On-line Book




Chapter 1

Chapter 2
The Biology of Salt Marshes

Chapter 3
Banking/Diking Procedures

Chapter 4
Economics of Land Reclamation

Chapter 5
Salt-Hay Farming

Chapter 6
Meadow Companies

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Sources Consulted

The Landscape Transformation of Coastal New Jersey
National Park Service Arrowhead


The manipulation of New Jersey's environment and landscape goes beyond the reclamation of tidal marshes. During the nineteenth century, when the cranberry was domesticated, many entrepreneurs cleared marshes and fresh-water swamps, built dikes and dug ditches within the Pinelands to create cranberry bogs. Until the middle of the twentieth century, farmers harvested cranberries in Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May, Cumberland, Monmouth and Ocean counties with some located on the boundary of the New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail. Today, however, the majority of cranberry bogs in New Jersey are located outside of the New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail, primarily in the western region of Burlington County. Only a few remain in Atlantic and Ocean counties.

Reclamation, whether tidal-marsh for general agricultural crops, or fresh-water swamp for cranberry bogs, all required similar elements and were based upon many of the same principles. Cranberry growers had to know the composition of their land to avoid overly swampy areas that could not be thoroughly drained, and areas more prone to frost. Moreover, prior to modern technological advantages, the growers had to be attuned to weather conditions in order to predict if a frost would occur the following morning, and thus flood the bogs the previous night. They also developed their own types of harvesting machines, recruited their own labor, and marketed their product. In many ways, cranberry growers had to be more than just good farmers; they also had to be shrewd businessmen.

Similar to the salt-hay industry and other agricultural endeavors which utilized the marshes, the history of cranberry production in New Jersey marks the development of another important crop. As with the reclamation of tidal marshes, cranberry bogs required the control and use of local water supplies. However, cranberry bogs utilized fresh water instead of salt or brackish water. Today, cranberry growers still follow many of the same principles used by nineteenth and early twentieth century growers.

Early History

The American cranberry, a native North American plant, belongs to the same botanical family as blueberries, huckleberries, and snowberries, and is related to the European cranberry, which grows in both Europe and Asia. The American variety, however, is bigger and ranges in color from light yellow to very dark red, while its shapes include bell, bugle, or cherry. Native Americans depended upon wild cranberries as a source of food. The berries were cooked with maple sugar to make a sweet sauce, or were ground into a pulp, mixed with dry meat or fish, shaped into cakes, and dried in the sun. This mixture, called pemmican, helped Indians to maintain a balanced diet during the winter. [1]

In addition to understanding the nutritional value of cranberries, Indians also realized their medicinal value. Mixed with cornmeal, they became an effective way to treat blood poisoning and were used as a poultice for wounds. European sea captains bought cranberries as a way to prevent scurvy on long voyages. The juice of the wild berries were used as a dye for rugs and blankets. Moreover, they were a valuable trade item. They were also presented to the white settlers as signs of peace. In 1680, a resident of West Jersey wrote his brother in England:

We have a great store of very wild fruits such as cranberries. [They are] much like cherries for color and bigness, [and] may be kept till the fruit come in again; an excellent sauce is made of them for venison, turkey and other great fowl, and they are better to make tarts than either gooseberries or cherries. We have them brought to our houses by Indians in great plenty. [2]

Folklore tells that the Europeans named them "craneberries" because, prior to blooming into a mature flower, the fruit's stem, calyx, and petals resemble the neck, head, and bill of a crane. Other reasons for the moniker derives from the fact that the berries were food for cranes along the New England and New Jersey coasts. Thomas Budd, on the other hand, in Good Order Established in Pennsylvania and New Jersey in America, calls them "cramberries" and included them as a natural resource of the area. As time passed, the accepted spelling became cranberry. [3]

Cranberry Industry


Let the others praise in fervent ways
The plump Thanksgiving bird,
And let them sing of leg and wing,
With old Pegasus spurred
Until his speed is great indeed
And all is blithe and merry,
But let me sing that splendid thing,
The succulent cranberry.

O humble fruit, we've long been mute
Upon thy many charms!
With nipping zest, you do your best
Toward dyspepsia's harms,
Both sour and sweet, you sauce the meat
Your flavor does not vary.
Retiring, coy, yet full of joy—
O marvelous cranberry!

