History of NJ Cranberry industry?

uuglypher

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Jun 8, 2005
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Estelline, SD
Does anyone in this august readership/contributor pool know of any organization that has compiled a history of the New Jersey cranberry industry?
My curiosity stems from having worked on the bogs during one college summer vacation. I previously posted that it was in '59. I was wrong. It was in '60, the summer of the conventions that nominated Kennedy and Nixon, and the year AFTER the big year of the "cranberryless Thanksgiving" due to a toxic herbicide (aminotriazole) having found its way into a variety of cranberry products. It was toxic to rats (fed incredibly high doses) and was suspected of being able to cause thyroid gland tumors in people. My boss was the dad of a friend of mine at college and I heard that the next couple of years were rather bleak and depressing in the cranberry business. In any event, I'm trying to track down information on the family (Joe and Lib Palmer and son Hugh - from Tuckerton) and get a handle on which of the many bogs Joe managed were his own and which were managed on contract with Ocean Spray. I'm thinking that he owned some bogs on the east bank of Wading River - north, as I recall - of the bridge on the road from New Gretna to Batsto. Anyone familiar with bogs - maybe no longer actively managed due to creeping salinity problems - in that area?

There was some speculation that some of the really old cranbogs started out as natural bogs that the Lenape had harvested and finally were "tamed" for subsistence and ultimately commercially by the colonists with peripheral ditching and provision of appropriate drainage and flooding gates.

Anyway, I'm curious about the history of the industry as well as its present status.

By the bye - My first thyroid tumor was removed in '78 and just three years ago I finally had the whole damned thing removed. Related to toxic contamination of cranberries? We'll never know.

Best t'ye,
Dave
 

Oriental

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Like you, I am fascinated by the cranberry industry in New Jersey. There really is no comprehensive source of information on the subject. Paul Eck wrote a good book but didn't really touch (if I remember correctly) on many of the individual bogs or the owners. I have been accumulating information from any source possible for a few years now and wish I could tell you more about Palmer and his bogs. In "Heart of the Pines" Pearce has a section on cranberries that you should read. The Laurel Cranberry Company was right there in Wading River as you describe. Part of the venture was eventually run by George Gosler who was Joe Palmer's father-in-law. The book says that Palmer had bogs in the area so I don't believe the "Gosler Bogs" at Wading River were his unless he later inherited them. At some point those bogs were run under the name "Wading River Cranberries" and about 4 or 5 years ago, Shawn Cutts (from Tabernacle) bought the property. It was in some bad shape then which is whan I last visited. I remember seeing the gates that let water into the bogs from the river and think I read something sometime about the need to get fresh water from further upsteam via a canal. The only other entry that I have in my records is that Joe Palmer (as you say from Tuckerton) was First Vice President of the American Cranberry Growers' Association in 1944. His address is listed as New Gretna there which may just indicate the location of his bogs. Maps do indicate several smaller bogs in the area. If I get a chance I will try by process of elimination come up with a few possible sites for you.

Another great book on the creation of Ocean Spray was written by Ed Lipman and is called "Labor of Love". There were only a couple of thousand printed and I bought the last two copies from his son Ned. Many public libraries have a copy so try to check it out.

If you find out any more I would love to know also so please forward anything you come up with.

Rich
 

uuglypher

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Jun 8, 2005
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Rich-

That's great information and I appreciate it. If I ever knew that Joe Palmer was operating bogs for Lib's father, I've purely forgotten it! As for Joe Palmer having a New Gretna address ... when I worked for him he had a small warehouse-storage building there where he stored some of his bog equipment (tank-truck, spray gear, ditch tools, floats, and harvest gear etc.). That may have been "corporate headquarters". He had the back part of it set up as a dormitory with rude kitchen for his seasonal migrant labor - mostly out-of-work West Virginia coal miners.

I'll never forget the crew of the summer of '60. It was an extended family of brothers, uncles, and cousins, all of whom took personal pride in the fact that every adult male in the family had spent some time in the Bluefield and/or Princeton (WV) jails on 'shinin' charges. Good bunch of wokers; really glad for the work, but some of the older ones had little endurance because of black-lung disease - they couldn't work on the spray boom or hose-draggin' crews 'cause they'd collapse halfway into the first sloggin' pass across the bog. Coughin' and hackin' something terrible - and every one of 'em still a heavy smoker! They usually went on ditch cleaning duty where they said they felt more at home - "...more like the work in the mines" - hard work, but more of the intermittent muscular effort type than of the long endurance type.

