Annals of Tisbury pp. 53 - 70

Annals of Tisbury

pp. 53 - 70


The first record of the granting of a license for a tavern on the Vineyard is found under date of March 26, 1677-8, when Lieut. Isaac Chase of Homes Hole was granted a license to keep 'A Publike house.' The following is the full record:

'Isaack Chase of Holmses hole is admitted to keep a publike house of Entertainment & to sell liquor &c by Retail except to the Indians and this to continue for two years at ten shillings per annum.'

This house, situated in Vineyard Haven, then Homes Hole, was the residence of the progenitor of the Chase family on the Vineyard. The location of it is not accurately known, but it was about fifty yards north of the old Company Place barn, near which, in early days was the ferry stage for the boats that plied between Falmouth and Tisbury. Following the custom of so many elsewhere, Landlord Chase combined the calling of an inn-keeper with that of a ferryman.

Thomas Chase, who succeeded his father, as eldest son, and in the course of time, Abraham Chase, who probably built the 'Great House,' were inn-keepers at Homes Hole. Thomas was the ferryman, following in his father's wake, and with his sloop 'Vineyard' piloted travelers to his inn by the beach. At the same time, Thomas West was granted a license in 1722 to be an innholder at Homes Hole; his tavern was the house in which he lived near the Marine Hospital.

In 1722, Thomas Chase having deceased, his widow Jane was licensed the next year in succession to her deceased husband, and the energetic widow maintained the inn until her second marriage in 1724, to Thomas Cathcart. Thomas Cathcart died in 1732, and in his will calls himself an 'innholder,' which indicates that he continued the business until his decease. The widow Jane survived till 1750, and presumably maintained the inn, where we may surmise that the dispenser of spiritual comfort to her guests and general factotum was her mulatto servant, Ishmael.

The 'Great House' was doubtless the tavern kept by Abraham Chase. Among the patrons of the house were the sailors who came into Homes Hole, storm-bound, to find good cheer while waiting for fair weather. One of this class found here a bride, the inn-keeper's daughter, Hannah. The happy 'Jack Tar' was Captain John Ferguson of Kittery, Maine, and probably they were married in that house in 1742. Their son John became a captain when he came to manhood. The 'Great House,' remaining in the hands of Abraham Chase, passed to his widow, who, marrying again, with her husband, Thomas Winston, transferred it in 1777 to Elijah Smith, Senior, and the latter sold it in 1796 to his son, Elijah. It remained a public house, it is believed, under the last named owner.

Thus it will be seen that the business of tavern keeping on the Vineyard in early days descended in family succession. The former generations of travelers to the Vineyard were thus able to return to familiar hearths and the convenient taprooms of Chase's at Homes Hole and Sarson's (later Worth's) at Edgartown, with a feeling of homecoming.

It may be safely believed that 'Chase's' was not the only tavern, for the business of tavern-keeping was not confined to one or two persons. Very few of the old houses in our village have not been at one time or another a 'licensed inn,' and the occupation of bum-boating, fishing, and keeping tavern were combined by many. It will only be feasible to speak of the more prominent.

Another 'innholder' of Homes Hole was Ebenezer Allen, son of Ichabod of Chilmark, who had married Sarah Chase. In 1745 he was first licensed as 'innholder' of the constablewick of Homes Hole, and this fact should be interesting, because Maria Allen, one of the three 'liberty pole' heroines, was his daughter, and we may easily suppose that this dashing young girl was the moving spirit in the life of the tavern kept by her father. Its location is not definitely known, but it was undoubtedly on the land set off to his wife in the division of the Chase property.

In 1759 John Baxter kept an ordinary in this town. Its location is not known, and as he was not a property owner, he presumably hired a house of Jonathan Manter for the carrying on of his business. The only reference to it is found in the Boston News Letter, issue of May 5, 1762. It says:

'We hear from Marthas Vineyard that on the 29th of last month the house of Mr John Baxter, Tavern keeper at Holmes' Hole, was consumed by fire with most of the household furniture and goods that was therein. It was occasioned by a defect in the Chimney. The whole was consumed in eight minutes.'

