Thursday, September 30, 2010

"A Place to Review the Progress of Cranberries and Cranberry People", 1954

"Dumping Fruit into Seperator at L. B. Barker's, Bournedale, Mass. 1938", photograph, 1938
Middleborough Public Library Cranberry Collection

On April 22, 1954, Walter E. Piper Marketing Specialist of the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture spoke on WEEI radio Boston on the topic of the Middleborough Public Library cranberry collection. Piper had earlier given these same remarks to the annual meeting of the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association. Piper claimed that he held two special interests in cranberries outside his day to day work. One was Edaville Railroad in Carver, the other was the Middleborough cranberry collection.

In this frame of mind I recently dropped in at the Middleboro Public Library to visit the Cranberry Room, as I do on almost every occasion when I get down, that way. This is a small room on the lower floor of the Library, which has been set apart for the use of the industry in preserving its records and mementos. It is in line with many such similar endeavors in various branches of industry and agriculture. The aim is very admirable. Certainly it may be of untold value to cranberry growers of a century hence to have easy access to such records. It has been said that history is philosophy taught by examples. In any industry or business, much can be learned from the experiences of predecessors—much that can be of immense importance and value in preventing a repetition of earlier mistakes, and in capitalizing on earlier accomplishment and successors.

Pioneers Of The Industry

That Cranberry Room is indeed a place for the quiet reflection which I have just mentioned. It carries the atmosphere of the pioneers of the industry. Some of their pictures hang on the walls. There, for example, is A. D. Makepeace, a name to conjure with in cranberry lore and tradition. An attached card states that he was the first large grower in a "combination whose crop in 1887 totaled 16,000 barrels." Another picture is that of Cyrus Cahoon, typical rugged Cape Codder, looking for all the world like a character out of a Joe Lincoln book. It was he who is associated with the discovery of the Early Black variety in 1847. Other
photographs and other views tell graphically of those pioneer days, such as the one marking the location of one of the bogs where Eli Howes brought to light the Howes berry in 1843.

Such were the men in their respective times who laid the foundation of the cranberry industry. The spirit with which they surmounted their difficulties is typical of Cranberry-land. This same spirit still prevails among cranberry people, and will be a factor in bringing about new and further achievements in cranberry culture and marketing.

First Organization

In reference to today's meetings, it is well here to record the beginnings of organized activities of growers in the original Cape Cod Cranberry Growers' Association which are so carefully recorded there in the Library Room. Written in a bold hand in the first record book is a notice of the original call to discuss organization—February 15, 1866. It reads as follows:

Cranberry Growers' Convention

All persons interested in the cultivation of cranberries are invited to meet at the Exchange Hall in Harwich on Thursday the 15th day of February first at 1 o'clock to consider the best method of cultivation, and such other matters relating to the subject as may come before the meeting. It is signed by Zebina H. Small, Obed Brooks, Cyrus Cahoon and Nathaniel Robbins.

Those were all men who were prominent in the then infant industry. Zebina Small, an odd Christian name to be sure, is spoken of frequently in the old histories in connection with cranberries and with public affairs. The meeting adjourned on that date to March 1, when the constitution of the Cape Cod Cranberry Association was adopted with 67 signers.

In Our Time

Thinking of the organization as we know it in our time, I thumbed through the records, and as I frequently do, I looked for reports of meetings over ten-year periods, such as 10, 20, 30 or 40 years ago. The record for the meeting of 1914, for example, lists the president as John C. Makepeace of Wareham. Vice-presidents were Seth Finney of Carver and Dr. F. F. Marsh of Wareham. Treasurer was Z. H. Jenkins of West Barnstable, and Lemuel C. Hall of Wareham served as secretary, as he did for many years.

In later reports, nearer my time, more familiar names came into view, and I was impressed to an increasing extent with these records of these many fine people who put all they had in time, effort and energy in helping bring the cranberry business up to its present prominent position in New England and American agriculture.

Looking Ahead

This Room in the Library is acquiring a great deal of worthwhile material. It started back more than a decade ago. I noted, for instance, at the 1944 meeting an item of $25 was voted for the Library Committee. The Association has encouraged its development, and the Library has shown a continuing interest.

The atmosphere of the Room is certainly wholly detached from the uncertainties and the tension of the present time. To me it emphasizes the fact that there is a branch of our agriculture which has its high place in the economy of the Commonwealth. It seems to carry a message to present-day cranberry people that they can well take pride in what has been achieved so far, and that they can go forward from here to new destinies.

A New Chapter

The Cranberry Room in the Middleboro Library is, as I have said, a place for quiet reflection and contemplation, with ample opportunity to review the progress of cranberries and cranberry people. And today as the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers' Association gets together at its annual spring meeting in the Town Hall at Wareham, it will be writing a new chapter in the continuing records of the organization — a chapter which will be recorded for those years ahead, maybe for some interested group in 2054 who will search into the recordings of the past for guidance in their day and age.

Cranberries, May, 1954, “Cranberry Room”, p. 20; June, 1957, “Walter E. Piper, Mass. Marketing Specialist, Does Much for Cranberries”, p. 12


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