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and sandiest soils in south Jersey, engaged in a specialized agriculture, in which, on the whole, they have been remarkably successful. Moreover, these people belong to the much-maligned group of south European immigrants, and to that particular race the South
Italian and Sicilian-whom some have been inclined to consider the most problematic, if not the most undesirable, of the south European group. Any advance that these people have made socially, economically, or politically must be considered in the light of these facts.
Coming from their native land, many of them direct from Sicily and Naples, to Hammonton, they have in a period of thirty-five years or less learned the English language, adopted to some extent the American standards of life, acquired property, and, as independent landed proprietors, have begun to compete, and to compete successfully, with American farmers long established in an agricultural subindustry.
Perhaps the best account of the Hammonton Italians is found in a monograph written by Mrs. Emily F. Meade and published in pamphlet form by the United States Bureau of Labor. Mrs. Meade owns property in Hammonton and for some years spent her summers there, an arrangement that afforded her an excellent opportunity for a detailed and leisurely study of her neighbors.
The main points in the present study were gathered from personal investigation, original public documents and papers, official reports, and interviews with public officials, prominent Italians, and other observers living in or near the settlement at Hammonton.
The advance guard of civilization into the "pine barrens" of southern New Jersey were the glass factories, iron mills, and sawmills. The sand of this region was early found to be excellent for glass manufacture, and, with cheap fuel near at hand, glass works early in the century began to spring up here and there in the wilderness of pine and scrub oak. Iron was at one time made from bog ore found in the swamps. At the present time, one comes upon old forge sites or abandoned villages in the midst of the extensive waste of forest and swamp.
Old Hammonton, dating back to nearly 1800, was one of the centers of industry. Here during the first third of the century stood a sawmill and a small glass factory. A country store and a few houses were built there, and for a long time this insignificant hamlet was the social and industrial center of a considerable area. Up to 1850 the town grew very little, and after that time actually declined in population. Two or three German settlements sprang up not far from Hammonton, the settlers coming from Philadelphia, and deriving their income largely from the wood and timber but partly from the products of the soil; otherwise the solitude of the "pine barrens" was unbroken.
In 1856, according to a "History of Hammonton" by Wilbur and Hand, when the village had almost gone into the last stages of decay, Judge Richard J. Byrnes and Charles K. Landis of Philadelphia formed a partnership for the purpose of disposing of several thousand
a The Italian on the Land, United States Bureau of Labor, Bulletin No. 70.
acres of real estate in the vicinity of Hammonton, to which they held title. They began an active advertising campaign to boom the land. Landis even went on a lecturing tour through northern New England, setting forth the advantages of the soil and the salubrity of the climate of New Jersey. This campaign was markedly successful, and by 1860 a considerable number of settlers from New York and New England had taken up land in the vicinity. The Camden and Atlantic Railroad was built in 1857, and in 1858 Hammonton station was put on the map.
The town grew rather rapidly despite the discouragement incident to the civil war, and in 1866 when a local census was made, 1,422 inhabitants were enumerated, with 2,031 acres of land in cultivation. There were 365 dwellings; the real estate owned was valued at $596,000; the personal property at $169,132. The returns of value were somewhat exaggerated, no doubt, but the settlement was truly in a flourishing condition. Landis had given up his interest in the partnership in 1861, but Judge Byrnes retained both a financial and a real interest in the venture for many years.
The land was bought and laid out in comparatively small lots on straight streets; shade trees were planted along the country roads, and houses substantially built on the old New England village plan. Even the form of township government is modeled after the New England system. Town and town center are one political unit, governed by the same body of selectmen, and the taxes for village and rural improvements are levied without division or differentiation. It is almost the only New Jersey town which retains this particular form of township government.
