This Was Then: Tut Chase

‘A mighty man was Tut.’

Tristram “Tut” Chase’s blacksmith shop operated on State Road in North Tisbury from the 1890s until the 1920s. — Ed Lee Luce

Tristram “Tut” Chase (1854–1928) was the last village blacksmith of North Tisbury. Born in Chilmark, his mother died of typhoid fever when he was still an infant. His father, mechanic and wheelwright Alpheus “Alf” Chase, soon remarried and moved the new family to North Tisbury.

Chase relocated briefly to Framingham as a young man, working there as a blacksmith, marrying a local woman, and fathering a daughter, but the marriage fell apart, and he soon moved back to North Tisbury, divorced. He would spend the next three decades living with his housekeeper Maria, but he never remarried.

A 1915 Boston Post article painted Chase as a colorful local character who held court with his friends in the center of town, “the village blacksmith,” who “puffed contentedly on his corncob pipe,” philosophizing over local events. “A mighty man was Tut,” the Post declared.

The origin of Chase’s nickname is lost to time, unfortunately, but we can safely assume he wasn’t named for the young pharaoh Tutankhamun, as “King Tut” didn’t find its way into popular culture until his tomb was discovered in 1922. His name may instead reflect the old-fashioned expression of disapproval or contempt, “Tut, tut!” — although by Chase’s era, this expression had become overly mild and polite, the milquetoast of expletives. But then, Island nicknames were seldom known for their kindness. (Just ask the photographer behind this image, Chase’s neighbor Ed Lee “Butts-Up” Luce.)

Blacksmithing was a rapidly disappearing profession in Chase’s time. Horseshoeing and wagon work were quickly giving way to machine work, welding, auto body work, and car repair. After Chase died in 1928, the shop was soon closed for good. The Rev. Harlow Graham acquired the building, and moved it to Lambert’s Cove Road about 1933, where it remains today as a private home cared for by Graham’s grandchildren. Susan Osmers, one of Graham’s granddaughters, writes, “We do have a sign from the shop that hangs in the house — ’Terms Cash on Horseshoeing.’ The fireplace and a few rooms were from the shop. We are having work done now, and replacing very old Sheetrock. There’s exposed walls, and I swear one beam looks like a horse chewed it.”