The tavern kept by Joseph Claghorn (b. 1753, d. 1805), in the house now owned by Deacon Holmes Athearn, was a famous one in its day, and the sign of it is still in existence, covered with paintings of various sizes of receptacles for liquids. After viewing the wide choice of measures, the traveler would hardly need the invitation of 'Walk In,' which accompanied these pictorial representations of the kind of cheer dispensed there. The only problem that might arise in his mind, after investigating these generous tankards, would be whether he could walk out. [The author has been told that this sign was suspended from an iron arm swung from a tall pole, after the manner of tavern signs, and not from the house]

This Claghorn Tavern is also interesting because at one time Polly Daggett Hillman, another of the 'liberty pole' heroines, lived there. Joseph Claghorn followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, Thomas, who was an innkeeper at Eastville. The Branscomb house on Beach street was an inn before 1800 to about 1812, being the residence of a village factotum, Dr. Rufus Spaulding, who was doctor, postmaster, justice, village librarian, inn-keeper, and Master of the lodge of Masons. The adjoining lot was occupied by Jane, wife of Timothy Luce (1016), who also kept open house for wayfarers, a business that has been maintained for a century at the same place; the present Mansion house, our most pretentious modern hotel, rises over the cellar hole of the modest inn of Mistress Luce. It was later kept by Matthew Butler. Forty years ago 'Porte Crayon,' the famous artist of Harper's Magazine at that period, visited our island and thus speaks of the Mansion house, then kept by the late Mrs. Nickerson: 'A civil porter' he says 'takes charge of our baggage and conducts us to the house of entertainment, kept by Mrs. Captain Leander West, an old-fashioned country inn, and as full of comfort, tidiness and snugness as all the old fashioned places are supposed to be.' In the olden times it was customary for captains, supercargoes and passengers to come ashore and put up at the taverns, sometimes for weeks, while their vessels rode at anchor, wind-bound, in Homes Hole. Frequently these vessels carried persons who in later years became prominent, and it has been stated that Commodore John Paul Jones was a visitor to our haven under the above conditions, and was well remembered by 'Aunt Sally' Claghorn.

'Smith's Tavern' was first kept by Silas Daggett (1757-1825) and afterwards by Captain David Smith (1757-1818) The house lately owned by Dr. William Leach was a tavern of more modern times, known first as the Berkshire House, kept by Capt. Wm. Downs, and later as the County House, kept by James Shaw West.

Space will not allow of the particular enumeration of other and later taverns, the Dexter House on the beach, the Thomas Dunham house (where Joseph Chase follows the occupation of his ancestor as 'mine host,' nor of our latest creations, the Tashmoo Inn and The Cedars). The historian of the future must preserve their traditions.

The following named persons were licensed inn-holders in the precinct of Homes Hole by the County Court for the years specified:

Isaac Chase, 1716-26; Jane Chase, widow, 1722-3; Thomas Cathcart, 1726-30; Jane Cathcart, his widow and successor, 1732; Thomas West, 1722-42; Abraham Chase, 1728-63; Thomas Chase, 1733; Samuel Daggett, 1736-7; Elisha West, 1741-64; Peter West, 1741; John Whelden, 1742; Thomas Claghorn, 1742-3; Ebenezer Allen, 1745-63; Shubael Butler, 1747-59; Joseph Allen, 1750; John Baxter, 1759-61; Jonathan Manter, 1761; Zaccheus Chase, 1764; John Holmes, 1765-71; Isaac Daggett, 1766-1804; Cornelius Norton, 1776-87; William Worth, 1798; Silas Daggett, 1798-1804; Thomas Dunham, 1799-1806; Rufus Spalding, 1802-6; David Smith, 1805-6.


