The last of his breed: Meet the Pinelands sawmiller
New Jersey’s Pinelands is a region famous for its national beauty and a tradition of people living off the natural resources.
News 12 New Jersey’s Brian Donohue went out in search of one of the last “Pineys” who still earns his living off the resources of the Pinelands.
Donohue says that a little while ago he bought a bunch of Barnegat Bay oysters that came in a box made of local cedarwood. He says that ever since then he wondered who made cedar boxes in New Jersey in 2019. So, Donohue went in search of the box maker.
His search led him to Shamong, Burlington County – to the sawmill operated by 68-year-old Spike Wells.
Wells’s father opened the sawmill in 1944, cutting New Jersey cedar trees. Wells is a fourth-generation sawmiller.
“Well, there’s still some of us left,” he says. “I don’t change too much. Too late now.”
Cedar trees grow in the bogs in the area and tint the Pinelands creek water brown. Wells uses that wood to make items like roof singles, log cabins, fence posts and furniture.
“I don’t get tired of cutting it,” he says.
Wells’s products last a lifetime and there is a high demand for them.
He says that running the mill has gotten harder since his brother Stanley died last year. The brothers worked together for 50 years.
“I’m all alone now. But I still get stuff done,” Wells says.
Wells says that he wants to work another 10 years at least.
“I don’t see why not. Everybody in my family lived pretty old,” he says.
But Wells will probably be the last of his family to operate a sawmill. He and his wife Michelle have two daughters. One is a nurse and the other drives a school bus. Both know how to use a saw, but say that they do not wish to earn a living this way.
“We’re a dying breed,” Wells says.
Wells is still selling his products. His sawmill is located off Route 206 in Shamong.