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places and the purchase price was $1,500 for 40 acres, 25 in some sort of cultivation. "Everybody wanted to sell, no one was making any money, and there was nothing raised for market." The immediate neighborhood was called the Lake, there having formerly been a shallow body of water at the place. This was a semiswamp, in which a heavy growth of timber and brush was standing. The soil was good, but the cost of clearing had prevented its improvement. Now that whole section is in cleared and improved fields, excepting a few lots held for wood or for speculative purposes.
The clearing was all done by Italians, who came in rapidly after the first settlers, bought out nearly all the old farmers in the neighborhood, seized on the swamp lands, offered at $10 an acre, and, with indefatigable energy and perseverance, have put the land in excellent tilth and cultivation.
A large Methodist church stands opposite the first settler's home. Formerly it was well filled; perhaps not more than ten families in the immediate neighborhood now worship there.
Farther out the same renewing process is still going on. For example, in 1908, four families from the coal mines of Illinois bought out an old landmark, the Blue Bell farm, whose name dates back to the days of post-road and stage coach. It was one of the stages where horses were changed. They bought the whole place, 200 acres, for $3,300. Not more than 30 acres were fit for immediate cultivation. The rest had grown up to third growth black and white oak "brush," the hardest sort of land to clear. They have painted the old houseonce a good one, repaired the big barn, built some outhouses, and cleared 30 acres sufficiently to plow it, have set out several acres of blackberries and strawberries, and on some rented land opposite are raising a fine crop of corn and sweet potatoes. The work is hard, returns small, and the cost of living for twenty mouths, "a barrel of flour a week, $7.50," is quite a drain. But they are cheerful and happy. Two cousins bought farms farther on in the woods in the spring of 1909, and they are just a little worse off than those who came in 1908. "It's pretty hard," they said, "but our friends in Vineland have been telling us it was much harder when they came; now they are rich."
The neighbors speak of these newcomers in the highest terms. They are Sicilians, as are a large number of those who have settled. here, but they evince all the characteristics of the pioneer, except, perhaps, vigorous independence and sturdy maintenance of personal rights.
There are now 94 Italian names on the poll list of Franklin Township, and nearly all of these are property owners and farmers. A few rent land from their countrymen. The usual method is on "shares," each party furnishing one-half the seed and fertilizer used, sometimes one-half of the work stock, and each receiving one-half of the gathered produce on the field. The landowner puts his land against the tenant's labor, furnishes crates, boxes, barrels, or hampers on the field, where he packs his share of the produce and then hauls it to the railway station. The ambition of every one of these share tenants is to save money enough to buy a little piece of land and make the first payment on it. Some are renting for cash, the rents in reality being turned in as payments on the land. In this way the tenants soon acquire an equity interest in the soil.
The year 1908 was a poor year for the Italian farmer and at the time of the Commission's inquiry in 1909 the outlook was bad. Most of the older farmers were pessimistic, but the more recent comers took matters philosophically and believed the outcome would be all right. In fact, this spirit of dogged perseverance has enabled them to outlast the times of depression that proved too burdensome for the Jerseymen. They come from New York City, from the West, from Pennsylvania coal mines and cities. Some of the women long for the urban life and the social pleasures left behind, but they are constrained to stay because children are healthy, land accumulates, and there is always promise of better things.
The first comer now has nearly 100 acres of land paid for, with two houses, good barns, improved machinery, and $700 worth of live stock. His holding is well worth $5,000 to-day. This man was a fruit peddler for twenty years in New York City before he came to Newfield. Another old resident, who lived in New York twenty years and worked in the glassworks at Glassboro, N. J., twelve years, came to Newfield in 1893 and bought 40 acres of land. He soon had 90 acres, and now has 200, part of which he rents to his two sons and one son-inlaw, who, with the old people, live in the three houses on the farm. Some of the new land is uncleared, but there is very little debt on it, and the value of the equity is about $5,000.
