Most everyone is familiar with the term “six degrees of separation,” the notion that any two people can be connected to one another (or Kevin Bacon) in no more than six steps. So we decided to put the theory to the test. But instead of using a person, we’re using Martha’s Vineyard. And why be limited to just connecting to people — we want to see how many steps it takes to connect the Vineyard to just about anyone or anything you can think of.
Like the Panama Canal.
And much to our surprise, the Vineyard connects with the Panama Canal through at least four people that we found, and even more surprisingly, they all lived within a stone’s throw of one another, on Lambert’s Cove Road in West Tisbury.
Here’s how it works:
Alex currently lives in a rambling old farmhouse just before the entrance to Lambert’s Cove Beach.
George Washington Goethals
George Washington Goethals was Alex Goethals’ great-grandfather. In February 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Colonel George Washington Goethals chief engineer of the Panama Canal. Goethals accomplished an engineering feat nearly unrivaled in this day and age; he completed the Canal in 1914, two years ahead of schedule.
Congress promoted Colonel Goethals to the rank of Major General. President Wilson then appointed Goethals the first civil governor of the Panama Canal Zone.
And here, locally, he was honored by the naming the George W. Goethals Post of the American Legion in his honor.
First degree A:
Will Luckey and his family live about a five-minute walk from Alex Goethals’ house.
Second degree A:
Meriwether L. Walker
Will Luckey’s grandfather was Meriwether L. Walker. Walker was chief Panama Canal maintenance engineer from 1921 to 1924. He was then appointed governor of the Panama Canal Zone from 1924 until 1928.
According to Wikipedia, “Like Goethals, he was a man of prodigious memory, his mind retaining the small details that ordinarily might be forgotten.”
First degree B:
Edwin Luther Sibert Jr.
Edwin Sibert died in 2012, and for decades he and his extended family lived nearly adjacent to the Goethals’ homestead.
Second degree B:
Major General William Luther Sibert
Edwin Sibert was the grandson of Maj. Gen. William Luther Sibert. According to Wikipedia, from 1907 through 1914, Maj. Gen. Sibert was a member of the Panama Canal Commission, and was responsible for the building of a number of critical parts of the Canal.
First degree C:
William R. (Riley) Deeble
Riley Deeble died in 2016 at the age of 94. He was a longtime seasonal resident of the Vineyard, and moved here permanently upon his retirement. Deeble’s house was walking distance from the Goethals’ house.
Second degree C:
General Chester Harding
Riley Deeble’s grandfather was General Chester Harding, who, upon retirement, lived on William Street in Vineyard Haven. Gen. Harding served as governor of the Panama Canal Zone following General Goethals’ term in 1917.
So there you have it, the Vineyard and the Panama Canal, each connected by two degrees of separation through four different connections, all of whom were nearly next-door neighbors.
If you have any interesting Vineyard connections you’d like us to explore or you’d like to share with us, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.