almost every argument and point heretofore, made use of by the third party. St. John Prohibitionists seemed to be upon the end of his tongue, ready to be let off at the best possible advantage. He did well – remarkably well considering circumstances under which he was placed. But of course he failed. He had to fail, for he had no foundation to stand upon. But because he failed was no fault of his. Anyone else would have done the same. I couldn’t help wondering all the time he was speaking why such an intelligent and such an excellent young man as George Fleming should get on the wrong side of so important a question. Mr. Fleming’s time having expired, Mr. E. T. Bush, of Quakertown, was introduced and spoke for forty minutes upon the negative. Mr. Bush is a young man of good judgment, is well posted and was well prepared for this occasion; being on the right side of the question, he had but little difficulty in demolishing what little there was that appeared to be argument on the part of his opponent. I cannot exactly say that he knocked the bottom out of it, because there was no bottom in it to knock out. Mr. Bush, showed, by clear, logical reasoning, unanswerable argument and solid statistical facts, not only that the Prohibition Party is not necessary to the success of the temperance cause, but is now and always has been a detriment and a hindrance to the temperance work. He showed that temperance enactments and prohibitory laws always had and always would come from the people, irrespective of all political parties, whether Democratic, Republican or Prohibition; that in Georgia, Virginia, Maryland and many other Southern States, where the Democratic party was largely in the majority, the Democrats were entitled to the greater share of the credit. On the contrary, in Maine, Kansas, Iowa and Rhode Island, where the Republicans are in the majority, they are likewise entitled to the greater share of the credit. That temperance legislation and prohibition laws had been and would be enacted not only without the aid or assistance of the Prohibition Party, but in spite of it; that the leaders of the Prohibition Party now are in league with the whiskey interest, working for the defeat of all restrictive legislation upon the whiskey question; showing clearly and conclusively that they want neither restriction nor prohibition unless it comes through their own peculiar political third party channel; that the Prohibition Party, as such, had never accomplished anything whatever for the cause of temperance – never enacted a law, closed a saloon nor reformed a drunkard; that everywhere they could, they had divided the temperance sentiment and temperance vote, thereby defeating temperance candidates and sending the meanest, lowest and dirtiest whiskey men to the legislative halls; that as Mr. Fleming had intimated the Republican party had outlived its usefulness and ought to die, with at least equal propriety he could say that the Prohibition Party had outlived its usefulness and ought to die also. And he might have added that it never had any usefulness and never ought to have been born and never would have been had it not been for a few disappointed office seekers who wanted a little revenge and a few unscrupulous demagogues anxious to blow their trumpets around the country at whatever price the people of different places might be liberal enough to pay them. I haven’t a word to say against the masses of the Prohibition Party. I believe them to be honest, sincere Christian temperance people; but the leaders are like the leaders of all other political parties, many of them designing intriguers, working only for their own selfish ends. Signed “Spectator.”
Mr. Bush named many of the participants in these debates, and I had hoped to be able to provide backgrounds for all of them. But time ran out. Here are most of them, listed alphabetically:
John E. Barber (1862-1939), son of Wm. H. Barber and Margaret Warford, never married. After retiring from farming, he had an active career as Delaware Twp. tax collector, member of the county tax board, and vice president of the Amwell National Bank. He was also active in Democratic politics, although he had a low opinion of the New Deal. He was much younger than most of the people Mr. Bush mentioned.
Emery S. Barrick (1846-1891), son of Samuel Barrick and Euphemia Sheppard, and brother of William C. Barrick, below. Emery Barrick never married, and died at a young age (45). He graduated from Lafayette College in 1873, studied law at Harvard and was admitted to the bar in Easton, PA in 1877, according to a notation on Find-a-Grave.
William C. Barrick (1842-1902), son of Samuel Barrick and Euphemia Sheppard, married in 1878 Eoline Ada Sutton (1856-1925), daughter of William Bonham Sutton and Hannah Rittenhouse. Barrick began his adult career as a school teacher, but by 1870 was a law student, and thereafter a qualified lawyer. Samuel & Euphemia Barrick, and their sons William and Emery, and William’s wife Eoline were all buried in the Prospect Hill Cemetery.
