Lapas attēli
PDF
ePub

nants. The newcomers either came with parents and worked with hem, or came alone or with families and found employment as rage-earners, or they purchased land immediately on arrival. In a roup of 50 representative heads of farm families, 36, or 72 per cent, vere wage-earners for periods ranging from one to twenty-five years. Of these, 17 worked for wages three to five years, 8 six to ten years, and 5 one or two years, before buying any land. Four of the 50 heads worked some years on their fathers' farms; 10 heads, or 20 per cent of the group, bought land on arrival; of the wage-earners more than one-half were employed as farm laborers, and most of the others were unskilled day laborers.

TABLE 19.-Condition in locality of heads of families before lease or purchase.

[blocks in formation]

The three principal occupations of the newcomer were (and are) farm labor, including general farm work for the summer season and berry picking for six, or at most eight, weeks in the year, work on the railroad as section hands, and labor in the brickyards at Winslow Junction, 3 miles northwest of Hammonton. Some worked at odd jobs, classified as miscellaneous, where unskilled day labor was required. Farm wages varied from as low as 50 to 75 cents a day, without board, to as high as $1.50 a day, depending of course on the demand for farm hands. The earnings varied greatly, and since they could not be ascertained accurately for any number of families no classification of earnings was attempted. It is of interest to note, however, that in some instances $300 or even $400 was saved from the proceeds of day labor and laid aside for the purchase of a piece of land, a house, and the capital necessary to equip a small farm.

Berry growing, especially at first, was a very simple form of agriculture, requiring little capital or equipment, and no particular skill. It was admirably adapted to hand and hoe labor, and occupied a comparatively short period of the year. It was quite possible for the Italian to use his farm as a supplement to his fall and winter occupation on the railroad or in the brickyard, and to spend only a few months of the year engaged in farming operations. That this, indeed, was the rule appears from the following table, which shows that 82 per cent of those investigated had some supplementary employment extending over periods ranging from one to ten years until a living could be made from the land. Farm labor, railroad labor, and miscellaneous labor include the various occupations most usually followed.

TABLE 20.-Method of supplementing farm income of South Italians from time of purchase until living could be made from land.

[blocks in formation]

Though it does not appear on the table, one of the most usual avocations was berry picking. The whole family engaged in this work, either picking for neighbors in the intervals between maturing crops of their own or gathering huckleberries and cranberries. There was no lack of opportunities for employment in unskilled occupations, and living cheaply, as he did, there was no real hardship undergone in the early years of Italian pioneer life, while the farm was being put in cultivation.

Up to 1895 it was quite possible to buy unimproved land at some distance from the village for $10 to $20 an acre on very favorable terms. Long time and small cash payments were the rule. As a matter of fact, the price paid for land per acre by most of these immigrants was $30 or more. Thirty of the 50 farms included in the Commission's inquiry were of totally uncleared land when purchased by Italians. These 30 farms averaged 17 acres each and the purchase price paid was $691 per farm or approximately $40 per acre. The average cash payments on these particular farms was $249. The other extreme is found in the case of five farms also containing an average of 17 acres each. These farms were three-fourths or more cultivated at the time of purchase and the average price paid per farm was $1,838, while the average cash payment was $225. It is significant that from the beginning these farmers were able to buy land on as favorable terms as any other class of people. By reason of this leniency there were very few who failed to make their payments promptly or who were obliged to forfeit their claims to the land.

A large proportion of the Hammonton people came from the agricultural districts or small towns of Sicily and southern Italy. The farms in Sicily are small, the land rough and mountainous. The villages frequently have small plots of ground on which by hard exertion the owners are able to make a poor living. Vines, olives, corn, rye, beans, and vegetables are the principal products, and the land occupied by a family is usually less than 2 acres. Of course few machines or power implements are used, most of the labor being done with hand and hoe, the women working in the fields along with the men. Hard work, coarse food and clothing, necessary frugality, and unrelieved poverty are elements in the life histories of most of the

Italians. Twenty-six of 50 heads of families included in the Commission's inquiry were farm owners or worked on their fathers' farms in southern Italy. That is to say, 52 per cent of the heads of families investigated were independent proprietors of farms or worked on their fathers' farms abroad, and many of them became farm owners here immediately on arrival. Of the others, 3 were engaged in independent occupations, 7 were farm laborers in Italy, 3 were unskilled laborers, 3 belonged to the skilled labor classes, and 8 were children at home, probably on their fathers' farms.

It is significant that 36 of these newcomers, or 72 per cent of the total investigated, engaged in no gainful occupation in the United States previous to coming to Hammonton. The remaining 28 per cent were employed as farm hands or unskilled laborers or engaged in small trades in the cities.

The change in conditions of life from farm ownership in Italy to day labor in the United States is to be noticed, although the material comforts were probably greater here than abroad. The 5 farmers noted who passed through this economic experience, are typical of a much larger number of the South Italian families of Hammonton. Many of them have not yet wholly emerged from the dependent's position. Some are laboring for wages by day and farming on little patches before and after working hours. A good many have only the hope of owning a little farm some time in the future.

PROGRESS OF COLONY.

