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Id heard all the sensational stories about the New Jersey Pine Barrens: how the company towns had all died out, how the residents were feeble-minded, uneducated drunkards (to quote a 1912 heredity study), and how the infamous winged Jersey Devil had terrorized the area for more than 200 years. Keeping in mind the cautionary advice of the Soothsayer to Julius Caeser in 44 BC (Beware the Ides of March), I set off on March 15 to see these things for myself.

The Pine Barrens make up almost one-fourth of the land area of New Jersey, but they are little known outside of the state.

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From their efforts, however, sprang sawmills, gristmills, iron furnaces, shipyards, farms, glass factories, and numerous inventions and scientific developments.

Other than the cranberry bogs and blueberry bushes, almost all of this industry has long since disappeared, often with little trace.

There are possibly as many as 100 ghost towns in the Pine Barrens.

Even though I was only planning to visit 17 of them, my 2-day itinerary was ambitious.

A quick 126-mile dash brought me to Medford, NJ and the start of the Pine Barrens.

Medford dates back to 1670, and its one of those company towns that has actually survived to the presentminus its glass factories and other industries that petered out long ago.I allocated 10 minutes to finding the oldest house in Medford and managed to come up with this little saltbox example built by Henry Stackhouse in 1815.(Turns out its just the oldest house on Branch Street; as usual, haste makes waste) The Main Street Friends Meeting House was built in 1842 following a Major Difference of Theological Opinion among New Jersey Quakers.They reunited in 1955, with the result that Medford and several other towns in this area each have two Quaker meeting houses.Cranberries, Blueberries, and Brooksbrae Bricks The Pine Barrens are believed to have gotten their name from the stunted pine trees together with the sandy, acidic soil, which did not support many of the crops attempted by early settlers.Over time, however, people discovered that cranberries could be grown here quite successfullyand today New Jersey is the third-largest producer of cranberries in the country. This was their 600-foot-long cranberry sorting and packing house, in its prime and today. White Company has continued to raise cranberries and blueberries in another, nearby location, and todays company is operated by fifth generation descendants of its founder.) Fortunately, most of the rest of Whitesbog Village remains very much the same as it was during the Whites tenure.

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