George Newton Best (1846-1926), son of Cornelius Best and Elsie Alpaugh of Readington, married in 1877 Hannah Wilson (1847-1932), daughter of Hon. Richard H. Wilson and Mary Gaddis of Delaware Twp. The couple had only one child, who died young. Best was a very popular doctor, and widely known as a naturalist. He was also a good friend of Egbert T. Bush.
Henry Greenleaf Bowne (1851-1917) was the son of Emanuel K. Bowne and Mary Ann Smith. In 1877 he married Susannah Rockafellow (1856- 1932), daughter of Daniel and Deborah Rockafellow of Pennsylvania. In 1900, Henry G. Bowne, wife Susanna and daughter Lillie May were living in Stockton, and Henry was employed as a life insurance agent. This was after serving as Postmaster at Oak Dale (Bowne Station) until he came down with pleurisy (inflammation of the lining of the chest cavity which causes painful breathing). On December 14, 1892, the Hunterdon Republican reported that
The “Oak Dale Literary Society,” will discuss the following question at the Van Dolah School house on 15 Dec. 1892: “Resolved, That the President of the United States should be elected by the popular vote.” Those chosen to argue the Affirmative are Henry G. Bowne, John E. Barber and Jacob C. Warman. The Negative by Egbert T. Bush, Edmund W. Thaw and Dennis V. L. Schenck. All others who attend will be allowed to speak on the side of their choice.5
As you can see, Bowne and Bush took opposite sides of the argument.
Henry G. Bowne’s health deteriorated, and by 1910 he was listed as a 58-year-old invalid, renting his house in Stockton, living with wife Susanna, who had had five children, only two of whom were still alive. Their 17-year-old son Edward was living with them. By 1917, Henry Bowne had moved to Easton, according to his death certificate. He died there, age 66, on August 21, 1917.
Elias L. Dalrymple (1840-1930), blacksmith, teacher and surveyor, was the son of Samuel Dalrymple and Mary Ann Lennard of Alexandria Twp., who both died before he was 5 years old. He was raised by John S. Dalrymple and wife Martha Aller of Alexandria Twp., and the apprenticed as a blacksmith to Jonathan Kitchen of Franklin. He married in 1865 Jane R. Trimmer (1846-1900), daughter of Joseph P. Trimmer and Elizabeth Brown of Kingwood. Ill health after his service in the Civil War forced him to take up teaching, and in 1889 he taught at the Vandolah School, which is probably when he developed a friendship with E. T. Bush. He also served as superintendent of the Methodist Sunday School in Quakertown.
George Fleming of Valley: I assume Mr. Bush was referring to George Fleming (1845-1922), son of Andrew Fleming and Margaret Lawshe of Branchburg. In 1868 he married Esther Ann Green (1850-1928), daughter of Peter Green and Esther Maxwell Miller of Readington. George and his family were living in Clinton for the 1880 and 1900 census, during which time George Fleming worked as a school teacher. The “Valley” Mr. Bush referred to was no doubt Round Valley. Pictured here are George and Esther Ann Fleming at their home.
John T. Leigh, Esq. (1821-1892), son of Samuel B. S. Leigh and Mary Taylor, married in 1844 Fannie Vansyckle (1824-1860), daughter of Aaron Vansyckle, Jr. and Mary Bird. John T. Leigh’s second wife was Fannie’s first cousin, Mary Vansyckle (1844-1927), daughter of William Vansyckle and Lydia Garrison.
John T. Leigh spent his life in Clinton Borough, and was one of the first elected mayors. In the census of 1870, his property was valued at $65,600 in real estate and $10,900 in personal property. For the time and place this was off the charts. This was despite the fact that he was sued in 1862 by Eli Bosenbury for a relatively small debt and was forced to sell the Clinton tavern lot. It was sold to the Clinton Bank, of which Leigh was one of the founders and a major stockholder. Leigh remained a wealthy man up to his death in 1892, age 71.
With his first wife Fannie, he had seven children, two of whom died as children, and another two as young adults. With second wife Mary he had ten children, two dying as infants, one age 16 and another age 27. Ten children survived him.
As Mr. Bush indicated, Leigh was a strong supporter of the Temperance movement, and participated in many of the debates held on the subject.
