Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Cranberries, White Cedar, and Double Trouble

Cranberries, White Cedar, and Double Trouble

The Pine Barrens are known for their rich abundant resources and unique ecosystem. In Ocean County New Jersey, spanning Berkeley and Lacey Townships, is the remnant of a once-thriving but secluded company town, which produced lumber and cranberries. Known as Double Trouble, this historic village features fourteen original structures dating from the late nineteenth century through the early twentieth century. The site contains two vestiges of its industrial past; a restored sawmill and cranberry sorting and packing house. In addition to these industrial buildings, it was a self-sufficient community with a variety of structures including a one room schoolhouse, general store, bunk, cook, and shower houses, a maintenance shop, pickers’ cottages, and a foreman’s house. Now mostly abandoned and unrestored, this site is representative of the typical communities that once dotted sandy roads within the vast Pine Barrens.

The name "Double Trouble" has unclear origins. According to legends, an earth dam was built at a mill pond on Cedar Creek. The sawmill operator, Thomas Potter, may have uttered the words "Double Trouble" in the 1770s after heavy rains twice damaged the dam, causing first trouble, and then double trouble. Another widely known legend is that muskrats gnawed at the dam, causing it to leak. When leaks were found, the alarm went out, "Here's trouble" and one day two breaks occurred, causing someone to shout, "Here's double trouble!" The abundant Atlantic white cedar trees which cover the landscape were sought after in this region and known for being rot resistant. The Atlantic white cedar was heavily used in boatbuilding and shingles for homes, as is evident by the vernacular architecture of many of the site's structures.

In 1904, Edward Crabbe and Albert and George Bunker purchased the land and by July 1909 formed the Double Trouble Company. Since by this time much of the land was cleared of white cedar trees, a new way to make the land profitable was introduced - cranberry production. Between 1910 and 1926, Crabbe expanded the cranberry operations to 260 acres. However, the cranberry production competed with the water needed to run the saw mills. In response to that, a steam-powered sawmill was in operation by at least 1915. The Mill Pond Bog became the largest operating cranberry bog in the state and the Double Trouble Company was one of New Jersey's ten largest cranberry producers.

The Gowdy Cranberry bog.
Here are a sampling of some of the historic buildings at Double Trouble:

The Double Trouble one-room schoolhouse is the oldest remaining structure in the village. It operated from about 1893 - 1915.

The General Store, built circa 1920 provided the early villagers with essentials such as oatmeal, flour, pork and sugar.

The sawmill, built circa 1906-1909, produced lumber, shingles, and other products for sale and for use in the village and cranberry operations. The first sawmill in the area was built by 1765. By the 1850s, two water-powered sawmills were operating at the village.

The cranberry sorting and packing house, built between 1909 and 1916. It was expanded in 1919 and again between 1921 and 1925. Once the cranberries were harvested, they were brought to this building to sorted according to size and quality and then packed for market.

A circa 1900 pickers’ cottage. Every year, between thirty and forty migrant workers, including family groups, arrived in early September and stayed until Thanksgiving to harvest the cranberry bogs by hand. They would stay in cottages similar to this one. There are three cottages at Double Trouble, plus a bunk house for single workers.

The village was purchased by the State of New Jersey in 1964 to help protect the Cedar Creek watershed. The Double Trouble Historic District was placed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places in 1977 and 1978, respectively. The sawmill and packing house were restored in 1995 and 1996. Until 2011, the bogs were still leased and harvested by a multi-generational cranberry farmer. In 2012 and 2013, the bogs were partially harvested but oversaturation in the cranberry market has not made these bogs profitable and they have remained unused since.

For More Information
Double Trouble State Park

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Not sure if I posted correctly so here goes again. Great article, but can the public come and tour the property and buildings. What are affects are the pineland pipeline going to have on the waters of the Cranberry farms in the region?

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