The rakers are already fanning out across the blueberry fields of Washington County, a long standing tradition that goes back well over a century. 120 years ago the tradition was a bit different as you can see from this 1898 article in the Lewiston Sun Journal of July 25, 1898 although there are some similarities. Still harvesting blueberries in 1898 was by hand, the blueberry rake was still waiting to be invented and no one went home to bed after a hard day in the fields, the fun had just begun at sundown.
DEBLIOS Me July 25 (Special)—
Blueberries are ripening off quite fast and already the white tents and covered wagons can be seen. This will be a banner year in this part of the country for the industry for all over the plains where the fires raged two years ago. The bushes are thick as a wheat field and laden to the ground with good sized berries. At this season just after the hay is harvested and just before potato digging begins blueberry picking becomes a sort of pay-way pleasure for many families who come to the plains from near and far to take part in the harvesting of the berries and at the same time have an outing.
What would the average city person think to wake up some morning and find himself in the center of an immense of plain of eight or ten thousand acres with land as smooth as the ocean surface and literally blue with berries and with three or four hundred tents scattered here and there among the small spruces that force their way to the surface on the elevations? Here he would find whole families who have come some of them many miles to pick for the factories by bushel. Men, women and children all of them experts who can take and fill a bushel measure with the fruit as quickly as a stranger would fill a pint pail. These families come prepared to pick and waste but little time during the day but during the evenings many of them enjoy themselves by calling upon the neighbors and visiting the tents of newcomers.
Outside of the regular factory pickers, other parties come in all sorts of odd-looking outfits just to spend a few days and pick a few bushels for home preserve making. The tents are pitched along the banks near the streams where spring water can be had for cooking purposes and are scattered over the plains forming small groups or villages. These little settlements always include musicians and good storytellers who visit from tent to tent and make merry times among the Inhabitants thereof. Some parties come in covered wagons such as meat carts and simply hitch the horse to a neighboring tree while they sleep in the wagon. These wagon parties are generally great sufferers from mosquitoes and midges. With the exception of a few tender skins who are not quite up in the study of mosquito logy every tent is supplied with a smoke pot, a common old iron pot filled up with punk and dry leaves that keeps smoldering in front of the camp door. This is the only mosquito bar used in this country.
It was calculated last year that there were 15000 acres of blueberry land In Washington county alone and this season will surpass it if signs go for anything for the season has been just suited for growing the berry, being dry and hot. The old lands not burned for three years are yielding a good crop while many acres of new land have come into bearing caused by the fires of two seasons ago.
If any Journal reader wishes to enjoy a novel outing trip, one which he will remember with pleasure for years and one that will send him back to the city as brown as a berry and as rugged as a bear and just bubbling over with pent-up vivacity, let him borrow somebody’s tent- a small one will do— get some other fellow to accompany him, take a horse and wagon, stock up with about two weeks’ feed and also a banjo, an accordion or a fiddle if you are musical or even a Jewsharp and be sure to take along a smoke pot. Take the country road to the Bangor toll bridge and follow the old air-line stage route through Brewer Eddington, East Eddington, Clifton, Amherst and Aurora go across the Whale’s Back and down Pine Hill, keep the stage road till you see the white tents at the plains and you will be welcomed with cheers from the crowd and dozens of them will run out to meet you and tell you just where to hitch your horse and just what to do and just how to fix a smoker. You will find that a family feeling pervades the whole lot and when your vacation has ended and you turn your face homeward, you will have a better conception of what the garden of Eden was like before the fall of Adam than you ever got before in your life. And it is ten to one that next blueberry time will find you on the plains again.