Mr. Bush wrote of Jacob S. Pierson that he “stands out clearly, big, jolly fellow that he was, everywhere delighting to get up a laugh.” Pierson (1819-1885) of Franklin Township, son of Daniel Pierson and Anna McPherson, married in 1852, Ellen R. Emmons (1824-c.1900), daughter of the Pierson neighbors Andrew and Grace Emmons. Jacob S. Pierson was active in Franklin Township politics, becoming Franklin Twp. Freeholder in 1867, and a member of the township committee in 1871, serving thereafter through 1876. I was surprised not to find an obituary for him in the Republican, or any mention of his participation in the Quakertown Debating Society.
John Williams Smith (1848-1923), son of Jonas Smith and Annie Eliza Williams of Erwinna, Bucks Co., PA, was described by Mr. Bush as “quietly and solidly impressive.” He married in 1873 Eva C. Barber (1853-1916), daughter of Charles D. Barber and Henrietta Warford. They had three children. In 1880, Smith was working as a clerk in a cotton mill. But in 1883 John W. Smith and Joseph Smith both of Lambertville were able to purchase the mill property in Prallsville from Stout Stover and by 1900 J.W. was a flour manufacturer living in Stockton.
Smith was active in Republican politics and was elected to the Stockton Town Council in 1898. He supported the Stockton Fire Department and served on the Stockton Board of Education in 1899. He was also a member of the Barber Burying Ground Association.
Eva Barber Smith died age 62 in 1916, and J. W. age 75 in 1923. The couple were buried in the Barber Cemetery in Delaware Township along with Eva Barber Smith’s parents.
John Dayton Stires (1853-1930) described by Mr. Bush as “then a merchant in the town [Quakertown], and later a lawyer in Iowa, a bright and ready debater.” He was the son of John Taylor Stires and Eleanor Gigun [?], who lived in Lebanon Twp. in 1850, but by 1880 had moved to Franklin Twp. But by 1880, J. Dayton had moved on to attend law school. So his time at Quakertown as a debater was a fairly brief one.
Charles M. Trimmer (c.1836-1887) of Franklin Township, son of Henry S. Trimmer and Urie Wilson, married the widow Martha Stevenson Snyder (c.1842-?) after her husband Peter Snyder died in 1863. Charles was a farmer all his life, which ended early when he was only 51. But during that time he was active in local politics, beginning in 1876 when he ran for the Assembly as a Democrat. The only elections he won were for Franklin Township Assessor, a position he held from 1880-1885.
George Opdyke Vanderbilt (1845-1927), son of Wholston Vanderbelt (c.1815-bef. 1870) and Elizabeth L. Opdyke (1823-?), married in 1878 Gertrude F. Taylor (1852-1934) of Hopewell twp., daughter of Benjamin & Gertrude Taylor. Vanderbilt was elected to the State Assembly in 1873 as a Democrat. In 1886 he was elected to the State Senate. He ran for Congress but lost that election. However, in 1923, at the age of 78, he ran again for the Assembly and won.
- Apologies for not checking the originals of the Hunterdon papers to see how the debates were covered here. It would require time spent with microfilm readers, and I was in too much of a hurry. Note also, Lincoln lost that election. ↩
- I have not yet published this article. ↩
- John Buchanan Floyd (1806-1863), governor of Virginia, served as President James Buchanan’s Secretary of War, which he left under a cloud for sending arms to Federal arsenals in the South in anticipation of the Civil War. During the War he served as Brigadier General under Robert E. Lee. He was sent to defend Fort Donelson on February 13, 1862, but realizing he would have to surrender to Grant’s forces, he appropriated all of the transportation available to escape with a few selected regiments, leaving the rest of his troops at the mercy of the Union Army, an act that was widely recognized as disgraceful. As for Simon Cameron (1799-1889), he was a U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, and then Secretary of War under Abraham Lincoln. As Wikipedia states, “Cameron’s tenure was marked by allegations of corruption and lax management, and he was forced to resign in January 1862.” Despite the fact that Cameron became notorious for his corruption, he prospered after the War becoming a powerful political boss in Pennsylvania politics. ↩
- Hunterdon Republican, Dec. 10, 1881. ↩
- From the Hartman transcription; may not be an exact quote. ↩