Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cranberry is King

So important was the annual autumn cranberry harvest locally that it had the influence to disrupt Middleborough and Lakeville schools and postpone religious functions so that residents could lend themselves to the task of picking berries. During the 1912 harvest season, the pervasive demand for pickers throughout southeastern Massachusetts led to the cancellation of the Plymouth County Neighborhood Convention, a local gathering of Protestant churches, a development reported in the pages of the Brockton Times on August 24, 1912:

Religious Convention is Postponed.

There isn't going to be a meeting of the Plymouth County neighborhood convention of the churches next month because of cranberries.

That sounds rather strange, but Gen. Sec. A. H. Wardle of the [Middleborough] Y. M. C. A., who is secretary of the convention, announces that to be the reason for missing the September meeting.

Ordinarily the sessions are resumed in September after the vacation period, and it was expected the same custom would be in effect this year ....

But it didn't happen. The active members of these churches are so busy gathering up cranberries, which literally translated means money, that they can't stop to entertain church delegates, Mr. Wardle states, so the meeting will go over till October.
It is said to be the first time the convention failed to resume its meetings in September, and the reason assigned is considered a very unusual one.

"Cranberry Picking on Cape Cod", postcard, early 20th century
Cranberry pickers at Middleborough (like those depicted on this postcard of nearby Cape Cod) were in high demand each September and October, so much so that in 1912, the Plymouth County Neighborhood Convention had to be postponed until the close of the harvest season. Here, the pickers are seen working in staked rows, the typical manner for hand-picking.

Brockton Times, "Cranberry is King", August 24, 1912.


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