The early settlers at first gave most of their attention to staple crops-wheat, corn, rye, and other cereals-to which the soil is not very well adapted for any length of time. Berry growing is said to have begun on a commercial scale in 1861. The local census above referred to, taken in 1866, gives 304 acres cultivated in strawberries, 212 acres in raspberries, and 40 acres in cranberries, with about 80,000 fruit trees pears, cherries, peaches, plums and quinces-in their
About this time a fine market for berry products developed in Philadelphia and Camden. Everyone near IIammonton began to raise strawberries, and for years this was the small fruit center of New Jersey. In 1866 a strawberry exhibition was held at Hammonton-a sort of national affair-at which Solon Robinson, then agricultural editor of the New York Tribune, was present as a delegate from the New York Farmers' Club. The exhibition was very successful and shows the significance of Hammonton as a berry center even at that early day. On a certain record day about that time, 70,000 quarts of strawberries were shipped.
Blackberries soon succeeded strawberries, however, and after 1880 were produced in much greater quantities than strawberries. They were easily raised without fertilizer, and a patch once started was considered permanent. In 1888, 2,500,000 quarts of these berries. were shipped. The other berry shipments were: Strawberries, 700,000 quarts; raspberries, 300,000 quarts; grapes, 100,000 pounds; cranberries, the product of 833 acres; and pears, 5,000 bushels. Meantime the production of wheat in the county had fallen from 10,519 bushels in 1879 to 1,152 bushels in 1889.
Land was cheap, and in berry culture very few acres are required per farm. There were few difficulties in the way of successful growing; almost any person could set out and profitably raise a patch of berries. There was no competition with South Atlantic growers, and the market supply was less than the demand. For this reason the population increased rapidly. In 1885, 2,525 persons were enumerated in Hammonton Township; in 1890, 3,833 were returned by the federal census. A new railroad furnished additional transportstion; the call for seasonal labor brought in many transients, some of whom remained to settle on the land, and this decade was Hammonton's most prosperous period.
It was during the period, 1880 to 1890, that the greatest numbers of Italians came to Hammonton. They were recruited in two principal ways, and though there was no colonization in the true sense of the term, the close contact of the city Italian and the newly arrived foreigner with the Italian on the land, especially through the seasonal occupation of berry picking, brought in increasing numbers of that race to occupy the farms round about Hammonton.
The very first Italians catne to the vicinity of Hammonton about forty years ago, or earlier "drifting" in at first without any outside pressure or influence-and settled down among the Americans. Two or three of the families were wanderers, who were first attracted by the cheap lands and congenial climate, and later by the opportunities for making money offered by berry growing. A few were induced to settle by real estate men. Mrs. Meade gives some account of the coming of the first Italians, relating some typical biographies of those who arrived before 1876. These accounts show that they came singly or in couples from other points in the United States; that the soil and climate first appealed to them; that later friends drew some of them thither, and that one or two came to work as farm laborers on farms owned by those who came earlier.
Shortly before 1870 came the Campanellos, two brothers from Gesso, Sicily, one of them to work for a former Italian settler. They purchased large tracts of land, prospered, married English girls, and induced a number of immigrants, mostly relatives from Sicily, to settle there. Dominik Campanello is now the largest Italian land holder in the section; he pays taxes on 230 acres in one body, now well improved and laid out in vineyards and peach orchards. The Campanellos are still prominent families in the town, and were for a long time the real leaders of the Sicilian contingent. The Sicilians were the first comers, and many came from the town of Gesso. It is probable that more than three-fifths of the total number of Italians were originally Sicilian. A number were brought over by the Campanellos and other influential Italian settlers, who employed them as farm laborers and berry pickers. Later some of these laborers bought land from the persons who had imported them. One of these importers, who had made large sums of money by the operation, was indicted for bringing in contract laborers and was ruined.
The other principal element in the population is the Neapolitan. In Hammonton the Tell family is known in a business and social way as well as any other-better than any other Italian family, perhaps. The first of the Tells came from Naples to the United States about
a United States Bureau of Labor, Bulletin No. 70.
1870. He worked as a farm laborer, bought a small piece of land, raised berries, and grew prosperous, if not wealthy. For years he and his family were the first among the Neapolitans, many of whom followed him here on his recommendation. The Tells are well-to-do. Besides owning a farm and an ice factory, the sons are engaged in various commercial pursuits in the village. The Neapolitans formerly considered themselves superior to the Sicilians, who, they say, are not real Italians at all. The two elements live in different parts of the town, but at present there seems to be no bitterness and no particular prejudice. The "Napes," as they are called, are larger of physique, more powerful, and somewhat less dark than the Sicilians, who are termed "little black men."
