Monday, January 24, 2022
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Chris Baer

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This Was Then: From islands to Island

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It shouldn’t be a surprise that an island would attract islanders. Many of the families who settled on the Vineyard in the late 1800s...

This Was Then: The Christmas mutiny of 1857

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An empty grave in Edgartown is topped with a stone bearing a remarkable engraving: "Capt. Archibald Mellen Jr.born at Tisbury June 5, 1830, and murdered on...

This Was Then: Old Island cooking

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Want to prepare an authentically old-fashioned Vineyard meal for the holidays? Look no further than the "Island Cook Book," published in 1924 as a fundraiser...

This Was Then: Island Hermits

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Our Island has hidden a lot of hermits and recluses over the years. Some perhaps hiding, some just peculiar, some maybe seeking a little...

This Was Then: Keeping warm

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My grandfather, Stan Lair (1902–87) of Vineyard Haven, worked a lot of jobs in his life — helping tear down the brickyard in Chilmark, catching...

This Was Then: Transfer steamer Maryland

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To see a huge, open-ended car ferry in Vineyard Haven Harbor is normal. To see one in 1875, a full generation before the first...

This Was Then: T. M. Silvia

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Theophilus Miguel “T. M.” Silvia was born in 1877 on Ilha de São Nicolau, a mountainous island in the Republic of Cabo Verde, the...

This Was Then: The Barber of the Black Second

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William Henry Dewey was born into slavery in 1858 in New Bern, a riverfront town in Craven County, in the rural Inner Banks of...

This Was Then: The bakers

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The only commercial bakery advertising in Chilmark in the early 20th century was I.F. Flanders & Co. in Menemsha Creek. It was run by...

This Was Then: Frank Bodfish, blacksmith

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Blacksmith William Bodfish and his wife Polly Crowell moved to Holmes Hole from Yarmouth in the late 1850s, where they became the parents of...

This Was Then: The 1912 Fair

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For generations, the fair has been a late-summer draw for kids of all ages. The late Stan Lair (1902-1987) of Vineyard Haven remembered it...

This Was Then: The tick scientists

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In the early 1940s, decades before Lyme disease was discovered, there was the USDA Ticks Affecting Man field laboratory in Vineyard Haven. The U.S. Department...

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...