As Thanksgiving is once again at our doorstep, there will always be that longtime connection between Cape Cod and the Massachusetts state fruit, the cranberry.

Prior to the arrival of the Pilgrims, Native Americans were using the berry, which they called Sassamanesh, for a variety of purposes, before revealing its many uses to the settlers.

However, it wasn’t until 1816 that Captain Henry Hall of Dennis first cultivated the berry and turned it into the culinary favorite that it is today.

Noticing that the crop grew better in the sand, Hall, a veteran of the American Revolutionary War, transplanted cranberry vines after clearing out a swampy area on his land. As The Cape Codder once described it, Hall’s wife put the berries on to boil, with water to keep them from burning and adding sugar as a sweetener. Once they cooled and jelled, Hall sampled the concoction and said it was “as tasty a relish” as he’s ever had. The next night, the Halls hosted the local minister and his wife for supper, and the news of the sauce spread quickly.

Since then, cranberry harvesting has become as common as falling leaves during the Cape’s autumn months, but it was particularly popular about a century ago.

In 1950, Arthur Dickey caught up with Arthur Alexander, then 77, of West Brewster, who had some cranberry tales from the turn of the century. His father, Charles, was one of those who harvested the berries.

“Charles Alexander was no amateur on the swamp but he couldn’t begin to pick with some of the Pleasant Lake gang who were known far and near for their agility and strength,” Dickey wrote.

“There was one Portuguese man in particular who stood high above the others,” Dickey noted. “He had the reputation for being the fastest picker of his era. This man’s name is forgotten now but he will live on in the memory of cranberry men.”

As Alexander put it, he “was a big strapping man who lived on the North side of Pleasant Lake. He was the greatest picker in Harwich, Brewster, or anywhere else.”

In West Brewster, money from cranberries (every family owned an acre or two) would cover payment of taxes and a coal supply for the winter. Alexander said that the unknown picker was first hired to work in “the Brown Bog up between Pleasant Lake and Sheep Pond.” He added that the owners chose two men to keep boxes handy for the picker, and two more men to wheel them back from the swamp.

“In one day, from the time the dew dried off until sunset, that man picked 54 barrels of cranberries,” Alexander raved. “He didn’t waste no time. I don’t know how he did it.”

Alexander, who claimed to be one of the builders of “that bog on Stoney Brook Road,” also picked cranberries during his boyhood, using the old time snap scoops. “The snap scoops held only a quart of cranberries and it took a long time to pick a barrel,” he said.

Today, cranberries are still harvested on the Cape, but many of the old bogs are no more. Eastham, best known for its turnips and asparagus, also had an abundance of cranberry bogs. The last of them were the Governor Prence Road bogs owned by Nathan Clark, who retired in the mid-1970s. Clark’s wife, Helen, who reportedly didn’t care much for the bitter berry, used to sell them at a popular Route 6 farm stand.

“Cranberries were his life, and the ‘Clark bogs’ his pride and joy,” wrote Noel Beyle in his 1977 book, “Go Eastham Young Man! or Eastham or Bust!”

A century ago, when two or more men picked cranberries side by side the Cape, “a speed picking contest usually developed,” Dickey wrote. “There was even more rivalry among the cranberry pickers than there was among the clam and scallop owners.”

Don Wilding, a writer and public speaker on Cape Cod lore, can be reached via email at Follow him on Twitter at @WildingsCapeCod and on Facebook at @donwildingscapecod. Shore Lore appears weekly.