About you hangs a taste that tangs,
The food that would be harsh,
Your plump skin's filled with dew, distilled
Above the sun kissed marsh.
No grape, I'll say, of old Tokay
Or from Oporto airy
Drips with a wine as rich as thine,
O excellent cranberry!

Of ruby hue, a jewel, too,
To grace the festal board.
With lavish heart you give your part—
Give all your spicy hoard.
When eager lipped we've sat and sipped
The juice that views with sherry.
Ah, of the feast you're not the least,
Mellifluous cranberry!

So let them praise in lilting ways
The turkey and the pie.
But let me sing that splendid thing
That makes the heart beat high.
I would not waste one shade of taste,
I'd drain the dictionary
To find more ways to sing the praise
Of thee, O rare Cranberry!

Figure 38. Cranberries were so popular that poems were published in local newspapers. Author and paper are unknown. Courtesy of Elizabeth Carpenter.

Today's cranberry industry began in 1810 in Dennis on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, when Henry Hall, after observing that natural berries thrived better in areas subject to being covered by wind-blown sand, decided to transplant berries and sod into a bog that he had drained and sanded. His plants burgeoned and produced a good crop of berries. By 1820, Hall was shipping surplus berries to New York, and eleven years later, the cultivation of cranberries had become a profitable enterprise in northern Massachusetts. Furthermore, Augustus Leland, a cranberry farmer from the Boston area, experimented with winter flooding to control cranberry worms and protect the crop from frost. He also began sanding the plants when the bogs froze. [4]

With these Massachusetts experiments as precedent, Benjamin Thomas of Pemberton in Burlington County, first tried to domesticate the cranberries in New Jersey in 1835. His efforts succeeded and he sold the berries to a very receptive audience. New Jerseyans had been consuming wild cranberries since early settlement. In 1789, the New Jersey state legislature passed a statue forbidding anyone to pick the berries before October 10. Violators paid a 10 shilling fine. [5]

In 1845 in Cassville, Jackson Township, Ocean County, John "Old Peg Leg" Webb improved his crop by controlling the amount of water in the bogs. He received an insurmountable price of $50 a barrel for his berries in Philadelphia that year. Webb, however, is more famous for finding a way to sort cranberries. Supposedly, because he had one leg, Webb was unable to carry the berries downstairs and maneuver himself at the same time. Instead, he let the berries roll down the stairs, and he noticed that the good berries bounced while the bad berries stayed where they fell. D. T. Staniford of New Brunswick, New Jersey, later used this bounce technique to develop the first cranberry separator, a type still used to sort soft berries from sound fruit. [6]

By the middle of the nineteenth century, the cranberry business had a stronghold in New Jersey especially in the Pinelands in such isolated locales as Ongs Hat, Double Trouble, Mount Misery, Oriental, Calico, Friendship, Penny Pot, and Hog Wallow. There, Barclay White, J. A. Fenwick, D. H. Shreve and Theodore Budd—the founding fathers of the New Jersey cranberry industry—moved New Jersey's cranberry business out of the experimental stage and into a commercial industry. The main problem these men faced was finding a way to keep the fruit from rotting before it was picked. Joseph J. White, writing in Cranberry Culture (1870), relayed some of Barclay White's ideas:

Such has been my experience in the cultivation of the cranberry, and unless I can find a remedy for this rotting of the berry, I must abandon the business as unprofitable. If this can be avoided, there is an excellent opportunity here to cultivate them extensively and profitably. They begin to rot about the commencement of their ripening or coloring, on the side touching the ground, presenting the appearance of having been scalded. I have thought it might be owing to the hot sun shining on them after rain, scalding the part touching the earth. Possibly, when the vines become thicker, shading the ground more thoroughly, it may be corrected. [7]

White was correct in his assumptions. However, he and the other pioneers relied upon a method of trial and error for finding the best means of growing cranberries profitably. [8]

