The Lenape, a group of Delaware Indians, were the first people to inhabit the Pinelands. More than 1,000 Indian sites, some dating back 10,000 years, have been found in this region. Like the early European settler; that came after them, the Indians made their settlements along waterways and the coast where natural resources were plentiful.

In 1638, the first Europeans to arrive in the area were Swedes (people from Sweden) who sailed into the Delaware Bay. They were followed In 1640 by people from Long Island and New England who built small fishing villages along southern New Jersey's Atlantic coast. Industry in this coastal area centered around fishing, whaling, lumbering, and hunting and gathering.

European settlements began to move inland along the rivers and by the middle 1700's industry came to the heart of the Pinelands. Wood was the most important natural resource for rural industry. Sawmills were built along every Pinelands river. Small communities, like Batsto, Port Elizabeth, and Browns Mills, developed around them.

Iron, charcoal, and glass are some of the industries that flourished in the Pinelands between 1740 and 1860. Additionally, the region's first cranberry bog was established in 1840 by John Webb near Cassville in Ocean County. Harvesting of cultivated blueberries began at Whitesbog in Burlington County in 1916.

People from many different countries representing a variety of ethnic backgrounds have settled in the Pinelands. Some of the countries represented include England, Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany, Russia, Italy, Japan and Puerto Rico. ChesIlhurst in Camden County is the Pinelands' oldest black settlement. Quaker influence remains strong in the long established communities of Marlton and Medford. Woodbine in Cape May County is a Jewish community that continues to retain its ethnic identity.

Today a variety of industries flourish in the Pinelands including agriculture, sawmills, boat building, hunting and trapping, and recreation. Additionally, many residents are employed by county, state, and federal agencies in the region such as the New Lisbon Developmental Center, the Division of Parks and Forestry, and the Fort Dix army base.

Click here to return to the lesson plans for "Pinelands Industry-Past and Present"