Jersey Reflections: Gustav Scheer


Jersey Reflections

By Vince Farinaccio

A Columnist for the Grapevine

Gustav Scheer
His efforts contributed to the development of Charles K. Landis’ new settlement as well as to the preservation of the Union as a Civil War soldier.
Back in Vineland, Gustav Scheer, an Alsatian sailor, Civil War Veteran, and one of Vineland’s earliest residents, settled into a life of farming. Having purchased land on the south side of Chestnut Avenue between Orchard Road and Delsea Drive, he acquired the adjacent property and erected a new home, a barn, and other necessities. Raised his family and tended to his crops.
Scheer’s vineyards and orchards produced grapes, berries, and assorted fruit. It was reported in the Vineland Historical Magazine in 1917 that “in his cellar is a [wine] cask holding 1,200 gallons and several of smaller size.”
But not all of his time was spent in Vineland after the war. Interested in seeing his native country again, Scheer returned to Europe in what was presumably 1878. He briefly described the trip for the Vineland Historical Magazine, “I visited Paris during the World's Fair, taking my daughter Josephine with me. I wished to visit my native town, Colmar, in Alsace, but did not chose (sic) to pay the German price for passports, and did not go. My children are all grown and away from home, excepting the youngest. I have worked hard and been prosperous. I have all I need."
In the same interview, Scheer claims that his wife died in 1888, but a family history written by his great-great-grandson Edmund, explains that she died in 1886 while giving birth to the couple’s 12th child.
In 1904, Scheer married Jenny Guiffra, pictured, from Millville and soon sold the farm and settled in a new home at Eighth and Quince streets. He remained in good health most of his life. Described as nearly six-feet tall and close to 200 pounds, he maintained a daily routine of taking walks through the borough of Vineland.
Although not much more is known about Gustav Scheer through biographical accounts, one item has been preserved in the Vineland Historical Magazine concerning a Mr. John B. Anderson, a relative of author and journalist Charles Nordhoff and Gustav’s neighbor. Anderson, a native of Ohio, was also a veteran of the Civil War.
According to the magazine, “Mr. Anderson brought from camp life a fondness for intoxicating drinks. He would go off on sprees with companions similarly inclined. Two horses had been killed by hard driving and ill usage. He would carry liquor home and conceal it in the woods. He was seen by Mr. Scheer on one occasion hiding a small cask. Mr. Scheer [secretly] removed the cask, placing it in Mrs. Anderson’s keeping.”
The magazine reports that Anderson began attending revival meetings at the Methodist Church and signed a pledge not to drink. Settling into a different lifestyle, he became a Freeholder and served the township well. A few years later, he happened to be riding with Scheer who admitted to being the one who removed the hidden cask from the woods through which they were traveling.
“Mr. Anderson grasped the hand of Mr. Scheer with a strength that was crushing and exclaimed, ‘You will go to Heaven for that good deed. It was the last whiskey I ever bought. I intended drinking it Sunday with my companions. God will reward you for the good you did.’”
Anderson went on to a successful life, eventually moving to southern California and Chicago.
Scheer remained in Vineland, but it was reported that he stopped his daily walks in October 1931. Still, he remained active and showed no signs of ailing health until January 1932. Two months later, at the age of 94, he died.
He had outlived most of his children but was survived by four sons, 17 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren, according to his obituary. He was interred in Oak Hill Cemetery, the last soldier to join his Civil War comrades in this Vineland resting place.
This may have been his adopted home when he first arrived off the coast of Sea Isle and made his way to Millville and then Vineland, chopping wood and clearing streets to make a living. His efforts contributed to the development of Charles K. Landis’ new settlement as well as to the preservation of the Union in the bloodiest and most bitter of our wars. He may have begun life here as an adopted son, but when he departed Vineland, it was as an American.

SNJ Today is a Southern New Jersey news and information source based in Millville, New Jersey that is dedicated to providing current stories related specifically to South Jersey.