Beach Street. - This highway, usually called the ferry road, was the first to be officially laid out in February, 1763, and again in May 1776, though it had been a town way since the beginning of that century. The ferry landing on Bass creek was at the foot of Beach street, and probably it was the first and only public street into the settlement at that time. The following record describes the way as laid out on the last named date:

'...Beginning at the Great Gate afores'd and to run Easterly in The Southmost Cart Way that runs from sd Gate to the Harbour: said way to be Forty feet from the Furthermost Rut of sd Cart Way untill it comes to a heap of Stones near the Cherry Trees that stand to the Eastward of Mr. Abraham Chases Barn, and from that to the Harbour or water, as the Road or way now Runs: and from that to the Crick where the ferry boat now Lyes at the Stage Forty feet wide from high water mark....' [Abraham Chase was given liberty to set up a gate across said way, ' near where the Try House stood formerly, if he see cause.' He was awarded two pounds damages. (Dukes Co. Court Records, May term, 1776.)]

In 1801 this street was resurveyed, and it was determined at that time where the landing stage of the ferry was formerly situated. 'Which place,' the committee stated, 'is North 54 East from the top of the Chimney of Jedidah Coffin's dwelling House, and N. seventy degrees East from the Top of the Chimney of Robert Cottle's dwelling house.' [April term, 1801. These chimneys are yet standing, the Coffin house being now known as the Cromwell house, and the one next west (Crowell) was the West - Cottle house.]

Main Street. - As the settlement grew northward a way was made by carts parallel to the shore. It was the usual 'path' blocked by gates and bars at each cross fence, while at the junction with Beach street the Great Gate, so called, was erected, which shut off the entire Neck. This way was laid out in October, 1798, and the official record of its course is as follows:

'Beginning at North side of the Old Highway that leads from the Head of Homes Hole Harbor to the town of Tisbury the East Corner Post of Peter Butlers frunt Inclosure and from thence North 25 Degrees East till it comes to the Divisional Line between the Meeting House Lot on the North side thereof and Land of Wm. Smith to a stake. ... thence North 10 Degrees East to the East corner of Silas Daggett's front yard and to continue northerly by said Daggett yard to the North Corner thereof, thence North 2 Degrees East to a stone ... between the Land of Isaac Daggett and the Land of Jonathan Manter thence North 2 Degrees west to a stone two foot to the Westward of a black cherry tree standing opposite to the said Manter's House; thence North 10 Degrees West to a stone .... on the north side of Manter's Land and to continue in the same direction across the Land of Thomas Wheldon to a stone on the North side thereof. Thence North twelve degrees West to a stake twenty-seven foot Westward from the Westernmost bound of Timothy Chases Fence as it now stands.

'The above described line thus far to be the Westerly Bounds of said Road, and from said Line to take its breadth Easterly full twenty-seven feet in all its parts and windings.

'And from the last described stake and stones to pass over said road Eastward to another stake and stones standing at Right Angles and twenty seven feet Distant which is the easterly bounds of said Road, and from thence to continue Northerly as the Old Cart Way now goes, and parallel thereto, and three feet to the Eastward of the Eastermost Cart Rut, until it comes upon the land of John Holmes to a large crotched black oak tree standing on the East side of said Cartway and something to the Northward of where the Path that leads to the house of the sd Holmes turns out of the sd Cart way and then from said black oak tree to continue on the same course on a straight line to a stake standing on the Beach at the Hollow (so called) and so to the Water or Harbor and to continue Northerly by the Harbor till it meets with the Head of the Point Pond (so called) and southerly till it comes to the foot of the Upland and to be in Breadth forty foot in all parts.' [Dukes County Court Records, October term, 1798.]

It was ordered that it continue an open highway and no damages were assessed on the property improved by the survey.

No changes have been made in this layout since that date, but in 1818 there was a petition to the Court from the property holders for permission 'to maintain a Gate across the County highway that leads from the head of Homes Hole harbour towards the West Chop .... in the lands of the late Timothy Chase at or near the house of John Cleveland.' This was granted and maintained for many years. It was not till 1889 that the road from the Slough to the Lighthouse was cleared and graded, its width marked and the surface dressed with shells. It is now a splendid highway its entire length.

Wharf Street. - Some time prior to 1834 the way leading from Main street to Union wharf was laid out. It began according to the record, 'at the South westerley corner of Capt Charles Smiths lot and runing by said Smiths and Jonathan Luce Jr Land to high water mark the course to be S 89 E distance twenty three rods & Eight feet to a bound there Sett Making said road forty feet wide at the High water line and thirty feet wide at the head.' [Tisbury Records, 512.]

High Street. - This street was laid out, and connection established with County road, in 1845, by the lane near the Methodist parsonage.

Centre Street. - Laid out in 1854 to Franklin street.

Franklin Street. - Laid out from Spring to Church streets 1854 and continued in 1891 to Woodlawn avenue.

Church Street. - Laid out in 1854 to Franklin Street.

Spring Street. - Laid out in 1854 to Franklin Street.

Water Street. - Laid out in 1855 from Beach to Wharf.

William Street. - This street received its name as a compliment to Captain William Daggett, prominent in town and church affairs. It was officially laid out in 1864, as far north as the lane leading by the old 'Chapel' school house.



The first representative of the general government to be established here was the Post Office department, which appointed Isaac Daggett, on Jan. 1, 1795, as postmaster of Homes Hole. At that early time the office was in the residence or store of the occupant of the position, and it is probable that it was then in his store and tavern on Wharf street. He held this appointment only a brief time, and west succeeded April 1, 1796, by Joseph Claghorn, who then lived in the Hillman house on Water street, where the office was probably carried. The position was held by Claghorn for exactly two years, and he was succeeded by Silas Daggett (115), who kept the tavern on the corner of Main and Centre streets. After him came Dr. Rufus Spalding, who was appointed Jan. 11, 1803, and took the office to his residence on Beach street. His successor was Theodosius Parsons, appointed March 23, 1812, and he held the office for sixteen years, keeping it in his house on Main street, opposite Spring street. [He was from Greenwich, Conn., and had served as a soldier in the Connecticut troops. He was in the Lexington alarm list, 1775, and served as a gunner in Col. Lamb's regiment of artillery. His enlistments covered the war from start to finish.] Capt. William Cottle (105) was the next postmaster, commissioned Jan. 28,1828, and the office was located in his store adjoining his house on Main street, opposite Centre street. He died 1830, and it appears that the Postmaster General wrote to the people here to select a successor. The town records contain the following entry:

'Voted by ballot for a suitable man to keep the post office in holmes hole in answer to a Request from the Postmaster General. Votes being brought in & counted for Charles West seven for William Downs one. [November 24, 1830]. [Tisbury Records. 479.]

This town meeting of eight voters had no effect upon the matter, for before they had solemnly met to vote, a successor was already appointed, Nov. 11, 1830, in the person of Capt. Shubael Dunham (257), who lived on the spot now occupied by the present post office, corner of Church and Main streets. He held the office till his death, in 1835, when he was followed by his son George Dunham (425) who was commissioned March 2, 1835, and held the office for over twenty-three years, the longest tenure of any of our postmasters. His successors have been as follows: Eliakim Norton, appointed Sept. 15, 1858; James Norton, Feb. 14, 1861; James D. Peakes, July 25, 1861, George N. Peakes, Nov. 7,1881; John F. Robinson, Sept. 18, 1885, Horton Johnson, 1900-1902; Stephen Cary Luce, 1902 (present incumbent). After the fire of 1883 the office was located in Lane's block till the appointment of Mr. Luce, who removed it to the corner of Main and Church streets, where it now is.

In February, 1871, the Department sanctioned the change of the name of the office from Holmes Hole to Vineyard Haven.


In 1817 Homes Hole was made a sub-port of entry for Edgartown, in consequence of the growth of this place as a maritime centre. Prior to that, Capt. William Worth (65), was acting as customs officer here, until his removal in 1814 to Charlton, Mass. His nephew, Henry Pease Worth (72), was the first Deputy Collector, under appointment dated Nov. 29, 1817, and he held this position nearly fifty years. His office was in a building where the Public Library is now located, on Main street. He was succeeded, June 17, 1861, by Capt. Henry W. Beetle, a native of New Bedford, who held the office for nearly thirty years, until his death. The present incumbent, Lorenzo F. Luce, was appointed Aug. 16, 1890, and it will be noted as an unusual circumstance that for a period of over ninety years (1817-1908) there have been but three persons to occupy this office in succession.


This town was the first on the Vineyard to have a public hospital. The harbor of Homes Hole was much frequented in colonial days by sailing craft from all ports on the north and south Atlantic coasts, and diseases of a contagious character, like small pox, were frequently spread by the crews of vessels riding at anchor here, while weather-bound. In August, 1763, the town gave Dr. Samuel Gelston of Nantucket permission to 'Cary on and Practice Inoculation of the Small Pox in Soume Suitable Place at Homeses hole' under certain provisions and restrictions. He was obliged to treat all cases of small pox landed here, 'without any Demands from the Town their for,' and further required to pay six shillings for every person inoculated 'While he Practices in that Distemper.' How long he carried this on is not known, but this arrangement was renewed the next year. [Tisbury Records 183-5.] The location of the hospital is not of record, as it was only a temporary structure in all probability. In 1798 the Justices of the County Court petitioned the General Court of Massachusetts to erect a hospital for contagious diseases on the Vineyard, and suggested 'that the West side of Homeshole Harbour would be much the most Convenient place for such a Building.' But after securing an appropriation the committee located it at Eastville. Nothing further was done until 1822. when the town

'Voted to Petition Congress to erect a Hospital in this Town for the reception of Distressed Seamen or make Some Provision for Seamen that may be landed here destitute of the means of Support.' [Tisbury Records, 417. William Cottle and Captain Seth Daggett prepared the petition.]

This failed to accomplish any result, and another was sent, April, 1826, to Congress, 'praying that some provision might be made for the relief of the sick and disabled seamen arriving at this port. [Custom House Records, Edgartown.] The Secretary of the Treasury, who had charge of such matters under the law, directed the Collector of Customs at Edgartown to make some suitable arrangements. This was done immediately, and Dr. Daniel Fisher contracted to furnish subsistence, lodging, medical attendance and nursing for all cases that might be brought into port for the sum of $300 per annum. This arrangement apparently lapsed or was not properly carried out, as on Dec. 24, 1836, the Secretary wrote the Collector that 'Complaints are made to the Department that no provision is made for the relief of sick and disabled seamen in that part of your District in which the harbor of Holmes Hole is situate.' [Records Treasury Department (M. H. S.) I, 92.] He ordered the Collector to make the necessary arrangements, but it not known how the directions were carried out.

