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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Where Have All The Farmers Gone?

When Jackie and I first moved to new Gretna in the early 1970's, one of the first things that we noticed about the community is that many people had vegetable gardens. Not small, postage stamp gardens that you might see in some suburban yards, but large gardens that some might called a small farm. We were also surprised how neat and orderly most of these gardens were kept. Many had flowers, often gladiolas, planted among the vegetables that added patches of color, much like a French impressionist's painting. Two of these gardens particularly come to my mind - Bennie Allen and his brother, George. It was difficult to say which was more beautiful. Each was always painstakingly laid out, lovingly tended, and always meticulously manicured. This was generally reflective of how most of the old timers kept their houses and property which were obviously a matter of pride in their lives.

Bennie Allen tending his garden in a watercolor by local artist, Edith Clarke, reflects the beauty and pride that was a part of the old time New Gretna life style.

The 1900 United States Census for Bass River Township lists "farmer" or "farm laborer" as an occupation 58 times. This shows the significance of farming in the New Gretna culture and economy at the turn of the century.

The Jarvis Gerew farm out West Road was typical of the many farms in New Gretna in the early 1900's. (l-r) Helen Gerew Mathis holding her baby, Norman; James Mathis; and Jarvis Gerew, Helen's father. The farm house and large barn burned down years ago and were never rebuilt. (Photo courtesy of Norman and Ann Mathis.)

The 1898 tax bill for Jarvis Gerew's farm on West Road shows that the 28 acre farm was valued at $690 with a total of $13.56 in taxes due. (Document courtesy of Norman and Ann Mathis.) 

Today, there are no farms ,other than a horse farm here and there, and few vegetable gardens. New Gretna has become a bedroom community to Atlantic City rather than a town with it's own local economy and distinct character. ShopRite, Costcos, and other chain stores in neighboring towns have replaced our gardens and the bay in feeding our families. Somehow, I doubt that we are the better for it.

While looking at some old aerial maps of New Gretna the other day, I was struck by the large number of small farms and large gardens through the town. Today, many of these areas are now wooded or replaced with houses. The town is still clearly rural in character, but not with a farming base as in the past. We have become gentrified.

This 1925 aerial map of New Gretna shows a striking number of farmed areas throughout the town. Many of these farmed areas are not in existence today. Also, notice the absence of the Garden State Parkway and Viking Yachts' plant and marina. (1- Bass River Bridge; 2- Route 9; 3- East Greenbush Road; 4- West Greenbush Road; 5- North Maple Avenue; 6- West Road)

The following aerial map from Google Maps shows the New Gretna area in 2008. Notice the absence of open farm land. Tree growth had been dramatic and many of the roads have been hidden from view by the dense foliage

The absence of cleared land is striking in this 2008 aerial photo. Trees clearly dominate the landscape. Notice the addition of the Garden State Parkway and Viking Yachts' plant and marina. (1- Bass River Bridge; 2- Route 9; 3-East Greenbush Road; 4- West Greenbush Road; 5- North Maple Avenue; 6- West Road)

Many New Gretna residents in the early part of the 1900's subscribed to the Farm Journal magazine. The following list of subscribers in 1913 illustrates the prominence of farming or serious vegetable gardening in the community. All may not have owned farms, but farming was important enough in their lives to warrant a subscription to a farm oriented publication. The notations next to the subscriber's names provide valuable information for the genealogist and historian. Some of the names on the list have been mentioned in the Blog, and many will be familiar to those Blog readers with roots in New Gretna.

[ Transcribed by Peter H. Stemmer.]


ABBREVIATIONS —a. means acres; bds., boards; B. tel.. Bell telephone; 4 ch., 4 children; col.,colored; H&L, house and lot; H19, Highway or Road No. 19 (see map); 0, owns; R1, Rural Route No. 1; ret., retired; T, tenant; WOS, works on shares.

Names in CAPITALS are those of FARM JOURNAL subscribers—always the most intelligent and progressive people in this or any county. No Tumbledowns, for no farmer can keep on reading the F.J. and being a Tumbledown too. Many have tried, but all have to quit one or the other.

Adams, Anna (widow of Jas.) housekeeper bds New Gretna H35.

