From the Oct. 9, 1931 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

Next Tuesday is Cranberry Day in the town of Gay Head. It is extremely doubtful if there is another town in America which enjoys the distinction of having such a holiday entirely to itself.

On this day, the Gay Head people put in practice a custom that has existed among them for centuries when they go in a body to the wild cranberry bogs on the common land and harvest the crop of wild berries.

All through the season, the cranberry agent, James F. Cooper, has watched the bogs, estimating the possible yield, warning owners of wandering cattle, and, as the harvest time drew near, keeping a lookout for any persons inclined to gain a day or so on the season opening. It is he who announces the date for picking and the hour, for in him are vested peculiar rights.

These natural bogs are a phenomenon in themselves. Planted, tended and protected, as far as natural trespassers are concerned, by the Great Spirit alone, they have borne their annual crop of berries as far back as anyone has ever heard. Not a minute’s labor has ever been expended upon the maintenance of these bogs except to harvest the berries, and yet they do not suffer in the least from drought, wet, or insect pest, the common enemies of cultivated grounds. Nor do the grazing cattle wander over them to any extent. Unfenced, over one hundred acres, possibly there are nearly two hundred, they lay wide open in their hollows among the sand dunes.

The winter rains flood them. The high winds blow the white sand over them and the laborious job of sanding as done on cultivated bogs at great expense, is performed by the elements in a manner that excels human skill. The seeding and planting is done also by the powers of nature, and new vines grow in, luxuriant and productive, after the old have been worn out with bearing.

And so, on Cranberry Day, all ordinary business in Gay Head is suspended, the school is closed, and young and old gather and proceed to the bogs. Ox-carts carry the aged and the very young, together with all necessary equipment, lunches, and containers. Arriving at the bogs, the oxen are allowed to graze, while every person capable of picking by hand or with cranberry pickers, swarm over the bogs and fills baskets, sacks and pails. Families group together, keeping their sacks in a pile, and moving about them as they pick. Big brawny men, women, in the prime of life, the aged, and the infants, all are there, and contributing as much as they can to the store of the family to which they belong. Noon-time arrives, and the pangs of hunger must be satisfied.

On the dry sands, on the patches of sward between the bogs, they kindle the camp-fires. And there they boil their kettles and prepare their noon-day meal out in the open, beneath the sky as their ancestors did.

Seasons vary, but the average amount of berries harvested by a family may always be reckoned by bushels. Sometimes as high as eighteen or twenty bushels are picked by one family alone. These berries are not stored for winter use as in olden times, for there is always a ready market for them. Gay Head cranberries were famous in the mainland markets before Cape Cod made any business of raising them.

The lengthening of the shadows, and the sinking of the sun, sees the procession wending its way homeward across the dunes and hillocks. This land across which they walk is Indian-owned, and has never been owned by anyone else.

The snow geese, which have been seen in various parts of the Island each winter for the past three seasons, have reappeared, five of the strikingly beautiful birds have been seen last week by George D. Eustis, of Hollyholm, Chilmark. The birds did not linger long in the vicinity, but departed, seeking cooler water, it is believed.

Dan Manter, one of the Great Pond folks of West Tisbury, caught an eel this week that is regarded as unusual. It is white except for a brown stripe along the back. The eel was a good-sized reptile, and appeared to be in good health. Old-timers who viewed the creature voiced no opinion beyond the belief that some one of the eel’s forebears must have ventured too far up the brook.

Up at the Hillman Homestead, on Roaring Brook, William C. M. Tilton has produced various things in his garden this year that are foreign to the Island. But the outstanding production, as far as size is concerned, goes to the Georgia watermelons. These are the same kind of melons that arrive the first in our markets in summer, and generations of Vineyarders have believed that they could not be grown here.

This is not correct, as has been proved before, nit it is questionable if any agriculturist of the Island has produced a melon equal in size to the champion of the Roaring Brook garden.

This melon measures four feet and six inches around, the longest way, and three feet, six inches, at its smallest diameter. It has attained its greatest growth since the count fair was held and is still growing.

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox