[The following text was scanned and OCRed from the book History of Cedar Neck by C. G. Hine, 1907.]
From the earliest times to the Summer of nineteen hundred and seven, including ... [illegible] ... dory adjacent thereto, being the Village of Vineyard Haven, the Harbor, Lagoon, and Peter West.
Some one has said that history cannot be correctly written until the generation interested has passed away.
This book is an effort to confute such statement and confound the maker thereof.
In order to show an absolutely fair and unbiased spirit, free from all thought of exaggeration or minimization, the writer has felt constrained to abstain from embellishment of every sort, and has, therefore, of necessity, made a somewhat dry and matter-of-fact statement of the case as he sees it, which will hardly be interesting except to those interested - or words to that effect, as it were.
From the standpoint of those who delve among the tombs Egypt this history would be termed modern, for it has largely to do with the past thirty-four years, during which time most of the history which interests the present generation has been made on Cedar Neck.
It is an attempt to give in a simple, straightforward manner, without embellishment or comment, an intermittent chronological account of things and folks who have had to do with this bit of the earth. The chronology is not always as connected as history usually demands, but this is not so much the fault of the years as the method of procedure, it being at times preferable to run some subject out to its logical end rather than to give it piecemeal, lest it be lost in the shuffle. For instance: Take the sailing and cracker propensities of Charlie Van; these possibly overran some three or four years, and yet it would be exceedingly difficult to split the matter up and yet convey a proper sense of its importance. We hope that we are entirely clear.
During these years the little boys have grown up as little boys will, if given time, and that which once pleased is more pleasant now as a memory than as an actuality. The cunner fishery passed from them to John, and from John into the hands of strangers. The packet service referred to as of early origin has been abandoned entirely. No more is it necessary to go for milk, the milk comes of itself; nor do we hear Ben Luce's bellow echo and re-echo across the waters; the years have been at Ben, same as at the little boys.
Mrs. Robinson has gone to his long rest, though to tell truth it never seemed to me that he did much else but rest, for beyond the weighing out and tying up a package of sugar or measure of potatoes, his life was not a strenuous one.
A preface is a thing that few people read, and its use is seldom obvious, but a book without a preface seems like a house without a front hall, with this difference: that while we pass through the hall we pass over the preface, and that being the case there is no use in continuing further.
Before proceeding with the important part of this history of Cedar Neck and the things to be seen therefrom it may be well to give a brief outline of the early history of the island and the early occupation of this part of it.
When in 1602 Gosnold came down the Massachusetts coast he passed outside of Nantucket and the Vineyard, supposing the latter to be part of the mainland, and touched at No Man's Land; this he named Marthae's Vineyard. The next year Martin Pring followed in Gosnold's wake, and until Mayhew received the island from Richard Vines, agent of Sir Ferdinando Gorges and James Faxett, Gent., agent of the Earl of Sterling in 1641, the name Martha's Vineyard appearing in their grants for the first time since 1602, it was known both as Marthae's and as Martin's Vineyard for nearly one hundred years. Francis Lovelace, Governor of New York, appointed Mayhew Governor of the island and chartered the three towns in 1672, the island belonging to the Province of New York from about 1668 to 1695. The Indians called it Nope, the English Capawock, a corruption of the name of Cape Poge, Capowog.
It seems that in the early days there were rumors of gold on Martha's Vineyard, and that there were six distinct expeditions fitted out to explore the island. The story appears to have originated with an Indian named Epenow, who had been captured by Captain Harlow in 1611. He was exhibited in London, being described as "a goodly man of brave aspect".
At this time Sir Ferdinando Gorges, head of the Plymouth Company, fell in with Epenow and was told by the wily savage that there was gold on Martha's Vineyard, and Gorges, in connection with the Earl of Southampton, proceeded to fit out an expedition. Iron pyrites is more or less common at Gay Head, and it is possible that "poor Lo" was sincere in his statement; it is also possible that he wished to get home. The ship was put in command of Captain Hobson, a 'grave gentleman', who sailed in 1614.
When the expedition arrived and dropped anchor on the shores it was promptly surrounded by Indians in canoes who, as was once said of the Hudson River Indians, "manifested themselves with arrows, like enemies". It seems that Epenow put up a job on the Englishmen, for while the savages (who at first showed themselves friendly) were being entertained on the ship, the newly returned member of the tribe arranged the attack to cover his escape.
So warm a reception was not what the gold seekers were looking for, and after a council of war it was decided to put Epenow forward as a peace envoy, but fearing that their commissioner might attempt to escape they dressed him in such clothes as they thought would deter him from jumping into the water, and over all placed a very long and gorgeous coat which would serve the double purpose of tangling up a swimmer and making an impression on the natives, but Epenow, caring naught for all of his entanglements, promptly dove overboard, and so the expedition ended, as there was now no guide to the gold fields, and Sir Ferdinando remarks: "Thus were my hopes of that particular mode voide and frustrate".
There is a legend of an early visit of white men, which must have occurred before 1641, which, while entirely unsupported by any written record, is interesting, as it comes very straight from those early times. It seems that a very old Indian squaw told the story, which she had from her mother, who was a girl at the time, to Aunt Rhoda Luce, who died aged ninety years, and she to Dr. Moses Brown, and he to my informant.
The story is that a vessel came into Vineyard Haven harbor, and in seeking for water passed through into the Lagoon and to its head, where a beautiful spring was found. While the casks were being filled the Indians suddenly made a fierce attack, killing one man. They were finally frightened away by the discharge of a cannon from the vessel's stern, which sent them flying for cover. Apparently it was the first experience of the island Indians with firearms of such calibre, and it evidently made a deep impression. Aunt Rhoda in telling the story used to repeat the Indian sentence which, translated into the Vineyard vernacular by her was: 'The white-winged angel lets big noises'. The man killed was said to bear the name of Holmes, and some claim that this is how the village came by its first name, Holmes' Hole, but many there are who doubt this.
There is a possible corroboration of this legend in the claim of our Indian, Epenow, that he had killed a white man in a fight. When Rocroft brought over one of several expeditions that visited the island he was wounded in a fight with the Indians. It was after this that Epenow made his claim to distinction, but whether this referred to the wounding of Rocroft or the killing of our friend of the legend is not evident.
The first known record of the name Homes' Hole either appears in early deeds of property around Brush Pond in Eastville, or in the grant from Thomas Daggett to the proprietors of Edgartown of the "New Purchase", running from the "Eastern Most Chop of Holmes his Hole", etc.
One explanation of the name is that of Judge McIlvaine, who thought it might have come from the Holm oaks which grew about a stream that once ran through the village, but this theory does not appear to have many supporters.
The first proprietors were Lieutenant Isaac
Chase, Doctor Thomas West, John Pease, Richard Sarson and two others. They
were granted the right to settle on Holmes' Hole Neck from the Stepping
Stones at the head of the Lagoon to Tashmoo Springs, but Thomas Burchard
and others from Rhode Island had received grants from the Indians, under
which they claimed all this territory, and brought suit to establish the
claim. Those first mentioned, however, won, and later secured an absolute
grant of the land, which about 1700 was partitioned among them. That portion
lying along the west bank of the Lagoon fell to Thomas West. and in due
time Abraham Chase purchased Little (Cedar) Neck presumably from the original
proprietor - possibly from his son Abner.
The first settlement and original village of Holmes' Hole was on what is at the present time known as the Company place - this at the head of what was then the inner harbor, on whose shores now dwell Ben Luce and the Marine Hospital - and it was here that Thomas West erected his dwelling, supposed to be the second built in Holmes' Hole. I am indebted to Lawyer Charles H. Brown for most of the above, as well as for other items scattered through these pages.
Thos. West had three sons, according to Miss Margaret Norton, Abner, Peter and Thomas, and among these his property was divided, Abner receiving the lower share, Peter the central portion and Thomas that at the head of the Pond. None of these seem to have remained long, for Eliakim Norton shortly after appears as owner of the entire tract. He married Abigail Presbery, widow of John Presbery and daughter of Edward Cottle, who owned the adjoining tract on the south, and this brought to Eliakim Norton the oyster pond and dwelling at the head of the Lagoon, and known as Webataqua. He conducted a sheep ranch on his tract and raised a large family, all girls but one, a son named Peter. On his death the estate was portioned out among his children. A daughter, Charlotte, who married Captain Dunham, a resident of the north shore, received as her portion a strip at the lower end which does not appear to have come down to the water. She, preferring to live on this property, moved the dwelling from the north shore during the absence of her husband at sea, but he, not liking the new situation of the house on his return, purchased the adjoining property on the water's edge and again moved the house to the site now covered by the dwelling of Anna Robbins, daughter of Ben Luce. This house was burned.
The property at the head of the pond fell to
Jonathan Tilton, a grandson of Eliakim Norton, and while that is some two
miles away from the Neck, and not identified with its history, yet Jonathan,
being an odd character, it may not be amiss to at least record his latter
end. He having agreed with Bayes Norton, father of Margaret, who has given
me the above information, to transfer his property to him (Bayes), in consideration
of being cared for for the remainder of his days, Bayes also to erect such
a tombstone as Jonathan would provide. The latter wrote his own epitaph,
had the stone cut, and stored it with his coffin under his bed against the
time of need. The inscription read as follows: "Here lies the body
of Jonathan Tilton, Whose friends reduced him to a skeleton. They wronged
him out of all he had, And now rejoice that he is dead."
Jonathan T. died about seventy years ago, and was buried in Chilmark, and Bayes Norton put up the stone as he had bound himself to do, but it was such a palpable libel on the living that certain portions of it were erased. The unpleasantness was augmented by the fact that Jonathan had some nearer relations than Bayes who thought they should have the property, but the transfer being legal, their thought never materialized.
Miss Margaret Norton remembers well an old woman, Jenny, who died fifty-one years ago, aged eighty years. Jonathan Tilton also wrote an epitaph for Jenny which ran as follows:-
"Here lies poor Jenny, faithful slave,
Who trusted in her works to save,
Who has paid the debt we all must pay.
She lived and died at Webataqua."
Miss Norton from this concludes that the spelling
of the local name and its pronunciation is as given.
The next owner of the lower tract, including
Cedar Neck, of whom we have any record, was William Butler, who was interested
in the history and legends of the island, and who wrote quite extensively
on the subject. The property descended to Samuel, son of William, who built
the house known to us as the Hillman house.
Mrs. Rebecca S. Bradford, daughter of Samuel Butler, believes there were never any other houses on the Neck than those now standing, except of course the cottage which blew down in the gale of November, 1898. She says that the Hillman house was built about fifty years ago. Then the boys and girls of the village used to come over to the Lagoon for their bathing, and she does not believe that the present village bathing grounds on the harbor's shore can at all equal that which she enjoyed in her
Samuel Butler sold to Tristram Luce and he to Tom Hillman who, after holding the property some two or three years, sold to C. C. Hine. The latter, having discovered that the Vineyard was a panacea for all the ills that New Jersey flesh is heir to, desired a permanent Summer home here and found it on Little Neck, which was shortly christened Cedar Neck. This in 1872.
When Gray made his celebrated raid along the
Massachusetts coast during the Revolution he landed on Martha's Vineyard
with ten thousand men from seventy vessels, and swept the island clean of
provisions, taking every last animal that could be used for food. As Winter
was in the neighborhood this left the islanders in a very serious predicament,
and only a shower of manna in the shape of frozen fish saved the people
of the island from starvation. An intensely cold spell killed great quantities
of fish.* [*Probably scup as a freeze-out is particularly distasteful to
this very delectable inhabitant of the frying pan.] These were taken by
the destitute inhabitants, salted and packed away for future use. This occurred
principally in the Lagoon, and we can imagine how the hungry multitude swarmed
over our Cedar Neck while the harvest was ripe. I have this story from Mr.
Howes Norris, who well remembers the time when the Lagoon on both sides
of the Neck was a great fishing ground, bass and bluefish being plentiful.
The Vineyard people secured their provisions from New York in early days, and during the Revolution the trading vessels sometimes found it difficult to elude capture by the enemy; one exciting incident is still remembered, and as our Cedar Neck figured largely in the successful escape, it is proper that the plain facts be recorded here.
Capt. Nathan Smith, a captain in the French and Indian War, and in the Revolution, was one of those who went down to New York in ships to supply the needs of the islanders. At one time an English brig of war spent much time at anchor in Tarpaulin Cove, lying in wait for those she would ensnare, and she spied the vessel of Captain Smith making for what was then Holmes' Hole, and gave chase. The news spread rapidly and the people flocked to the shore to see the outcome. The captain's wife, learning the cause of the commotion, dropped her baby in the lap of a neighbor, remarking as she did so: "You hold the child while I go see them devils cannonade Nathan." The captain was a good sailorman and he knew his ground (or, at least, his water), and taking every advantage of wind and current he managed to beat his pursuer to and up the harbor. His vessel was not so big but that it could get through Bass Creek, the then entrance to the Lagoon, and with all haste he doubled Little Neck, thus placing a bulwark between himself and the enemy. The brig was unable to follow, and did not dare send men in small boats, and we can imagine the spiteful way in which she may have sent a last shot or two over this neck of land in the hope that they might do some damage. It is just possible that one or more round shot fired at that time may be imbedded somewhere in our sand heap. The Captain lived at Mackonakey, where a number of case shot or shrapnel balls have been found.
What we have known for the last thirty years as Oklahoma was formerly called Chunks (or Chunx) Hill. The name does not sound like Indian, and Miss Margaret Norton is inclined to the belief that it is the English word chunk, though it is generally supposed that the name is that of an Indian who lived there. The dwelling of Peter West was situated near Chunks Swamp on the north slope of the hill, and the outlines of his cellar are still visible. The first time the name Chunk appears is in the will of Dr. Thomas West. Very little is known concerning the West family. They were not members of the local church, and the church records make no mention of the doctor or others of his family, and outside of the scant town records the church records are about all there is to record the early doings.
It seems that what we know as the Beach Road is wash from East Chop. Howes Norris tells me that Prof. (or Lieut.) Henry L. Whiting, who surveyed that promontory at different times during a period of thirty years or more, has stated that East Chop was being cut away at the average rate of three feet per year, and that this must have been going on for a great many years. This sand is carried by the swift tidal currents into the harbor and banked up along its eastern shore and clear to its head. Within the memory of those with whom Mr. Norris has talked the shore at Eastville was on the east side of the swampy strip west of which now runs the Beach Road. In fact, just south of the old Oliver Linton house is the remains of a large rock, possibly two hundred feet east of the road, which has been pointed out to Mr. Norris as formerly a landing stone, this being six to seven hundred feet from the present high water mark.
The former entrance to our Lagoon was through
Bass Creek, and the strip of sand along which the trolley and automobile
now travel was twice as wide when Howes Norris was a boy as at present,
but in 1815 a great storm broke through the present opening. This changed
the currents somewhat and the strip has since been gradually growing less.
This new opening was not bridged until 1872.
Lawyer Charles H. Brown tells me that at one time Bass Creek was just west of the present marine railway; it appears to have steadily cut away on the west and filled up on the east, thus travelling along the beach to a point just beyond the present village wharf. The opening was here in 1812 when a storm drove a brig into and partially down Bass Creek, which then followed the course now taken by Water Street, where it grounded, and in doing so drove it jibboom into the side of the Great House. The scar is there today under the sheathing, as testified to by Mr. Brown.
Isaac Chase established a ferry between Holmes' Hole and the mainland at Falmouth and brought his ferryboat through Bass Creek into the inner harbor, anchoring under the middle island which thus became known as Ferryboat Island.
After the storm of 1815 both openings into the Lagoon remained until 1835, when Doctor Yale, Thomas Bradley and others bought the beach down to the present opening and filled up Bass Creek. They traced their title to an Indian known as Mr. Sams, who deeded the beach and the beach islands; this title was defective and the cause of some dispute. In due course Thomas West purchased the property, including the islands in whose genealogy we are particularly interested. They presumably passed to his son Abner, from him to Abraham Chase II., then to Tristram Luce and others, and on dissolution of this company and partition of the property the islands fell to Charles Smith, and through him to Mary E. Smith and Miriam H. Brown, who sold to C. C. Hine.
This inner harbor which is now so shallow and only used by Ben Luce's ducks and an occasional row boat, was once an important anchorage. Philander West has told Charles H. Brown that within his memory a brig has anchored off the Marine Hospital, and we have already seen that the waters adjacent to Ferryboat Island were deep enough to be used as an anchorage, while the stories of early explorers show that Bass Creek and the inner waters were deep enough to float the ships that then braved the storms of the Atlantic.
According to George Hillman, Ferryboat Island
was once the site of a "bug" light. There were three of these,
used as range lights for entering the harbor, one between Ben Luce's and
the Marine Hospital, and the other a short distance the other side of the
Hospital. The light keeper was Moses C. Cromwell, who lived in the next
house toward the village at the water's edge. A bridge went from the mainland
to Ferryboat Island at this time, and a few of its spires are still to be
seen between the shore and the present bridge which carries the beach road
under the Hospital across the outlet of the small salt water pond on which
the Cromwell house looks down.
This brings us to the Crossway, as the section between Ben Luce and the village is known. Miss Margaret Norton quotes George Swain as authority for the statement that the name is a corruption of causeway, a causeway having been laid out for the convenience of the neighborhood. The village outlet of this was between the houses of Captain Buckley and Prentice Bodfish. This is now fenced, but it is not known that the right of way was ever abolished.
In course of time the three bug lights were superseded by a lighthouse on the hill top where the Marine Hospital now stands. This building is within the writer's recollection, though he never saw the light burning.
Across the Lagoon opposite Chunks Hill stands what has always been known to us as the Luce house, but it seems that this originally belonged to one of the last, if not the last, of the Indians, James Bassett, but James in an evil hour allowed himself to become indebted to 'Captain' Jane Luce, who kept the Mansion House, kept a store and fitted out ships. Captain Jane was business from the ground up, and when the Indian failed to pay up she just took his property without troubling herself as to legal forms. This property in turn came to James Luce, father of the mighty Ben. In due course the heirs of James Bassett discovering that their ancestor had not been dispossessed according to law, brought suit and secured judgment. Whereupon the head man among them went to the house then occupied by Charles Luce, son of James, with the sheriff. The latter, upon arriving, turned to the Indian, and saying, "I herewith give you possession of this property as the court has decreed", hurried from the premises. Then did Charles arise, and with a roar and a shout to the "nigger" to get out and get out quick, he made a dive for him, and the Indian claimant stood not on the order of his going, but went at once, and he may be going yet.
It is told how a certain "Bishop"
West came to the Vineyard from England, claiming relationship to those of
the name on the island. The "Bishop was pompous party who seemed to
think much of himself, and he soon fell in with a namesake who thought it
was a fine thing to have a real live bishop for a relation, and the two
were much together, "our distant relative the Bishop" being introduced
quite generally about town.
Uncle Peter comes into the story when he lands one day on the village wharf where the two were standing. The local member of the farm promptly stepped up as Peter climbed over the stringpiece and with the "Bishop" a close second started the usual introduction: "Uncle Peter I want to introduce to you our distant relative the Very Reverend Doctor West Bishop of the Church of England", etc., etc. It certainly sounded fine, and should have made a most profound impression, but whether Peter had heard stories about the visitor, or whatever the cause, it is said that he never so much as looked at his celebrated, if distant, relative, but growled out: "Distant relatives are like distant thunder, the further of the better. Reverend Doctor be damned! " And off he trots up the wharf leaving the reverend gentleman somewhat dazed.
Peter's repartee is still the talk of the town.
He had been stocking up in the village one day, but on the way to his boat
recalled a forgotten errand and stopped in a convenient shop to leave a
parcel of beefsteak while he went back. Upon his return the shop was closed
and a glance through the window showed that the steak was not there. Peter
soon learned that the party in charge had gone home, and that he lived down
the Neck, and in no very pleasant frame of mind started off on a trot to
learn what had become of his dinner. Arriving at the house and knocking
he was told to come in, whereupon he discovered the shopkeeper just sitting
down to a savory meal of steak. Peter opened the conversation with a brief
statement of the case and a request for information as to the whereabouts
of his steak. His one-time friend guessed it was in the shop - but, no,
Peter convinced him that that could not be. Then he guessed some dog had
got it. "Yes", says Peter, "a damned dirty dog, and he is
eating it now".
On one occasion at sea a sailor fell overboard and Peter came on deck to ascertain what the noise was all about. Learning this he then asked what the man was hollering so for, and being informed that the sailor had a cramp and could not keep afloat long, Peter said: "Well, call to him and tell him that it is no time to have the cramp now - it is no time to have the cramp now."
[pp. 23-24 are missing from my copy of this book! Do you know what they contain? Contact me if you do!]
Thirty years ago the Hillman cows were wont to roam at large over the face of the land, and the cedars had but small opportunity to make headway, but there came a time when a fence kept the cows out, and the cedars rejoiced exceedingly until now it seems as though they were singing the old war song: "We are coming, Father Abraham, three hundred thousand strong."
Once there was a shipyard on the Neck, and sloops
and schooners were built and launched into the deep waters which nestle
in the protecting arm of Hillman Point. Here was built the celebrated pilot
boat "Josiah Sturges", which the "Sheet Anchor" for
March 16, 1844, calls "in every respect a superior craft", and
tells how she was built of Vineyard white oak, and how Capt. Moses T. Cromwell,
who formerly commanded a revenue cutter on the New Bedford station "with
much credit and honor to himself" had been placed in command.
