Tuesday, November 30, 2021

This Was Then

This Was Then: Wild bikers

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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“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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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’

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“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

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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

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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

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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

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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...
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