Seeds Dangling High

From Vineyard Gazette editions of October, 1959:

The pagoda tree, famous Edgartown institution, which provided a rare spectacle last summer with its profusion of yellow blossoms, is a sight worth seeing now because of the wealth of seedcases and seeds dangling high in the branches. The tree is worth a visit. The last time the pagoda tree put out a bumper harvest of fruit, Leo J. Convery of the Harborside Inn, on the property of which the tree stands, raised hundreds of seedlings and distributed many to arboretums throughout the east. A number of the trees have recently been given to the Dukes County Historical Society by the Harborside.

Often mistaken for “Bull” Halsey, James Cagney, still a property owner on the Vineyard, is to portray him in the moving picture, The Gallant Hours, memorializing the late Fleet Admiral William F. Halsey Jr. It was Robert Montgomery, also a Vineyard visitor, who first noticed the resemblance. No one even thought of the actor looking like the naval hero until one night in 1957 when Robert Montgomery, an actor-director-producer and close friend of both, attended a party honoring the latter’s seventy-fifth birthday aboard a warship in New York harbor. As he looks back on it now, Montgomery says that when he saw the wonderful old officer walking proudly up the gangplank, he was reminded of his pal in Hollywood, and he suddenly envisioned Cagney playing the role of Halsey in a film. That picture has now been made.

It stands upon a lofty hilltop overlooking a deep, narrow valley, known for generations as Zephaniah’s Hollow: Weskoseems was always “the Great Rock.” Whether or not this is the largest single boulder on the Island, there is no other rock of similar size as prominently located as Weskoseems before the trees and bushes grew on adjoining lands. Half a century ago the rock could be clearly seen from hilltops more than four miles distant.

Many tales have been told about the ancient landmark. In the cleft of the rock, easily reached by an active person, there is ample room for two to hide. That it was used as a hiding place by certain fugitives has been said again and again. Yet there is something sinister: various people in years gone preferred to keep a distance from the rock after dark. The moonlight plays strange tricks with it, causing it to gleam silvery, and the low mists of summer often cause it to appear as if moving. It is something of a shock to emerge from mist and see the peak of the rock looming ahead, resembling the prow of a ship, and to sense that it is forging slowly ahead through the vapor. Weskoseems lies like a slumbering monster, guarding whatever secrets it may possess.

Contracts have been signed by Mrs. Roger Neuhoff for the purchase of William Smith’s property at Starbuck’s Neck. The house is known as the Tower cottage, from the fact that the lofty part of the structure was originally the water tower for the Starbuck’s Neck area developed for summer homes at the turn of the century, before the public water system was installed.

“I’m selling it for commercial purposes,” William W. Pinney of Edgartown told the Gazette yesterday when it was mentioned that it had been noticed that for sale signs had been posted in the large, rolling meadow, which is a part of his Sweetened Water Farm on the West Tisbury Road. “If they can build garages in front of the schoolhouse and in a neighborhood of small, nice-looking homes, and as long as the town has absolutely no zoning to protect property, I don’t see any use for any restrictions at all. I’m for Litchfield’s buying it for another successful factory.” He was referring to the fact that Burnham Litchfield was recently granted a license to store gasoline on the property located at the corner of the West Tisbury Road and Pinehurst Road, down a block from the Edgartown school.

The license was granted by the board of selectmen following a public hearing, at which a number of residents of the neighborhood spoke against not only the gasoline storage but the whole project, which involves the relocation of a major portion of the Old Colony Service Corp. to the site from its present location at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport. There was also presented at the hearing a petition containing 183 signatures protesting the project.

Referring to his own property, Mr. Pinney said that instead of “another successful factory,” he would rather see the land sold for “motels, hot dog stands and ferris wheels. I’m a great believer in the democratic process.” When he was asked how much land was for sale, he said that the tract comprised about thirty acres, but that if that went well, he could put up another fifteen. “You can put it this way, I’ll reserve one plot for me to be buried in — with my rear end facing toward the town hall.”

Compiled by Cynthia Meisner