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This was then

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 particularly bad time. The island is a sea-girt. The youth...

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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 center in my childhood home, where he would rephotograph prints...

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 into the sea to die. Although its roots go back...

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 alone. Vineyard schools closed twice for a total of 11...

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 gathering spots in town — the E. St. Croix Oliver...

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 Great Fire of 1883 burned Capt. Charles Smith’s spacious 18th-century...

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) was once home to the flag described variously as “the...

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, who met at the Masonic Hall in Vineyard Haven and...

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 roughly where Santander Bank is today, offered up concerts and...

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 outskirts of Edgartown. “As the last pile was fired,” reported...

This Was Then: Last of the bumboats

During the 19th and early 20th century, the most recognized ship captains in Vineyard Haven Harbor were not its storied whaling masters, but rather its bumboatsmen. Bumboatsmen sold anything and everything — water, food,...

This Was Then: Ben Pease, monster

The Pease family is among the oldest and most respected in Edgartown, and the family of Henry Pease (1789-1878) was little exception. Henry was a carpenter, cabinetmaker, and lifelong Edgartown resident who raised a...

This Was Then: Border Patrol

The Rev. Samuel Gould, an abolitionist activist, visited the Vineyard for a few days in the summer of 1837. “Met with a hearty welcome,” he wrote, and remarked on the proverbial generosity of seafaring...

This Was Then: Iron Mines

French-American writer and cartographer Jean de Crèvecœur, in his popular 1782 book, “Letters from an American Farmer,” described the Island of Martha’s Vineyard to a European audience in a lengthy chapter. He praised Edgartown...

This Was Then: The Lime Schooners

On Feb. 7, 1895, a partial wreck drifted ashore at Paul’s Point, near Lambert’s Cove. The hull was completely gone – only the schooner’s deck, broken off just aft of the foremast, and its...

This Was Then: Island brew

“It is stated,” recorded a writer for the New England Farmer in 1858, “that the first barley sewn in this country, was upon the island of Martha’s Vineyard, in 1602, by a man named...

This Was Then: Island school history

The public school system in Tisbury has a long and rich history, with records dating back to at least 1669. During the mid-1700s, school came to the students, rather than the other way around. For...

This Was Then: Welcome to Glenwood

Martha’s Vineyard has long been known for its beaches and cliffs, its harbors and bluffs, its ocean views and stony shorelines. The Island’s interior, on the other hand, was long notable for being, well,...

This Was Then: Love and Unity

The Island has hosted many foreign visitors over the years, but there are some who have arrived on our shores purely by accident. The Canadian schooner Basile, for instance, was sailing from Haiti to the...

This Was Then: Release the hounds

Unlike cats, horses, or alpacas, domesticated dogs have lived on Martha’s Vineyard for many thousands of years — even, quite possibly, since before the rising ocean made us an island. Canis familiaris, the domestic dog,...