James A. Fenwick
In 1857, James A. Fenwick purchased 108 acres of bog and pine land along Cranberry Run south of Hanover Furnace (the first portion of what would become Whitesbog). He had been experimenting with a small cranberry bog at a site one mile east of Pemberton in a depression called “Skunk’s Misery”, and encouraged by the results, decided to expand the operation. After visiting the Cranberry Run-Pole Bridge Branch area, he wrote, “There have been seen at one time as many as sixty covered wagons with horses hitched to trees around the edges of these meadows. These wagons brought farmers families who were busily engaged picking cranberries. Surely there can be no place better adapted to their cultivation than this where they have grown and produced fruit generation after generation”.
As Fenwick’s granddaughter later recalled, not all of those who had been enjoying the natural harvest approved of the management of the cranberry meadows as private property. Nevertheless, Fenwick proceeded to construct a cedar rail fence around the field, putting an end to the era of free gathering.
James Fenwick might be classified as a member of the local landed working gentry. He owned a farm at New Lisbon, situated seven miles west of the Whitesbog site and just within the fertile farm belt of the Inner Coastal Plain. One of his neighbors was Samuel H. Jones, also his cousin and the owner of Hanover Furnace in its later days. Inasmuch as the village at Hanover Furnace (active until 1865) was a market for his produce, Fenwick was familiar and associated with the furnace area in a number of ways.
The summers were very dry during the first eight years of his ownership of his cranberry farm, and Fenwick soon realized that Cranberry Run did not provide an adequate water supply under such conditions. He began seeking additional water rights and offered $1,000 for a 6-inch pipe that would discharge water on a high part of his ground. Such a supply was not forthcoming, and it was not until 1879 that Fenwick solved the problem.
In that year, a Mr. Upton sold him a 490-acre tract south of his bogs and adjoining his property, thereby creating a 600-acre tract. This new property included both Pole Bridge Branch, a much richer stream than Cranberry Run, and the site of the former canal and canal pond that had fed the Hanover Furnace during its operation. Part of the sales agreement required Fenwick to rebuild the floodgates and repair the old dam. These tasks he gladly accomplished, and thereby secured adequate irrigation for his farm.
Besides taking over land and water rights formerly associated with Hanover Furnace, Fenwick also employed the remaining residents of Hanover Village. These individuals continued to be a main source of labor for the farm into the 1890s.