The Secretary of the Treasury, Hon. Levi Woodbury, on Dec. 11, 1837, in a report to the Senate on the subject, recommended that 'a Marine Hospital be located at Holmes Hole or Edgartown or some other convenient point in the neighborhood of Marthas Vineyard.' From 1853 to 1861 Dr. John Pierce had the contract for medical services, but his appointment caused dissatisfaction because of his residence in Edgartown. Numerous petitions were sent to the Department in 1854, asking for his removal and the appointment of Dr. Moses Brown, who resided here. [Ibid., III, 235.] In 1856 Dr. Ralph K. Jones was an applicant for the appointment, but Dr. Pierce survived the campaign against him until 1862, when Dr. D. A. Cleveland obtained the offices. [Ibid., III, 500.] He was followed by Dr. William Leach, who erected a small hospital on the Edgartown road in 1866, especially for the treatment of sick seamen. This was an improvement over the old method of 'farming out' these cases, but it was still unsatisfactory, from an administrative standpoint, to the Department. Accordingly, in 1879, the late Surgeon General Hamilton, in charge of the Marine Hospital Service, made a personal visit to Vineyard Haven to inspect the situation. He secured as temporary quarters for sick seamen the abandoned lighthouse building at the head of the harbor, and converted it into a hospital. [The building and grounds (50 x 380) were transferred by the Lighthouse establishment.] It was opened on Nov. 28, 1879, under the charge of Acting Assistant Surgeon W. D. Stewart of the general service, and became a marine hospital and a station of the first class officially. This officer, who had greatly endeared himself to the community through a period of seven years, died October 30, 1886, and was succeeded temporarily by Assistant Surgeon Seaton Norman, and later as a regular detail by Passed Assistant Surgeon R. P. M. Ames (1886-1889). From this time forward the hospital has been under command of regularly commissioned officers as follows: Surgeon Charles E. Banks, 1889-92; Passed Assistant Surgeon Elisha R. Houghton, 1892-6; Passed Assistant Surgeon J. C. Perry, 1895 (temporary); Passed Assistant Surgeon Duncan A. Carmichael, 1896-7; Passed Assistant Surgeon Wm. J. S. Stewart, 1897-8; Assistant Surgeon Sherrard Tabb, 1898-9; (temporary) [This officer will be kindly remembered by the residents of Vineyard Haven for his bravery and untiring efforts in the dangerous work of rescuing shipwrecked sailors in the terrible storm of November, 1898, when 26 vessels were driven ashore and a number of the crew perished from cold and exhaustion in sight of the beach, almost beyond human help.] Surgeon Frank W. Mead, 1899- 1901; Surgeon Duncan A. Carmichael, 1901-5; Assistant Surgeon William C. Rucker, 1905-7; Acting Assistant Surgeon E. P. Worth, 1907 (temporary).

The present hospital building is of modern construction and recently built on additional land adjacent to the old lighthouse grounds. The following extract from the report of the Surgeon-General conveys particular information as to the new structure:

'Through the assiduous efforts of Surgeon Charles E. Banks, then on duty at this station, Hon. Charles S. Randall, member of Congress from this district, and the Surgeon General, an item of $20,000 was included in the Sundry civil bill for the erection of a new hospital at this station, which bill became a law on March 4, 1891.

'Plans were prepared by the supervising architect, and the construction of the new hospital was begun on December 16, 1894. It was completed in October, 1895, and furnished and opened for the reception of patients on December 30, 1895.' [Annual Report Marine Hospital Service, 1896.]

The hospital station now incorporates the old lighthouse building and ward as a part of the establishment, these original buildings serving as apartments in the rear for employees, storerooms and other adjuncts of a hospital.

In the twenty-five years since its establishment, this hospital has treated about 6,500 sick and disabled seamen, an average of about 250 cases annually.


A station of this service was opened here in November, 1886, and the office established in the Mansion House by H. H. Curley as Observer. The headquarters for this meteorological district were at Nantucket. The late Lieut. Max Wagner, U.S.V., then in the Weather Bureau, succeeded as officer in charge, and he was followed by William W. Neifert (1890), Harvey B. Dick (1893), and Cornelius J. Doherty (1900), all of the general service. In 1895 the telegraphic business was sold to the Martha's Vineyard Telegraph Co., and the meteorological work discontinued, June 18, 1900, after being in existence fourteen years. The records of the station were sent to the Bureau in Washington, and an abstract copy deposited with the late Thurston W. Tilton for con venience of reference locally.


West Chop. - Under provision of an act approved March 3, 1817, by which the sum of $5,000 was appropriated therefor, a lighthouse was built on the point of West Chop, on the bluff. [U. S. Statutes, III, 360; VI, 192.] Constant erosions of the shore by the swift tidal action at this exposed locality caused the government to remove it further back in 1830, and again in 1846 to its present position, for similar reasons. [Jurisdiction was ceded by the state in 1817 and 1830. (Acts and Resolves ann. cit. II and III.)] Since the latter date the tower has been increased in height. It is a fixed white light, with a red sector, and a steam fog whistle is an auxiliary part of this important aid in the navigation of the Vineyard Sound.

The keepers have been three in the past ninety years: James West, 1818-48; Charles West, 1849-68; Charles P. West, 1869 to present time.

