Tuesday, February 7, 2023

History & Culture

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 volcanic archipelago nation off the coast of West Africa known...

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 North Carolina. His mother died when he was a child. By...

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 sisters Hattie and Ida Flanders, sometimes referred to as “the...

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 Vineyard Haven’s five well-known Bodfish brothers: Josiah, the dry goods...

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 of Agriculture, established by Abraham Lincoln in 1862, oversees everything...

Seeing beauty in the ordinary

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The Mariposa Museum was bustling with activity Friday afternoon. Children surrounded a table littered with scissors, beads, yarn, and other art equipment, focused on making magic wands from the available objects. In the back...

Four great artists included in museum exhibit ‘Work of the Soul’

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The Martha’s Vineyard Museum’s special exhibition “Work of the Soul: Meta Warrick Fuller, Lois Mailou Jones, Delilah Pierce, and Olive (Cutie) Bowles” offers an unprecedented opportunity to see the art of four significant Black...

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 heat, we had stoves — parlor stoves — and a...

Just works

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Just past the restaurants and shops on Circuit Ave. in Oak Bluffs, you can see the green and black sign of the Mariposa Museum. The museum’s exterior is unassuming, blending into the surrounding buildings. Once...

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 Island in 1807, he listed: “Besides domestick animals, the quadrupeds...

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 Island: eagles, “hernshaws” (herons), cranes, bitterns, mallards, teals, geese, penguins,...

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 numerous in centuries past. The first written record of pigs on...

Readying for summer, Martha’s Vineyard Museum reopens exhibits

With summer on the doorstep, the Martha’s Vineyard Museum is reopening the remaining spaces previously closed due to the pandemic; the museum is expanding hours as well. A number of new exhibits have also...

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” of Tiah’s Cove Road? (You know, the road New Lane...

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, the telephone company switched on the light to signal the...

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 family tree was a constellation of Island names including Tilton,...

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 Google searches and rerouting our Amazon orders. Tisbury and Chilmark on...

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 recording. “We had an old 1936 ton-and-a-half dump truck, and...

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 Woods Hole, Fair Oaks Bluff, located in a scenic park...

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). But the truth was, unless you lived near Detroit, that...