Monday, July 26, 2021
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Chris Baer

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This Was Then: The coal yards

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Martha’s Vineyard once ran on coal. “We didn't have any electricity,” recalled Stan Lair (1902-1987) about his Vineyard Haven childhood in a 1980 interview. “For...

Of mink and Mink Meadows

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Mink once lived on Martha’s Vineyard. When writer James Freeman made an inventory of the wild animals he found on a visit to the...

This Was Then: The Island’s lost birds

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In 1602, John Brereton, chronicler of Capt. Bartholomew Gosnold’s exploration of Martha’s Vineyard, recorded the many different kinds of birds he saw on the...

This Was Then: Pig tales

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Martha’s Vineyard is not known for its swine, but hogs have historically been a critically important Island livestock; only sheep and cattle were more...

Naming West Tisbury’s streets

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The roads of West Tisbury are full of curious names. Some of their stories we know; others are seemingly forgotten. Who, for instance, was “Tiah”...

This Was Then: Chief King

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Before 911, before police radios and walkie-talkies, there were blue light bulbs over Main Street, Vineyard Haven. When a call for help came in,...

This Was Then: A story of three Vineyard men

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Brothers William and Luther West of Chilmark were of solid Island stock. Their parents and grandparents were all Island natives, as they were. Their...

This Was Then: Doppelgängers and namesakes

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Our Island shares its names with people, places, and products around the world, some for historically connected reasons and others by coincidence, complicating our...

This Was Then: Superintendent of streets

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“You didn't have tractors, you didn't have the machinery that you got today,” recalled the late Basil Welch of Vineyard Haven in a 1982...

This Was Then: Welcome to Oak Bluff … Manitoba

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It’s a little unfair to ridicule tourists for asking directions to “Oaks Bluff.” There is an Oaks Bluff. About a 47-hour drive west of...

This Was Then: Some assembly required

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The Ford Motor Company is often lauded for the invention of the modern assembly line (a claim that begins with a lot of caveats)....

This Was Then: Smith, Bodfish, and Swift

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S.B.S. — Smith, Bodfish, and Swift — was once an extensive Island chain. Their flagship store was a grocery on Main Street, Vineyard Haven,...

This Was Then: Dolph

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“I recall Dolph; his job in the winter was to plow the sidewalks after a snowstorm,” remembered the late Stan Lair (1902-1987) of Vineyard...

This Was Then: Street Store

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There were no fewer than seven grocery stores in downtown Edgartown at the turn of the 20th century. The list, which included Pease Brothers,...

This Was Then: North School and Hill Mill

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There were four school districts in Edgartown at the time of the American Revolution: “Pohoganut,” the Plains, Chappaquiddick, and Edgartown village. In 1837, a...

This Was Then: The 1918 flu

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In Massachusetts, 16,358 residents died in the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, according to the official figures of the time. Twelve of them were...

This Was Then: Lost graves of Martha’s Vineyard

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Jonathan Tilton, here he lies,  Nobody laughs and nobody cries;  Where he's gone and how he fares,  Nobody knows and nobody cares. Jonathan Tilton (1770–1837) of Tisbury was...

This Was Then: Woodpecker Hall

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Chilmark’s first town hall was built on Middle Road in 1844, not far from Tabor House Road, on land given to the town by...

This Was Then: Classic Rocks, Part II

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Twenty thousand years ago, two colossal glaciers crossed paths to form Martha’s Vineyard as we know it. To the east was the mountain of...

This Was Then: Classic rocks

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Charles Hine, in his 1908 book “The Story of Martha’s Vineyard,” describes the area around Peaked Hill in Chilmark as “a wilderness of tumbled...
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