Double Trouble Village

Located on the eastern edge of the New Jersey Pine Barrens, Double Trouble Village provides
a window into Pine Barrens industry with a complete company town, a sawmill, and a cranberry
sorting and packing house. The Double Trouble Historic District occupies over 200 acres and
includes the village and surrounding bogs. The natural environment of cedar forest and rapidly
flowing stream provided both raw materials and water power for an extensive lumber industry
from the 1700s to the 1900s. As timber was cut, the cleared swampland created bog habitat
ideal for growing cranberries. Cranberry culture began at Double Trouble Village in the 1860s.
By the 20th century, the Double Trouble Company was one of the largest cranberry operations
in the state.  Irish merchant Anthony Sharp became the first recorded land owner of what would
eventually become Double Trouble Village when he acquired the property in 1698. By 1765,
his son operated a sawmill on the site. William Giberson purchased the Double Trouble
property by 1836. He later turned over the operation to his son, George Giberson. They ran
two sawmills at Double Trouble. From the seaport in Toms River, lumber was shipped to ports
up and down the east coast.  As increasingly large areas of Atlantic white cedar swamp were
cleared for the timber operation, the Gibersons looked for methods to reclaim the cleared land
for additional income. Cranberry production afforded such an opportunity.  Civil War Captain
Ralph Gowdy is credited with planting the first cranberry bog at Double Trouble about 1863.
Soon after, George Giberson’s son in law, sawmill operator Thomas Hooper, planted the two
bogs now known as the Upper and Lower Hooper Bogs.  George Giberson’s daughter sold the
property to Edward Crabbe in 1903. Six years later Crabbe formed the Double Trouble
Company and expanded the cranberry industry. Under the Crabbe family’s management, 260
acres of cranberry bogs were cultivated. The Mill Pond Bog, at 56 acres, was the largest in
New Jersey.  Edward Crabbe rebuilt the sawmill and built a modern cranberry sorting and
packing house. Cottages were constructed for migrant workers to stay during the harvest
season. Under Crabbe’s leadership the Double Trouble Company became one of the largest
growers in the business. They sold fresh dry harvested cranberries.  After Edward Crabbe
passed away and a fluctuation in the market brought down the price of cranberries, the Double
Trouble Company offered their land for sale. After negotiations with several developers fell
through, the village and surrounding land were purchased from the Double Trouble Company
by the State of New Jersey in 1964 in part to protect the Cedar Creek watershed. The Double
Trouble Historic District, which includes the village, reservoir and cranberry bogs, was placed
on the state and national registries of historic places in 1977 and 1978.  For almost a century
cranberries were “dry” harvested at Double Trouble Village. Berries were originally picked by
hand one at a time. As the industry expanded migrant workers raked berries off the vine with a
cranberry scoop. The fresh cranberries were then sorted and packaged on site for shipment to
market. In the mid 1960s the Double Trouble Village cranberry bogs were “wet” harvested.
Bogs were flooded with water from a reservoir on Cedar Creek. A machine was then used to
knock the berries off the submerged vines. The floating cranberries were corralled to one side
of the bog and removed for shipment to a central receiving plant in Chatsworth. As the
cranberry industry shifted from fresh dry harvested berries to faster processed wet harvested
berries, the large number of migrant workers was no longer needed and many of the buildings
were abandoned.  Some of the original cranberry bogs are still visible at Double Trouble
Village. Other bogs, including the Mill Pond Bog, were abandoned and have successional
growth of red maple and Atlantic white cedar competing for sunlight.  Double Trouble Village
was typical of company towns built in the Pine Barrens. These isolated communities were
entirely self-sufficient and totally dependent on the success of the particular industry. The
restored sawmill and cranberry sorting and packing house contain nearly intact equipment.
Those two buildings were the focus of life and work in the village, which also includes a late
19th century one room schoolhouse, general store, bunk house, cook house, shower house,
maintenance shop, pickers’ cottages and the foreman’s house. Most buildings are not restored;
only the sawmill and cranberry packing house are open to the public during guided tours.

The Origins of the Name: Double Trouble

There are conflicting stories about the naming of “Double Trouble.”  Most of the common
legends center around an earthen dam at a mill pond on Cedar Creek.  Sawmill operator
Thomas Potter may have coined the words “Double Trouble” in the 1770’s after heavy rains
twice damaged the dam causing the first trouble and then double trouble.  A more colorful
legend involves muskrats that persisted at gnawing at the dam, causing frequent leaks.  Such
leaks, when discovered, gave rise to the alarm “Here’s Trouble.”  Upon which workmen would
rush to repair the damage.  One day two breaks were discovered and a workman overheard
the owner shout “Here's double trouble!”