NOTES ON THE POULTRY FARMS OF TABERNACLE, NJ
by Rick Franzen
In our town today, there are many residents who raise chickens for their fresh and preservative free eggs. Little do they know that during the mid 1900’s, poultry farming was a big time industry in our little town. At least a dozen farms flourished and “candling” of the chicken’s eggs was a skill many a local child had. Thousands of eggs were taken to the auction in Lumberton ( today the site of a Goodwill store) where they were then distributed to stores and homes throughout Burlington County. In fact, the auctioneer was also a local poultry farmer!
All of the farms were usually extensions of a local household. Since most properties were multi-acred, there was ample room for this money earning activity. A parent(s) often had a “regular” job and the egg farming often was supplemental income.
Here are the farms:
Carl Backer Poultry Farm
The Backer residence was at 321 Medford Lakes Road. The house is still there ( with a very big addition) but none of the chicken coops remain. It is believed that Mr Backer (1907-1972) was also a local plumber or carpenter.
He had three children, all girls: Joan, Gloria and Carolyn. The Backer family does not appear in the 1940 census so their farming activity may not have been operative at that time. Later censuses (from 1950 onward) are not yet available to peruse).
Mr Backer and his wife Sophie (1912-2000) are buried in Sacred Heart Cemetery, Hainesport, NJ.
Timothy Campbell and James Tweedy Poultry Farm
Nothing remains of this farm. It was located on Chatsworth Road, just east of Washington Way. Today the location is an empty field in front of the development. The property stretches from Chatsworth Road to Shearer Court. In 1940, the Pennsylvania born ( Mr. Campbell in 1899 and Mr Tweedy in 1913) egg-men were listed as farmers in the census. So perhaps this was a full time profession for them.
Mr Campbell moved to Florida in 1979 where he passed away in March of 1982. He was buried in his hometown of Moundsville, WV.
James Gerber Poultry Farm
The Gerber name has a long association with the Tabernacle community. James Gerber (1913-1974) was the grandson of Julius Gerber (1862-1916). Julius came to America from Germany about 1880 and lived in Philadelphia until 1890 or so. The farm house ( built circa 1909) on Bozarthtown Road continues to be a local farm, now growing crops for area farm markets.
The poultry business never was very extensive at this site. The owner James worked full time at Arrow Safety in Mt Holly. Interestingly, some say that an Arrow Safety employee invented the first automobile turn signal. However some research suggests that either Edgar Walsh (in 1925) or Oscar Simler ( in 1929) hold that honor.
Mr Gerber and his wife Pauline (nee Severs – 1915-2001) are both buried in the Junior Mechanics Cemetery, Tabernacle, NJ.
Kuzenko Poultry Farm
In the area of 314 and 316 Carranza Road lies a broken down and abandoned house. It is the site of the former Kuzenko Poultry Farm. Little has been uncovered about its history. We do know that Thomas Kuzenko (1893-1954)was an immigrant who had at least four children with his wife Stella (1898-1988). The children were Nicholas, Michael, Ann and Mary.
Thomas and Stella are interred in the Junior Mechanics Cemetery, Tabernacle, NJ.
William McLaughlin and William Buckley Poultry Farm
In the 1940 federal census for Tabernacle, both of these men are listed as “Tabernacle Road” poultry farm operators. The men were born in Pennsylvania and Buckley’s wife Margaret was born in Ireland. All three are 61 years of age. Other than this census data, nothing else is known about this property.
Eschenberg Poultry Farm
The Eschenberg Farm appears to have been owned by two brothers, Henry (1902-1954) and Joseph. Their farm was located at 690 Chatsworth Road. Today the property is falling apart and soon will be in total ruin. No out buildings remain. Across the street was another poultry farm, owned by Bernhardt Struthoff.
Brother Joseph Eschenberg (1900-1971) lived on Buttersworth Bogs Road, just around the corner.
In the 1940 census, Henry (Ernie) is married to Emily (1900-1983) and they have two children, Ann ( born 1937) and John (born 1940). John eventually married a life long resident and she (VL) remembers the farm very well. As a child in the 1950’s she “candled” eggs for the farms’ owners. She recalls five or six chicken coops housing some 4000 chickens.
Most of the eggs were taken to the auction in Lumberton, but Joseph sold some, as well as flowers, at the Trenton Farmers Market.
Joseph and his wife Mary, as well as Henry and Emily are buried in Sacred Heart Cemetery, Hainesport, NJ.
George Pogmore and David Buckley Poultry Farm
Both of these gentleman are listed in 1940 as operators of a poultry farm on Tabernacle Road. They are each listed as heads of household, living next to or with one another. George is a 59 year old widower born in England and David is 70, born in Pennsylvania.
Their neighbors are William Buckley and William McLaughlin. Thus raising the possibility that the two Buckleys are related. (Both born in Pennsylvania and somewhat close in age – 70 and 61). In 1935 George was living in Union County, NJ.
