These troubled times are not the only occasion on which inhabitants of Martha's Vineyard have had difficulty obtaining passage by boat to the mainland. Ask the oldest inhabitant as to boat service, and the chances are that he will refer to the good old days when no difficulties presented themselves and life was sweet and peaceful.

But even earlier than the good old days there were other days, of which records remain. As far back as 1665 the town of Falmouth licensed an innholder “in regard that it doth appear that there is great recourse to & fro by travelers to Martha's Vineyard.”

In 1700 a ferry between Holmes Hole and the mainland was operated, and it is believed to have been licensed and maintained by mainland interests. But the service was irregular, and in 1703 the record becomes more specific.

Fees For Ferriage

“Leift Isaac Chase is appoynted by this Courte to keep a publick ferry for the transporting of man and beast from Martha's Vineyard to Sickanesset, alias falmouth, and the fees allowed for said ferriage viz: - six shillings for a man and a hors, or three shillings for each person or hors forew'd to s'd Suckansset, but if he doth cary but one hors over s'd ferriage that he shall have the sume of five shillings.”

In 1716, the son in law of Chase, one Benjamin Weeks of Falmouth, is called “ferryman,” and in 1726, Samuel Barker of Falmouth was licensed by the County Court as ferryman between “holmses hole and woodes hole,” and the following fees were allowed: “Every man and woman, 3 s, every horse 3 s, Ox 5 s, Every other Beast, 4 s, every sheep or goat 4 d.”

From this point on until 1750, ferries ran to and from the Vineyard, both from Holmes Hole and Lambert's Cove, but although the fees were increased until a personal fare was five shillings, the business languished until it was virtually abandoned.

It was then that a committee of twenty-three leading men from the three Island towns addressed a memorial to Governor William Shirley, setting forth their grievances and asking aid in providing a remedy, as follows:

“The memorial of us the Subscribers inhabitance of Dukes County Humbly Sheweth that we have Laboured under Grate difficulty for several years past for want of a Stated ferry across Vineyard Sound which has in grate Measure deprived us from our equal Comerce with the rest of the Province, and although the Court of General sessions of the peace have offered to State the ferrage both for Men & beasts at a much hire rate than Usule yet Nobody appears to take it. Though Some that live handy to the harbour would willing undertake to keep it upon the terms offered but are not of ability to purchase a boat & other things Seutable for the desire.

“And therefore your memorialists humbly pray That your Excellency & honours will take the premises under your wise Consideration & pas an Act for the Procuring of a Suitable boat & wharf for the ferry at the publick charge of the Province or County or both, as your Excellency & honours Shall see fit, Or releve us from the difficulty we Labour under by Such other way or meens as your Excellency & honours in your grate wisdom shall Think best, & your Memorialists as in deuty bound shall every pray.”

Accordingly an act was passed as follows, in 1754:

“Whereas there is a provision made by law for the Justices in their Quarter Sessions throughout this Province, to license persons to keep ferries and state the fares or prices of each ferry for man and beast...but no provision is made by law to enable the lay a tax on any county for the upholding and maintaining of ferryes...where there is no particular person who will be at the cost thereof – By means whereof the s'd County of Dukes County is wholly destitute of a ferry from s's county (which is an Island)...whereby many inconveniences daily happen to those who have occasion to go to and from said County-

“Be it Therefore Enacted by the Governor, Council and House of Representatives that the Justices of the Court of General any of their sessions hereafter to be held in and for s'd county of Dukes County,

The Are Hereby Enabled

“Are hereby enabled and directed to raise monys and to asses the inhabitants of said County of Dukes County, and their estates as well, for the building of Ferry Boats and making and maintaining suitable wharfs for said ferry ways for the convenience of keeping a ferry in said county in as full and ample manner as the Justices in Quarter Sessions are by law already enabled to do for the defraying for the necessary repairs of Bridges, prissons the maintenance of poor prisoners, and all other proper county charges...”

It is thus made clear that the governor and his council recognized the responsibility of the county or state or both to the people of the Vineyard in maintaining transportation between the Island and mainland, and while deficits are not mentioned in the act, the act itself was the direct result of deficits as stated in the petition and thus must have been anticipated, even as of today.

Ferry service, between various points on both the Vineyard and the mainland, “so far eastward as Highanes and Westward as Dartmouth, and thereabouts in Monument Bay” - was carried on under the provisions of this act until 1819, when the last mention is made of the “county ferry.”