Sheriff’s Meadow moves to preserve 17th century farmhouse

Sheriff’s Meadow moves to preserve 17th century farmhouse

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Sheriff's Meadow executive director Adam Moore (left) introduced Brian Cooper of Early New England restorations, who spoke about the restoration process.

On Monday evening, Adam Moore, executive director of the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation stood before a group of more than 60 invited guests and described why the Island’s largest private land conservation nonprofit has set out to preserve the Mitchell House on Quansoo Farm.

The farm, on Black Point Pond within sight of the Atlantic on the Vineyard’s south shore, retains many of the wind-swept vistas that would have been familiar to 17th century Vineyarders. Mr. Moore said the historic house occupied a setting that had not changed much over the past 300 years. In that sense, it was unique, he said.

Mr. Moore introduced Brian Cooper of Early New England Restorations of North Stonington, Connecticut, a company that specializes in such restorations. Mr. Moore spoke enthusiastically about the authenticity of the house and the setting.

The house is unencumbered with modern conveniences, such as insulation, wiring, and plumbing, that would need to be removed before the project could proceed. The nails had been manufactured from “bog iron” produced on the Vineyard. The use of “hurricane braces,” one of many 18th century construction techniques, had allowed it to survive the 1938 hurricane.

Once restored, it would provide a glimpse into the past for generations to come, he said. “This is unique,” he said, “and the setting is phenomenal.”

The last inhabitants of the house, members of the Mitchell family, were descendants of the original builders of the house. Through the centuries, owners’ names changed from Mayhew to Norton to Hancock in the late 1700s and finally to Mitchell in the late 1800s, as daughters of the family married men with different last names.

Inside the house for guests to see, the foundation displayed a set of marine charts discovered while cleaning the attic, the oldest of which dates back to 1794, that depict the British Channel, the western coast of Ireland, and the coasts of Spain and Portugal.

The maps bear the signature of Captain Samuel Hancock of Chilmark, a master mariner, who by some accounts lived in the Mitchell House with his wife, Frances, and their children.

For more information on the Foundation and its plans, go to www.sheriffsmeadow.org.

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  1. Rewriting history is in the same category as un-ringing a bell. The Mitchell House was long referred to as the Hancock-Mitchell House. Last week, the Times correctly reported that Captain Samuel and Frances Hancock lived in this house and raised their 4 children there. This week, in an effort to retell history and do damage control for SMF, the MV Times made a change to the story, now reporting an historical fact as “according to some accounts”. I don’t know why MV Times is ignoring the community’s objections to the Hancock maps being usurped by Adam Moore and his improper use of SMF funds spent on the restoration of paper documents. Given SMF’s well-documented bad behavior, it does not surprise me that Adam Moore does not address the community outcry over his “finders keepers, losers weepers” mentality toward the Hancock descendants on the island. There are many islanders who object to Adam Moore spending SMF money and time on restoring the Hancock nautical charts, without ever contacting the direct Hancock descendants who are alive and well here. Misuse of SMF funds is nothing to ignore, nor is it okay to pretend that SMF is not suing the direct descendant of Captain Hancock over a Quenames boundary dispute that SMF suddenly and suspiciously made claim to, even though the Hancock family has used and paid taxes on the lot in question for decades.

    I can understand why SMF would use the MV Times to try to restore its sullied reputation, but I cannot understand why the Times complies. SMF has long ignored its LAND conservation mission to the people of the island. SMF has lost the respect of islanders by continuing its arrogance, braggadocio, lawsuits, misdeeds, elitism, and a totally out-of-touch attitude of what islanders need, want, and expect from this supposed land conservation organization.

    From SMF’s website: “We encourage you to contact us with any ideas that you have on how better Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation may connect to the island community.” SMF encourages no such thing.

    1. It seems so far no one dares to use their name to stick up for SMF’s conduct, which I consider, abhorrent. An inexplicable lawsuit, misuse of LAND conservation funds, and the appropriation of found documents are examples of very bad behavior. “Mr. Moore hopes to raise funds for the preservation of the maps…”. Does anyone seriously wish to donate to a land conservation organization so they can pay for document restorations… for documents that rightfully belong to the Hancock family?

      Years ago I bought a house from an elderly couple outside Boston. After a few months of living there, I discovered in the basement a small suitcase containing about 100 tapes of old music. Obviously, the sellers were unaware they had left behind their very interesting collection. I phoned and spoke to the husband who told me he had forgotten all about the tapes, did not want them for himself, but enthusiastically told me that he would love to give them to his grandchildren if I did not mind giving them back. I did not mind. Legally, of course, I could have kept them, archived them, and thought about donating them to a music organization, making me, me, me look so generous and interested in an historically interesting music collection. But had I chosen not to offer them back to the family, I know I would have felt like a pig. I am of the opinion that decent people return items of value that have inadvertently fallen into their possession. Does anyone disagree with that?