Paul Vernachren Poultry Farm
Fox Chase – Friendship road used to be a straight line road from the old Friendship sawmill area ( today Camp Inawedewin’s western “shore.”) to Carranza Road (once Red Lion Road). The former intersection with Red Lion Road is today the main driveway for Seneca High School. In 1940 Paul Vernachren lived with his family at the road’s intersection with New Road. While the crossroad intersection is no longer, the Vernachren homestead is still there. There also are some poultry sheds still existing far back in the property.
Paul (born 1901) and his wife Emily (born 1897) had two sons, Harry (born 1925) and Ron (born 1928). Both parents were born in Germany and both children were born in New Jersey. It is said that Mrs. Vernachren was a former circus performer who had an extraordinary amount of tatoos. Certainly a lady ahead of her time!!
Walnut Grove Farm
A mid 1930’s picture in our collection shows a 1934 or 35 panel truck with the moniker “Walnut Grove Farm – Poultry and Eggs.” A man standing aside the truck is labeled Abner Nixon, huckster. The limited research we have done on this information seems to confirm that Abner Nixon had a huckster route and did indeed sell eggs. We have heard that behind his store (New and Chatsworth roads) there once was a Walnut Grove and this most likely gave name to the farm. It’s also been said that one or two of the large trees beyond the rear of the store are walnut trees from the farm.
Joe Zimmerman Poultry Farm
Joe Zimmerman actually had two locations for his poultry farming. One was on Haines Lane ( a private road) and the other was at the intersection of Patty Bowker and Zimmerman roads. Today the latter location still has some on chicken coops on the property. It’s believed that this house was one of the first built in Tabernacle, perhaps as early as 1780.
Diane Zimmerman has shared the following information with us on our Facebook page. She is a granddaughter of Martin Zimmerman.
“There were 4 Zimmermann brothers who were born in the farmhouse at Zimmerman and Patty Bowker Rds. Their sister, Irene, had been born in Europe before my grandparents immigrated to the U.S. Joe, the oldest brother, lived at the farm on Haines Lane and was the mayor of Tabernacle for several years. Martin, the second oldest, was most likely the brother you’d talk to if you came to the farm to buy eggs. He did most of the collecting, washing, candling, grading, and packaging of eggs, although the whole family helped. George, the third brother, went on to establish Friendship Auto Parts, and Emil, the fourth brother, lived at the farmhouse on Zimmerman and Patty Bowker Rds. Emil was my father. He had a regular delivery route that he’d drive, delivering eggs all over, including New York City. All of the brothers worked on the farm from the time they were very young. And in addition to the eggs, they had fields they worked and animals that we raised and butchered too.
Bernhardt Struthoff, whom you mentioned on your notes page, was friends with my family and he is the one who convinced the brothers to go into the chicken business.
I believe they initially called themselves Zimmerman Bros Farm but eventually changed the name to Silver Top Farm. And yes, there are still some chicken coops there, but they are only used for storage these days. I believe we stopped the egg business in 1978.“
Morton Sawdy Poultry farm
At the intersection of Forrest Lane and Medford Lakes Road, down the street from Harkers Auction, was the location of the Morton Sawdy poultry farm. One of Mr Sawdy’s (1919-2010) out buildings still remains on site, but is greatly changed from his era. It has been greatly expanded and updated and now serves as a backyard garage. Little else is known about the poultry other than several longtime residents do recall its operation at this location.
Both he and his wife Lucy (1915-1951) are buried in the Junior Mechanics Cemetery.
Bernhardt Struthoff Poultry Farm
Bernhardt Struthoff (born 1903 in Wilhelmshaven Germany, died Jan 1985) and his wife Minnie (nee born 1905) were both German immigrants. In 1929 they were married in New York City and in the 1930 census are living in Middlesex County, NJ. He is a poultry man and is living in a boarding home with Henry Eschenberg. Bernhardt came to the USA in 1919 (maybe to avoid WW1?) and Henry followed later in 1926.
Daughter Clara was born here in New Jersey about 1939 as was son Bernhardt in 1932 (died 1938). In the 1940 census he is listed as a poultry farmer on Chatsworth Road. Today, his house in the area of 676 Chatsworth Road is behind an old fence and is in a very ruined condition. The wooded area behind the property was not that way when the farm was active. It was an open area with several chicken coops.
Mr Struthoff served on the Tabernacle School Board for a while and was generally know as a “nice fellow to talk with.” Reportedly he was involved with many civic activities and he spoke with a “broken” English accent.
While the 1940 census lists his occupation as a poultry farmer, he also had a job at the poultry auction in Lumberton. Some reports say he was the auctioneer there.
Mr and Mrs Struthoff are buried, along with their young son Bernhardt, in the Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church Cemetery in Hainesport, NJ.