Harbor Light. - In the appropriation act of March 3, 1851, the establishment of a harbor or range light at the head of Homes Hole was authorized, and $3,500 made available therefor. [U. S. Statutes IX, 627.] Jurisdiction was not ceded for two years by the state, and then a two-story house with a small lantern tower was built in 1854 on the edge of the bluff, in front of the U. S. Marine Hospital. [Acts and Resolves, 1853, p. 72; The building was used as a residence by the keeper and his family.] Originally there were three range lights connected with the house, but they were abandoned for one in the cupola. Matthew P. Butler was the first light keeper, and he was succeeded by Moses T. Cromwell. It was aban doned about 1875, and in 1879 was transferred to the Marine Hospital service. In recent years a red lantern, suspended nightly from a flag staff of the hospital, acts as a substitute range light for entering the harbor.


Salt Works. - At the time of the Revolution there were large pans on the shores of Bass creek, where salt was manufactured by the ancient method of evaporation of sea water. They were in existence in 1840, and others at or near the herring creek, owned by Isaac Luce, were erected at least twenty years previously.

Whale Fishery. - This town had an indirect connection with this business through its seafaring men, who went out as masters or sailors of vessels outfitted elsewhere, but there was no local establishment for the accommodation of whalers. [There was a Try house near Beach street before 1800, but it had become disused by that date. It was probably erected for trying out the oil from whales.] In 1850 three vessels engaged in this industry were owned here, the ships Ocmulgee and Pocahontas and the bark Malta, representing an investment of $68,000, which had brought a return of $125,378 that year. This industry has today its representatives resident in Vineyard Haven, Captain Leander Owen, a whaler of the old sailing craft days, survivor of the great Arctic disaster of 1871, whose eyesight was permanently injured by Arctic 'ice blindness,' and Captain Bodfish, now a successful leader in the steam whaling business of the present-century methods.

The merchant service, however, has been the principal field of activity for this community from the earliest times. The men of Homes Hole, young and old, have ventured afar on the seven seas for generations, have carried our flag to the most distant parts of the navigable globe. To name them would be almost a census of its male inhabitants in every decade.

Herring Fishery. - The fine herring run and fishery at Ashappaquonsett has been a famous and prolific domestic industry from time immemorial, and it is a common heritage of the townsmen unto this day. But it represents a century of wasted opportunity for the development of an industry productive of revenue for the town. As an annual free-for-all spoliation it neither benefits the few nor profits the town as a whole, as managed in the past.

Harness Factory. - In 1872 a harness factory was established by R. W. Crocker and from small beginnings, grew to be a large and valuable industry. At times nearly a hundred people found employment through its operations, directly or indirectly. It was incorporated in 1892 as the Crocker Harness Company, under new management, but after a short career suspended operations and finally went out of business. The building remained unoccupied for a number of years, and was finally destroyed by fire.

Corn Mill. - A steam grist mill was established on Water street in 1881 by William J. Rotch and is yet in operation, under the management of William P. Bodfish.

Leather Embossing. - A factory for the embossing of leather in artistic designs for ornamental purposes was established by the Luxemoor Co., operating under letters patent. The head of this enterprise was William Barry Owen as financial backer. It closed down in 1908, and is now a thing of the past.


There is nothing in the town records, or other documents to show that the schools had anyplace in the thoughts of the town before 1737, though we may surely suppose that something had been done in this line which is not of record. One of the West family, Thomas (20), had been graduated from Harvard in 1730, and he must have received his preliminary education here. The first town record, under date of Feb. 14, 1736-7, provides a school 'the Remaining part to Compleat a year (two months) to be keeps at some Convenient place at Homeses Hole,' and Abner West was the committeeman for that year. [Tisbury Records, 102.] No further reference occurs till 1749, when a similar provision was made, [Ibid., 130] and again in 1752 the school was 'to be keeps at Homeses hole two Months.' [Ibid., 144.] A quarter of a century elapses before another allusion is made to schools, in December, 1776:

'Thirdly it was Likewise Voted at Said meeting that the People of Homseshole in the Districts of Tisbuary are to be provide a School for themselves to Extend Westward as far as Thomas Smiths sam'l Looks Silvanus Luces and to Draw their proportion of Monney Out of the Treasury for Said School for Three Years Ensuing the Date hereof' [Ibid., 218.]

