From a Visitor’s Diary in 1872:
The diary of a visitor to Oak Bluffs in 1872 gives not only a record of what summer visitors sought and found but also invites many contrasts with the present. Here are reproduced segments of the diary written by Henrietta R. Hawes, and her comments have preserved more than a little of her personality.
Friday: Mother said we must try and leave our “worry poles” at home and have a good time while we were away. Friday morning it was bright and clear. The stage was late so we had no time to lose. Mr. Morse hurried his horses and we reached Foxboro just in time to catch the train. We had to take the New Bedford cars at Mansfield. After two hours in the hot dusty cars we reached New Bedford and from there we took the steamer “Monohansett” for Martha’s Vineyard.
It was cool and delightful on the water and we enjoyed that part of the journey very much until the lugubrious looks of some of our fellow passengers made us feel rather squeamish. Those disagreeable feelings soon disappeared however when we came in sight of our landing place.
Our rooms at the “Sea View House” are very pleasant and look out toward the ocean. After we had our supper we went to the Camp Ground. I never went to a camp meeting before and everything was so different from what I had expected. The little cottages which I had heard so much about were far prettier and more homelike than I had imagined.
The preaching had begun. We heard three of the Methodist brethren speak. They were all very earnest in urging sinners to come to Jesus now. Quite a number went forward who desired prayers while all united in singing. The ministers would encourage people to come forward and call out in the midst of the singing “That’s right, sister, come along,” or “Come, brother.” One called out, “If there is any brother here of the colored persuasion, let him not be afraid to come, salvation is free to all.”
Saturday: We went to the Camp Ground again, and the preaching had begun. After the singing an old woman spoke to one of the ladies who had been singing and said, “Do you love the Lord Jesus?” She said, “Yes, I do, sister.” An old colored woman spoke and said, “I hope I’ll meet you in heaven.” “I hope so, sister,” was the reply. “I’ll shake hands with you!”
I heard others saying what a blessed meeting this has been and one of the ministers said, “If the angels have any better singing than we have had here, they must have a pretty good time, I guess.”
After supper we were off for the camp again. Gen. Burnside was at the meeting; he and his wife came to the hotel this evening. I liked the prayers, they seemed so earnest and the people begged so hard for what they wanted. Some would swing themselves to and fro while kneeling and moan and groan and shout “Amen” or “Come Lord” or “Bless the Lord.”
The minister asked if some sister would pray and there were two who did. One prayed very well, but the other became very noisey, so another hymn was given out and they began to sing before she had finished. When they become too noisy the minister cries out “steady, steady faith.”
We came back and sat on the piazza until we had seen the moon rise out of the water. We were wicked and laughed about the camp meeting. We tried not to laugh while there, but when we got back we could not help laughing at some of the funny things that had been said.
Sunday: It doesn’t seem a bit like Sunday today. All of our party have gone again to the camp, but I felt too tired to go and have seated myself by the window. It is a beautiful day and the water is so calm there’s hardly a wave to be seen. Several parties have gone out sailing and three large steamers have brought a great crowd to the Vineyard. The water seems spotted with sails and boats and the piazzas are filled with people watching the sea.
Monday: We left in the “Martha’s Vineyard” for New Bedford. I should not care to stay very long at the Vineyard, but a week or ten days I could spend very pleasantly there. What we saw and heard and the pleasant time we had with friends during those few days we were there will not soon be forgotten.
Compiled by Cynthia Meisner