History of the Shawangunk Berry Pickers

Basic category for information pertaining to Lake Minnewaska's history.

History of the Shawangunk Berry Pickers

Post by jasonk »

Hey guys.

It's just about peak season for wild blueberries at Minnewaska and all along the Shawangunk Ridge, so I put an article together about the fascinating history of the Shawangunk Berry Pickers.

It's got some interesting information- did you know the Berry Pickers used to intentionally set the gunks on fire to encourage more blueberries the following season?

You can check out the article here:

Re: History of the Shawangunk Berry Pickers

Post by johnwill »

I read your article on the berry pickers, and I have a few points to make. First of all, the berry pickers in the Sam's Point area continued to visit until well in to the 1960's as my grandparents were amongst them. Many of them were from the Yorkville section of NYC and of German descent (like my family). Amongst the colorful characters were Oatmeal Max (who apparently enjoyed the stuff), Overcoat Max (known for his large trench coats), New Guinea Herman, and the Schneider (my grandfather, schneider is German for tailor).

Many of the shacks they used were still standing in the early 1970's when I was a boy, and we used to check them out to see how they lived. Only one of the berry-pickers remained at that time: Herman Heigle, known by us as Herman the German, but to his fellow berry-pickers as New Guinea Herman from his service there in WWII. Herman bought his land, and stayed on until his death in 1982. He lived a solitary life with his chickens and dog and sheep, subsistence gardening and berry-picking. He had a garden hose that ran across the road that takes you from the gate to Lake Marantanza by way of the High Point road side that he used to bring him water from a spring across the street. He had electricity in his house, and would call a taxi a couple times a month to take him to Ellenville for shopping because he did not have a car.

He was about the nicest person you would ever hope to meet, always quick for a chat, to share some food, or a bottle of beer, and I'm sure anyone who traveled up that way in the 1970's would remember Herman. He had many tales to tell of his adventures across the Ridge, and probably knew it better than any one else. We used to be able to forego the cost at the gate (back when it was Ice Caves Mountain) because we were on the list as friends coming to visit Herman, so there was no charge.

I have not been down that road since they stopped allowing cars along it, but the last time I went through (about 1991 or so) Herman’s house was still there. It was the last house on the right as you headed up the hill.
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