In the Immigration Commission's inquiry detailed schedules were secured from 50 South Italian families. The birth place of the heads of 47 of these families were reported and these are as follows: Sicily 31, Naples 15, Calabria 1. Probably the proportions shown do not hold good for the community as a whole, but it is true that the Neapolitans are much less numerous than the Sicilians, while the number of Calabrians is comparatively small.
The immediate localities from which these 47 families migrated to Hammonton were reported as follows:
After about 1875 the growth of the Italian settlement was almost wholly due to outside causes. In the first place, friends already here made it a point to induce friends and relatives to come to south Jersey direct from Italy, or from other parts of the United States where they had for the most part engaged in industrial pursuits. Often a young man comes and works a few years as a farm hand until he accumulates $200 or $300. With this he buys a small farm, sends to Italy for his wife or sweetheart, and begins a home. Frequently a father has come, worked until he could pay passage money for his wife and children, then sent for them to begin a new life. Within the two months, May and June, 1909, 19 new immigrants, relatives of former residents, came to Hammonton.
Perhaps the greatest additions to the settlement have been made. through the influence of settlers, some of whom have sent encouraging letters and passage money to kindred abroad, and, with a few exceptions, these newcomers have done very well. Sometimes they began as laborers in the shoe factories, brickyards, or knitting mills; sometimes they hired out as farm hands, or found employment picking berries; sometimes they immediately bought small tracts of woodland and began to clear it at odd times
in the intervals of day labor. Many came to join the father or brother who had come out previously and had already settled on a tract of land. In more recent days, since 1890, a good many have bought farms cleared and put in cultivation years before by non-Italians. The hard times, due to the low price of berries and the failure of the standard variety of blackberry in the late nineties, forced many of the former berry growers out of business. These farmers sold out at fair prices to Italians, who in general have been successful on these improved but higher-priced lands. A visit to some of these farms formerly owned by non-Italians convinces one of the ability of the better class of Italians to settle on valuable land and carry out an agricultural venture very profitably. The records of land transfers show that a great many of the farms of Americans, whose owners have died, retired, or moved away, have been transferred to Italians at good prices. Some fine old places have been sold and divided and now are owned by several Italian farmers. Observers of this movement for a number of years past are inclined to the opinion that if the movement toward Italian ownership goes on at an accelerating rate as it has been doing for the past ten years there are excellent prospects of an agricultural population in Hammonton Township of purely Italian origin within a very few years.
The other method of recruiting the Italian population has been in active progress since the late seventies. The growing of small fruit in quantity requires the employment of a large number of seasonal laborers to pick the fruit. The first strawberry pickers were the Germans from the near-by towns-Folsom, Blue Anchor, Egg Harbor, and other points. Some natives came from the vicinity to gather berries and a few were imported from Philadelphia. The local supply of Germans soon ran out, however, for it was not long before they thriftily began to raise berries for themselves and to reap the large profits incidental thereto. Very few Italians were employed in this capacity previous to 1878, when the shortage of German pickers began to be felt. It was then that the Hammonton growers turned to the Italian padrones of Philadelphia, who from that day to this have brought in carloads, often train loads, of Italian pickers every year. The greatest number of these pickers came during the period 1883 to 1895, which may be called the flush times of the Hammonton berry grower. Frequently as many as 2,000 came during the berry season on special trains from Philadelphia accompanied by padrones. During the late nineties the numbers fell off somewhat, owing to the decreasing price of berries and berry acreage, but recently the number has increased. In 1909 the number of pickers imported was not far short of 2,100 for the berry growing district included in Hammonton, Winslow, and Waterford townships.
All in all, a considerable number of these pickers, pleased with the location and attracted by the cheap lands and easy profits in berry growing, bought small tracts in the Italian settlement and became permanent residents. The largest additions were made to the settlement during the years when the berry industry was at its height. Of the 50 families studied, three-fifths settled in Hammonton between the years 1885 and 1895. The remainder came in about equal numbers before and after those dates.
The accompanying table is interesting as showing the condition of the settlers immediately after coming to this region. There were no