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As It Was: Fermented Huckleberries Drench Frances Pearson

In 1895, when Frances Pearson was a 10-year-old girl living in Prospect, Ore., her favorite time of year was August, when huckleberries ripened on Huckleberry Mountain, near the old Crater Lake Wagon Road. Every year, her family camped on the mountain and picked gallons of huckleberries each day.Although the Klamath Indians in nearby camps on the mountain dried the huckleberries for the winter, the Pearson family took fresh berries home for canning. They didn’t have Mason jars, so they collected used beer and wine bottles from the saloons in Medford. Frances washed them with gravel, and filled them with cooked huckleberries before sealing them with a cork and wax. One evening, Frances was wearing a clean white apron while her father entertained two important guests. He asked her to open a bottle of huckleberries, unaware that the berries had fermented. As she pried the top off, the cork came flying out and the huckleberries coated Frances and her white apron. She recalled fondly that she thought her father and his friends would die from laughing.

Sources: Recollections: People and the Forest, Oral History Interviews. From the Upper Rogue to the Dead Indian Plateau ed. Vol. iii. Medford, Ore: Rogue River National Forest, 1990. Web. 17 Apr. 2015.

Amy Couture has a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Oregon, a master’s in teacher education from Eastern Oregon University, and a master’s in history from Minnesota State University, Mankato.  A former teacher and cross-country coach, she is the author of 14 historical vignettes in the book, Astorians: Eccentric and Extraordinary.