A full account of the progress of the Hammonton settlement can not be given in a paragraph or a page. The advance, materially, socially, and politically, which has been made since the first comers settled on the South Jersey sands has fully kept pace with the advancing prosperity of the American farmers, their neighbors. Fields have been cleared, pitch pine and scrub oak woods have given way to tilled lands; neat houses have been built; hundreds of acres have been planted to bush fruits, orchards, and vineyards. Sandy roads have been graded and graveled, schoolhouses have been built, and great progress has been made in the intelligent use of political privileges. There has been a wonderful appreciation in land values, and a consequent necessary improvement in methods and implements of intensive culture and increased facilities for handling and marketing the gathered produce. Too little account has been taken of new and improved varieties of fruits and methods of dealing with destructive pests and diseases of various sorts. Too much reliance is placed on manual labor and too little in intelligent intensive methods of culture, but great advance has been made, and the younger generation stands ready to continue the work.

Of the 370 owners of land in Hammonton, 48 began with an aggregate of 819 acres of land, having a market value of $48,000, or $1,000 per farm. The average acreage was 17 acres, and 60 per cent of the land was not cleared or in condition to till. Less than one-third of this land was paid for in cash, although it was valued, with improvements, at $59 an acre. These farms have increased to an aggregate acreage of 1,466, of which 1,064 acres are cultivated, with a present estimated value of $145,000 including land and permanent improve48296°- -VOL 21-11—8

ments. The average number of acres per farm now owned is 291. valued, with buildings, at nearly $100 an acre, or $2,900 a farm. The middle or median farm is 26 acres in size. Of these farms, 32, or 64 per cent, carry an aggregate indebtedness of $21,350, or $667 a farm, leaving the average net value of land and improvements actually owned $2,822 per farm. These farmers represent the upper, rather than the lower, half of the Italian population measured by material wealth and prosperity, but the same degree of progress obtains throughout the entire community. The general financial condition of the 50 South Italian farmers included in the Commission's inquiry may be shown as follows:

Farms leased and owned:

Total farms of race...

Average size of farms, acres.
Median farm...

Kind of farms: Small fruit farms..
First purchase of land and improvements:
Total number of acres.
Average acres per farm.
Total value...

Average value per farm.

Average value per acre.

Farms now owned....

Total number of acres.

Number of acres cultivated..

Number of acres not cultivated....

Present value of land and improvements..

Average value of land and improvements per farm.
Average value of land and improvements per acre.
Number of farms showing indebtedness..

Total indebtedness..

Average indebtedness per farm.

Gross value of all property.

Net value of all property.

Average net value of all property per farm..

50

29.32

26

50

857

17.14

a $48, 051 @ $1,001 @ $59

50

1,466 b 1,064 @336 $145,000 $2,900 $99

32 $21,350

$667

$162,438

$141,088

$2,822

The following shows this increase in prosperity in another form, and has the advantage of affording individual comparisons. For example, of the 20 newcomers who came to Hammonton with neither property nor money, 8 have accumulated more than $2,500 each, 7 between $1,000 and $2,500 each, and 5 now have acquired property valued at $500 or more; 2 of the 20 own more than $5,000 worth of land and equipment. Similar progress is shown by other groups.

a Not including 2 farms, 40 acres, inherited.

Not including 1 farm of 66 acres not reporting condition of land.

CABLE 21.-Value of property brought to Hammonton by South Italians, net value of property now owned, and number of years since first lease or purchase.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

SOIL, CLIMATE, AND TOPOGRAPHY.

Atlantic County, N. J., lies in the geological and topographical division of the State long known as the "Pine Barrens.' Until within recent years this area was accounted all that the name impliesan unfertile, unsettled region, barren of cultivated vegetation, and covered only with a growth of pitch pine, scrub oak, and in the lowlands dense cedar thickets, interspersed with beech, gum, poplar, and other swamp vegetation. The entire area is of recent origin and is geologically assigned to the coastal plain division. It was once an old sea bottom, and the variety of soils and low, swampy spots bear testimony to the ocean currents and sea drift of long ago. The general contour is flat and low, the contour lines showing that very little of the region in question has an elevation of more than 100 feet, and very much of the county is not more than 50 feet above sea level. Hammonton Township lies between the Mullica and Egg Harbor rivers and is in part included in what is known as the Mullica and Egg Harbor Divide Oak Lands. This divide lies on both sides of the Pennsylvania and the Reading railroads, and on the north side represents some of the best and highest lands in the county. The elevation of a bench mark in the village of Hammonton north of the railroad is marked 102.82 feet, and parts of the township reach an elevation of 152 feet.

While the general aspect is level, there is a gentle decline toward the sea, very gentle indeed, the currents in the streams being very sluggish; in places the fall does not exceed 5 feet in a distance of 20 to 25 miles. But while the land is level over a large area, there are numerous breaks, irregularities and undulations, sufficient on the whole for good drainage. Indeed, the observer who drives over the territory would call much of the country "gently rolling," although wide stretches are to the eye "dead level." Toward Mullica River on the north and toward Egg Harbor River on the south the

« iepriekšējāTurpināt »