And here the "Rialto", also a pilot boat, which in 1849, Capt. Warren Luce, master, carried a party of gold seekers from the Vineyard to California, none of whom came home rich, or, in fact, came home at all, most of them dying with their boots on if tradition is correct.
Captain Dias it was who introduced us to Little
Neck. An early memory is of an exploring expedition undertaken by the family,
at which time Tom Hillman was discovered uprooting certain cedars with a
yoke of oxen; the Neck was then partially under cultivation, and while the
exploration was in progress a sailorman was come up with who had appropriated
a turnip from a nearby patch, or, as he put it, "cabbaged one of your
Next was a clam bake, concerning which the writer can give only hearsay evidence, as he had a previous engagement with the dentist and attended strictly to his own picnic.
Aunt Jane says the Neck was purchased in 1872 and the cottage ready for occupancy by the Summer of 1873. She fixes it by her European Exploring Expedition, which covered the years 1871-2. Thomas agrees with this date. It was a sad year for Thomas, which he still recalls with grief. He had passed, or tried to pass, the freshman examinations at Yale, but there were so many conditions attached to the result that Thomas rusticated in Connecticut that Summer and did not come to the Vineyard.
The architects were found within the family, Father and Mother assuming the responsibility for the appearance and convenience of the house, which a Mr. Mosher (who was in the habit of doing such things) undertook to build. The architects had a room on the first floor, while upstairs the front room was for the grandparents, Thomas packed into the tower room, and Aunt Jenny had the corner room back of that which used for its outlook the village and nearby waters, with a cedar tree foreground. The little boys had the large room which looked out on Cedar Neck's broad acres and the distant Lagoon, even to its head, but view counted for little with them in those early days.
The small boys were too small to take much interest
in house building, and their early recollections run rather to cosy corners
among the trees, the beach and what was to be found there, the bridge and
the fishing for cunners, chasing the festive clam to its lair and the search
for the gallivanting scallop - but, above all, an evening's wequashing expedition
with Ben Luce. Wequashing in the vulgate is "jobbin'" for eels
at night by torch light. An eel dies hard, and with a dozen or more roaming
about the bottom of the boat things would get "tol'able" lively,
and the interest never flagged.
The horseshoe crabs were a never failing source of entertainment; the big fellows could dig their toes into the bottom and pull hard, and the small boy took advantage of this to attach, by means of a cord, the tail of one of these old hard-shells to a long plank, and prod his crabship until he would tow the raft with such cargo of stones, sand or shells as were to be shipped. Thus were we able to establish regular packet service between the various ports along the shores of Cedar Neck.
When the Neck came into the possession of the
family the only house within its compass was a small, inclosed Summer house,
which was appropriated as a kitchen for the new cottage. This Summer house,
it seems, was originally built by Mr. Hillman on property he owned at Tashmoo,
and later moved by him to Little Neck.
Probably all the surface of the Neck was at one time under cultivation, as George Hillman remembers being told by a certain ploughman who furrowed its acres that eight round trips with the plough made a day's work. This meant a large area covered, probably extending much beyond the present Oklahoma.
Grandfather Hine took command at a very early
period. It was he who built the boathouse and fixed the upper floor for
his own habitation. At first there was only the front room with a platform
passage from the bank end of the building, the two rear rooms being added
later. These rear rooms were immediately infested by the small boys and
such friends as visited with them, and the wonder is now how the old gentleman
ever stood the racket, but he did, and never said boo!
Grandfather Hine was an original old party; many of his sayings still live in the family and in the village of Vineyard Haven. As "hot as a burnt boot" found favor in his speech when something particularly fetching was brought to his attention, and once it is recalled when he was invited to look within a home-made closet wherein were many shiny hooks, his comment was that "it was as brassy as a pickpocket". So far as the writer knows, Grandfather never looked on the wine when it was red, but there came a time when he got unequivocally drunk, and he certainly raised ructions then. The strong drink which overcame him was a too heavy dose of paregoric. It seems that he had something that paregoric was supposed to cure, so Mother gave him her bottle and told him to take a dose. The old gentlemen evidently thought if a little was good, a good deal was better, so he drank the contents of the bottle at one gulp.
George Hillman and Grafton Smith were working on the boathouse, and the old gentleman started down there intent on mischief. George saw him coming, stepping pretty high and looking mussy, and discreetly retired to the other side of the building, but Smith stayed, and he caught the full force of the storm, he being finally told to pick up his tools and clear out. Well, he did, but took it very much to heart, and it was some time before the Smith equanimity was entirely restored, but George, in the capacity of peace commissioner, finally got him back and the incident was closed. There is a tradition that Grandfather at this time walked up or down a ladder without touching it with his hands, a thing he would hardly have been able to do in calmer moments.
This same progenitor of the Hine family was an expert in the use of the long bow, which he invariably carried with him, and never hesitated to use when things needed livening up. When the family was at home in Jersey accumulating chills and fever for Vineyard air to cure, Grandfather lived at the Mansion House in the village where the Look girls, to whom he was "Grandpa", as he was to most of the village, took as good care of him as though he had been the real thing - bless 'em. The old gentleman dearly loved to keep up his end of the conversation, and as he had no fish stories to tell or sea yarns to spin, he did the best he could by the Illinois prairies, where he once owned a farm. It gave him great pleasure to dwell on the richness of that farm land and to dilate on its productions - the crook-necked squashes that, stood on end, a man might walk under, and corn as tall as trees, wherein it was a simple matter to get lost, the dense foliage shutting out all hint of the sun's direction. When our farmer really got steam up the fishermen took a back seat; there was little successful competition.
It will be noted that there is more or less
mention in these scraps of George Hillman. The fact is that so much of George's
individuality is wrapped up in the place that he is as much a part of it
as is any one of us, including the cedars and the cottage. For many years
he dwelt on his end of the Neck and kept an eye on our end, whether we were
there or absent, and it needed it one time about as much as the other. The
poor old foot-bridge would never know what to do if it were not for George,
for when the ice pulls it up it is George that pushes it back again; when
the windmill ceases from working and the pumping is at rest, George comes
forward and sets it once more in the straight and narrow way. Then he helps
us rig the "Romeo", or, when times are dull, there is ample evidence
in these pages that George knows how to tell a story in interesting fashion.
And as George is to us, so he was to Grandfather - the old gentleman never
made a move without George at his elbow.
George, having grown wealthy, has moved to the metropolis, but even so he does not forget his old friends, and we still rejoice that he bears our burdens as though they were his own. It is a pity old Diogenes could not have had the pleasure of turning his searchlight on him.
Ned's earliest recollection is being met by
Grandmother Hine with a glass of milk, and of the immensity of the open
space under the tower and the grandeur of its arches. Ned was a small boy
then. The writer does not seem to have any first recollection to perpetuate,
though he can hark back to a black snake found under the house with a half-swallowed
toad in its possession.
It was under the house that the first workbench was established, and here also was a darkroom for those who would photograph, nor must we fail to mention the noisome toadstools that occasionally raised a hideous smell from the dark recesses of this under-cottage world.
Ned recalls how he here caught a rat by the tail and how the rat in his hurry left the tail in his fingers. It seems that the rat sat down on the other side of a partition, but carelessly left his tail within reach of an inquisitive boy, with the result above mentioned.
Speaking of rats reminds me of the story George Hillman used to tell. George spread some shelled corn on the floor of a vacant room in his house at one time, and on going to look at it one day, noticed something wiggling out from under the baseboard and scooping in such nearby kernels as could be reached. It did not take long for George to decide that there was a rat at the other end of that wiggle, and crossing carefully he grabbed the offending member and cut it off short. This occurred long before the day of President Roosevelt and his friends the Nature Fakers, but it would distress me to have our strenuous President get hold of the story, even at this late day, for I should not wish to have George called names.
Outside was a fountain with a knitting-needle squirt that soon fell into disfavor because, forsooth, the small boys must pump the tank full before the fountain would condescend to operate, and the small boys had too much business of their own to give the fountain that attention which it demanded, though they can recall many an arm-ache before the fountain ceased forever to play.
The giver of all these good gifts spent most of his time in the office, that those he loved might enjoy to the full the blessings of this Summer home. Father was one of those choice natures that only come into this world once in a generation. His boys accepted him as a matter of course, never dreaming that he was not as other fathers are until it was too late to let him know that we had in some measure awakened to his true worth. There are few men indeed who leave such a heritage to their sons, though a hard one to live up to. One who was never heard to say a mean thing of any one, nor an unpleasant thing, except, possibly, to the individual himself; as full of the milk of human kindness as human kind could hold, generous to all but himself, and loved as man seldom is loved, who did good with so little ostentation that none other than the recipient knew of it. The centre of interest the moment he joined a group, and though gone from us for full ten years, so little forgotten that we think of him as of yesterday.
It was the duty of the small boys to run an
alternate milk route between the cottage and Ben Luce's; that is, one went
one day and t'other another. The way was long on foot and the trip was generally
made by boat, as was also the journey to the village where stood the Robinson
store. Mr. Robinson did business on the principle that his groceries were
worth coming after, hence there was no delivery.
We were offered a choice of boats for the trip, but no choice as to the making of it. First came a high-sided, three-cornered dory that blew all over the lot when there happened to be any air stirring. This instrument of torture was the regular fisherman's dory, to which one must be introduced at a very tender age if he would ever command its devious ways. It would travel sideways before the wind with the greatest alacrity, but if the inexperienced oarsman preferred any other direction he could pull his arms out by the roots for all the boat cared. Naturally it was not popular. Old Captain Brown would occasionally come over our way for the purpose of sharing Cedar Neck's clam output, and he would borrow that dory and, pointing it in any direction he wished, would proceed to his destination in a straight line without reference to wind or weather. The captain had been at it all his life, and that dory was as easy for him to manage as is a wheelbarrow for most of us. We would stand and marvel, and later have another try at the old thing, but all to no purpose. She who was as putty in the captain's hands was the cussedest old harridan in those of others that ever came in the way of the inexperienced.
There was also a Gifford-built skiff, made to skim the waters between the cottage and its base of supplies that kept on the track all the way over and was much affected by the younger generation.
While on the subject of boats, a few words concerning
the fleet that lay at anchor off the boathouse may be in order. To get at
the origin of things we must retire to the dark ages. When Thomas was a
boy he was promised a rowboat as soon as he could swim across the river
at home, the Passaic, and that boat was the beginning of our navy. When
the Neck came into the family the boat came down to the Vineyard. Now to
row, when by any possibility one can sail, is foreign both to good taste
and good sense; the sail enables one to proceed with less vexation to greater
distances, besides affording opportunity for the display of the sailor's
skill in handling sail and tiller. So our one-time rowboat was provided
with hip-pads and a centreboard, a mast, sail and tiller, and thenceforth
proudly danced over the waves of the Lagoon at the call of the wind. Grandfather
and Tom caused this wonderful transformation. You see, Grandfather had been
a carriage builder in the days when that meant a first-class, all-round
workman - not a mere assembler of machine-made parts, as is the case in
these days of hurry-up and hence the hip-pads that graced the slender form
built for the oar were a great success. Thus the "Cedar Neck"
was born, for so the first boat was called.