Adams, Blanchard New Gretna.

Adams, Ernest G. New Gretna.

ADAMS, HARRY (MARTHA) 4 ch janitor T H&L Wading River H24.

Adams, Hezzie (Mary) 6 ch driver 0 H&L New Gretna H37.

Adams, John T New Gretna.

Adams, Margaret C. (dau of Anna) school teacher 0 2a New Gretna H35.

Adams, Paul (Rachel) 1 ch engineer 0 H&L New Gretna H37.

Adams, Sam’l B. New Gretna.

Adams, Walter L. New Gretna.

Adams, Win. (Amanda) 1 ch bayman 0 9a New Gretna H37.

Allen, Caleb W. New Gretna.

Allen, Chester (Etta) 2 ch bayman T H&L New Gretna H30.

Allen, Chester S. New Gretna.

Allen, Edw. Sr. (Margaret) bayman 0 H&L New Gretna H37.

Allen, Edw. K. (Melinda) 4 ch bayman 0 la New Gretna H37.

Allen, Frank New Gretna.

Allen, Harry New Gretna.

Allen, Harry Jr. New Gretna.

Allen, Howard New Gretna.

Allen, John A. New Gretna.

Allen, Joseph F. New Gretna.

Allen, John L. New Gretna.

Allen, Musgrave E. New Gretna.

Allen, Ray New Grena.

Allen, Samuel (May) 5 ch farmer 0 10a New Gretna H37.

Allen, Samuel B. New Gretna.

Allen, Thomas A. Sr. New Gretna.

Allen, Thomas A. Jr. New Gretna.

Allen, Uriah J. New Gretna.

Allen, Winfield New Gretna.

Allen, Win. New Gretna.

Allen, Win. F. New Gretna.

ALLEN, W. J. (RIDA S.) farmer 0 3 1/2 a New Gretna H37.

Anderson, Samuel B. New Gretna.

Applegate, Harry (Mattie) farmer 0 Sa New Gretna H37.

Applegate, Katherine (widow of Henry J.) housekeeper bds New Gretna H37.

Bernight, Samuel New Gretna.

Berry, Lester J. New Gretna.

Berry, S. L. New Gretna.

Bishop, John S. (Minnie) 2 ch sawmjll 0 H&L New Gretna H24.

Blackiston, Wm. E. New Gretna.

Bozarth, Chas. Sr. Wading River.

Bozarth, Chas. R. (Sallie) 1 ch sawyer 0 H&L New Gretna H37.

Bozarth, Delvin New Gretna.

Bozarth, Howard New Gretna.

Bozarth, Howard Jr. New Gretna.

Bozarth, Malvin New Gretna.

Bozarth, Win. New Gretna.

Broome, Beni. H. (Lizzie) 1 ch carpenter T H&L New Gretna H37.

Bilderback, Rev. P. W. (Marette) pastor T H&L New Gretna H35.

Chew, Benj. New Gretna.

Coffee, Chas. Jr. Wading River.

Coffee, Chas. Jr. New Gretna.

Coffee, Chas. T. New Gretna.

Coffee, Geo. New Gretna.

Corliss, Hankinson Chatsworth.

Corliss, Hillard Chatsworth.

Corliss, Horace Chatsworth.

Corliss, John Chatsworth.

Countz, Marshal New Gretna.

Cramer, Arnold (Gertrude) 2 ch oyster bus 0 la B T New Gretna H35.

Cramer, Albert A. (Maggie E.) 2 ch laborer 0 H&5a New Gretna H37.

Cramer, Albert F. New Gretna.

Cramer, Benj. F. New Gretna.

Cramer, Chas. New Gretna.

Cramer, Caleb E. New Gretna.

Cramer, C. S. (Caroline) gen’l merchandise 0 3½a New Gretna H35.

CRAMER, CALEB S. (ALMA 5.) 1 ch nurse 0 lOa garden truck New Gretna H37.

Cramer, Doughty (Alberta) 1 ch bayman T H&L New Gretna H37.

Cramer, Daniel D. New Gretna.

Cramer, Earl (Viola) oyster business bds New Gretna H35.

