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Sterilizing Piney's


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In March 1913, Woodrow Wilson resigned as governor of New Jersey to become the 28th president of the United States.


In accordance with the terms of the state Constitution, Senate President James F. Fielder, a Democrat from Jersey City, succeeded Wilson as acting governor, a job Fielder intended to convince voters he deserved in his own right at the next election in November. Like any good politician with ambition, Fielder needed an issue, a societal ill he could promise to fix. He found his issue in the wilderness of the Pine Barrens, where he had heard unflattering tales about a local population of half-wits known as “pineys.”


According to a newspaper account, Fielder traveled by automobile to Burlington County that summer amid a phalanx of aides and newspapermen. There, the acting governor and his entourage were introduced to a 31-year-old Southampton farmhand and his 18-year-old bride, the man’s third marriage to date, with no record of divorce from the previous two.


To read more historic tales of Monmouth and Ocean counties, see Jersey Roots.


The farmhand recently had been released from jail on bigamy charges, which authorities were forced to drop when it was revealed his previous two wives had been married to other men at the same time they were exchanging wedding vows with him. So technically, the farmhand had never previously been legally married and, ipso facto, he was not a bigamist.


For the benefit of the people present, the acting governor quizzed the farmhand on the month and year, but the man drew a blank. The wife was not much better, somehow managing to work into a conversation that she had no idea who her father was as multiple spouses were an unintended family tradition.


“The state must segregate and sterilize these people, particularly the mature ones,” Fielder said in the Boston Evening Transcript. The news made the wire services.


“New Jersey Degenerates” was the headline in the Boston newspaper on June 28, 1913. “Terrible Conditions Found by Governor Fielder Among the ‘Pineys’ — Segregation and Sterilization Advocated.”








Jersey Roots is a look at the history of Monmouth and Ocean counties. Have a local historical topic you would like more information about? Contact Erik Larsen at [email protected]

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No matter how far south you live...it's still south of you.

And north NJ is pretty much everywhere north of you! :rofl:


I like to think 195 is central to the state and do a little give or take north or south of there for "central NJ" 

Anything below is "south NJ", anything north is "north NJ"

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