In 1792, the next record, this village was made the 4th School District of Tisbury, and the ensuing year Samuel Look, Timothy Chase and Abraham Chase were appointed the school committee.[Ibid., 286.] These infrequent references, half a dozen in a century of existence, give meagre details on this topic, but the context implies continuity.

In the first year of the 19th century the town raised $250 for schools, but the proportion for this precinct was not calculated; probably about $100 would closely proximate the allotment. In 1821 it was $112.67; in 1830 it was $215.54; in 1840 it was $313.17; in 1850 it was $600 (estimated); in 1860 it was $800 (estimated); in 1871 it was $2,404.95 in 1901 it was $3,603.50; an increase of thirty fold in the century with half as many scholars. The attendance has ranged from 329 in 1821 to 298 in 1830; 152 in 1872 and 160 in 1900, a reduction of over fifty per cent. in that period.

The location of school-houses, like all matters pertaining to the early annals of education in the town, is lost in the obscurity of the past. Probably the first school-house was erected at the junction of Beach street and the County highway, but when it was built is not of record. It was called the South school after 1829, when the town was divided into two districts, and the second school-house was built, probably in that year or the next. [An extra sum was raised for schools in 1829 and 1830, probably for this new house, though not so specified.] This new school building was the 'Chapel' so called, now the home of the Sea Coast Defence Chapter, D.A.R. In 1850 there was a third school-house built on the West Chop road, opposite the Slough. The present commodious building on Church street accommodates the primary, intermediate, grammar, and high school grades. It was enlarged in 1900, fitted with modern sanitary and hygienic furnishings, and is a model suburban school, houses all the scholars in town and furnishes instruction in the highest grade for pupils from other towns.

The names of teachers employed in the early times are not recorded. Joseph Claghorn (162) was the first known 'Schoolmaster' in the town, probably from his coming here (about 1788) to his death (1805), and he taught in the old South school. Nathan Mayhew (801), a native of Chilmark, born 1798, was the next school-teacher of note. He had removed with his father to Farmington, Me., about 1808, but returned about 1825, and settled in this town as a teacher in the public school. He owned and occupied the house recently in the possession of Captain James Lawrence Smith, and the new school-house across the lane was the scene of his labors as a pedagogue for a quarter of a century. He removed to Norton, Mass., about 1853, and later lived in Boston. He died in 1865 at Milton, Mass. at the residence of his son, Rev. Wm. H. Mayhew (now of Yarmouth Port), and his body was buried in Milton cemetery.

Contemporaneously, the Rev. Seth Ewer, the Baptist preacher, taught the South school and subsequent to them came J. Dana Bullen, John Gower, Rev. J. C. Boomer, George B. Muzzey, S. W. Hathaway, E. K. Parker, Charles E. Mosher, Judge Hammond, now of the Superior Court of Massachusetts, Thurston W. Tilton (1874 to 1898 at intervals), H. H. Lovell, Timothy P. Weeks, Louis A. Fales and Arthur C. Clarke. As in the other towns, there were many teachers of private schools in the course of the past century. Chief of these must be mentioned the late Abigail W. Daggett (b. 1798), who taught in the forties and fifties.


A private school for girls was established in 1870 by Rev. Horace B. Marshall, at that time in pastoral charge of the Baptist church in this village. The venture was only partially successful after several years' trial, and the building passed into the possession of the late Joseph Nickerson and his wife, Love (Robinson) Nickerson, who used it as a hotel. It was called the Grove Hill house during this period, and after the death of the proprietors became the property of the late Major C. R. Barnett, U.S.A. It was then remodeled for a private residence, and is now a part of the Barnett estate.

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