Cramer, Geo. A. (Emma H.) 1 ch saw mill 0 2a New Gretna H37.

CRAMER, GEO. F. (WIDOWER) farm hand lives with son Norris Wading River H24.

Cramer, Harve (Mabel R.) 2 ch fisherman 0 New Gretna.

Cramer, Howard H. Wading River.

Cramer, Jefferson New Gretna.

Cramer, John F. New Gretna.

Cramer, John H. New Gretna.

Cramer, Jas. R. (Lottie R.) 1 ch grocery clerk 0 H&L New Gretna.

Cramer, Jessie S. New Gretna.

Cramer, John T. New Gretna.

Cramer, Lemuel (Leur Ann) farmer 0 52a New Gretna H30.

Cramer, Luell dressmaker 0 H&L New Gretna H37.

Cramer, Marke New Gretna.

Cramer, Milton A. New Gretna.

Cramer, Mary J. (widow of Caleb) 1 ch housekeeper 0 6a New Gretna H35.

Cramer, Norris (Elsie) 2 ch laborer 0 H&L Wading River H24.

Cramer, Renerd New Gretna.

Cramer, Samuel F. New Gretna.

Cramer, Thos. E. (Margaret M.) 5 ch life saving service 0 2a garden truck New Gretna H30.

Cramer, Uriah B. New Gretna.

Cramer, Wm. New Gretna.

Cramer, Wilson B. New Gretna.

Cramer, Wm. H. New Gretna.

Cramer, Jas. D. (Rachel R.) bayman 0 H&L New Gretna H37.

Cullen, Jas. fi. New Gretna.

Dalton, Wm. S. New Gretna.

Darby, Mrs. Sarah B. (widow of Jas. M.) 0 Ba New Gretna H37.

Dayton, Jas. New Gretna.

Dayton, Wm. S. New Gretna.

Downs, Austin (Flora) 4 ch life saver 0 3a New Gretna H31.

Downs, Levin New Gretna.

Downs, Win. New Gretna.

Driscoll, Lewis New Gretna.

Driscoll, Ralph New Gretna.

Driscoll, Stephen New Gretna.

FALKENBURG, JAS. T. ret bds New Gretna HB1.

FORD, DAVID E. (HELEN) 4 ch carpenter T H&L New Gretna H37.

Ford, Jess New Gretna.

Ford, Watson New Gretna.

French, Daniel M. New Gretna.

French, Hiram E. New Gretna.

French, Suwarrow (Ida E.) 1 ch poultry business 0 New Gretna.

Gale, Jas. A. (Deborah) oyster raising 0 ½ a New Gretna H35.

Gaskill, Alvin New Gretna.

Gaskill, Carlisle (Anna) 2 ch laborer 0 H&L New Gretna H30.

Gaskill, Jesse (Nellie) 1 ch bayman 0 H&L New Gretna H 87.

GASKILL, MORRIS (VERNA) bayman 0 H&L New Gretna HS1.

Gaskill, Thos. (Elizabeth) 1 ch bayinan 0 H&L New Gretna H37.

Geveu, Francis New Gretna.

Geveu, Garwis B. New Gretna.

Geveu, Joseph B. Wading River.

Goldecker, Chas. New Gretna.

Goldecker, Rob~t New Gretna.

Gray, John New Gretna.

Gray, Win. New Gretna.

Hadad, Isier New Gretna.

Hadad, Joseph L. New Gretna.

Hand, Rev. R. W. (Gertrude) 2 ch Presb minister New Gretna.

HEINTZ, HARRY M. (LIDA) 1 ch machinist 0 H&L New Gretna H31.

Hickman, Joseph (Lida) 8 ch fisherman 0 H&4a garden truck New Gretna.

Holeman, Jacksiah New Gretna.

Holeman, Lamel New Gretna.

Irons, Wallace Tuckerton.

Irons, Win. Tuckerton.

Johnson, Jessie E. New Gretna.

Jones, Mrs. Prudence (widow of Jas. C.) bds New Gretna.

Jones Win. New Gretna.

Kretschner, Ernest New Gretna.

Lamson, Ashton New Gretna.

Lamson, Claud New Gretna.