By 1860, cranberry fever had hit New Jersey and the economic success of the first growers in the region prompted other residents as well as land speculators from Buffalo, Chicago, and New York to Start in the business. The cranberry industry also provided opportunities to those who lost jobs due to a decline in the cordwood and charcoal trade. The vastness of the Pinelands allowed growers to expand and create large bogs without worrying about the lack of land. Speculators bought worthless marshes and swamps in the area and sold them for $100 an acre. [9]

By 1866, residents of Ocean County, the second-largest cranberry-producing county in New Jersey, had invested approximately $1 million into the business. [10] Worthless land at Manchester, Bricksburg, Toms River, and along the shore had been turned into productive cranberry bogs. In 1868 a local newspaper reported:

The people of Ocean County are going into the cranberry business this spring with a vigor and enthusiasm that completely overshadows all former efforts in that line. Vast swamps are being cleared and the prospect is that thousands of acres will be planted. There is no doubt that there is money in it. [11]

With the coming of the Camden and Atlantic Railroad and the West Jersey Railroad, the cranberry industry prospered even more. In 1881, the Camden and Atlantic transported 25,016 bushels of cranberries to Philadelphia, while the West Jersey transported 9,257 bushels. By the end of the nineteenth century, commercial production had increased, especially in the shore areas south of Monmouth County (Fig 38.). [12]

In 1909, the cranberry industry reached a new height with 9,000 acres of land being (Fig. 39) harvested. More than 4,500 acres were located in Burlington County, 1,200 acres were in Atlantic County, and 800 acres in Ocean County. The pressures and turmoil of World War I, however, led to a decrease in the amount of acres harvested. In 1919, cranberries grew only on 7,000 acres. A quick recovery soon occurred, with 11,000 acres harvested in the 1920s—6,000 acres were in Burlington County, approximately 2,000 in Atlantic, 1,400 in Ocean and a few hundred acres each in six other counties. In 1926, growers harvested 210,000 barrels of cranberries weighing 96 pounds a piece. [13]

This surge survived the Depression only to be subdued by World War II. By 1940 the number of acres harvested had decreased to 5,000. Ten years later only 4,000 acres survived due to a shortage of labor, increase in wages, and changes in land use dictated by the expansion of the blueberry industry. [14]

CountyAcres Set to Vines Production
CountyBog Acres Production
Cape May32818,773
CountyHarvested Acres Production
StateAcres Harvested Production
(1,000 of barrels)
(1,000 of $s)

1T. F. Rose, H. C. Woolman, and T. T. Price, Historical and Biographical Atlas of the New Jersey Coast (Philadelphia: Woolman and Rose, 1878), 11. The statistics obtained for this chart and the next did not specify whether this acreage was the amount harvested or the amount set in vines. The sources for the next two charts specify the number of acres harvested.

2Dimitry T. Pitt, and Lewis P. Hoagland, New Jersey Agriculture Historical Facts and Figures. Circular 339 (Trenton: New Jersey Department of Agriculture. 1943), 326-27.

3Blueberry and Cranberry Industries in New Jersey. Circular 400 (Trenton: New Jersey Crop Reporting Service, 1956), 20-27.

4Robert J. Battaglia, Cranberry Statistics (Trenton: New Jersey Agricultural Statistics service, 1990), n.p.

Figure 39. Cranberry statistics from 1873, 1909-10, 1955, 1988.

The Cranberry and Blueberry Research Laboratory

Besides facing a decline in production, cranberry growers faced a more formidable enemy in the blunt-nosed leafhopper. This insect transmitted a virus-like organism onto the cranberry plants, which then deformed the cranberry flower and hindered fruit development. Through the cooperative efforts of cranberry growers and scientists from the Cranberry and Blueberry Research Laboratory, a substation of Rutgers University's Agricultural Experiment Station, the blunt-nosed leafhopper and false blossom were controlled. However, it took almost thirty years to do so. From 1918 to early 1950s, the disease almost eliminated New Jersey's cranberry industry. [15]