A third Italian came about 1890 from the railroad shops in Albany, N. Y. He purchased an old run-down farm, added swamp land, which he cleared; went into the cultivation of strawberries and peppers extensively, and is now taxed on 55 or 60 acres of fine land, excellent orchards, and carefully tilled fields. "There is a farmer" is the comment of his neighbors. His only son lives with him, but he has gone into the commission business to protect his people and to add to the profits of the farm.
PEPPERS AND PICKLES.
It is not often that one comes upon a regional crop or an industry that can be credited to Italian initiative. But the pepper industry is one. The Italians furnish both the peppers and the appetite for them.
Newfield is the original pepper district, speaking commercially. Eighteen hundred and ninety-one is the date of the first considerable shipments from that point, which for several years furnished the great bulk of all peppers produced commercially in the United States. The shipments of peppers in 1908 from Newfield aggregated 33,936 barrels and 2,570 bushel hampers, and from Malaga 10,000 barrels and 982 bushel hampers. Other near-by stations each shipped almost as many as Malaga. Almost four-fifths of these shipments were of peppers raised by Italian farmers. In 1907, the great pepper year, shipments were more than one-half larger, according to freight agents. Of late years there are a number of points in southern New Jersey that have gone into this industry and have outdistanced Newfield.
The industry began in the most accidental way. The Italians frequently raise a few peppers in their gardens. In 1890 an Italian sent a few bushels to friends in Philadelphia. There was a call for more. Several Italians put in larger patches in 1891, and a good many barrels were shipped, selling at good prices. Pepper raising began
with a rush; American farmers took it up; better methods were found by experience; several varieties were tried, until pepper growing became an art as well as an industry.
To raise peppers well they must be started early in hot beds. As soon as the plants are well rooted, the ground warm, and the danger of frost over, the plants are set out in rows, either by hand or machine, in the same manner as sweet-potato plants. Hoeing, weeding, and clean cultivation are given during the growing season. One very seldom sees a weedy pepper patch. Late peppers are set out about July 1; they can be picked but once, late in the autumn, whereas the early peppers produce from the middle of July until frost nips the plants. One ordinary family can take care of about 4 acres of peppers. A good many have 5 to 10 acres of them. A rather high average yield is 400 barrels per acre. Some do not raise more than 200 barrels per acre.
Early in the season peppers are sold by the bushel hamper, and the man who has a very early crop realizes good returns. July 10, 1909, they were selling for $2.50 per hamper in New York to which place nearly all peppers are consigned. While the price is above $1 a barrel they go forward in hampers, but the price soon declines, and barrel shipments make up the bulk of consignments after the first two or three weeks.
Practically every barrel is shipped to commission men in New York, many of them Italians. At Newfield a young Italian, who has a farm in the neighborhood, is acting as agent and endeavoring, he says, to get a square deal for the shipper. Several attempts have been made to form a cooperative shipping association, but none have succeeded. The demand for peppers comes largely from the Italians themselves and in 1908 and 1909 there was a decreased demand, said to be due to the emigration of Italians to their native land. The large exodus in the years mentioned produced a decided reactionary effect on the consumption of peppers, hence the reduced price.
To raise this vegetable successfully requires a fertile, sandy loam. soil, with a clay subsoil, if possible. Light, loose sands that raise good sweet potatoes are not well adapted to peppers. Given a soil with some "body" to it, it must be well tilled and well fertilized with barnyard manure. Most growers use both barnyard manure and commercial fertilizer. About one-half a ton of fertilizer is used. The barnyard manure is shipped in by the carload from Philadelphia and costs $2.50 per ton delivered in Newfield. Some farmers use several carloads every year. This, of course, must be hauled from the station, a distance of at least 2 miles, over good roads. The commercial fertilizer is rich in potash, and costs about $24 per ton. Lime is also frequently applied broadcast; the manure and fertilizer are distributed in the row or hill.
Counting all expense of labor, fertilizer, and marketing, it is doubtful whether peppers can be raised for less than 75 cents a barrel, even with a 400-bushel crop. Once raised, anything received over actual cost of marketing decreases the loss, of course.