It seems that the "Cedar Neck" got a bit careless in its latter days - drank too much, if you must know it - and with those hip pads full of water and more or less down below she would at times be so cross-grained as to be a very uncomfortable companion. The writer recalls how once, after tacking up the pond against a southerly breeze, he was wholly unable to get her about before the wind for the return journey, being finally compelled to let the contrary-minded maiden drift all the way down, stern first; but she played Ned the mean trick, for one Summer's day she got him out in the eel grass and calmly lay over on her side; but so leisurely was she about it that our sailorboy climbed out on the upper side of the hull without even wetting his feet. Then came Thomas in the Gifford- built skiff, already introduced, and relieved the situation.
Just where the "Flying Cloud" came in I am not altogether clear, but it was about this time. A bridge had been piled across to the Beach road, but the Winter's ice had a playful way of pulling that bridge up by the roots. Now, in the course of time this ceased to be a joke, and the efforts of the family were directed toward fending off this annual assault. This was finally accomplished by gathering up stones along the Lagoon's rugged shores and dumping them around the unstable legs of our centipede, and the "Flying Cloud" was the means to this end; in other words, the lady was a scow, and she had a temper of her own, taking a violent dislike to George Hillman. What George did to her he never told - possibly punched her in the ribs with a heavy rock, we do not know - but how she attempted to get square, and almost succeeded, is well known, for the crafty old girl quietly began to shift ballast over to port one day, and when she thought she had George just where she wanted him, over she flopped, but George, with a mighty spring, cleared the wreck, and saved his bacon. So much for the "Flying Cloud."
Grandfather had occasional jobs for which neither the "Cedar Neck" nor the "Flying Cloud" were exactly fitted, one representing the leisure class, the other the laboring. What he needed was something of intelligence that would work, and he found it in the "Sharpie", whose flat bottom permitted easy access to the beach and whose Falstaffian girth admitted of great carrying capacity. The "Sharpie" was built for some now unknown purpose, on the deck of a West Indian trader, while at sea, and came home with its Ma when that lady got her fill of bananas or cocoanuts, or whatever else was most dear to her heart. By this time our baby sea-cow was weaned and able to pick up her own living, and Grandfather left his bars down until she browsed into his pasture, when she naturally followed the rest of the flock up to the boathouse, and that's how it was.
The "Sharpie" reminds us of Charlie Van. Uncle Van lived out in the wilderness west of the Father of Waters, and Charlie, while in College, naturally made his home with us; Now, Charlie always had his appetite with him in those days, for, retiring from the breakfast or dinner table, he would fill the waste places of his clothes with hardtack, and then take up with "Sharpie". The writer has a loose screw somewhere in his machinery which makes him unable to fully comprehend just what is the unceasing delight of sailing a boat up and down a three mile stretch of water without any object except to go back when the end of the pond is reached, but Charlie knew. He poked that old flat boat up and down, up and down, up and down, all day long, day in and day out, merely stopping for meals and hardtack. Charlie had many good points, and his memory is still green with those who knew him. He was one of those who are always welcome, with his easy temper and cheerful methods.
Among the excursions undertaken when Father
was an active entertainer was a day's picnic to Tarpaulin Cove, the chief
feature of which was the salting of its beach. It seems that Father and
another equally hilarious gentleman, whose name has passed from memory,
purchased at a shell store on Circuit Avenue a few fine specimens from the
seas of the tropics, and while others were busily engaged in arranging the
lunch or basking on the warm sands, the conspirators buried their shells
at convenient points, each placing a mark of his own that he might dig them
up when a fitting time should arrive.
Well, along in the afternoon, after the loaves and fishes had been disposed of and the fragments gathered up, the party began to hunt along shore for what it might find and pretty soon Father, digging carelessly in the sand, unearthed a beautiful shell. All were, of course, electrified at the wonderful find, and fell to a most industrious pawing of the beach, whereupon his co-conspirator turned up another gorgeous specimen. By this time the remainder of the party was wild with excitement, and in the scramble destroyed the signs marking the spots where other shells were cached, and the villains were nearly driven frantic in their efforts to locate the buried treasure. Altogether it was an exciting time, and so earnest were the unsuccessful ones and so keen their disappointment that it was some time before the facts leaked out, but the joke was too good to keep, it had to come, and so were laid to rest the various speculations of wreck and disaster that must have conveyed these prizes thither; and as time heals all wounds, so the jokees gradually mellowed and the dove of peace once more hovered over the cottage.
It is said that we cannot stand still, must
either go forward or backward, and as it is in other things, so is it with
boats. Soon the "Cedar Neck" was too small for our ambitions,
and we were longing for the wherewithal to conquer the larger world outside
the draw. This was soon found in the "Hiram B.", a Cape sloop
which its owner had modestly named for his humble self. Father had a surplus
cottage at the Bluffs that Tom thought could easily be traded for the sloop,
and so it came to pass, even as Thomas wished.
"Hiram B.", while good enough for a Cape sloop, was no name for a lady and Thomas, being full to the brim of classical learning, sought within himself for a name that should fit both the boat and the situation, and after much labor brought forth 'Iola' as sufficient unto the occasion, and the "Hiram B." vanished from off the face of the waters. At first it was a short cruise across the Sound to Naushon or Woods' Hole, but as ambition and experience ripened the "Iola" would be provisioned for longer voyages, when lunch put up at home would not fill every want. Thus it devolved on Thomas to be chief cook as well as slipper, and there is a tradition handed down in the family concerning the firmness of his first batch of biscuit. Just what was left out, or put in that should have been left out, is not on record, but those biscuit were as hard as the glacial boulders which adorn the north shore of this island; they were finally dropped into the sounding sea. That was some thirty years ago, and whether action of the waves has ever rolled them ashore we have not learned, but incline to the opinion that they are still in the depths.
When the Centennial Exposition was held in Philadelphia in 1876 we three boys, Charlie Van, Will Buckley and Nate Abbott, all went to the show in the "Iola" and a fine time we had of it, two staying on board each day to keep watch and ward, while the others got shore leave.
Ned once conceived the idea that with plenty
of brown paper and a bucket of flour paste he could make a boat that would
be all his own, and so he did, using the "Iola's" dingy as a model,
first laying wet newspaper over the dingy and then pasting strips of the
tougher brown over that, and more and more, until a shell was formed that
could be lifted off. This, fitted with ribs and things, partially decked
and adorned with a mast and spritsail, made an outfit that gave Edward much
pleasure for three whole days, at the end of which time the paste succumbed
to the salt water treatment and the bottom fell out of his joy. The remains
still hang in the boathouse, a monument to thwarted ingenuity.
Ned's discouragement was but temporary. If paste and paper would not do, possibly he could make an all-wood boat that would. So he tapped Mr. Gifford for certain technical methods, whittled out his model and laid the boat out in regular shape, eliciting much praise from the old boat builder, who did not believe the youngster could do it. Since then we have enjoyed the
"Romeo" for the navigation of the Lagoon.
Then there was the "Mischief", a skipjack which pointed both ways and was graced with two sails. Ned built her also, but while built under the trees at home, she soon made the journey to the Vineyard with Thomas on one side of the centreboard trunk and Ned on the other; if they wished to see each other they must crawl out into the cockpit for the purpose. The boat was not apparently built for comfort, and Thomas is quite emphatic in his remarks concerning that cruise, and how pleased he was to put his foot on the Vineyard's shore. Ned does not know now what his idea was in building the boat, and none of the family is able to help him.
It is hardly in order here to mention the "Pelican" and the "Nethla", both built for service in the waters of South Florida, merely because they strayed down to the Vineyard one Summer, so we will say nothing about them.
No account of the boats of Cedar Neck would
be complete if we failed to mention John Washburn, who builded him a cottage
on the Neck in April, 1887. John took up the "Sharpie" when Charlie
laid it down, and he see-sawed back and forth until the waters fairly boiled.
John claims a record of seven thousand miles, which would be several times
around the Lagoon. But as with those who had gone before, there came a time
when a larger boat and a wider field were necessary to John's vaulting ambition
and so is accounted for the appearance of the "Juliette, which beat
everything in the harbor except the New Bedford steamboats. But the "Juliette"
grew old as boats will, and John parted with her and a sum of money in trade
for a larger boat of more modern design, and "Juliette II." reigns
in her stead.
John's version (somewhat elaborated, possibly) of his first experience alone in a sailboat is about as follows: He admits that there was a time when he was a landlubber and nothing but a landlubber. He had been at the Bluffs, and possibly sailing in come rented catboat with its owner as skipper, so that he knew the bow of the boat because it was pointed, and he also knew of the stick at the other end by which the boat was made to do all sorts of marvellous things; it may even be that he knew this stick was called a tiller, but there is no actual record that such is the fact. His practical experience had been limited to seeing some one else do it once or twice. However, he had that entire confidence born of absolute ignorance, that has enabled many a man to step in when the opportunity arrives.
The opportunity came when, early one morning, John found the "Sharpie" tied to the bridge and no one in sight. He boldly jumped aboard and cut himself loose from all help without even so much as hoisting sail. Steering a boat under such circumstances is not as exciting as being chased by a mad dog, and John finally bethought himself of the sail, and after undoing every rope and pulling at each in turn, he found one that would lift the sail, and with much tugging got it up after a fashion. So far so good; now all he had to do was to hold the rope that was attached to the pole along the bottom of the sail (which will hereafter be known as the boom), and with the tiller in the other hand get him gone. But something was out of gear, the wind insisted on blowing from the wrong direction and the boat would not go the way the tiller was pushed, and the sail would come back and try to hit him on the head; then there was a thin box in the middle of the boat with a rope coming out of it. Possibly that was a fish line, possibly it had something to do with the curious way the boat was acting; any way he would pull it up and see what was at the other end. So everything else dropped, he gave a mighty haul. Well, it came up, and so did a squirt of salt water that caught him in the eyes, and before he could see again, the sail was back, dancing that heavy boom on top of his cocoanut. There was something doing all the time, so John sat down in the bottom of the boat where he could safely think what next useful thing to do. Then things began to happen down below; something seemed to be between the bottom of the boat and the bottom of the pond - possibly some monster fish trying to eat boat and all. Visions of a picture in his old school geography, showing a whale biting a boat in two and the whalers going for all points of the compass, arose in his mind. It was time for him to make a move, so over the side of the boat he looks to find himself almost blown ashore, but saw no signs of the whale. However, the shore must be got rid of at all hazards, and he tries the sail and tiller again. Things did not work right before when he put the tiller over to the right, so this time it is pushed to the left, and this time everything happened all at once. A sailorman would have said he jibed her, but John didn't know what he did. What he did know was that first the sail ran clear out and then came back; with a swoop that nearly yanked the mast overboard and all but took his head with it, while all the ropes in the boat got busy that same minute and began to cling to John. In three seconds he was tangled up in more different ways than he ever before dreamed was possible. Laocoön never for a minute got into such a muss. About this time the sail got back into the boat and began to beat a tattoo on his head once more. John was having the time of his life, and how he got out of it is not at all clear. Whether some good angel helped him back to the bridge, or whether he got in near the shore, and with an oar pushed back, or just how it was he does not know, but he did get back, and sat himself down on the bridge to look at that boat and wonder how it all came about. The boat looked inoffensive enough, surely; it must have been the wind. But up there on the bridge the wind was a nice, pleasant little breeze, with nothing in the least vicious about it. Evidently some mysterious power for evil had been at work, but what it was was beyond our bold navigator.
