Saturday, August 15, 2020

This was then

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,...

This Was Then: Razors, shotguns, and brass knuckles

Islanders have long been frighteningly well-armed. General Charles Grey seized 388 guns from Vineyarders in the British raid of the Island in 1778, but new weapons soon arrived. It’s been claimed that the first...

This Was Then: Missing persons

Body discovered It was 1:20 am on a Sunday morning in November 1937. Twenty-eight-year-old Manuel Phillips of Wing Road was walking along the beach, south of downtown Oak Bluffs near Harthaven, with a light. A...

This Was Then: Ole, Frank, and Manny

State Road, that river of wide, smooth pavement stretching more than 18 miles from Vineyard Haven to Gay Head, wasn’t always so. Up until 1910, it was a treacherous country path, as narrow as...

This Was Then: Roger Amidon, ‘radiophan’

“Roger Amidon's radio repair shop,” recalled the late John Canha of Vineyard Haven. “Amidon repaired my RCA Victor and GE radios. He was very friendly, pleasant. My first radio experience was at my neighbors’...

This Was Then: Sleeping in

An old Edgartown record noted something unusual about Mrs. Anna (Pease) Arey (1755-1807) of Chappaquiddick: "She had been confined to her Bed for about 24 years in which Time she had three Sons, (not...

This Was Then: Cold case

In late July 1810, a body was discovered buried near South Beach. The newly dead man had a straw hat on, lined with green silk. He wore duck trousers and a short jacket. His...

This Was Then: The Cottage City Carnival of 1882

Please enjoy this encore “This Was Then” column.   Illumination Night in the late 19th century was very different from the laid-back traditions we enjoy today. During the 1870s and ’80s, it took the form of...

This Was Then: Money digging

In 1833, newspapers around the country reprinted a story from the New Bedford Gazette titled “Money Digging”: “A few days since, three young men on the south side of the Island of Martha’s Vineyard...

This Was Then: The Tashmoo

Before the great fire of 1883 burned down all of Vineyard Haven, there were two homes on the corner of Main and Church streets where the Cronig block stands today, now occupied by Mikado...

This Was Then: Names, Wood, and dynamite

It was not uncommon in the 19th century for Vineyard whaling captains to bring home boys from abroad, sometimes informally adopting them, all the while employing them aboard ship. Ramón Insua, an Argentinian boy brought...

This Was Then: Shark!

About 1840, a Dr. Gale of Holmes Hole found several oversized shark teeth in a roadside excavation in the north part of Chilmark, on the road to Tisbury. The largest was an astonishing 4...

This Was Then: Tut Chase

Tristram “Tut” Chase (1854–1928) was the last village blacksmith of North Tisbury. Born in Chilmark, his mother died of typhoid fever when he was still an infant. His father, mechanic and wheelwright Alpheus “Alf”...

This Was Then: Electrifying

Gay Head, today known as Aquinnah, was the last town in the commonwealth of Massachusetts to receive electricity. Up until 1951, there had been a few gasoline-powered generators, like the one powering the town...

This Was Then: Mr. Meara and Mr. Davis

On the southwest corner of Main and Spring streets in Vineyard Haven stands the old Meara building. It has tales to tell. Sherman Meara, an Irish shoemaker, built it about 1895. Sherman wasn’t his birth...

This Was Then: Cash and counterfeit

The Coinage Act of 1792 established the U.S. dollar as our country’s official currency, based upon the Spanish milled dollar. But the old system of pounds, shillings, and pence was still used on the...

This Was Then: The linden tree

The Great Fire of 1883 burned down all of downtown Vineyard Haven — both sides of Main Street and part of Beech Street, more than 40 acres in all. Historian Charles Banks wrote in...