Would Jesus have liked wild blueberry pie? The question is not merely academic in Sullivan County, Pennsylvania.
My husband’s family has a long history in Sullivan County PA, in the north-central part of the state.
A very rural area, it was also where his great-great-grandfather, Peter Armstrong, established a religious community in the 1850s to prepare for Jesus’s Second Coming (return to earth).
Called Celestia, the community boasted up to 150 people at its peak. Over time, however, when Jesus didn’t show up and it was beset with financial and social problems, in the 1860s Peter Armstrong deeded the land of Celestia to “the Lord God Almighty and his heirs in Jesus Messiah,” thinking that this would relieve Celestia of the county tax collector’s demands.
You can still see the deed at the Sullivan County Historical Society in Laporte, PA.
Unfortunately, neither Jesus nor God paid their taxes on the land, and eventually it was seized by the sheriff for non-payment.
As it came on the auction block, one of Peter’s financially-successful sons bought the land for back-taxes and held it in the family for over a century. In the 1990s the land was sold, but the land of the town center of Celestia was donated to the Sullivan County Historical Society for use as a historical park.
You can now take a walking tour of the site, see where the buildings were, and drink from Celestia’s “ever-flowing spring.”
Even better, the place is overgrown with wild blueberries, and as Peter’s descendents we make an annual trip to collect these wonderful fruits to make blueberry pies. Smaller than their domesticated cousins, wild blueberries have an intense and wonderful flavor.
Both wild and domestic berries make great blueberry pies—solid fruit, held together with just a little sugar and flour. One of my summertime favorites!