John feels that he can afford to tell the story now, or even let some one else tell it, though there was a time when he felt bashful about repeating it. John soon learned that the long, hard stick that tried so industriously to crack his head was called a boom, and the rope attached thereto a sheet, and that the mysterious thin box was a centreboard trunk, and that it was the centreboard scraping on the bottom which gave him those pleasant visions of the hereafter; in fact, he learned a whole lot of things about a boat, until now one can actually smell the tar before he heaves in sight.
As showing his wonderful advance in the art of navigation, it is of interest to note how his skillful hand brought about a happy consummation under trying circumstances. It seems that one time, when he was spending the Summer in "Cliff Cottage", at Oklahoma, it became necessary for him to visit, rather late in the day, the "Juliette", anchored in the harbor, and by the time he started back it was as dark as a black cat, and so thick was the fog that one could not have seen that black cat, even had it scratched out his eyes.
Well he had sailed down, presumably to our boathouse, and now must sail back against the wind in all that fog and dark, but he put boldly out, and tacking across the Lagoon soon came to his landing as direct as though it had been broad day and he had had both eyes on the job.
Father had no intention of turning the Neck into a Lonesomeville, for he had it duly surveyed by Mr. Horatio N. Pease, of Edgartown, and laid out in lots, that all the world might share in his good fortune. But no one wanted any of the lots as it turned out, and now we rejoice exceedingly that such was the case, for to-day we are monarchs of all we survey provided, of course, there is a good thick fog on, or we do not look over the edge of the bank. The stakes which outlined the avenues and lesser paths have utterly disappeared, and no one knows where they stood or whither they have gone, nor cares; and we reign supreme over the cedars and the pines with none to dispute our sovereignty.
About once in so often a family carryall was rented from Leavitt Norton, and he himself would drive us to Gay Head, or the South Shore, Indian Hill, or for a visit to Nancy Luce, who was crazy enough to be temporarily interesting. The old lady was chicken- mad, so to speak, making as much of her chickens as another might of her babies. On one occasion Grandmother lost caste in her eyes when she let it be known that her chickens on the farm picked up their own living. Nancy was no such scant provider, and she failed not to voice her opinion of one who was.
When first we came to the Vineyard the New York
and Portland boats stopped at the Eastville wharf, and that being the direct
route, was the one generally used. Now the Portland boat was as uncertain
as the Indian's white man, she might get in at 6 o'clock a. m., and she
might not arrive until 4 o'clock p. m. - more often she came in somewhere
between. In the early days it was the "Dirigo" or "Franconia",
and later the "Eleanora", each one touching once each week. They
were terrible old rollers, and if one ever got seasick he could with certainty
prepare for the worst off Point Judith where old Ocean takes a hand in the
game. Even Captain Bragg of the "Franconia" admitted in a moment
of relaxation that "the blankety blank old thing rolled while she was
lying at the dock".
The friends invited to visit mostly came this way, and what I started out to tell about was the way the little boys were called on to act as ferrymen. When some guest was expected it was a long pull and a strong pull to the Eastville landing, and wait for the boat, and wait they did. Of course no one ever knew when the boat would get in, and equally, of course, no lunch was carried, for did we not get back in time for dinner nearly half the time, and might not this be one of those times? As 12 o'clock came and 1 o'clock passed how we would gaze at West Chop, in hopes to see the black nose of that slowest of all slow-moving
creatures, the "Franconia", push out from behind the wooded point, and what a sigh of relief and what an excitement of expectancy when at last the longed-for moment did arrive. Possibly it was Father coming down to spend a few days, then Mother would be with us to make warm the welcome. And when all were snug in the small boat how we did pull for home, and if it happened to be against us what a tussle we had with the tide at the draw.
The view: How is it possible to do it justice?
Toward the west and north we look across to a village so beautifully situated
that it seems the haven of a dream; white houses embowered among green trees
on a gentle sloping hillside, with a foreground of water and boats and all
manner of such picturesque confusion as collects along the beach of our
important little seaport. Possibly a schooner, driven ashore during some
Winter's gale, with her masts still standing and her bow pushed out over
the beach, or the bleaching bones of one whose ribs show through the skin.
For years the Hillman yacht "Effie" lay drawn up in the grass
on the Lagoon side of the Beach road, an important part of the picture.
But it is the village that croons the whole that is the chief beauty spot.
In the morning with the sun squarely on its slopes each white house is a
bright particular star, while in the evening with the setting sun behind
the hill and the black shadows in the still waters of the harbor and Lagoon,
the pictures are as different to look on as can well be, no time twice alike,
for there is the never ending variety that the weather and the water always
Then there is the spread of the harbor, the Chops, the Eastville shore and the Lagoon, all intended to make the view as happy as are the birds who live in it.
Once on a time the family started out for a mornings sail in the "Iola", and as the writer was not along he can tell with an entire absence of bias what happened. What did not happen was a sufficiency of wind, but somehow or other the party drifted over to Menhaunt - noon came and no lunch aboard. One cannot enjoy a picnic on an empty stomach, particularly when the salt air has been operating on him for some hours, and it was decided to go to the hotel for dinner. There were Grandfather and Thomas, and two or three sunbonnetted members of the family, all dressed in their plainest, and evidently it was very plain, for when Thomas marched up to make arrangements he was turned down hard and prompt as being altogether too plebeian in appearance, and Thomas came back with his tail between his legs, so to speak. Then Grandfather turned on his flow of eloquence, and while he looked just as much like a tramp as did Thomas - or, in face, as could anybody - he had the palaver, and the landlord took compassion, though it is rumored that it took his landlordly nose a week or ten days to get down to its former level. Thereafter when the family went abroad it took its gold-headed cane and frock coat, as it were.
A weekly feature was the Sunday walk across the fields to church at Oak Bluffs, past the lonely little house of Peter West. All hands dressed, the boats were manned, or rather boyed, and we were shortly across the Lagoon. It was rather a pleasant walk, as I look back at it now, though I do not recall that the younger generation looked forward to it then with any great degree of pleasurable anticipation. Of that walk the one memory that stands out the boldest is of the moss on which we trod. This moss stood up some inches above the ground, was a very pale green in color, and in damp times soft and yielding; but let the day be crisp and dry and that moss was as brittle as the average reputation, and it was great fun to hear and feel it crush under foot. Many was the extra step taken to demolish some particularly tempting bunch.
Many stories are current concerning the sayings
and doings of Uncle Peter West, who was long a familiar figure about the
Lagoon. Uncle Peter lived off by himself in the fields where about the only
passers-by were those from the west side of the Pond who would row across
and then tramp to camp meeting, stopping by the way at the old green pump
in the camp ground for a drink from its bilious depths. Some of the doings
of the old man do not look just right in cold type, though funny enough
when the right story-teller handles them; but others will bear the light
of day, at least they will do for a shady nook.
One of his great hobbies was fertilizer, and he is said to have rigged up all sorts of conveniences and calls to dump fertilizer where it would do his crops the most good, and spent much of his precious time combing the Lagoon's beach for anything that might help his corn to grow. In the course of one such expedition the body of a large Newfoundland dog was discovered in the seaweed and promptly transferred to a spot where even a dead dog could make himself useful. But the animal had been so well pickled that he kept his shape, and when the plow came along and struck the corpse it bounded up between the oxen and there was a healthy runaway then and there. Peter came over to inspect the damages and view the remains, and gave it as his opinion that the "dog had not properly decomposed", though the nerve of the plowman was so thoroughly decomposed that he lost all interest in the job.
Peter had a brother-in-law, Taylor Bradley, who was as odd as a fifth wheel. Mr. Bradley was a Connecticut Yankee, and he accounted for his dropping in on the Vineyard after this fashion: Being very religious he had dreams and saw visions. In one of these he was commanded to go to the seashore and take a vessel, and when the vessel next dropped anchor he was to land on the beach, and as he walked he would come to a house where were several girls, all of whom, with one exception, would make fun of him, and that one exception he was to take to wife, and so it fell out even as he had been promised in the vision. Whether the vision got down to such definite details as Mr. B. furnished after it all happened does not appear of record, but he thought it did.
Mr. Bradley comes into this story because of
his propensity to dig clams in the Lagoon. At one time our hero needed rubber
boots that he might secure the basis for his beloved clam chowder in reasonable
comfort, but rubber boots hung high that season and he was fain to content
himself with some makeshift; thus he secured two shoe boxes, and pitching
them within and without and arranging straps at the bottom he had what seemed
at first blush a very good, if somewhat clumsy pair of waders, and they
were all right, at least they were all right so long as Mr. B. kept well
in shore, but there came a day when he went too far afield, as it were,
and his pontoons upset our clam digger and stood him on his head in deep
water with the life preservers at the wrong end of the balance. The experiment
almost saved the life of many a clam, but he finally kicked loose and got
One who, as clerk in a Vineyard store, once sold a copy of Harpers' Weekly to Mr. B., tells me that the purchaser required a receipt for the ten cents expended that he might to in a position to prove that the money had not been misappropriated, should the matter become a point of controversy.
This was undoubtedly a great gathering place
for the Indians. We find frequent evidence of this in the heaps of rotting
shells where they had their feasts, in arrow flints picked up at odd times
and in a most symmetrical stone pestle found on the edge of the bank. Some
fifteen years ago George Hillman dug up the skeleton of an Indian giant
in almost perfect preservation; the bones indicated a man easily six feet
and a half, possibly seven feet, high. Doctor Butler, himself a large man,
said that the femur bone was a full two inches longer than his. A singular
feature was a complete double row of teeth on both upper and lower jaws.
After all the bones were removed the place was carefully dug over, but no
implements were found.
