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Piney is a derogatory term that refers to native inhabitants of the New Jersey Pine Barrens. The Pine Barrens have sandy, acidic soil considered unsuitable for traditional farming by early settlers, who called the land "barren". The area is forested mainly with pitch pine and scrub oak. Many areas are swampy with cedar forests that grow along brownish-red, fresh water called "cedar water." The red color is actually created by the high level of iron in the water.
Living conditions in the "Barrens" were considered inhospitable, and those that lived there were considered to be the dregs of society, fugitives, poachers, moonshiners, runaway slaves or deserting soldiers. Often poor, Pineys were forced to make a living in any way possible. They collected and sold sphagnum moss or pine cones, hunted, fished, and lived off of the land. Some of the pineys included notorious bandits known as the Pine Robbers.
Pineys were further demonized after two eugenics studies in the early 20th century, which depicted them as congenital idiots and criminals, most notably the research performed on "The Kallikak Family" by Henry H. Goddard. Pineys often fostered stories of how terrible the Pine Barrens are or how violent they were in order to discourage outsiders and law enforcement from entering the Barrens. The Jersey Devil stories often had this effect.