LAMSON, JOSEPH B. (EVA) life insurance 0 H&L New Gretna H37.

Larson, Adam New Gretna.

Leeds, Joseph R. New Gretna.

LEEK, CHAS. D. (ANNA M.) laborer 0 H&L New Gretna H30.

LEEK, CHAS. -E. (LUCRETIA) 9 ch farmer 0 70a Wading River H 24.

Leek, Florence (dau of Chin. D.) bds New Gretna H30.

Leek, Laura A. (dau of Lavina) postmistress bds New Gretna H35.

Leek, Mary S. (dau of Lavina) dressmaker bds New Gretna H35.

Leek, Win. New Gretna.

Leek, Win. T. New Gretna.

Le Munion, Daniel New Gretna.

Lemuyon, Daniel (Leona) laborer 0 H&L New Gretna H87.

Loveland, Alfred T. (Irene) 1 ch carpenter T 2a garden truck New Gretna H30.

Loveland, Chas. B. New Gretna.

Loveland, Chas. W. New Gretna.

Loveland, Isaac L. New Gretna.

Loveland, Joseph A. (Anna) 2 ch bayman 0 10a New Gretna H27.

LOVELAND, JESSE I. (ELVIRA C.) oyster dealer 0 H&L New Gretna H31.

Loveland, John R. (Mary) 3 ch Prudential insurance 0 H&L New Gretna H30.

Loveland, Lewis (Lear Ann) 2 ch farmer 0 Sa New Gretna H30.

LOVELAND, L. RUSSELL (EDITH) 8 ch life guard T H&L New Gretna H87.

Loveland, Lamul F. New Gretna.

Loveland, M. A. ret 0 24a New. Gretna H35.

Loveland, Mrs. Mary E. (widow of Win. T.) T New Gretna.

Loveland, Win. B. (Abbie) bayman 0 3a New Gretna H27.

Lowenstine, Paul New Gretna.

McAnny, Elvin C. (Della) 3 ch laborer 0 H&L New Gretna H 30.

McAnny, Jas. (Irene) 3 ch bayman T H&L New Gretna HSO.

McAnny, Alvin New Gretna.

McAnny, Helen (widow of Jas.) lives with dau New Gretna H30

McAnny, Jas. New Gretna.

McAnny, John New Gretna.

McCambridge, Chor New Gretna.

McKindiarr, Rich’d New Gretna.

McNeil, Joseph (Rose) 5 ch pilot 0 26a New Gretna H27.

Mathis, Aaron New Gretna.

Mathis, Aaron Sr. New Gretna.

Mathis, Alvin New Gretna.

Mathis, Asbury New Gretna.

MATHIS, A. B. (SARAH B.) gen’l store 0 H&store New Gretna.

Mathis. Amase B. New Gretna.

Mathis, Benj. C. New Gretna.

Mathis, Caleb (Ella) oyster business 0 H&L New Gretna H37.

Mathis, Clarence G. New Gretna.

Mathis, Caleb J. ret 0 H&L New Gretna.

Mathis, Dewitt C. New Gretna.

Mathis, David E. New Gretna.

Mathis, D. E. Jr. New Gretna.

Mathis, Eli New Gretna.

Mathis, Eugene (Estella) 2 ch clerk T H&L New Gretna H37.

Mathis, Howard New Gretna.

Mathis, Harry C. New Gretna.

Mathis, Harry V. New Gretna.

Mathis, Joshua New Gretna.

MATHIS, JOSEPH B. (CARRIE) 1 ch poultry raiser 0 6a New Gretna H37.

Mathis, John H. New Gretna.

Mathis, John K. (Cora) 3 ch life saving station 0 H&L New Gretna H35.

Mathis, Jas. R. fisherman 0 H&L New Gretna.

Mathis, Leroy New Gretna.

MATHIS, LOUIS A. (HETTIE) 4 ch farmer 0 la New Gretna H35.

Mathis, Lewis L. Jr. New Gretna.

Mathis, Marvin (Ida) 1 ch bayman T H&L New Gretna.

MATHIS, MARY cigars and candy bds New Gretna.

Mathis, Merrell New Gretna.

Mathis, Pitman E. New Gretna.

Mathis, Richard New Gretna.