In the bank near the Benson house was found, not long ago, what was evidently at one time a package of arrow and spear heads, there being twenty-two packed together so snugly as to suggest that, when dropped, they had been tied up for transportation.
The cedars of Cedar Neck contain many curious
twists and turns, the result being a diverting array of hooks and crooks.
Here is a branch that went wrong in its youth, and now in its old age with
leisure in plenty to repent, yet continues on its devious way. Another being
duly started toward the south, where the warm sun would shine on it all
the day long, through some perversity that was not corrected when it was
of an impressionable age, turned toward the north whence come the Wintry
blasts. These cedars frame many a beautiful picture. One must sit on the
spacious veranda and watch between the tree trunks the ships as they pass
by, or as they lie at anchor in the ancient harbor of Vineyard Haven, waiting
with sails set for the favorable wind that will carry them in safety over
Nantucket's shoals. It is an ever changing picture with as many different
rustic frames as there are directions in which to look.
When the new cottage was built in 1899 it became necessary to clear out a thicket of cedars and bayberry bushes that the dwellers therein might look beyond. Some were cut down, but more were trimmed up, and the latter process revealed the decorative possibilities that had long lain dormant behind a mass of closely growing twigs. And now, partly to fleet the time, and partly because of the interesting little surprises that await the explorer, saw and pruning knife in hand, he has been cleaning out patches here and there, pulling up buckle and bayberry bushes and the long trail of the poison ivy, cutting down a useless tree now and then, and bringing to light the Japanese effects of twisted branches so long hidden from sight.
Even where two limbs do the same thing, they do it for contrary reasons. One thinks to get more light (light is wealth) by creeping through the grass and shooting up outside of his slower brothers; another silently works his way up with the others, in good time putting out a seemingly innocent little twig, to fill some unused space, and when once this is well set it suddenly puts all strength in the one effort, and pushing by the others, who look askance at this lopsided way of doing things, it is out in the open where new shoots put forth which soon cover up and belittle the more regular minded branches, which are now completely overshadowed by the rich member of the family. But now and then the schemes of cedars gang agley. Occasionally the pushing member of the family does not figure the size of the outlet aright, and his brothers wait until he is well in the trap and then proceed to squeeze as they never "squoze" before, and the first thing he knows our would-be forehanded friend is hoist with his own petard and passes the remainder of his days in a brown study.
Of late years pines have been dotting the open spaces that the natives had not as yet camped upon. These pines deserve a word: As an exhibition of what steady, quiet push will accomplish, they are "it". No one knew whence or when or why they came; they just came, and begging only to be let alone, proceeded to quietly produce and multiply, and by spreading their rich perfume on the air and laying a beautiful brown carpet on the ground beneath they have given freely of their best to all who seek.
The pines have an upright, well-balanced way of living that is quite a contrast to the cedars, who - one can imagine - rather represent the decline and fall off of the woodland empire. Having grown fat and wealthy they love ease, and wink at the crooked doings of some limb of a cedar until others, finding that nothing happened to the degenerate member of the community, themselves lope off in the wrong direction, and, still others following, soon a considerable part of the neighborhood is craning its neck around a corner, spying on its brethren.
The old expression, "He is a limb", must have been invented by some one well acquainted with such a bunch of cedars as grow on Cedar Neck, for surely the limb of the average tree is as straight and purposeful as could be asked of the best conducted youth.
The aged cedars which dwell along our western borderland may easily be two or three hundred years old. Among them are two curious flat-topped trees, concerning one of which Captain Dias has stated that when a boy, say seventy years ago, he could lie at length on its top, so dense and regular was it. These trees, while most of them are still vigorous, give every indication of great age, and form a most interesting fringe to the domain.
The birds that nest among these branches, or
on the ground hard by - or at least fly over the Neck or paddle around it
according to actual count, not less than seventy-four in variation; for, be it known, no shooting or bird's nesting goes on in this secluded place. The worst enemy of the feathered songster is an occasional black snake or small owl, or stray cat, and their visits are frowned on as much as possible. The following list of birds seen on the place is interesting as showing the great variety:-
GULL'S. - Arctic, Mackerel, Summer (or Tern), Small (or Least Tern).
HERONS. - Night (or Quawk), Little (Fly-up-the-Creek), Blue, Brown.
WEB-FOOTED. - Black Duck, Coot, Sheldrake, Mud Hen, Loon, Dabchick (or Hell Diver).
SHORE BIRDS. - Yellow Legged Snipe, Wilson Snipe, Sandpiper.
FISHERS OF FISH. - King Fisher, Osprey.
LAND BIRDS. - Rusty Black Bird, Red Shouldered Black Bird, Crow Black Bird, Blue Bird, Blue Finch, Snow Bird, Snow Bunting, Indigo Bunting, Yellow Billed Cuckoo, Cedar Waxwing (or Cherry Bird), Bobolink, Meadow Lark, Wilson's Warbler.
SONG BIRDS. - Brown Thrush, Brown Thrasher, Wood Thrush, Hermit Thrush, Veery Thrush, Gold Finch, Summer Yellow Bird, Cat Bird.
ROBINS. - Redbreast, Golden Robin (or Baltimore Oriole), Chemung (or Wood Robin, or Chewink, or Door Stone).
SPARROWS. - Song, Speckled, Red Headed (or Chipping, or Ground), English, Tree, Swamp, Field, Seaside, Sharp Tail.
FLY-CATCHERS. - Mosquito Hawk (or King Bird), Phoebe Bird, Pewee, Least Fly-Catcher.
SWALLOWS. - Barn Swallow, Chimney Swift, Martin.
HAWKS. - Hen Hawk, Sparrow Hawk, Night Hawk
HARD HEADS. - Yellow Hammer (or Flicker), Small Woodpecker, Nut Hatch.
ODDS AND ENDS. - Humming Bird, Brown Owl, Blue Jay, Fish Crow, Quail, Whip-poor-will, Partridge.
The English Sparrow only comes visiting, for
this noiseloving little scrapper prefers the village streets, where there
something doing, to such a sequestered nook as this tree-land; but once in a while he patches up all his family quarrels and, much as a Cherry Hill or Devil's Kitchen gang in New York invades some neighboring precinct - a crowd of the little devils comes flying over. And when he comes he owns the place; the home birds retire with a unanimity that shows great respect for the prowess of the imported fighter.
All day long the ordinary Summer gull is to be heard discussing the fisheries question, and much he roosts on the railing of the bridge, living up to his name, so far as the poor little fish that venture near are concerned, by apparently dozing away the time, but in reality keeping a sharp eye on the watery depths, that, when lunch does come along, he may be prepared to partake thereof. Much the same is to be said of the king fisher, though his watchman's rattle gives constant warning of his presence, to which his quarry pays too little attention for his own good.
The quail and the whip-poor-will are more often heard than seen. So far as known, neither nests on the place, though both come over to call.
Robin redbreast we have with us in great abundance, and he freely voices his opinion of the place, which is evidently more than satisfactory. The brown thrush and the song sparrow feel equally at home, as does many another soft-voiced songster.
There are some forty varieties of the sparrow
in New England, many of which are found on the island, and doubtless many
more than those mentioned help to adorn Cedar Neck. Those which are introduced
by name have been actually identified with the place. The ornithologist
says that the ordinary observer, if he is keen of eye, may possibly distinguish
some fourteen of the forty, but that he is more likely to identify only
about six, so trifling is the difference among the various branches of the
To see a robin balancing himself on the swaying tip of a cedar, the while he is voicing his pleasure at having his lines cast in such pleasant places, is a sight to be remembered, so wholly unconcerned is he over the seemingly precarious footing.
While on the subject of birds, it is interesting to note the heath hen (or, as it is pronounced, "heathen", in one breath). The present inhabitants of Cedar Neck cannot claim to have seen one within its confines, but undoubtedly there was a time when they dwelt here, as elsewhere on the island. Linnaeus, who died in 1774, wrote his description of the prairie hen from a heath hen said to have been killed in Virginia, but there is a decided difference between the two birds. Once the heath hen was so numerous from Cape Ann to Virginia, and so easily killed, that apprentices were wont to stipulate that they should not be compelled to eat heath hen oftener than twice weekly. To-day the only flock of these birds in existence is on the brush and scrub oak plains of Martha's Vineyard, and it is doubtful whether these are pure of blood. It seems that, some time since, Mr. Forbes liberated a large flock of prairie chickens on Naushon, but the following season not one was to be found, and it is thought that they flew across the sound and joined themselves unto their eastern cousins. Several small flocks of prairie chickens have been brought to the Vineyard direct and allowed to run wild, in the hope that they would furnish sport for the gunner. The meat of the heath hen is said to be strong and unpalatable, except in the case of young birds killed in September, and even these require an educated taste.
Ben Luce lives at the water's edge, half way
to the village, and his farm furnished not only milk, but vegetables and
eggs. Ben was the Sampson of our youth, a great, broad chested black smith
with lungs like the bellows of his forge. His voice was like unto the howl
of the storm, strong and penetrating, while his mighty arm and back were
capable of wondrous deeds of strength. Once he was one of a party that went
on the "Iola" to Cape Poge Pond for clams, and in the course of
our gyrations within the shallow waters of the pond the boat ran aground
hard and fast on a sand bar. Not the push of all the party combined could
budge her. The tide was high when we went on, and every minute's delay added
to the tie that bound us to that sand spit. Next high tide was twelve hours
off, and things began to look serious, but now Ben came to the rescue, for
overboard he went, and with his back under the bobstay, an iron bar easily
five-eighths of an inch thick, he swayed up and the boat rose and slid off
into deep water. The stay ever after carried a bend as a reminiscence of
Ben had a limp himself, but it came from a rebel bullet which caught him in the knee in '65. So far as I know he never had to be pushed away from a bar in his life, or, if he did, it put no permanent kink in him. Ben's voice was one of his strong points; the brief reference above hardly does it justice. It had the carrying capacity of a megaphone, and when he bellowed the very hills rocked. As he stood in the door of his blacksmith shop on the Beach road it was his delight to pass the time of day with some one across the harbor, and when he spoke all the village knew his opinion. When Thomas would be busy pumping out the "Iola" Ben's voice would boom over the waves: "Hi, there! Be you a milking of her?"
Mr. Robinson the grocer was another friend of our youth. He kept the usual delectable stock of a country grocery, including fish hooks and candy; he always gave full measure for every penny we had to invest with him, and many a one we passed over his counter for the small odds and ends that were necessary to our boyish comfort. The way he measured out fishline amounted to a positive virtue. Fishline he sold by the fathom and the swing of his two arms was supposed to represent the measure, but he was a large man and long armed, and the way in which he threw his hands far apart and then added a little for good measure always warmed our young hearts.