One of them always left on Friday night to go back to WV, but he - or a replacement cousin/brother/whatever- would be back and we'd always have a full crew on Mondays - and they had another week's supply of refilled jars o'shine for the evenings.

Thanks for the info, Rich-

Dave
 

bobpbx

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Dave,

If I recall, an older board member who we used to have a lot of fun with, posted an article he wrote on the first cranberry bogs in NJ. He pegged it as one of the Webb's I think, in Ocean County. It might have been Henry Webb from "Webb's Mill" fame. There was other stuff in the article, and I have no reason to doubt him, although I might have needled him when he first wrote it just to start his motor up. He was a lot of fun when we got him ranting. He was pro-timber cutting. He wanted to give the entire pines a haircut. I liked to spar with him. He was basically an okay guy.
 

Oriental

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Apr 21, 2005
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Dave,

Just yesterday I was looking through some old records and next to Joe Palmer's name it says "see Gosler" so he may very well have come into ownership of the Gossler Bogs around 1940. I wonder how far past 1960 Palmer continued to farm. Also, the name of Palmer's business at the time (early 40's) was the Pomona Fruit Company from New Gretna. I'll keep you posted with anything new.

By the way, I love the personal stories about working on the bogs. This is the kinda stuff that will never get recorded. Thanks for passing it along!
 

uuglypher

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Jun 8, 2005
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YESSSS! "Pomona Fruit Company! That WAS the name of Joe Palmer's business in '60 when I worked for him. Damn! I hate to lose memories. Thanks, Rich, for helping me recover that one.

I do know that Joes was a Penn Stater and I think his wife, Libby, was also. He often talked about the northern tier counties of PA - especially Potter County so I wonder if that was where he was from. He probably met Lib at Penn State and followed her back home to help work her fathers bogs. Just conjecture, y'unnerstan....

When I worked for Joe it was during the summer vacation from college, so I never participated in flooding and processes of harvest. Always meant to get back to see it, but life got in the way ... Funny that we often don't realize until it's too late that we've so often let the superficialities of the daily hum-drum take precedence over what we later realize to have been important.

I'm also trying to run down Joe's son Hugh. Last I heard from him he was in grad school (Wildlife Biology) in Canada - that was in '62.

I'll try to put together some thoughts on basic summer bog maintainence (from the laborer's perspective) as it was done in those days and pass 'em on. But there's got to be a bunch of guys still alive, cogent, and articulate, whose lives, not just one summer vacation of youth - were tied up in the bogs. Wish we could get some of them participating in this thread.

Thanks for the shared enthusuasm!

Dave
 

uuglypher

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With a bit of time for reflection...here’s a summary of the experiences of a summer bog laborer in the summer of ’60.
I got room and board with the boss, Joe Palmer, proprietor of the “Pomona Fruit Co. Joe was the father of Hugh, a classmate and friend at Penn state.

Summer duties were those of routine bog maintenance:

Many days were devoted solely to “Ditch clearing”. This involved wielding an effective tool called a “bull hook” or “bill hook”. Essentially a heavy machete with a hooked end to the cutting edge. A sharpening stone was always in one’s pocket to keep the billhook optimally functional. It was swung downward and with a bit of a terminal twist to cut through the cranberry vine roots that had grown into the irrigation/ drainage ditches since the previous year’s ditch clearing. The masses of root debris were tossed onto the edge of the bog-side levee, whence it was loaded onto the maintenance truck for disposal on the distant “root pile”. A damned hot way to spend a damned hot day in the pines...the only grace being that standing in the ditch water did provide a slight cooling effect. Also, it was great for promoting upper body strength, if you learned to wield the bullhook ambidextrously. Usually shirtless, one learned to ignore the mosquitos, but the “greenhead flies” were a constant bother. The tedium of daily ditch clearing was relieve by :

Bog spraying!

