OgkeshKuppe (the wet or damp woods) was the name the original people gave Oak Bluffs, whose original settlement was in the Farm Neck/Eastville area. The first white man living in Oak Bluffs was Joseph Daggett, whose father came to the Island with the revered Mayhews. Joseph married the sachem (chief) of Sanchakantackett’s (Sengekontacket) beautiful daughter Ahoma, often called the Pocahontas of Martha’s Vineyard. The lucky Joseph received the land of Oak Bluffs as a dowry and he lived there until 1673, when he moved to West Tisbury. The Norton family ultimately acquired the land.
Two notable characters back then were “Uncle” Ichabod Norton and his servant, John Harry Monus John Peter Tobirus Peter Toskirus Peter Tubal Cain, or Old Harry for short. Old Harry is buried in Norton’s Cemetery in Waterview Farms near Pulpit Rock — although there is no marked stone for Old Harry as was the custom for the original people and servants. Uncle Ichabod was very wealthy and referred to as the “Bank of Edgartown.”
After a man’s horse died, his petition to Uncle Ichabod for help read, “The Almighty having seen fit to take from this poor man his only beast of burden, we the undersigned are willing to help him secure another.” Ichabod refused, because if God decided to take more horses, his entire fortune wouldn’t be enough. The man persevered, so Ichabod’s response was: “Seeing that you and the Almighty have been in communication and have come to some understanding, I will help you this time.” He gave the man $5.
I enjoy imagining Old Harry — who deserted a ship anchored in Vineyard Haven in 1790 — insisting to his “betters” that he be referred to by his whole name. Apparently well-educated, although never divulging his background, he was sent on an errand and delivered the message: “My mistresses, the Miss Lydia and Miss Martha Norton, send their respects to their cousin Mrs. Rebecca Norton and family, and hope that they find themselves well, and that they can easily lend a little pepper.” After years of service to the Nortons, he received a single silver dollar, which he wore around his neck until his death in 1845. I like to stop by Norton Cemetery for a wave and a smile for Old Harry — a genius, escaped from slavery, paid to live free and die on Martha’s Vineyard.
There are several possible “Pulpit Rocks.” I like the one in Norton cemetery as it resembles a pulpit, but the historical significance is that the rock was where Thomas Mayhew Jr. became the first to proselytize one of the original people in convincing native born Hiacoomes to become Christian, earning Oak Bluffs a hallowed place in the history of colonialism.
Bettye Baker entreated all to “open their gifts” in this column — one of those gifts is the land bank’s Pecoy Point Preserve at the end of Pulpit Rock Road off of County Road. Pecoy Point has many Vineyard attributes: interesting history, a great walking trail, access to Sengekontacket for shellfish (a sign says you’re not supposed to), boating and kayaking, birding, picking fruit (seasonally: crab apples, pears, beach plums, wild grapes, wine berries — the ones that fall, staining streets and sidewalks). It’s easy to find and has parking. Well, “easy to find” and “parking” are more Vineyard dreams than attributes, but Pecoy Point is worth adding to your Vineyard summer 2012 bucket list.
Oak Bluffs was the fastest growing Island town in the 2010 U.S. census, with 22 per cent more folks than in 2000. I was conversing with our family neighbor Johanna Roses, who has been summering in the Cottage City Historic District for 53 years (so far!) and now resides here from May through October after retiring from teaching — something more people are doing and that perhaps is a reason for the population boom. Johanna figured it out; she works part time at Boston College and also spends time traveling, recently to Kenya, Morocco and Turkey.
Warm remembrances of times gone by when, last week, two of four remaining sisters, by choice and by heart, rejoined to celebrate the life of one, Penny Norris, on Friday, July 6 at the Tabernacle’s Trinity Church. Friends since Camp Atwater in 1938-1939, Oak Bluffs’s Emily Robertson hosted Willadine Bain of Philadelphia for another reunion, which the four have shared since college in 1943 at Howard University. It was there that Penny and the also departed sister Walladette Lynch met and married college sweethearts. Penny, the ebullient romantic; Walladette, the youngest, brilliant and beautiful; Willadine, cool, calm and collected, and Emily, blessed with all of the preceding, have shared love and laughter now for 68 years. I’ve called her Aunt Emily for over 50, she having met and married her childhood sweetheart, Buddy Robertson (also deceased), who was her first and last — but not only — boyfriend, as she told granddaughters Ava and Erin Goldson, who were visiting last weekend. Condolences to Penny Norris’s daughter, Pam, and her family of blood and choice — and welcome to the year-round Oak Bluffs population boom.
The annual Oak Bluffs Public Library book sale starts at 10 a.m. each Thursday through Saturday at the Oak Bluffs Library to raise funds for programs and services.
The 29th annual Cottager’s House Tour is Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (tickets are available at C’est La Vie and Cousen Rose) and features a tour through the neighborhood and gardens of the Highlands, where Shearer Cottage is located and is celebrating its 100th anniversary, highlighted in Shelley Christiansen’s great article in this month’s Martha’s Vineyard Magazine. Contributions of $20 benefit Island charities. Thanks to Anne Stewart for the info.
Note to the land bank: Pecoy Point Preserve could use a trim.
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Keep your foot on a rock.