Several varieties are raised, late and early "sweets," "hots," small pickling, and other sorts. There are few pests that menace, frosts seldom cut off the crop in the fall, while shipments are profitable, and, if carefully tilled, a fair crop is usually secured.
When the culture first began, hand labor was employed almost exclusively. Now modern plows, harrows, planters, and cultivators are used, and while the Italian still employs the hoe much more than does the Jerseyman, he uses the cultivator much more than formerly. The family, with some day labor and occasionally a monthly hand paid $16 and board, does all the work of the season.
The other crop, monopolized by the Italians, is Italian beans. The Italian bean, growing pods much like pea pods, is an importation from Italy and has much the shape of the Lima bean. The demand for them is not great, but about 4,000 bushel hampers are shipped annually from Newfield. A few go forward from Vineland; 2,000 hampers are shipped from Malaga. Other products of the farm shipped from Malaga and Newfield are "pickles" (cucumbers), blackberries and strawberries, and sweet potatoes. About one-third of the pickles, one-half of the berries, and two-thirds of the sweet potatoes are shipped by Italians.
THE ORIGIN OF THESE ITALIANS.
There are not very many North Italian immigrants in the settlement; most of them seem to be Sicilians or Neapolitans. They have not proved as capable of taking care of themselves as the North Italian, but they have been farmers a shorter length of time. One of their number, a man of property and intelligence, is their counselor and advisor. Their helplessness in the hands of commission men or fertilizer dealers is pathetic; but, for the matter of that, few Jerseymen have been able to get certain and just returns for the produce they ship to commission houses.
Some of the Newfield Italians are said to be suspicious and fearful, and some are inclined to be quarrelsome, but they live up to their contracts, and real-estate men and bankers at Franklinville and Clayton say that in hundreds of dealings not one dollar has been lost. No one hesitates to give them almost unlimited credit. Many of them ask credit at the stores, and buy fertilizers, machinery, and supplies on their personal notes, drawn for three or four months at 6 per cent. These are always paid. Even store accounts, sometimes delayed in settlement by sickness or bad crops for a long period, are, without exception, paid as soon as the money comes in hand. In this respect their credit accounts are considered more certain than those of most Americans.
EFFECT OF THE SETTLEMENT.
This settlement, economically considered, presents a very different significance from the original Vineland colony.
Near Newfield the Italians came into an old, exhausted agricultural region at a time of depressed agricultural conditions. The old agriculture was no longer possible; newer, more intensive, specialized culture had not begun. They took up the old places, established accidentally a new industry, and for the time being saved the region to agriculture. They are still taking up farms, and the Jerseymen are leaving. Some of the younger Americans, appreciating the necessity of better methods, have gone into poultry, cucumber, and fruit raising,
and are doing well. They gain by superior intelligence, foresight, and resourcefulness what the Italian wins by sheer hard labor, dogged perseverance, and cheap living. Most careful observers, who have watched the ingress of Italians from the beginning, feel that the movement will continue; that the Italians have saved the situation, and that they will continue to outcompete the Jersey farmer.
The Italians live in the old houses of the former owners. Some have acquired the houses and land (sold for taxes) of an abandoned Jewish settlement established fourteen years ago at Ziontown. A few have rebuilt, built new, or repaired and repainted. Most of them have done nothing to keep up the old homes. But the old trees, the lawns, and the shrubbery remain. To many of the farmsteads wagon sheds and poultry houses have been added. A great number have built the outdoor, brick beehive ovens of southern Italy. The wagon shed is in imitation of the American farmer.
Notwithstanding the dilapidated and unkempt buildings, there is a fair measure of prosperity evident. Their American neighbors are the fittest" who have survived severe competition, and the Italian is imitative. As a whole, they do not own as much property as the Vineland Italians but they are slowly forging ahead, and may some day rival the neighboring settlement at Vineland.