The bogs were sprayed on a regular schedule with amitrol (aminotriazole) a herbicide for control of grasses and a bakery of wetland weeds. Amitrol was finally proscribed from use on food crops due to its finally confirmed carcinogenic effects in humans ...those of a certain age may recall the “Thanksgiving without cranberries”...but I digress....

Bog spraying was a rigorous undertaking of a coordinated crew. The “pumper truck” was parked on the bog-side levee, pumping the herbicide into a heavy, 2 “ hose long enough to reach the opposite levee. the end of the hose was connected to the spray boom. The spray boom was a 20’ pipe with spray nossles spaced about 24” apart on its underside. . At each end was a square of pipe, each fitted with a sturdy canvas shoulder strap across the diagonal to support the rig carried by the two “boom men”. The man at hose end of the boom determined the rate of passage across the bog. To relieve him of the necessity also dragging the hose, four to seven “hose men” were responsible for keeping up with the boom men who were to experience no “drag” that could screw up carefully maintained path directly across the bog. Anyone who has actually “walked” across a cranberry bog has a well-internalized concept of the true meaning of the word “slog”. It was damned work, continuous, unrelieved effort until the pump truck had to r3fill with water from whatever river was close to the bog and drive back to base for a refill with the appropriate dose of amitrol...which supposedly mixed sufficiently with water during the jostling trip back to the bog. Bog spray men were enveloped by the mist of that carcinogenic spray all day. Thyroid tumors resulted, finally, in removal of my thyroid gland in 2002....but I digress....

While waiting for the truck’s return so we could get back to spraying....?

More ditch clearing!

Sunday’s? Head for the beach!

When we were not working on Joe’s bog, we performed the same duties on bogs Joe was contracted to manage.

God, was I ever in fantastic shape at the end of that summer!

Dave
 

uuglypher

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Jun 8, 2005
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Estelline, SD
Can you point that bog out on a map?
Best of recollection, the bogs of Joe Palmer’s (Pomona Fruit) where we spent most time were along this east bank of the river. Where the other bogs he managed we’re, I couldn’t begin to guess, but one was somewhere up up near Double Trouble.

This any help?
Dave

uh oh, the image didn’t load.

got this message:

2CF129DD-13E4-4566-89ED-3839487D13DF.jpeg
“The uploaded file does not have an allowed extension.”
 

Boyd

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Try the links I posted above. Drag the map so the crosshairs point to what you want, then copy the address from your web browser and just paste it into your post.
 

uuglypher

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Jun 8, 2005
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Estelline, SD
Hi, Boyd,
Yes! first map ...where the two highways meet just immediately before crossing the Bass river, a gravel road heads north; Joe’s bogs were left off that gravel on the east bank of the river. Not bad, for one summer 60 years ago, eh?

Dave
 

Boyd

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For some reason the addys don’t appear in my copies of the posts.
Yes, the forum software likes to hide the actual address, but the links should still work. Most of the links you posted seem to point to the same place, which doesn't look like it was ever a bog.

Do you realize that you can zoom in to see more detail? Use the scroll wheel on your mouse, or else click the plus/minus buttons in the top left corner of the map. For example, this is the maximum amount of detail for the link you posted


You can see names for the larger pieces of property on this map

 

uuglypher

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Jun 8, 2005
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Estelline, SD
Not the west side of the river...Joes bogs on the east #ide were nowhere near as extensive as those you wonder about.
If you somehow find that Pomona fruit owned bogs on the west side then I am wrong as wrong can be...but it’s hard to believe.

Here’s a closer view.
It might be farther NW than I thought, but Joe’s two or three bogs, end to end, we’re right by the river. It’s hard to believe that my recollection is that far off, but I’m sure it could not be as far NW as the area of Charcoal landing. The map shows a density of what appears to be residential development that has to have occurred since I worked there.
There is a projection of level wetland within that west bend of the river. Any chance there could have been bogs there in the early 60s?

How good is this map at identifying abandoned bogs?


Oh good heavens...am I calling doubt upon THE Boyd of Boyd’s maps? Is there a conn3ction?

The reason I’m having a hard tim3 believing I’m wrong, is that every morning we’d drive up from Greta and immediately before crossing the bridge we’d cross th3 highway, turn right and head north on gravel..go some distance, and turn left on not much more than a sand track to head west to get to Joes bogs. Hard to believ3 my memory is that screwed up.

Dave
 
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