In the good old days the coasting trade was handled almost exclusively by schooners, and all of it went through Vineyard Sound a great fleet daily. Thus every shift of wind meant a filling up of the harbor with vessels that wished to go the other way, and thought it well to wait for a favoring breeze, and as we looked down on all their riding lights at night it seemed like a city spread out below. Methods of transportation have changed during the past thirty years, and the picturesque sailing craft are steadily disappearing. Strings of barges are now more frequent and the sails less so, though occasionally even now a long continued head wind will temporarily bring back the old times, when one can stand at an upper window and look down on the black shadows that represent so many cedars, and beyond to the ghostly uncertainty of the few sails left hoisted all night, while the lights of the floating city wink at each other with all the abandon of youth.
One of the beautiful spots of the Neck is the
landing half way down the bridge stairs. There one can sit and watch the
vessels come and go through the gnarled and twisted branches of the old
cedars, the frame well worthy of the picture. Now and then some family will
troop out on the bridge and settle down for an afternoon's fishing, and
we can hear the exclamations of astonishment when a grunter is hauled to
the surface, and the discussion that ensues as to the best way of getting
back the hook, for the grunter has a way of swallowing the hook that is
anything but pleasing to the fisherman, he being built on the lines of a
right-angle triangle, one side of which is mouth, so that naturally his
receptivity is considerable, and there never yet was the fisherman bold
enough to put his fingers in that mouth, no matter how much he wanted his
hook back. The usual result was that the poor fish was hari-karied in a
most scandalous manner.
The sounds that come to this seat of the dreamer when a gentle air from the west plays upon it are many. The voices of the birds in the trees and the cries of the feathered fishermen mingle with the calls from the vessels or the laughter of a party on the Beach road; even the roar of the trolley is turned to music, and a dreamy sensuousness gradually steals over the lazy human who makes this his resting place until his ears are filled with a happy somnolent buzz that makes of the afternoon but a moment.
The latest member of our navy was a father-built
punt, the "Cunner", built in our own shipyard on the Neck, in
July, 1907, and designed especially for a still younger generation than
that represented by the little boys; in fact, one of the little boys was
designer and chief constructor but he was compelled by other duties to leave
before the vessel was quite ready for the water. The designer had paid especial
attention to lightness and the chief constructor to strength and stability,
and working in harmony they had produced a stiff little eight-foot runabout
that it was impossible to upset.
The day of the launching dawned bright and clear, the sun arose in cloudless sky where it remained all the morning, a gentle breeze piped to the dancing of the wavelets, and about l0 o'clock the spectators began to assemble. There was Grandma in her wheeled chair at the edge of the bank, flanked by Mother and Miss Fisher, while on the stairs of the boathouse were ensconced Aunts Jenny and Sue with baby; above were Maude and Bessie and Mrs. Schraeder, with Maurice down on the beach to lend a hand. Uncle Gib acted as chief shover-in, while the maker of the celebrated Helen Hine Corn Bread (for whom the vessel was especially designed and constructed) stood in the stern and christened the "Cunner" as she slid into the waves. Then adjusting herself to the propelling power she gave an exhibition of rowing that Grandma thought was wonderful, while some pictures of the occasion were taken for posterity, and so ended the most instant event of the day on Cedar Neck.
The clearing up of a fog is always an interesting
process. The West Chop foghorn has been mooing all night long at regular
intervals, and when the sleeper arises and leans out of the window for to
see what he can see, he finds Gull Point just visible, and even as he looks
a gull silently wings itself into sight from nowhere and shortly disappears
into nothingness on the other side. The bridge comes to gradual dissolution
without one's being able to tell just where is the final point at which
it is swallowed up, while not even the ghost of the Beach road is visible.
The bird attendance at matins is slim and the chorus weak, not round and
full as in brighter times.
Suddenly a horse's hoofs are heard 'ammer, 'ammer, 'ammering on the 'ard `ighway, and a glance in the direction of the Beach road shows that strip of sand and concrete just visible, and the gazer says: "Ah! the fog is lifting." That is, he thinks he says it, but fact is he is as quiet as the rest of nature. Now he is attracted by the cries of the gulls down on the point, and when his head turns again the Beach road is swallowed up and he thinks he says: "Well! not yet", and pulls his head in, purposing to get into his clothes, to find that while he has been sleeping the dampness has come in at the windows and laid a clammy hand on those which he first puts on; but on they must, so he shivers into them.
The fog-bespangled spider webs have been hanging limp and heavy on the cedars under the window, but suddenly they begin to jump, the air is stirring, and a glance shows that the Beach road has been born again, but still the village is wrapped in mystery and the constant coughing, of a small power boat is all there is to indicate life in the harbor.
All the atmosphere is full of a bright light, and the sudden impression is that the sun is shining; but no, on the contrary, the Beach road has again vanished and things are once more dull. However the wind is beginning to wave the curtain of the fog, and soon will be tearing its flimsy substance to pieces, and the foghorn can go to rest the signs all say so. And, sure enough, the fog begins to peel from the surface of the water and an unknown hull appears, and then another and another, though the topmasts are still out of sight. But, once started, the transformation is so rapid that the day is normal almost before the lookers-on can realize it.
An incident connected with the early days, and concerning an oystering expedition in the dark of the moon, which ended fatally for one of the party, is recorded because it was our skiff that was used. It seems that the village barber (colored) and some friend came over after dark and borrowed the boat without the formality of asking for it, and started for the head of the Lagoon for oysters, which were also to be borrowed informally. Everything went as planned until the return trip, when the heavily laden boat was rowed squarely into Robin's Rock, which protrudes from the water up Oklahoma way. The boat was upset and both men thrown into the water. The barber could swim, and managed to work the boat into shallow water with his friend still clinging to it, but the exertion was too much for him, and he died on the beach shortly after landing.
The East Chop lighthouse appears to have been started as a private enterprise by Silas Daggett, who secured small subscriptions from the several steamship lines passing through the sound, and also from such sailing vessels as entered the harbor, the pro prietor visiting each and explaining the situation. The response seems to have been almost universal, as the lighthouse was needed, and when the government bought him out its proprietor is said to have retired with quite a snug sum. During the Daggett regime the lighthouse was burned out once, but immediately rebuilt. This item seems pertinent to the history of Cedar Neck, as for thirty-four years the red eye of that East Chop Cyclops has been winking in our direction.
Every one knows that years ago the fishing in
the Lagoon was something to talk of, and as a specimen of how they talk,
the following experience of George Hillman will give an idea:-
George says that one morning, bright and early, he sailed through the entrance into the pond this before there was any bridge on Beach road. The wind was so light that it hardly kept his hook off the bottom (he was trolling). Several times the hook got fast in the weeds, but finally it caught in something so solid that he was compelled to pull the boat back to get loose. His line being light, care was exercised to save the important end of it. Finally George discovered that he was fast to a monster fish of some sort. So far as I can judge from the tale as it was given to me, the fish must, on getting hooked, have wrapped his tail about some heavy stone or bunch of tough weed; else how that solid connection which at first deceived the fisherman?
Well, when he was hauled up short, the fish seems to have let go the bottom and started an independent towing company, for George was given a ride of a half mile or more at the expense of that fish before he could finally haul alongside, but he did after much strenuous effort, and landed his prize in the bottom of the boat, for this is one of those wonderful times when the big fish did not get away. The catch proved to be a 24-pound bass, and George got $2.00 for that fish, which was quite some money in those days for one fish.
Thomas says the "Iola" was the - well,
I guess I will not quote Thomas verbatim - but, any way, she was a death-trap
as was never before sold to an unsuspecting boy. However, he had that to
learn, as he also did later that all the boatmen hereabouts were looking
forward to a grand funeral in the early future, but the good spirit that
watches over boys saved the day.
Thomas, as became a true yachtsman, joined a yacht club, and as there was none such on the Vineyard, it must be one nearer the Jersey home, and consequently the "Iola" must needs traipse back and forth between the two places. Now, on a certain trip to the westward in those early days Philander West went along, as he was an old boatman, and accounted able, and Thomas still something green.
About the time the "Iola" left West Chop the wind began to breeze up from the southwest, and Philander, after a knockdown or two, thought a reef would be acceptable, so the boat was luffed up and the reef put in, but soon there came another puff and Philander, accustomed to the able boats of the harbor, did not know what to make of the weak way in which the "Iola" lay down, and suggested another reef, which was duly tied in. But even with this Philander did not seem to get the hang of the thing, and when Thomas, who had spent three years or more nursing the cranky female, said, "Well, Philander, I guess that I had better take the tiller", the able seaman gave it up with alacrity, remarking as he did so: "By G--! If you can sail this blankety-blank: thing you can sail anything that ever floated." Philander seems to have used all sorts of language when he got excited.
The writer remembers a little trip in August,
1884, which, as it turned out, got no further than Tarpaulin Cove. Ned was
skipper that time, while the writer and Uncle Frank went along to help eat
the grub. Uncle Frank was from the prairies of Illinois, and knew just as
little about a boat as a reasonably intelligent man could know, but he was
glad to go on such an interesting trip as the one in hand promised to be,
and after the boat was thoroughly provisioned we put out. It must have been
in the afternoon, for we only made Wood's Hole that night.
The next morning we awoke to find the world obliterated and everything in the cabin about as damp as a very wet fog could make it. Only some one who has been on a boat under such circumstances can begin to appreciate the situation. Those who have not had the experience should ask Uncle Frank. The fog was one of the kind that attend strictly to business, and it was 11 o'clock or so before it let go its hold; but finally the sun and the wind joined forces and the curtain began to lift.
Out in the sound the water stood up in chunks everywhere and the poor "Iola" slapped and pounded and jumped until she parted her headstay, and that gave Ned a nice, delicate job to get things taut once more before the mast jumped out, but he did it, and that day we got so far as Tarpaulin Cove, and Uncle Frank was glad - more than glad. He was weary, and his stomach refused to be comforted.
That night Uncle Frank turned in without paying much attention to detail, but he was up next morning rather early - said he got up to rest - and while he was outside we investigated and found he had been sleeping on a pair of heavy shoes and a tin horn. I might mention on the side that the second night was also foggy and likewise damp, and we were all of us a bit moody next morning, so when the fog lifted and we could see how attractive West Chop looked it only needed the suggestion from some one brave enough to say what he really felt, when we all gladly put for home. As I recollect it, Ned came to the rescue with a poor opinion of the weather that enabled us to hold up our heads as we approached the cottage.
It seems that the fogs were originally caused by an Indian giant, one Maushope, who filled his pipe one fine day with hellebore and smoked so furiously that he made the fogs which disrupted our little trip. Hellebore must make a very wet smoke.
