DAR restores historic Mayhew memorial
On Saturday a small group of local and state officials of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) gathered to rededicate the Mayhew Memorial located in a miniature park just off the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road.
The memorial, between the airport entrance and the start of Barnes Road, honors Thomas Mayhew Jr. (son of the first English governor of Martha's Vineyard), who was the first minister to Christianize any of the indigenous peoples of New England, beginning in 1643 when he was 22.
Thomas Mayhew Jr. was born in England in 1621, and died at sea in 1657. He came to Massachusetts in 1631. In 1641, he with his father were granted ownership of Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and the Elizabeth Islands. A group of Colonists planted a settlement at Edgartown under the leadership of Thomas Mayhew Sr.
Thomas, a Congregational clergyman, was the first English Missionary to the Indians of New England. Acquiring the knowledge of the language of the Indians, he began to convert them to Christianity. His first convert was Hiacoomes, who accepted the white man's faith in 1643, three years before John Eliot began missionary work on the mainland
In 1652 Mayhew opened a school to teach the Indians how to read. In conjunction with John Eliot, Thomas Mayhew Jr. was the author of a number of Indian tracts published in London.
According to DAR chapter historian Victoria Haeselbarth, a gathering of 1,500 Wampanoags met at that place to say goodbye to their preacher in 1657, as he prepared to set sail for England on what he thought would be a round-trip to take care of business and collect materials for his ministry. His ship was lost at sea.
Photo by Ralph Stewart
Saturday Ms. Haeselbarth quoted Hiacoomes, who had brought a white stone to the occasion, "Whenever I pass this way, I shall add another stone in honor of you." Hiacoomes and other Wampanoags continued to remember their first Christian teacher in this way, and in 1901 the tribe and the local DAR placed a large boulder with a brass plaque next to the pile of stones which had accumulated for 250 years.
As a part of her remarks on Saturday, chapter regent Lynda Asbridge placed a small white beach stone on the ground by the memorial. Other members of the gathering did the same.
The site of the memorial had in recent years fallen into disrepair, and few visitors stopped to learn what the historic marker says. Truck drivers had used the small turnout as a place to have lunch, and the grounds were rutted and littered. With the help of Tea Land nursery, the DAR has spent the last two years and more than $13,000 restoring the miniature park, planting trees, shrubs, flowers, and grass, and adding a gravel path and decorative boulders. Ms. Asbridge explained that she hopes the decorative boulders are close enough together to discourage drivers of large trucks from using the memorial as a picnic area.
Ms. Asbridge paid a special compliment to Tea Lane Nursery for their help in the project, now an attractive and welcoming spot, and announced that the company has agreed to mow the grass and maintain the new landscaping.