Mathis, Rollin A. New Gretna.

Mathis, Rollin A. Jr. New Gretna.

MATHIS, ROY (ETHEL) 4 ch bayman 0 H&L New Gretna H37.

Mathis, Samuel G. New Gretna.

Mathis, Samuel H. New Gretna.

Mathis, Thos. S. New Gretna.

Mathis, Win. H. New Gretna.

Matthews, Sarah A. (widow of Caleb) O H&L New Gretna H27.

Maxwell, Geo. B. New Gretna.

Maxwell, Joseph R. New Gretna.

Maxwell, Rob’t (Margaret) 1 ch life saving station 0 la New Gretna 1127.

Mick, Mike New Gretna.

Mick, Thos. New Gretna.

Morey, Samuel New Gretna.

Mount, Walter New Gretna.

Parker, Josiah H. New Gretna.

Pendleton, Chas. J. New Gretna.

Pendleton, C. J. Jr. New Gretna.

Prince, Albert New Gretna.

Prince, Chas. New Gretna.

Prince, Fred New Gretna.

Prince, Howard Wading River.

Prince, Jas. New Gretna.

Prince, John New Gretna.

ROBBIN, CHAS. (EMMA) 3 ch bayman 0 4a New Gretna H27.

Robbins, Lorenzo D. (Elizabeth) 2 ch oysterman 0 H&L New Gretna H37.

Sapp, Edw. New Gretna.

Sears, Chalkley C. New Gretna.

Sears, Harry G. (Sophia) 2 ch carpenter 0 H&L New Gretna H30.

Sears, Mrs. Mary (widow of Elia) 0 7a garden truck ~ew Gretna H30.

Sears, Norris (Ethel) 2 ch bayman T 3a New Gretna H35.

Sears, Ward W. (son of Mrs. Mary) carpenter bds New Gretna H30.

Sherman, Josiah (Lillian) 1 ch ret 0 9a garden truck New Gretna H28.

Sherman, Thos. New Gretna.

Sherman, Thos. C. New Gretna.

Sheckelton, Stephen E. New Gretna.

SOOY, DANIEL T. (WIDOWER) 2 ch hotel 0 B T New Gretna.

Sooy, Job Wading River.

Sooy, Samuel L. New Gretna.

Sooy, Thos. C. New Gretna.

Souders, Rob’t (Miriam) ret seaman 0 H&L B T New Gretna H37.

Stackhouse, Chas. New Gretna.

VALIANT, GEO. (BELLA) fisherman 0 4a B T New Gretna.

Watson, Thos. New Gretna.

Williams, Annie (widow of Win.) 0 H&L New Gretna H24.

Williams, Chas. New Gretna.

Williams, Grove New Gretna.

Williams, Win. New Gretna.

Wiseman, John A. New Gretna.

Wiseman, Joshua W. New Gretna.

So, where have all the farmers gone? They're resting on the hill.

Pete S


  1. Hi Pete: When I lived on the Leepa farm, one year I remember a huge area of potatoes was planted. I know Mom Leepa canned large amounts of fruits and vegetables every year and I assume a lot of that was grown there. Their main business was milk and eggs. The eggs were crated up and taken to (I think) Atlantic City. The milk was sold locally. Mom Leepa made butter and cottage cheese too. She had a regular route to deliver the milk to her customers. I remember the veterinarian coming to inspect and vaccinate the milk cows.
    My grandfather (Boot Mathis) grew the tastiest sweet corn you could imagine. And the tomatoes! I still remember the taste. My cousin Peggy Magee and I would get permission from grandmom to go outside with the salt shaker and eat tomatoes. My grandmother had a huge strawberry bed. I do not remember seeing a weed one in the gardens. Their house was surrounded, except in front, by gardens. I do not remember what else they grew but there had to be other things. They also had squab and, I think, chickens. Oh yes, and pigs.
    Beverly Mathis (Robinson)

  2. Pete - As a former resident I believe you have misidentified what is West and East Greenbush Road on your google map. (3)(4) Clif Brown

  3. You iz right, Clif. As an old teacher would say . . . "I just wanted to see if you were paying attention."

    I made the corrections.

    Pete S