From the Vineyard Gazette editions of June, 1933:
For many Island visitors. the greatest charm lies in the search for Indian relics and prospecting about the tribal places in search of traces of habitations, graves and other signs of ancient Indian life. Christiantown and Indian Hill offer much of this variety of interest, as the last Indian holding in the down-Island section of the Vineyard.
Indian Hill Road is a narrow dirt track. The remnant of an old Indian trail, it winds through the woods, bounded here and there with the curiously twisted trees peculiar to this section of the Island, where a dearth of field stone caused early settlers to construct fences from green trees by chopping them partly through and allowing the trunks to fall in a line along the boundaries of their fields. Many of the trees were not killed by this treatment, but remain, twisted into fantastic shapes to mark the former margins of cultivated lands.
It is a rough and rocky trail, though not dangerously so, and is frequently used by autos of all descriptions. There is little to see until the site of the Indian chapel is reached, and this point marks the probable center of the ancient Indian population.
Here, in a small clearing, beneath oaks of a great age, stands a tiny frame building no larger than a fair-sized chicken-coop. It is entirely barren of any sort of ornamentation. The shingles are comparatively new, having been placed there a few years ago by a patriotic society which could not bear to see this ancient landmark fall to decay. By peering through the windows one may see the plain old-fashioned pews and preacher’s desk where people of generations past gathered to worship. Plain, barren and severe, it has endured the passage of time, as the faith has endured through the centuries, for the progress of Christianity among the Island Indians never halted and none are more devout today than the members of the older stock.
Across the narrow road from the chapel lies the Christiantown burying ground where many generations of Indians lie. No one knows how old this burying ground may be, for Indians occupied this territory generations before the coming of the white man and may have buried their dead here or near at hand in those years. There are scores of graves there that are easily identified as those of the Praying Indians, as this tribe was called, from the markers set up at head and foot after the fashion of the whites.
Exploration of the road from this point should not be attempted without resort to the military tactics of reconnaissance. It may be passable to cars for a distance, or it may not. In any event, it is passable to pedestrians, and winds among what were once cultivated fields and orchards, with dwelling sites in between; gaping cellar holes filled with earth and wild growth, trees and brush overgrowing most of the fields, scores of fruit trees, still bearing luscious apples, pears and quinces, in season, but hidden in such dense thickets that only the woodcock can find them. Far over to the north, in the direction of the sea, are the last few houses, vacant now, that mark the last stand of the Praying Indians.
There is desolation in this scene, the remnants of what was a popular community. True, the houses were small and plain, the fields yielded a meagre living for the people who lived there, feeding their cattle, sheep and themselves. Their actual money came from the sea that rolls below the towering hill that old people still call the Dancing Field.
It was upon this hilltop that the tribe assembled for their ceremonies and councils. It was here that they danced by firelight and moonlight in the days before white men’s ships sailed into Vineyard Sound. Careful search of the nearby locality will reveal more graves, and these are of the ancient type, containing, without a doubt, the ashes and implements of warriors of the old, old clan.
Compiled by Cynthia Meisner