50 Years Ago

From the Vineyard Gazette editions of October, 1957:

Sputnik’s rocket zoomed over the Vineyard at 6:05 Tuesday morning, coming out of the northeast and splitting the sky in half. So reported Ellsworth Fisher of Edgartown, who was on duty as the night operator at the telephone office. Mr. Fisher said that he had been listening to the radio that morning and was hearing a report of how cameras were being set up at the mainland radio station to take pictures of the rocket. “All of a sudden a guy hollered, ‘There it comes now!’ ”

Mr. Fisher went to take a look outdoors, and sure enough, there it was, throwing out the yellowish white light as described in the newspapers. He said that it took about two minutes to traverse the sky. He also said he saw the rocket again the next morning. Since Mr. Fisher reported seeing the rocket on Tuesday, other Edgartonians who were up and about at that hour have told of seeing the yellowish light, including Capt. Claude S. Wagner.

Mrs. Everett A. Poole Sr. and her son and daughter in law, Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Poole of Menemsha Creek saw the Russian satellite or its attendant rocket, at about 6 on Wednesday morning. They describe it as appearing over the middle of Pasque Island, crossing the Sound and Gay Head, and disappearing into the southwest. Although there was a low fog, the sky was clear above it and the stars were shining, and the glowing object, whose light waxed and waned as it traveled, was clearly visible to the watchers. It was described as traveling “very fast.” Mrs. Poole’s granddaughter, Miss Harriette Poole, who teaches in Anchorage, Alaska, saw the rocket on Oct. 12 and reported that it showed colors of red, green and white, probably because of atmospheric conditions at that northern outpost

A human skull, tinted a dull orange from being deposited in sandy clay, but in excellent condition nevertheless, was the surprising yield of a shovelful of dirt found by Cornelius Silva of Edgartown as he was clearing away a cave-in of the embankment at the excavation for the new boathouse being built on the Col. Daniel Simonds property on Edgartown harbor. The cave-in had come as a result of the heavy rain of Monday night and had caused a pile of soil to fall into the spot where the foundation of the new structure was to be placed. The existing building, Saint’s Rest, had already been moved out to water’s edge preparatory to floating it across the harbor to its new location on Chappaquiddick

Judging by the amount of soil that had caved in, it was estimated, that the skull had been buried a scant three and a half feet below the surface. The skull itself, even though it was missing the jawbone, was in an excellent state of preservation. The upper row of teeth is in fine shape, the few missing seeming to have been lost under post-mortem conditions. No other bones were found. Dr. Robert Nevin reported later in the day that he believed the skull to be about 100 years old, because of the brightness of the bone, and to have belonged to a young women because of the size and because of the condition of the molars.

As possible explanation of the bones of a human skeleton dug up on the embankment of North Water street, Edgartown, recently, is offered by Henry Franklin Norton in whom reposes much lore of the Vineyard past. Mr. Norton recalls the prediction of his father, the late Henry Constant Norton, offered some fifty years ago, that sometime “Marm” Swasey’s graveyard would be found on North Water street. History records that Capt. Joseph Swasey owned the house now belonging to Daniel Simonds, across from which the bones were found. Captain Swasey married Susanna Pease in 1766, and she lived the last part of the time a widow. She kept a boarding house, Mr. Norton says, and she would have been Marm Swasey.

There are tales of strangers arriving by sea and lodging at the Swasey house, and presumably a tradition was formulated and passed on that graves had been dug and filled on the embankment there. It was this tradition to which Henry Constant Norton referred, and which is now revived by his son. Has Marm Swasey’s graveyard come to light?

When the Arthur W. Youngs of Edgartown decided to take a mainland trip beginning on the Columbus Day weekend, they had no idea that they would be breaking a precedent. But that’s what they did when they arrived at the ferry landing that Sunday afternoon and found that their car was fifty-sixth in line to board the Islander which has a capacity of only fifty-five.

While the Youngs were having visions of delaying their trip, the imagination of the Islander’s crew was at work. Casting a designing look at the Youngs’ minute Volkswagen, the ferry loader signalled Mr. Young to come on ahead, which he did. When he got the small finless vehicle just on to the ferry, the crew members simply lifted it up and turned it sideways so that it fitted nicely and neatly right in the entrance, like a sardine in a can

Compiled by Eulalie Regan