Rescuing the Messboy

From Gazette editions of May, 1934:

Coastguardsmen rowed from six to eight miles in a whaleboat to take a messboy, believed to be suffering from appendicitis, from the steamer S.S. Transportation, and land him at the Vineyard Haven dock, where he was taken to the U.S. Marine Hospital. The steam freighter, bound from Newport News for Searsport, Me. with coal, had progressed as far as Cross Rip when the suffering of the messboy became so acute that the ship was turned back and hove to off West Chop where signal whistles were blown. The coast guard cutter Acushnet, lying at anchor in the habor, responded to the signals by lowering a whaleboat which pulled to the steamer. Power tenders having been discontinued to a great extent by the economy ruling, the oars had to be manned.

The Civilian Conservation Corps army, 187 strong, together with eighty-five tons of freight and baggage, left Vineyard Haven yesterday morning, bound for the camp at Winstead, Conn. The departure of the army was vastly different from its arrival. There were the same lines of companies drawn up for checking, roll calls and inspection. But the men themselves revealed a change. The boys from mainland cities who came to the Island bleached white from insufficient sun and air, and looked half fearfully at the sights and scenes about them, were not there. In their places were broad shouldered young men, tanned by the sun, with heavy muscles rippling beneath their khaki shirts, and eyes that looked ahead.

The CCC boys have gained a stable footing on the Vineyard, and the Vineyard has come to regard the local CCC outfit as belonging to the Island.

The transfer of CCC overseers to camps other than Winstead affects some local men: Howard Chadwick, Daniel MacIsaacs, Lawrence Winterbottom, Sherman Burnham, Robert Harrington, Claude Davidson, Robert Hill and Robert Lutz.

The preliminary figures released by the Massachusetts Unemployment Census contains much food for thought on Martha’s Vineyard. Perhaps there may be such continued improvement in business conditions generally that the Island will benefit, and winter employment will be increased. But the effect of improvement is indirect and slow. It should be felt to our greatest benefit in better prices for fish and shellfish. On the whole we cannot look for enough assistance from generally improved business to see us through a winter. There must be something more closely related to the Vineyard and our own conditions. What is likely to happen here? A better shellfish set, more building for summer residents — what else is there unless a continuation of public works and other federal aid is involved?

The number of men unemployed in Oak Bluffs last winter came to sixty per cent; in Tisbury to forty-two per cent; and in Edgartown to forty-three per cent. We must look for some development so substantial that it will take up this staggering slack in employment. We need to strive for an all-year independence, and survival of the past winter with federal help brings us no nearer the important goal.

The wind-up of what is probably the last lawsuit arising out of the wreck of the steamer Port Hunter came with the finding of Judge Elisha H. Brewster of the United States District Court that the wreck and cargo belong to the J. E. Dougherty Co., Boston ship brokers, and not to the Maritime Construction and Salvage Co. of Providence. This is exactly what Vineyard master mariners have maintained. The finish of this action, it is said, probably indicates an early salvage of $75,000 worth of French brandy (if any), said to be in the wreck and not removed during prohibition years because it could not be disposed of.

The ship was rammed by the tug Covington fifteen years ago, as she was outward bound for France, loaded with war supplies. Steel billets, clothing and cobblers’ kits bulked largest in the items of cargo. Salvaging, authorized and unauthorized, began immediately. Mystery and confusion surrounded the wrecking of the ship and the salvaging of cargo, various reputable men securing what they believed to be proper authority to salvage, which later turned out to be worthless. On the other hand, men and boats went to work on the wreck without any authority whatever, salvaged whatever they could reach and bring away, and disposed of what they secured without difficulty.

Just what that amount of French liquor was doing aboard a ship bound for France is a matter of conjecture and also why such an amount of liquor should have been on a war supply ship of the United States government.

The real theme of the depression, which a master of folk song should set to appropriate music, runs as follows: “I’ll pay you, as soon as I collect from all the people who owe me.”

Compiled by Cynthia Meisner