Moving to Maine

From the Vineyard Gazette editions of 1933:

Who on Martha’s Vineyard has paid a visit to New Vineyard, Maine? Who, among the many thousands journeying to the Island every year and taking an interest in its scene, its history and its people, knows that there is a place named New Vineyard and that it was settled by emigrants from the Island long ago and named in honor of Martha’s Vineyard?

The practice of naming newly settled places after the former homes of the settlers has been a common one, but in almost every instance an old name has been brought across the ocean to a new. Places in America have been named after old homes in England. But here is an instance in which a name has been taken across only a little salt water. The questions with which this story begins do not imply complete unfamiliarity on the Island with the town of New Vineyard. Visits are exchanged between the two places, and family reunions — of the Look family particularly — draw representatives from both. Yet there is no doubt that many Islanders and Island visitors know nothing about New Vineyard.

The town of New Vineyard is near Farmington. It stands upon land purchased from the state of Maine by an association of individuals from Martha’s Vineyard, together with one Jonathan Knowlton of Farmington, who acted as their agent. The land was surveyed and divided by lot. On Feb. 22, 1802, it was incorporated, but Daniel Collins and Abner Norton had moved their families into the town as early as 1791, and in 1792 the first crops were raised. The reasons for the selection of this spot and the removal of this group of Vineyarders are not on record, so far as is known.

The settlers were Samuel Daggett, Jonathan Merry, James Manter, Ephraim Butler, John Spencer. Cornelius Norton, David Davis, John Daggett, Benjamin Benson, Joseph Smith, Henry Butler, Herbert Boardman, Charles Luce, Henry Norton, William Farrand, Seth Hillman, Ezra Winslow and Calvin Burden. Could there be a more characteristic list of Island names? The name of Mayhew does not appear, but Zaccheus Mayhew bought property at Farmington in 1791 and built a large house the following year. This Mayhew connection may be considered to supply the missing essential.

There are other links between the Vineyard and Farmington area. One which may be mentioned now was the visit in 1794 of Parson Thaxter, more formally the Rev. Joseph Thaxter of Edgartown, to explore the valley of the Sandy River and distribute books to the inhabitants.

A Vineyard Gazette subscriber living in New Vineyard, Mrs. W. F. Litchfield has written us that “I know the Vineyard people would find a warm welcome here. They are very congenial people here, very much like the Island people.”

Mrs. Litchfield adds, “We live six miles from Nordica’s birthplace.” The great singer Nordica, once Lillian Norton, was and is one of the great ties between Farmington and the Island. She was born in Farmington but she went to school on Martha’s Vineyard and supplied a bond which was intensified with her fame and a visit which was made to the Island toward the end of her career.

Mrs. Litchfield lived on the Island for fifteen years, ten of them at Wintucket Farm, Edgartown, which she refers to as a “beautiful place in which to live.”

And so it is that there is another place on the face of the earth where Nortons, Daggetts and others of the great Vineyard names may be found. The same families which have perpetuated themselves on the Island since 1642 have carried on in the town they built in Maine since their removal a decade before 1800.

A Farmington history gives this description of New Vineyard as it was in 1846: ”The town has quite a range of mountains, extending nearly across the town from east to west, near the center, dividing the waters of Sandy River from those of the Seven Mile Brook. The soil is generally good, especially in the northerly and easterly sections. The principal stream is the outlet of Porter’s Pond in Strong, which discharges into the Seven Mile Brook, and on which are a number of valuable mill sites. A first rate grist mill, two saw mills, a clover mill, a shingle machine and various other kinds of machinery; two meeting houses, one store, a number of mechanics’ shops and dwelling houses form a considerable village which has been known as Vaughan’s Mills. The mills are now owned by Messers. Luce and Stewart. New Vineyard is situated east of Strong and north of Industry, and the place of business is about nine miles from the courthouse. It had a population of 927 in 1840.

As bearing upon the genius of Vineyarders for government, the lists of town officers disclose the following office holders in the years following the migration from the Island to Maine: Elijah Norton, selectman; Ebenezer Norton, representative; Zachariah Norton, representative; Leonard Merry, selectman; Joseph Norton, representative.

Compiled by Cynthia Meisner