From a Gazette edition of 1929:

Hundreds of Vineyard Indians went to sea in the days of whaling and the story has never been told of one who failed to make good. The names of many who have long since passed on are still remembered for their deeds afloat, and there are still a number living who distinguished themselves at sea. But among whalemen the name Mingo stands out prominently in the list of Indian sailors. For two generations of the family helped to make whaling history, and the last of the name is still living, a hale and hearty representative of the old Christiantown tribe, the last of them to leave the village at the end of the Dancing Field. This is Samuel George Mingo, best known to all as “Sammy George.”

It was on the land of Christiantown, originally consisting of three farms, that Mr. Mingo was born, and here he spent his boyhood. The Indian families lived on the long hilltop, their houses grouped closely together with the farmlands stretching away on all sides. Orchards, pastures and meadows, cultivated fields and woodlots were fenced with stone walls. To the south of the village stood their meeting house with the tribal burying ground beside it. Here the entire population gathered for services. In direct contrast to this, to the north of the village was the Dancing Field, where before the days of the white men they had gathered to dance and practice the rites of their religion.

At the age of sixteen years Mr. Mingo left home to follow the sea, shipping for an Atlantic Ocean whaling voyage with Capt. Stephen Flanders of Chilmark. The captain was a shrewd judge of men: young Mingo was made a boatsteerer when but 16 months at sea. By the time he returned from this voyage he had established a reputation for himself that gained him the offer of a mate’s berth on the barque California out of New Bedford. “Some of the old women who owned shares in the ship” objected to his sailing as a mate because of his youth. The captain asked him to take a lower rating to avoid friction with the owners, and offered him the same lay if he would sail as a second mate. Mingo agreed and sailed in that capacity, but when the mate left the ship after the Pacific was reached, Mingo was promoted to his berth and held it to the end of a 53 month voyage in the southern ocean, during which time the ship took 5,000 barrels of oil.

On his first voyage to the Arctic Ocean he was taken sick and sent home from the Sandwich Islands. However, he started again from San Francisco and on that voyage he stayed two winters aboard the steam whaler Grampus. From then on he sailed into the Arctic Ocean on all his voyages. In all, his whaling covered 23 consecutive years and in all that time he was never wrecked, nor had any serious mishap befall him. “We used to have pretty good times up there,” he says, “when five or six ships were frozen in close together, and laid there for months.”

It was while he was on one of his Arctic voyages that his first wife died and the shock and grief caused him to give up the sea. Back on the little farm in Christiantown he went to work on the land and did some heavy teaming, for he had always been a good horseman. He also worked on the estate of William M. Butler and finally moved with his present wife to an Oak Bluffs home. Here he lives, working most of the time, for he is still a rugged man. Although he has a cheerful disposition, his face wears the characteristic look of sorrow that is common to all Indians the country over.

There is apparent in his demeanor the effect of ancient religious teaching. He speaks in a moderate tone of voice, and he is particular to observe the fundamental rules of courtesy toward a guest. He does not use profanity but employs expressions of speech that are reminiscent of the old Quaker farmers.

Willing at all times to answer questions, he does not care to tell stories. One gathers that he could tell plenty of stories if he chose, but it is necessary to read between the lines to picture Sam Mingo as mate of a ship. “Swearing at men is poor policy. Plenty of officers did it, but it never got them anything but the emnity of the man they swore at. I never had any trouble with my crews.

“Dangers, adventures? Yes, I suppose so, but I always forgot about them. There are plenty of story tellers who like it, but I was never one to spin yarns.”

Simple statements from a man of simple ways, but who has always been famous for his courage.

Compiled by Cynthia Meisner