This obscure political figure is one Providence Ludlam, a 19th century resident of Cumberland County, New Jersey. Very little information could be found on this oddly named man, including his exact date of birth, his parents or reference to his education. The majority of the following information was found in the Historic Days In Cumberland, 1855-1865, published in 1907. This particular book yielded pertinent facts on Ludlam's political career and also contained the rare portrait of him shown above. Although no explanation is given as to why Ludlam was bestowed with his unique first name, it is mentioned in the above work that he did have a nickname.... "Provie"!
As mentioned earlier, Ludlam's early life is almost totally unknown. A listing for a "Providence Ludlam" on the Rootsweb genealogical site gives his year of birth as 1819, in Bridgeton, New Jersey. He married in May 1841 to Ms. Anna Coe in Salem County and it is unknown at the time of this writing if any children were born to them.
Research has shown that Ludlam's first attempt at public office was in 1856 as a candidate for the New Jersey State Assembly. He was defeated by the Democratic candidate and in the following year was elected to the office of Cumberland County clerk. The Historic Days In Cumberland gives note that during his tenure as clerk, Ludlam "exercised a large influence in political affairs."
Over the course of the following years, the name of Providence Ludlam grew to be a prominent one in New Jersey political circles, and it is mentioned that he was the "leader of the Republican Party in Cumberland County" and was "perhaps the most popular man of his day in Southern New Jersey". In 1860 he served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in Illinois that nominated Abraham Lincoln for the Presidency, and two years later won election to the New Jersey State Senate.
Ludlam served continuously in the Senate from 1863 to 1868 and in the latter year died in office on January 20th at age 48. A New Jersey Senate journal gives note that Ludlam was "seized with pains in his breast and around the heart" and was dead within half an hour of experiencing these symptoms. His funeral was attended by many members of the legislature,"amid the greatest public demonstration of sympathy in crowded streets ever given any citizen in Cumberland County." In addition to this large outpouring of public grief, Ludlam's wife Anna is recorded as dying a few months after her husband in August 1868. Both were interred at the Old Broad Street Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Bridgeton.
This Ludlam death notice appeared in the New York Times a few days after his sudden death.
Despite having very few sources that mention him, research has definitively shown that Providence Ludlam was a man of distinction in Cumberland County, as well as New Jersey. His sterling character is attested to by the Historical Days, which relates that he
"Was a born leader, a man of fine personal appearance, with agreeable manners. Everybody liked " Provie" and he lived to become great power not only in the county but in the State.
It is further stated that "had his life been spared, it is generally believed he would have been Governor of the State." This author must note that Ludlam's sudden demise in 1868 curtailed the possibility of having one of the strangest named New Jersey Governors ever!
YOU CAN HELP!
Its time for one of my famous "You Can Help" segments! Despite having a profile of adequate length, many facts on the life of Providence Ludlam still remain a mystery, including his date of birth, parents, siblings, education and burial location. The following is a shout out to any readers/lurkers/amateur historians and Facebook friends! As there is hardly anything on the internet about the life of this interestingly named man, hopefully someone out there knows more about "Provie" than what is already mentioned in his article. If any amateur historian/reader wants an interesting project to fill their time with, see what info you can dig up on this interestingly named New Jerseyean!