Joseph Josiah “J.J.” White, son of Barclay and Rebecca Lamb White, was born on his father’s farm, Sharon, in Springfield Township, Burlington County, New Jersey on January 22, 1846. Barclay also owned pine and swamp land on the Wading River, about 25 miles from the family homestead. It was here that he attempted to cultivate the wild cranberries growing there.
As a boy, J.J. would visit Wading River; it was during these years that he first became interested in cranberry culture. Later, in 1860, when he was fourteen, his maternal grandfather, Restore S. Lamb, deeded him 100 acres of land near Rake Pond near New Lisbon. At this time, White’s uncle, Restore B. Lamb, was having considerable success growing cranberry vines on seven acres of land nearby, and this success surely imprinted itself on young J.J White.
At age 20, when he had completed his formal education, White examined his 100 acres of land and found that 30 acres were conducive to growing cranberries. Since his uncle agreed with this pronouncement, he began a long (and eventually very successful) agricultural venture.
During this time, he met Mary A. Fenwick, the daughter of fellow cranberry grower James A. Fenwick. The two were married on 11 November 1869 and had seven children; the oldest surviving one was Elizabeth C. White, born in 1871, who would later play a critical role in the development of the cultivated blueberry.
In winter 1869, White wrote a guide for cranberry growers, called Cranberry Culture, which became popular—to the point that local cranberry growers often asked him to inspect their land for suitability or to recommend improvements. As a result, White became a well-respected cranberry grower.
When his father-in-law died in 1882, leaving his land to his wife, White began managing the Fenwicks’ cranberry operation, meanwhile acquiring neighboring properties piecemeal. In 1912, when Mrs. Fenwick died, White’s wife inherited the property, which was merged with White’s neighboring acquisitions, giving birth to J.J. White, Inc.
As years went on and more farmers entered the cranberry industry, J. J. White had to compete with many other companies, so selling his crops for the best possible price became more important than ever. He was an active and respected member of Growers Cranberry Company, a regional marketing group comprised of cranberry farmers from New Jersey and New England. In 1911, White helped broker a union between these two organizations and the National Fruit Exchange, a cooperative marketing group representing mid-west growers. The resulting cooperative association was named the American Cranberry Exchange, which used the popular “Eatmor Cranberries” as its trademark.
White even had several patents to his name—fittingly, one of these was for a cranberry sorter. Additionally, the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia presented him with two awards for feats of mechanical engineering: a Certificate of Merit (1887) and the Edward Longstreth Medal (1891).
White died on May 4, 1924 and is buried in St. Andrew Cemetery in Mount Holly, NJ, next to his wife. His fellow cranberry growers summed up his life eloquently:
“One of Nature’s Noblemen, in every line of activity he touched, he left a monument to his achievements:
- Out of a wilderness he grew fruitfulness and beauty.
- He provided support in comfort and contentment for villages of employees.
- At much personal sacrifice he strove for good will and cooperation among the cranberry growers.”