In 1641 when the Great Harbor Township founding Martha’s Vineyard was granted by King Charles, Edgartown’s East Chop neighborhood was included and remained part of that town until 1880 when consternation over taxation led to our secession and incorporation as Cottage City. With his belief in the divine right of kings, Charles’s attempts to govern by his own conscience and conflicting marriage to a Roman Catholic remained enough in conflict with his subjects in English and Scottish churches to cause his execution in 1649. Since then many settlers fled religious persecution in England for hard lives on Martha’s Vineyard, churches have played a major role in the development of the Island, and of course our town of Ogkeshkuppe as the original people called Oak Bluffs. In 1660 Thomas Mayhew Jr. successfully proselytized Joel Hiacoomes to Christianity at Pulpit Rock in Farm Neck and religion has played a major role in the discovery, development and growth of Oak Bluffs. John Saunders, the former slave who brought Methodism here in 1787, also preached to the original people and other people of color at Pulpit Rock at Pecoy.
In 1835 the exhorter Jeremiah Pease and Hebron Vincent became founding members of the Camp Meeting Association and selected the Squash Meadow site where the Camp Ground remains today. By 1858 there were 320 tents and 12,000 souls attending services — enough so that the area enjoyed the nickname “Canvas City.” In 1840 a Methodist church was built on Eastville avenue, followed by a small Baptist church in 1845. When the Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Company began constructing Cottage City in 1867, the Methodists built a seven-foot fence alongside Circuit avenue in an effort to separate itself from the new secular community. So the Land and Wharf Company built Union Chapel in 1871 to serve the more religiously open-minded.
After hosting its first camp meeting in 1875 at Highlands Circle, the Baptists built a permanent wooden octagonal tabernacle of their own in 1878, the same year Trinity Church in the Camp Ground was built for year-round residents. The Baptists also built a church on the corner of Pequot avenue and Grove in 1878, and much of the $3,000 construction cost was paid for by the Camp Meeting Association. The Roman Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart on School street was built in 1880, and Trinity Episcopal Church was constructed in 1882. A Seventh Day Adventist Church was built on New York Avenue in 1927 and a Christian Science church in 1928. Churches play an extraordinary role in the lives of the people of Oak Bluffs and society today — convincing evidence of how King Charles clearly outsmarted himself.
The classic Victorian Oak Bluffs Inn with the distinctive octagonal tower at the top of Circuit avenue had a great season this year — although June was down a bit according to owner Erik Albert. He has been in Oak Bluffs with his family for over 22 years when the family vacation house was the B Tru building. Like many Circuit avenue businesses, the Oak Bluffs Inn’s best months are August, July, September and June. The inn is open from May to November and enjoys many repeat customers. Built in 1888, the Oak Bluffs Inn carries on the legacy of the once-great Pawnee House, the Metropolitan Hotel, the Island House and the Oakwood Hotel which graced Circuit avenue in the Cottage City days. One of Erik’s favorite events is the Extraordinary Rendition Band Parade, which I also find joyous and exciting.
Ben DeForest’s Red Cat Kitchen at Ken N’ Beck has closed for the season as has Hooked as our cute kid R. Kristin, the general manager, moves south to Atria for the winter.
Don’t forget, the annual Wind Festival at Ocean Park is next Saturday, Oct. 12, from noon to 4 p.m. with a rain date of Sunday, Oct. 13. Holly Alaimo can assist with questions at 508-364-5061.
The Columbus Day Road Race is next Sunday, Oct. 13, and you can call Roger Wey at 508-693-7887 for more information.
Claire Gaskin had a great question I wasn’t able to answer – does anyone recall who coined the name the Polar Bears?
Trivia-wise, if you were interested, 97 people died in Oak Bluffs in 2012. The most (11) died in March and the fewest (5) in November. Unless born at home, everyone else on Martha’s Vineyard is born in Oak Bluffs.
Keep your foot on a rock.