The three men credited with finding the vector of the false blossom disease are Ray Wilcox, Charles Beckwith, and Charlie Doehlert. Beckwith and Doehlert were employees of the Rutgers Agricultural Extension Service while Wilcox was a plant pathologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These men worked together at the Cranberry and Blueberry Research Laboratory from its beginning in 1918. The laboratory opened under Beckwith's direction, and Doehlert acted as its director from 1944 to 1960. The lab gave cranberry and blueberry growers a chance to work with and seek advice from such plant pathologists, horticulturists, and entomologists as Fred Chandler, Raymond Wilcox, Robert Filmer, Phil Marucci, Eugene Varney, Alan Strech and William Tomlinson, Jr. In addition to finding cures for blueberry and cranberry plant diseases, the scientists experimented with controlling insects and using bees for pollination. [16]

These men created a bond with the cranberry growers that allowed each to help the other. In return for doing research on the bogs, the scientists shared their information with the growers. Doehlert was especially noted for making regular visits, with county extension agents, to the cranberry bogs and blueberry fields. When growers had urgent problems, they could obtain immediate help by calling the laboratory. Phil Marucci, director of the lab from 1960 to 1984, compared the scientists at the lab to firemen, "when a problem cropped up we were there to work on it." In less urgent cases, growers could make appointments with the scientists. Moreover, when the scientists needed construction work done for experiments, the cranberry and blueberry growers would lend a hand. The relationship that Beckwith, Doehlert, and Marucci established among growers and the scientists allowed the Cranberry and Blueberry Research Laboratory to grow and the cranberry and blueberry industries to prosper. [17]

When the lab first opened, it was located in Whitesbog and focused only on cranberry problems. However, with the increased production of blueberries in the area, the lab expanded its scope. In 1927, the lab was moved to Pemberton where it served cranberry and blueberry growers for thirty-nine years. Its present location in Chatsworth was dedicated in 1966. Today, the federal government recognizes the facility as the National Center for Vaccinium Research. In addition, the lab has the only existing cranberry-breeding program in the country. [18]


In 1869, with the cranberry industry on the rise, Theodore Budd, with the help of Fenwick, Joseph White and other prominent growers, organized the first cranberry-growers association in the United States. The group met at Vincentown, New Jersey, and two years later the American Cranberry Growers Association was organized. [19] The group marketed the cranberry crop, developed foreign trade, and established committees to discuss crop improvements. Moreover, to ensure that all member growers received its benefits, corresponding secretaries were set up in Ocean, Burlington, Atlantic, Monmouth, Middlesex, Camden, and Cape May counties. [20]

Within the first year, members of the group were shipping berries in standardized barrels and boxes. Certain box and barrel manufacturers put the brand of the association and the mark of the manufacturer on the package. In 1874 the association formed a foreign trade committee to market the berries in England. Two years later the group's duties were taken over by the Fruit Growers Trade Company of New Jersey. The English did not buy cranberries as the committee had hoped. The committee's work, along with that of the Growers' Association in general, however, was the groundwork for the establishment of the American Cranberry Exchange. [21]

In 1893, Andrew J. Rider, a member of the American Cranberry Association, a resident of Hammonton, and the founder of Rider College, continued the association's efforts to market the berry in England. In fall 1893, he sailed to Europe on a British ocean liner with a crate of cranberries. He persuaded the chef to serve the berries as a sauce to the passengers. He also gave bouquets of cranberries to passengers. Upon his arrival to England, he discovered that the English had prepared cranberries by boiling them alone in water, usually in a metal saucepan. All of these factors led to a bitter-tasting sauce instead of the sweet concoction Americans ate. To prevent such misuses of the berry, Rider compiled and distributed cranberry cookbooks. [22]

Rider's greatest promotion of cranberries came when he presented them to the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII. The Prince then informed Rider that Queen Victoria would enjoy a crate as well. Supposedly the Queen's taste for cranberries opened the door for a foreign cranberry market. In 1894, England imported 5,000 barrels of cranberries and Rider was named the "cranberry king" of South Jersey. [23]

Once the cranberry industry was well established abroad and at home, the need for a cooperative marketing organization soon developed. Their production encompassed a wide geographic area that included New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin, but cranberries were a perishable crop, with sales restricted to a short period of time. As a result, the Grower's Cranberry Company was established in 1895, by growers in both New Jersey and Massachusetts, to deal with the selling of fresh cranberries. The sales office, located in Philadelphia, developed marketing techniques, dealt with huge volumes, found buyers, and gave the profits to the growers (minus a 5 percent commission). Prior to this, growers found their own buyers or placed the crop on consignment. [24]

