Meadow Companies

Brown village

New Member
Feb 9, 2017
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Linwood NJ
Not exactly the Pine Barrens, but the Delaware river floodplain area in Gloucester County-
Was doing some work with my "real" job the past few weeks and came across some mentions of meadow companies from the 1700s and 1800s, organized to maintain dikes and levees on the Delaware River. The harvest of salt hay was one of the major industries supported. Repaupo Meadow Company was one company which appeared in print

Are there sources around I could read more about this? Seems like a good way to spend a late winter weekend.
 
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Apr 6, 2004
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555
Galloway
Not exactly the Pine Barrens, but the Delaware river floodplain area in Gloucester County-
Was doing some work with my "real" job the past few weeks and came across some mentions of meadow companies from the 1700s and 1800s, organized to maintain dikes and levees on the Delaware River. The harvest of salt hay was one of the major industries supported. Repaupo Meadow Company was one company which appeared in print

Are there sources around I could read more about this? Seems like a good way to spend a late winter weekend.

 
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Brown village:

In addition to the fine link that pinelandpaddler provided to the National Park Service document, you can download this Masters Thesis on the Burcham Farm, the last remaining active banked meadow farm in South Jersey, located on the Maurice River:

CU Maurice River
https://www.cumauriceriver.org › ...PDF
THE BURCHAM FARM AT MILLVILLE, NEW JERSEY By Patricia Bovers Ball ...

I assisted Patty with her research.

Regarding salt hay harvesting, the operative word here is "salt" and it was harvested in the coastal salt marshes. It primarily grew in salt and brackish wetlands. Banked meadow farms became quite common in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries along the Delaware River and its tributaries and the land enclosed with banking served as grazing land for livestock and provided the most fertile soil for crop production, given it high alluvial content. Sluice boxes allowed any accumulated water to escape at low tide and the sluice gate would close again as the tidal flow increased.

The high banks or levees along the Delaware River in Gloucester and Salem counties serve to prevent the river water from overflowing the lowlands along its shore, thereby protecting human endeavors.

You can find additional information on many of the incorporated meadow companies in the late-nineteenth County histories, i.e., Prowell's History of Camden County and Cushing and Sheppard's history of Gloucester, Salem, and Cumberland County.

Best regards,
Jerseyman
 

Brown village

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Feb 9, 2017
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Linwood NJ
Awesome. My real name is Douglas, btw. Salt Hay was also harvested in the creeks and floodplain around Raritan Bay, I grew up near here. Either way, it's fascinating stuff. Many thanks for pointing me in these directions!
 
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amf

Explorer
May 20, 2006
152
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Swedesboro
I believe the Burcham farm is (was?) a private bank benefitting their farm. The meadow bank companies were a different thing. The closest analogy I can think of is the acequia system of irrigation canals in New Mexico - really a communal undertaking. The landowners abutting a meadow would band together and share the cost of dike construction and maintenance. They were required to have one annual meeting a year; I know as late as the 1980s there were still active companies outside Salem City, Lower Alloway Creek, and in Greenwich (Cumberland County). I was a little involved with some land right issues for a construction project along the bayshore in the 1970s, and we had an opinion from a NJ Deputy AG that basically said the enabling legislation had (at that time) never been rescinded and as long as the companies were complying with their original acts of incorporation they could act to grant easements, even over the objection of one landowner.
 
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Scroggy

Scout
Jul 5, 2022
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Delaware
They were generally called "marsh companies" in Delaware, and equivalents existed in Pennsylvania along the tidal Delaware as well. I am sure that similar companies existed for clearing the till-clogged waterways in parts of glaciated New Jersey and New York (cf. Beck, "The Shades of Death").

https://nc-chap.org/dikes/reports/Lang Impoundment 2017.pdf and https://www.nc-chap.org/dikes/reports/DE-NEWC-0064 Dike Context Final 2013.pdf have some very interesting historical and archaeological reports on the subject. Useful advice if you are trying to keep muskrats from gnawing through the sheet piles at the base of your dyke. It also notes that one of the major outlets for the salt hay produced in the marshes was in packaging south Jersey glass.
 

amf

Explorer
May 20, 2006
152
45
Swedesboro
They were generally called "marsh companies" in Delaware, and equivalents existed in Pennsylvania along the tidal Delaware as well. I am sure that similar companies existed for clearing the till-clogged waterways in parts of glaciated New Jersey and New York (cf. Beck, "The Shades of Death").

https://nc-chap.org/dikes/reports/Lang Impoundment 2017.pdf and https://www.nc-chap.org/dikes/reports/DE-NEWC-0064 Dike Context Final 2013.pdf have some very interesting historical and archaeological reports on the subject. Useful advice if you are trying to keep muskrats from gnawing through the sheet piles at the base of your dyke. It also notes that one of the major outlets for the salt hay produced in the marshes was in packaging south Jersey glass.
Great reference. I recall when researching land rights on salt hay farms along the Bay in Maurice River Twp NJ coming across a reference to a 'slave ditch'. Presumably it was dug by slaves, but who knows.
 
Great reference. I recall when researching land rights on salt hay farms along the Bay in Maurice River Twp NJ coming across a reference to a 'slave ditch'. Presumably it was dug by slaves, but who knows.


One of the Hartman Maps shows just below Delmont two canals coming from Riggins Ditch labeled as "dug with slave labor."


riggins ditch.jpg
 
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