Friendship Article in SJ Courier Post

Ben Ruset

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Friendship was the first "ghost town" that I found. It's also one of my favorites.

Article URL: http://www.courierpostonline.com/news/southjersey/m111703c.htm

Pinelands houses cranberry firm ghost town

Monday, November 17, 2003

By LAWRENCE HAJNA
Courier-Post Staff
WASHINGTON TWP.

The ruins are mostly screened by the tall grasses of a picturesque but unexpected meadow that bursts suddenly from miles of monotonous pine forests.

As you drive through the meadow, you catch something that seems out of place from the corner of your eye - the rock remains of a basement that has become some sort of launching pad for dirt bikes.

Then you notice the stub of a chimney, standing alone off to the side.

More scattered debris unfolds - piles of tiles and shingles, metal scraps rusting amid the slender stalks of brown grass, the craters of other basements.

Curious, you get out of your car.

Upon further exploration, you discover that slabs of mysterious rock - somewhat porous, and the dark orange of rusting iron - buttress the basement walls, which are inexorably crumbling into oblivion.

These are the remains of Friendship, an old cranberry company town and one of the most intact examples of a ghost town in the Pinelands.

It's easy to drive right by these ruins, that is, if you ever find yourself out on Carranza Road where it tapers down to a precariously narrow sand lane in Wharton State Forest.

The name still appears on most maps. But nothing there, not even a sign, offers the slightest hint of what the place did, who lived there or how it started.

Nevertheless, it is very near to one of Burlington County's most prominent and controversial political figures - J. Garfield DeMarco, chairman of the county bridge commission, former county GOP boss, and, until recently, the state's largest cranberry grower.

His great-grandfather, Mark Alloway, managed the operation from the 1880s until around 1912. His grandfather, James Garfield Alloway, took over, managing the bogs until around 1940.

Although his grandparents moved out at that time, DeMarco as a young boy would return with them often "to be out in the woods and bogs, to enjoy nature."

At the time, DeMarco recalled, the place had about six or seven homes for foremen, a large house for the manager's family, an enormous packing house, a big bright-red barn, a one-room schoolhouse and several Quonset hut-style buildings for workers.

"It wasn't a town really. It was a hamlet," DeMarco said.

It was also a tough place, far from civilization, and his grandparents were more than glad to retire to Hammonton. Although Friendship had electricity by then, it still had only outhouses - "and what an aromatic experience that was," DeMarco said.

While DeMarco's family is ingrained in much of Friendship's history, the place got its start earlier, just after the Civil War.

Brothers-in-law Joseph Evans and Joshua Wills, Quakers from Medford, started growing cranberries around 1868 on 1,200 acres they owned in Washington Township and the newly formed Woodland Township, according to Pinelands historian John Pearce.

"The story that was related to me is that it was called Friendship because the two young Quaker men who were friends decided to take it on and raise cranberries," said Pearce, author of Heart of the Pines, a history of the region's forgotten settlements.

But it once had another name, DeMarco said.

"The old-timers called it Quaker more than they called it Friendship," he said, "but by the time I was a boy it came to be known as Friendship, which, of course, is a Quaker term."

The use of iron-impregnated sandstone, frequently mistaken for bog iron, was a natural choice for a building material, Pearce said.

"I'm sure when they dug out the bogs they had to do something with it," Pearce said. "They used whatever was available."

In 1893, Evans and Wills obtained title to an additional 810 acres, giving them a total of 2,010 acres. This made Friendship the largest cranberry operation at the time, according to Pearce.

The packing plant's huge basement is now the most visible reminder of Friendship. Sand in the basement is piled into a chutelike ramp used by dirt bikers.

Evans died in 1909, but Wills carried on until his death in 1934. Heirs took over ownership.

DeMarco's uncle, Mark Alloway, managed the farm in the 1940s. It was coming back from a disease that devastated the cranberry industry in the 1920s, and the financial hardships of the Great Depression, recalled DeMarco, now 65.

But it never quite could overcome the lack of an adequate water supply, needed for irrigation and frost control, DeMarco said.

Other farmers tried to lease the bogs, but they were sold to the state in the late 1950s to become part of Wharton State Forest, now the largest state forest in New Jersey.

Stephen Lee III is another big cranberry grower in the area. His father leased the bogs in the 1950s, he said.

"It produced some terrific crops," he said. "It had some native and some hybrid varieties and did really well when (you) didn't have to deal with frost."

Around 1965, the schoolhouse, "little more than a shack, really," was moved to the center of Tabernacle where it stands today, said DeMarco, whose mother, Gladys, went to school there until the fifth grade.

By this time, most of the houses and the packing house were abandoned; earthen impoundments were being reclaimed by the forest.

But at least one or two homes remained standing as late as the early 1970s, recalled Howard Boyd, a Pinelands naturalist.

"At that time, some of the old houses were still standing and occupied by squatters, people who simply moved in and had taken over," he said.

But even those houses succumbed to time and fires.

Like its ruins, the history of the place is fading away.

DeMarco says one of his greatest regrets was not moving the clapboard family home to a place like Chatsworth, the so-called capital of the Pines, before its demise.

In 1986, however, DeMarco placed an 8-ton granite marker, made of the same type of Vermont granite used in the family mausoleum in Hammonton, to mark the field where his grandfather planted one of the first fields of cultivated blueberries in New Jersey.

While turn-of-the century horticulturist Elizabeth White gets much of the credit for developing cultivated blueberries (the plumper cousin to wild blueberries), the marker lets it be known that "industrious and enterprising Pineys were actually working on cross-cultivation of blueberries" as well, DeMarco said.