In 1907, the Wisconsin Cranberry Sales Company, the New England Cranberry Company, and the New Jersey Cranberry Sales Company merged to form the National Fruit Exchange with a headquarters in New York City. Four years later the Grower's Cranberry Company joined with the National Fruit Exchange, whose name was changed to the American Cranberry Exchange. The exchange acted as a central selling agent for its members and marketed 75 percent of Wisconsin's total, fresh cranberry crop and 65 percent of the crops from New Jersey and Massachusetts. The rest of the fresh cranberries were sold either by individual owners or other marketing companies. The exchange also developed advertising techniques such as the Eatmor trade name. The name became so popular that in 1953 the group became Eatmor Cranberries, Inc. [25]

By the 1930s, with the introduction of mass-production canning techniques, cranberries became available year-round. The canning of cranberries began in the early twentieth century. In 1917, Elizabeth Lee of New Egypt in Ocean County cooked some of her bruised berries with sugar and other ingredients, and made a jelly-like sauce. She marketed the sauce in a Philadelphia department store as "Bog Sweet," and it was such a success that she formed the Cranberry Products Company and produced it in great quantities. [26]

Lee, however, learned that she was not the first with such an idea; Marcus Urann, a Massachusetts cranberry grower, had started the Ocean Spray Preserving Company—which also produced cranberry sauce—in 1912. With ideas from Lee, Urann turned the Ocean Spray Preserving Company into Cranberry Canners, Inc. He then purchased cranberries from anyone who would sell them, and his business grew. World War II spurred Cranberry Canners' growth even more because of the increased military demand for canned goods. By 1942, 44 percent of the national cranberry crop was sent to Cranberry Canner to be processed. Four years later, the name was changed to the National Cranberry Association, which processed berries under the Ocean Spray label. [27]

By 1949, the National Cranberry Association canned 55 percent of the national cranberry crop as Ocean Spray products, while Eatmor Cranberries, Inc., sold only 29 percent of the total crop as fresh berries; canning eventually led to the demise of Eatmor Cranberries. Eight years later, the National Cranberry Association changed its name, once again, to Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., and moved its headquarters to Middleboro, Massachusetts (Figs. 40, 41). [28]

map map
Figure 40. Map showing the distribution of New Jersey Cranberry acreage for 1955. Each dot represents ten acres. Based on a graph in Blueberry. Figure 41. Map showing current distribution of New Jersey cranberry acreage. Each dot represents fifty acres. American Cranberry, by Paul Eck, copy 1990 by Rutgers, the State University.

Today, Ocean Spray is one of the most successful cooperatives in the United States and continues to process 80 percent of the total cranberries harvested. Approximately 700 cranberry growers nationwide belong to Ocean Spray. Out of these, approximately forty farmers are from New Jersey, the majority being located in Burlington County, west of Route 9. The Ocean Spray Cooperative is managed by cranberry growers. To own stock in the company, one must be a cranberry grower. Membership in the cooperative improves marketing potential, allows product research activities, and helps match production to consumer demand. [29]

Cranberry Bogs

The essential elements—past and present—needed for creating a proper cranberry bog included plenty of fresh water and a low, moist soil consisting of peat, muck, mold, and decayed vegetation. New Jersey cranberry farmers found these elements along the waterways and adjacent swamps or fresh-water marshes in and around the Pinelands. Similar to farmers who farmed tidal wetlands, the cranberry growers transformed agriculturally worthless land into fertile bogs with great economic potential through reclamation. [30]

Upon locating a viable tract of marshland or swamp, cranberry growers cleared it of all brush and trees. The surface of the bog then underwent turfing; farmers used a turfing axe and cut the turf, or first layer of grass and sod, into strips 12" x 18". [31] They then used a hook to pull up the strips of turf and turn them upside down to dry. Once dried, the cranberry growers used turfing hoes to level the surface of the bog. [32]

