Friday, October 30, 2020
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Chris Baer

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This Was Then: Lost graves of Martha’s Vineyard

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

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

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

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...

This Was Then: Poison Vineyard

This Island is full of native poisons. Black widows, water hemlock, jimsonweed, baneberry, amanita, man o' war, and many, many others. Moshup, the legendary...

This Was Then: The manufactories

Flipping through the “1907 Business Directory of Oak Bluffs,” you’ll find it’s arranged by category. One might look up “Boarding Houses,” for example (there...

This Was Then: Swept aground

It was ten o’clock on a Monday night, August 24,1931. The steamer Naushon was arriving in Vineyard Haven from New Bedford via Woods Hole,...

This Was Then: 10 minutes to Boston

In August 1807, Dr. James Freeman visited the port of Holmes Hole (today, Vineyard Haven). He described a rustic village consisting of about 70...

This Was Then: The Daggett Avenue Grocery

Depending on how you want to define it, there are fewer than 10 grocery stores on the Island today. But it wasn’t always so....

This Was Then: The Bachelor

Finding a mate on the Island has always had its challenges. “At Martha’s Vineyard,” wrote the Rev. Charles Brooks in 1855, “they have a...

Can you help solve a mystery?

My grandfather, Vineyard Haven plumber Stan Lair (1902–87), collected a lot of images. He had a copy stand set up in his bedroom command...

This Was Then: Body count

There’s a Victorian trope in literature, art, and theater — later echoed in films and television — of the troubled, distraught heroine who walks...

This Was Then: Plagues on the Island

The Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 infected some half-billion people around the world, killing tens of millions globally and tens of thousands in Massachusetts...

This Was Then, Narrated: St. Croix Oliver 

When you stand inside the Steamship Authority ticket office in Vineyard Haven, you’re standing on the site of one of the most storied maritime...

This Was Then: Last days of Lane’s Block

Lane’s Block, the jewel of Main Street, Vineyard Haven, was cut down in 1951. Ground was broken for the massive building just days after the...

This Was Then: Mother Stafford’s flag

Falmouth, as its sign declares, may have been the birthplace of “America the Beautiful” author Katharine Lee Bates. But Oak Bluffs (then Cottage City)...

This Was Then: Royal Society of Good Fellows

The turn of the twentieth century was an era of fraternal organizations and social societies. The Island had long hosted the Freemasons, of course,...

This Was Then: Wild bikers

In the 1880s, the booming metropolis of Cottage City (today Oak Bluffs) had a growing appetite for live entertainment. A massive roller-skating rink, located...

Fire on the Island

Just after lunch on April 26, 1900, Capt. Benjamin C. Cromwell and his men were burning piles of brush on his farm on the...

This Was Then: ‘The Dishpan Fleet’

Just after midnight on July 9, 1942, steamship officials were notified that they had less than 24 hours to turn over their largest and...