This Was Then: The bakers

Where Islanders shopped for bread in the early 20th century.

Pillsbury’s Bakery, Main Street, Edgartown, circa 1900-10, located where the Wharf Pub is today. — Courtesy Chris Baer

The only commercial bakery advertising in Chilmark in the early 20th century was I.F. Flanders & Co. in Menemsha Creek. It was run by sisters Hattie and Ida Flanders, sometimes referred to as “the Bakery Sisters.” Their business was tenuous enough that the family later tended to put “bakery” in quotation marks when referring to their establishment.

“The ‘Bakery,’” wrote their nephew Cy Flanders, “was so named because Ida and Hattie served baked goods and ice cream once a week in a little parlor in the house. This was back in the early 1900s.” The diminutive sisters (they were both well under 5 feet tall) were later remembered more for their strong religious zealotry and less for their baked goods.

But there were many more bakeries on the Island.

Oak Bluffs had Schwemmler’s bakery, run by German immigrant Robert Schwemmler; Eliza Johnson’s summertime bakery on New York Ave.; and Mrs. Dow’s Pure Food Shop, a bakery run for three decades by Harriet Dow, her sister Arethusa Marble (who ran her own bakery in downtown Vineyard Haven), and Harriet’s son Lorenzo.

At the turn of the century, the Campground baking needs were serviced by Miss Grey’s Home Bakery on Montgomery Square, which advertised “brown bread and beans Saturday evening and Sunday morning” as well as home-made bread, pie, and confectionery.” A few years later, Beatrice House advertised “choice bakery goods” in nearly the same location.

Vineyard Haven had the Black-owned Eureka Bakery, located about where Mikado Asian Bistro is today and managed by Presbaretta “Etta” Dewey of North Carolina, and her husband William. “Don’t forget to try Dewey’s Famous Home-made Bread, 8 cents loaf,” they advertised in 1907.

Vineyard Haven also was home to the Ideal Bakery, run by John M. Andrews, on the corner of Main and Union. “Bread and Pastry; Wedding Cake a Specialty,” he advertised, together with doughnuts and “a very full line of bakers’ goods.”

Edgartown was home to Oliver Pillsbury’s bakery, advertised at the “Bathing Beach” in Edgartown in 1907, and shortly afterward in the building now occupied by the Wharf Pub. Pillsbury was born in Rockland, Maine, and was only very distantly related (fourth cousin twice removed) to the founder of the famous baking company of that name. His evidently closed upon his death in 1911.

Brown Bread
A recipe by Mrs O.S. Mayhew, Vineyard Haven, as published in the 1924 Island Cook Book:

One and one-half cups granulated meal
one cup graham flour
one cup molasses
one teaspoon soda
one teaspoon salt
hot water
milk or sour milk
one egg
melted butter

Mix all together and pour into greased brown bread tin or coffee can and either steam or bake.

Bon appétit!