Drainage ditches were also a major structural component in cranberry bogs. Farmers utilized as many ditches as demanded by the size of the bog. A ditch was cut around the perimeter to cut off any underground water sources and to prevent upland flora from encroaching on the bogs. Bigger bogs required a central ditch that was 4' wide and 18" deep through its center. Smaller cross ditches were 3' wide and deep enough to ensure proper drainage. Farmers spread any excess soil from these ditches over the bog to help smooth rough areas or increase the height of low areas. After the dikes and reservoirs were made, but prior to planting of the cranberry vines, workers improved the bogs' surface with a layer of sand or gravel. [33]

Once the growers turfed the bogs and dug ditches, local waterways were impounded or wells were dug to create reservoirs which were located upstream from the cranberry bogs (Fig. 42). Earthen dikes were then built to hold in the reservoir's water. The growers also built dikes around the perimeter of the bog itself. The bank, or dike, was built of earth, sand, and turf; its dimensions depended upon water pressure as well as the exposure of the reservoir or bog to the elements. Similar to the construction of tidal-marsh banks, farmers built stronger cranberry-bog dikes in areas more susceptible to wind and erosion. Additionally, farmers also had to keep their dikes protected from being undermined by muskrats (Fig. 43).

Figure 42. This drawing illustrates the layout of the cranberry bogs and reservoir. Cranberry Growing.

Figure 43. Cross-section of a bank or dam. Cranberry Growing.

Farmers controlled the flow of the water from reservoir-to-bog and from bog-to-bog by trunk gates that consisted of a sill and trunk. The sides of the gates were double-sheathed to reduce water seepage and the trunk portion traversed the dike and was set below the permanent water level of the bog. Today the sill, which extends above the water level, is treated with creosote to keep it from decaying (Fig. 44).

Figure 44. These illustrations show the correct and incorrect method of setting a trunk and receiver. American Cranberry.

At the outlet end, a short uptake serves to cut down on the velocity of the water coming through the trunk, thereby reducing the potential for scouring, and insures that the trunk remains full of water. Water flow is also controlled by flashboards positioned across the receiver sill. At the end of the bog, a similar covered trunk is fitted across the dike to control the flow of water leaving the bog. This control gate is used when it is desired to raise the water table in the bog. [34]

The passing of the water from the reservoir to the first bog and then to the rest depends upon gravity once the flashboards are removed. Because of this, water was neither wasted nor contaminated. Moreover, the water was used by a number of cranberry growers who worked together and utilized the same reservoirs. When the owner of the bogs at the beginning of the chain finished with the water, he released it to his neighbor. Currently, growers estimate that for every acre of cranberry bog that has to be flooded, one acre of reservoir is needed, assuming there is a forty-eight- to seventy-two-hour recharge rate. For winter flooding, at least 300,000 gallons of water is needed for every acre of bog. The size of the bogs varied. Presently, modern bogs, which range between two and four acres each, are smaller than the nineteenth-century bogs that could encompass as much as fifty acres. As more became known about cranberry culture, growers decided that smaller bogs were easier to maintain and harvest. Today, cranberry growers follow the same steps as their ancestors in creating a new bog and manual labor is still required even though they utilize modern machinery such as backhoes and bulldozers. [35]


Despite the use of modern technology, modern cranberry farmers follow the methods for harvesting that their fathers and grandfathers found to be the most beneficial. In the fall, growers flooded the bogs to assist in the harvest, and during the winter to keep the roots from freezing. Prior to the use of irrigation systems, the flooding also protected against frost and drought. Flooding also decreased the number of insects that fed on the cranberry vines in the spring. The harvesting of cranberries, whether in the nineteenth century or today, begins in late September and lasts approximately six weeks. The key to picking the berries in the past was hiring myriad workers, usually Italian families from Philadelphia. [36] Until the turn of the century, everybody in the family could be used because the picking was done by hand. A foreman watched between eight and twelve pickers, and assigned them in groups of four or five to a strip one rod wide. The foreman made sure that no berries were dropped or overlooked. He also gave each picker a tag with a number on it for every bushel picked. A fast picker could average between two and four bushels in five to six hours. In the 1920s, workers made 40 cents a bushel (Fig. 45). [37]

drawing of people harvesting cranberries
Figure 45. This 1877 lithograph depicts migrant workers harvesting cranberries in Ocean County. Pictorial Guide.