When we first came to the Neck there were still
fish in the Lagoon waiting for the broiler and the frying pan, and we thought
it would be but ordinary courtesy to help them to their chief end. But fish
are too cold blooded to appreciate a kindness, and we soon found that the
bluefish, for whose especial accommodation we had been to the expense of
securing a net, and had with much trouble placed it directly in their way,
had deliberately eloped with it; for while we were entirely willing they
should use it, we did not give it to them - never thought of such a thing.
At least such has always been the theory. We have no wish to do any bluefish
an injustice, much less a near neighbor. They are all good fellows in the
main, and I never met saw one who was too fresh to be an agreeable companion
at dinner, and if by chance it was a "Portugee" who got that net
we will apologize to the blue here and now.
Then Grandfather had a seine which he would occasionally draw, but as a general thing that was all he did draw, and the monotony of it was so depressing that the seine reeled home after several such experiences and gave it up.
Along back in '75, '6, '7 and '8, or thereabouts,
Cedar Neck boasted its own band. Possibly we speak unadvisedly when we say
boasted; there may be some who would suggest roasted as a better term, but,
any way, it had a band - not the kind that binds - far from it. Father led
with the flute, then came Thomas who, like the sister of Johnny Morgan in
the song, played the drum; Charlie Van had the organ all to himself and
John rattled the bones as only John could. Take it all in all, they made
quite a noise. It must have sounded rather pleasant from the Beach road
or West Chop. It would, of course, depend largely on the wind and how one
Naturally when Father was not there the band, having but three legs, was inclined to limp a bit, and equally, of course, Sunday nights it could not even limp with propriety. Then would Charlie sit down to the organ and play with slow and solemn movement some such secular piece as "Yankee Doodle", or "Johnny, Get Your Gun", while the Mother censor, whose ear is quite as defective as was ever that of Charles Lamb, would listen and approve, the speed of the thing being her method of judging music.
On August 11, 1883, Saturday night, a fire which
started in the Crocker harness shop, swept the main street of the village
clear as far as Beach Street. All the picturesque little stores that had
grown along its margin and the great trees under whose sheltering shade
they nestled went down before the onslaught.
As mother and Ned remember it, the family was attending an Oak Bluffs concert when a man suddenly appeared at the door of the hall with a wild cry of fire that brought the audience instantly to its feet. The family quickly bundled into the carriage, and behind old Ben started over the sandy roads toward home, fearing it knew not what, for the lighted sky told only of disaster and gave no clue to the losers. At first it seemed as though it must be the cottage on Cedar Neck, but a final turn in the road showed where the fire really was and what ravage was being committed.
Of course every one went to help. There was no thought at first that the blaze would carry the length of the street, but while those less exposed were helping neighbors in immediate danger the fiend fell on the homes of the rescuers, spreading until the entire street was doomed, for nothing could save now until destruction was carried to the open fields; the very air was on fire. Little could be done to help except to carry the saved goods beyond the possible reach of danger and to house the homeless, and Cedar Neck tried to do its share. The Looks and their retainers fell to us, and that night the house and boathouse slept twenty persons.
The fire was an unfortunate happening for Vineyard Haven in many ways. Fifty-seven buildings were destroyed, many of them dwellings with their accumulations of personal belongings that mean so much to the owner and so little to the insurance adjuster - keepsakes from China or other foreign shores, brought by the father or grandfather or some more remote ancestor, or whose history reached back to the time of the Revolution. The major's sword or the private's musket, all now a heap of crust and scrap. But one of the misfortunes that appeals strongly to the writer is the loss of the picturesque, all of which was cut out of the heart of our beautiful village never to return, for the attraction of such a place comes only as an accumulation of years, an unconscious accretion without effort. The buildings were mostly small and simple, but humanity had been going in and out of those doors for generations and each generation had left its mark.
Mr. Charles Gifford is another pleasant memory of our youth. He it was who built the first skiff we owned, and whose boat shop by the marine railway was an ever present source of pleasure in times of vacation. The harbor waves rippled on the beach at his door, and always were there boats in the making or repairing. One day there wandered into his shop a couple of young men who found the boat builder down on his back doing a bit of calking. Now Mr. Gifford was possessed of a beard that was of some length, and the strange young visitors immediately became fascinated with the thought that next time he would surely calk his whiskers into the seam, and soon they were laying bets, and it is said they stayed a goodly part of the day in the firm conviction that it must happen soon, but Mr. Gifford still wears his whiskers, for he had been there many a time before.
Captain Buckley needs no other recommendation to us than that he was the father of Will, a friend we shall never forget, but the Captain had other good points to recommend him. Once when Philander West put down a mooring for the "Iola" he forgot to put any parcelling on the mooring line, and consequently when the next N. E. gale drove down the harbor the "Iola" chafed through, and the poor thing piled up on the shore, and here is where Captain Buckley, Ben Luce and others of large heart came in. The Captain would walk into the water to his neck with his clothes on and make nothing of it if a neighbor needed help.
When the "Iola" got into any really
serious trouble it was almost always the doings of some one on whose experience
and judgment we could rely implicitly, as witness the following:-
During a certain nice little southwesterly breeze Charlie Van, Smith Carter and Tom came up the harbor and dropped anchor just to the northeast of Bradley's wharf and close in shore. While at the dinner table the front door was heard to slam, and upon looking out the mariners found that the wind had shifted to the "no'theast", which placed the "Iola" right to the windward of the wharf, where lay a small freight schooner, the "Frolic", Captain Dillingham, master. As we stood on the veranda it was noticed that our boat was slowly dragging her anchor, and all hotfooted it across the bridge.
While the youngsters stood looking and wondering just what move to make first, Captain Dillingham came over and kindly offered to get us out of the scrape, and all immediately adjourned to the drifting boat. The Captain taking charge, ordered the sails up and the cable slipped, but he forgot the centreboard, as did the excited yachtsmen, and when we paid off on the starboard tack the pride of our hearts slid sideways instead of forging ahead, and as the wind was strong and she had too much sail on, the noble Captain could do nothing with her, and down she slid until the middle of the mainsail caught on the "Frolic's" bowsprit, the jib pulled her head around and the sail split from top to bottom. The boom doubled up with a crash and a splinter put Smith Carter out of commission, and there we were, wrecked under the forechains of the "Frolic". It is quite likely that our deep water skipper was not used to a skimming dish with a centreboard.
The weed which grows just outside of low water mark to a large extent destroyed the pleasure of bathing, and Father came forward with the suggestion to scratch up the stuff by the roots by means of a heavily weighted harrow, a long line and George Hillman's horse. Plan worked pretty well, but the weed being tirelessly industrious and needing constant attention finally won out and the harrowing process was abandoned. This was so long ago as the Summer of 1884.
In July, 1892, the Caper Club made its headquarters
on the Neck, the girls occupying the cottage and the boys the boathouse.
The Caper Club was a sudden inspiration of the year before, which proved so entirely satisfying that its members voted to try it again, and that is how the Neck came to be honored. Anna chaperoned the crowd, which consisted of a Phillips-Blake-Cory- Mead-Skinner-Jackson-Hine combination that was thoroughly satisfied with itself. It boated and walked and excursioned all over the island and its inner waters, tripped it to Nantucket, Gay Head and South Beach, got hungry three times a day and ate as often, and made things generally pleasant for itself.
The club was a very good institution so long as it lasted, but the members soon began to marry each other or some one else, and that broke it up so completely that two such trips were all that could be accomplished.
November 28, 1898, the greatest storm of the
century broke on the Vineyard. The harbor was strewn with wrecks and a few
lives were lost, the small death rate being due largely to the cool bravery
of Isaac C. Norton, Alvin H. Cleveland, Frank Golart, Stanley Fisher and
F. Horton Johnson. With "Ike" Norton as captain the first three
mentioned put out in a dory from the boathouse of Walter Luce and took five
men from the schooner "Hamilton", which had gone on the flat near
the new breakwater; coming down before the wind they managed to make the
shore near the marine railway, where the rescued sailors were taken into
Chadwick's shop and resuscitated alongside of his red-hot stove.
The schooner "Thurlow" went ashore near the old Norris wharf, and those on the beach could see a man lashed in the rigging, and again the dory was launched, this time being towed to the windward of the wreck by a tug and cast off. This time the crew consisted of Isaac C. Norton (captain), Stanley Fisher, F. Horton Johnson and Alvin H. Cleveland. The man in the rigging was dead from exposure, but the remaining five men on the vessel were landed safely. [Above is the combined recollection of Chadwick, Capt. Ben Cromwell, Frank Golart and Charles Benson.] A third time the dory put out from shore, and this time against the judgment of all those present, and after a fearful struggle against wind and sea, saved five more men from almost certain death, the crew of the dory this time consisting of Isaac C. Norton, Alvin H. Cleveland and Frank Golart. Such superb bravery and magnificent endurance as was shown by these men have seldom been surpassed. As one drives along the Beach Road of a pleasant Summer's day it is impossible to realize what they faced; no ordinary man, even had he been willing, could have undertaken such an enterprise. Some fifty vessels were driven ashore, went to the bottom or were badly damaged.
The cottage on the Neck was as badly wrecked as the worst conditioned schooner in the harbor. The time had come when new supports for the building were necessary, and George Hillman had taken away the siding below the veranda which, at the northeast corner, from whence came the storm, was eight feet above the ground. This gave the wind ample opportunity to get under the house and lift, the result being much the same as when Ben Luce once got under the bobstay of the "Iola" and slid her off into deep water. The house slid off of the foundation which George had just finished, and when the wind was through it was a sight to behold, "nail- sick", as George called it. The building was twisted as one might twist a splint strawberry box, boards were split from end to end, nails started everywhere, part of the roof completely ripped off and, but for the cedars against which the building lodged, it would in all probability have been flat on the ground.
The flag pole was blown down, and lay pointing toward the house, while the house was blown almost toward the flag pole. It looked as though the Neck might have been the centre of a cyclone.
The cottage was beyond repair, and there was nothing for it but to build anew. A site further along on the bluff was selected. Walter T. Owen of pleasant memory made plans for the new habitation, which was ready for use the Summer following the storm. This time we are founded on a rock, or a series of them, for the stone piers on which the house stands are built around iron rods, to which the framework was bolted, and it does seem as though even the greatest storm of the century could hardly give us another such lift.
Receipt for the celebrated Helen Hine (aged
nine) Corn Bread:-
Two eggs well beaten, two tablespoonfuls of sugar, one tablespoonful of melted butter, one teaspoonful of salt, one and one-half cups of sweet milk, one cup of corn meal and one and one-half cups of flour; two teaspoonfuls of baking powder (mix with flour); bake in thin pans.
Thus doth the one-time food of the Indian become as ambrosia.
Receipt for Cedar Neck Huckleberry Pudding:
One pint of bread crumbs, two cups of huckleberries, one cup of milk, one-half teaspoonful of salt. Steam two hours.
Serve with hard sauce.
It does not sound like much to read, but is the swellest combination that the Huckleberry family ever got into.