He is now entertaining the idea of commissioning construction of a scale model of Friendship in its heyday, possibly to be placed in a museum, perhaps the one at Batsto Village.

"To me, Friendship certainly has great historical value because my family was involved in it," he said. "I have very pleasant memories of Friendship. There were always things to explore there."
 
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KenDawg

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Aug 10, 2003
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Do you think maybe Joshua Wills and Charles Wills are related ? The years are close with Joshua coming to the area around 1868 and Charles died in 1839 and buried closeby. OK, so there is 29 years difference.
 

Teegate

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Could be. A Wills in the area is a good enough clue to possibly tie them together.

Guy
 
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BarryC

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If I remember correctly, the spot where Charles Wills is buried is known as the Eagle Cemetery, and Father Beck said that there was at least one row of old fire-charred wooden markers next to it when he was there. I wonder who else was buried there. Maybe more Wills. When I worked at Batsto there was a man whose last name was Wills who was a carpenter at Batsto. And my great-grandparents on my mom's (and her mom's) side- their last name was Wills too. They are from South Jersey.
Barry
bruset said:
I wonder where the Wills came from - maybe they lived at Eagle or Speedwell, and that would explain the grave not being at Friendship.
 

KenDawg

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Aug 10, 2003
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Brothers-in-law Joseph Evans and Joshua Wills, Quakers from Medford, started growing cranberries around 1868 on 1,200 acres they owned in Washington Township and the newly formed Woodland Township, according to Pinelands historian John Pearce.
I thought I heard of another Wills in the Pines too, but I can not recall it this time.
 

KARL

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Sep 7, 2003
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bruset, hi ben, many thanks for that fascinating article on friendship...........ive got to take a better look at it when i get back there...........press on,karl
 

MattMoose

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Jan 16, 2004
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I don't know much of the Wills being related but I did just visit Friendship and it was what I expected, nothing too spectacular. It's nice to see the layout of the old town but close by are Harrisville and The Pasadena Terra Cotta Factory. I would highly suggest both of these to anyone who is in the area and interested in seeing some spectacular ruins.
 
MattMoose said:
I don't know much of the Wills being related but I did just visit Friendship and it was what I expected, nothing too spectacular. It's nice to see the layout of the old town but close by are Harrisville and The Pasadena Terra Cotta Factory. I would highly suggest both of these to anyone who is in the area and interested in seeing some spectacular ruins.

I find Friendship to be spectacular not for the ruins but for it's beauty. The bogs there are fantastic.

Steve
 

Teegate

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BEHR655 said:
The bogs there are fantastic.

Steve

Most people don't even know they are there. They visit Friendship and think that is all there is.

Guy
 
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BarryC

Guest
I like all three places, but I wouldn't exactly call Pasadena and Harrisville "close by" to Friendship. Eagle and Apple Pie Hill are close, yes.
Barry
MattMoose said:
I don't know much of the Wills being related but I did just visit Friendship and it was what I expected, nothing too spectacular. It's nice to see the layout of the old town but close by are Harrisville and The Pasadena Terra Cotta Factory. I would highly suggest both of these to anyone who is in the area and interested in seeing some spectacular ruins.
 

njvike

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Jul 18, 2003
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Does anyone else remember when there was a paved road heading from Friendship to Speedwell or am I imagining it? The road, while paved, was in horrible shape. I also believe I saw a county sign of 5 or 6xx; it was during the early eighties.
 
njvike said:
Does anyone else remember when there was a paved road heading from Friendship to Speedwell or am I imagining it? The road, while paved, was in horrible shape. I also believe I saw a county sign of 5 or 6xx; it was during the early eighties.

Ken,

There is still evidence of that that road had been "scienced".
 

MattMoose

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Jan 16, 2004
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Shamong, NJ
njvike said:
Does anyone else remember when there was a paved road heading from Friendship to Speedwell or am I imagining it? The road, while paved, was in horrible shape. I also believe I saw a county sign of 5 or 6xx; it was during the early eighties.

I recently drove down that road, I believe the name of it is Friendship Speedwell Rd., but it might be Speedwell Friendship road. When I went down it, it was snow covered and wasn't plowed. I saw some pavement, but I believe for the most part the road is dirt out by Friendship.
 

KenDawg

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Aug 10, 2003
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South Jersey
Here is what I could come up with for the Wills families in the Pines.

Here is a list of Wills from Friendship:
Henry and Lydia (1868)
John
Joesph
Joshua (d.1934) daughters Kathrine and Mary.. The Joshua from the article ?
Lydia Wills-Stokes
Mary

List of Wills from Crowleytown:
George and Mary Owners of the Buttonwood Tavern on Burnt Schoolhouse Rd.
Aaron
William Hy
George
James
Moses
Maryann
Martha Jane
John
Amos
Robbie (b.1891)
William... differant than the above William Hy

Misc. List of Wills:
Zebedee Wills...deeded the site of Mount to Jonathan Cramer 3/27/1839
Charles Wills.....Grave in Eagle cemetery 1848
Daniel Wills.......Surveyor of the Basto area ? ...maker of a Wharton map 1848
Shreve Wills......last owner of the Mount Hotel/Tavern 1870's
Babara Wills......Green Bank Church Choir 1949

I thought I read somewhere that a Wills worked at the Martha Furnace. I cannot find that information though. Can anybody think of any others ?

Ken
 
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