At the end of the day the number on the first tag handed out was subtracted from the number on the last so that the foremen and growers would know how many boxes were picked. This ensured that the fruit was being picked fast enough; every grower estimated how many bushels per day had to be picked prior to the harvest. This allowed him to hire enough workers so that the fruit could be harvested in the allotted amount of time. If the berries were not picked fast enough they could be subject to frost. The pickers were also paid in local conscript or legal tender. After the harvest, the women and children remained to weed the bogs before winter flooding. [38]

The pickers usually lived in makeshift buildings near the cranberry bogs. The descriptions of the bunkhouses or barracks varied. One was described as being 16' x 40' with a partition through the center and a chimney on the end. At each end there were two tiers of four bunks separated by matched board partitions. Each bunk was 4' wide and held two people. The men occupied one end of the structure, and the women the other. Arranged in such a fashion, the houses could hold between sixty and seventy-five men, women, and children. In Wilson's Jersey Shore, the barracks were described as such:

A typical one was about 40' long, 20' wide, and two stories high. On each floor was a hallway about 6' feet wide running the length of the house, with small rooms on each side about 6' x 8' and about 6-1/2' high. A window about 2' square was in each room, and one wooden bunk. There were nineteen rooms to a barrack. Each room was occupied by one family, whether it consisted of one member or six. Here the family had to keep all its possessions, food, clothes, and cooking utensils. All of the cooking and washing was done outside. [39]

With the invention of the cranberry scoop—a heavy wood box with steel teeth which combed through the vines—at the turn of the century, the use of families to harvest the berries began to decline; the weight of the box deemed it a tool to be handled only by men (Fig. 46). An ordinary laborer could pick six to twelve bushels a day while an expert could do as many as twenty. The scoops reduced the amount of labor needed as well as saved on housing and supervision. Two drawbacks of the scoop, however, were that more berries dropped to the ground and the vines could be damaged if the picker did not handle the scoop properly. [40]

cranberry scoops
Figure 46. Cranberry scoops were used well into the twentieth century to harvest the berries. Pages.

Other modes of picking were also being tested. In the 1920s, growers experimented with dry harvesters. The first successful harvester was the Mathewson picking machine which, like its successors, stripped berries from the vine with fourteen rows of curved tines located on a hollow cylinder. The tines, acting like a scoop, could cover an area 30' wide and could comb 2" of vine surface; these dimensions allowed the machine to harvest 15 square feet of bog in one revolution. T. D. Darlington of Whitesbog invented his own picker based on the Mathewson. His version had rows of tines resembling six large combs arranged on a comb bar controlled by a cam that would position the combs over small segments of berries in the path of the picker. [41]

Water harvesting, or the scooping or raking of berries while the bog was flooded, was also tested. This type of harvesting had several advantages over the scoop and the dry pickers in that the berries were harvested faster, fewer were dropped, and vines were less injured. One disadvantage, however, was that berries harvested in water deteriorated faster. In the 1960s, a new type of water harvester, a water reel or water beater (which describes the action of the machine), beat the berries off of the vine instead of stripping them, while the reel pulled the machine through the water. The efficient methods of this harvester increased the cranberry yield per acre and decreased the amount of labor, resulting in a rise in profit. Moreover, the increasing demand for processed berries, requiring lesser-quality fruit, made the water reel the prominent means of harvesting. This method is still used today. [42]

Although water harvesting requires less intensive work, it is still complicated. To keep from damaging the vines, the water harvesters must be directed in the same motion as the vines grow. A lead man, familiar with the layout of the bog, leads workers in a counterclockwise direction (Fig. 47). Workers overlap each other's path so that while each worker goes around the bog once, the bog has been gone over twice. With stakes that mark the pattern of the bog, the workers begin harvesting on the outside and work their way inward. The stakes also help the lead man keep the proper direction so harvesters neither cross over the growing path nor pick against the grain. If picked against the grain, vines tangle in the machine, causing damage to the root systems. [43]

workers harvesting cranberries
Figure 47. Workers harvesting cranberries near Chatsworth. Sebold.

The Industry Today

The Pinelands of New Jersey produce the third-largest quantity of cranberries in the nation. Changes, however, in the amount of acreage and number of growers began in the 1930s and continued until after World War II. During the Depression, the amount of utilized acreage fell off due to poor prices, bad management, and the false blossom disease. As a result, growers looked for other ways to utilize their land. Elizabeth White, a cranberry grower with C. F. Coville, used bogs to experiment with the hybridization of blueberries. Their experiments produced plants used in the cultivated-blueberry industry. By the 1950s, blueberries had displaced cranberries in many areas, and postwar urbanization pressures resulted in the transformation of cranberry yards into housing developments. [44]

While there are fewer cranberry bogs and growers today than in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, modern technology allows more berries to grow on each bog than ever before. Today forty-five growers produce approximately 370,000 barrels of cranberries a year on 3,300 acres of bogs. These growers also maintain approximately 15,000 additional acres of non-cranberry producing natural wetlands and 10,000 acres of related uplands. In comparison, in 1955, 129 growers utilizing 3,611 acres produced only 87,549 barrels. Most cranberry bogs are privately owned and, thus, are inaccessible to the public. One exception is Double Trouble State Park, just within the New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail's boundaries along Cedar Creek in Ocean County, where visitors can view the process of cranberry growing and the architectural remains of a cranberry sorting and packing house and the village surrounding it. [45]

Double Trouble

Anthony Sharp, a Quaker and Irish woolen merchant, purchased the ca. 200-acre Site that later became Double Trouble in the eighteenth century. Sharp never saw the land because he remained in Europe. A 1765 survey, however, showed that someone operated a mill along Cedar Creek. Captain William Giberson and his sons owned the property from 1806 to 1904, and operated a sawmill there. A nearby cedar forest provided materials for the mill. As Giberson and his sons cleared the swampy land of trees, they planted cranberry vines. Giberson's family sold the land, sawmill, and cranberry bogs to Edward Crabbe in 1904. [46]

By the turn of the century, a town had developed around the mill and bogs. The village, located between Gowdy Bog to the east and Mill Pond Bog to the west, consisted of a general store, a school house, a schoolmaster's home, a caretaker's cottage, and four cranberry pickers' cottages in addition to the sawmill. In 1909, when the sawmill burned, Crabbe established the Double Trouble Company, which included the cranberry bogs and the village. With this change cranberry production became the primary economic source for the community. The village became nearly self-contained, with two families of cranberry pickers occupying each cottage, single workers living in the communal house, children attending the local school, and workers purchasing goods in the general store. [47]

Crabbe reduced the dependency on surrounding towns even more in 1916 when he built a three-story, five-bay, pitched roof, frame cranberry packing and sorting house (Fig. 48). He later added a one-story, four-bay, frame building to the front of the structure. In 1929, he installed three Hayden separators on the first floor of the sorting house. The separator's conveyor belt took the berries to the second floor where ten to fifteen women sat and picked out the rubble from among the good berries. The belt then took the berries to packing machines, and from there to trucks (Fig. 49). [48]

sketch of building
Figure 48. Double Trouble Sorting and Packing House. Delineator Dean Doerfeld, 1992.

Figure 49. Hayden Cranberry Separator. Delineator Dean Doerfeld, 1992.

In 1964, the state of New Jersey bought the 2,000-acre property and leased the cranberry bogs to a private farmer who continued to work them until 1973. Recently, however, Fred Mahn and Jack Traino restored the cranberry bogs. It is currently a state park where visitors can view the current cranberry-growing process. The village also offers an insight into the day-to-day techniques used by late nineteenth and early twentieth-century cranberry growers and workers. [49]

Cranberry growers, like farmers who deal with reclaimed marshland, realize the potential and importance of America's wetlands. Cranberry wetlands are an important Pineland resource. They help with such hydraulic functions as flood control, groundwater re-charge, and retention of storm-water runoff. Moreover, the 25,000 acres of related non-producing wetland and upland acreage facilitate various species of indigenous flora and fauna. Among them are mallards, wood ducks, great blue heron, ospreys, egrets, swans, bald eagles, bass, pike, trout, red-bellied turtles, red fox, mink, and deer. As a result, cranberry growers are managing and preserving wetlands as well as part of America's cultural heritage. [50]

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