From the Vineyard Gazette editions of April, 1933:
The Adams sisters, Miss Lucy, height 49 inches, and Miss Sarah, 46 inches, of Chilmark and Oak Bluffs, received a call this month to come to Chicago for a twenty-three weeks engagement at the World’s Fair, in the midget village of the great Centenary of Progress exposition. Although they would be very glad to accept, they have conscientious scruples about taking any position which would necessitate Sunday performances, and have so written the agency. The sisters have travelled extensively, associated with other tiny people. Miss Lucy was bridesmaid at the wedding of the widow of the famous Tom Thumb when she became the bride of Count Magri, the Italian midget.
There is one aspect of Martha’s Vineyard affairs which may be of interest to visitors, even though it does not concern summer recreation. This is the record as to management of town affairs, taxes and the like, for these are matters which men like to consider before they choose summer homes. And in this respect the Island has reason for pride. Here the home builder and home owner find no such conditions as have prevailed in some districts of the country. There are no bankrupt towns, or even towns which have had any financial difficulty. There are no past problems of high finance hanging over from the boom era to perplex the newcomer or drain his purse. Town administrators have cut expenses, balanced their budgets conservatively, and given taxpayers occasion for gratitude. New England thrift and prudence have proved their value during the great lesson of the depression.
Did you know that the only known location of a colonial whipping-post and pillory on the Vineyard is in the village of West Tisbury? It stood on the triangle formed by the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road and the Scotchman’s Bridge Road nearly opposite Gifford’s store. The Vineyard once owned a vigilant society which took the law into its own hands when occasion demanded. On Middle Road, an ancient tree still stands to which, it is said, a man was tied and whipped before being tarred, feathered and set adrift in a boat without sail or oars. Another old tree near North Road is said to have been the scene of a triple hanging.
Morton Hutchinson of Vineyard Haven picked the first fullblown mayflowers that have been reported to the Gazette this year, about twenty-five pink and white blooms. Capt. Hartson Bodfish has held the record with the Gazette for several seasons of picking the first mayflowers, but looses his rating this season.
Captain Reginald Norton has blossomed forth as an inventor this week, having built a wind-mill near his bait house, which he has geared to a storage battery charger. The wind-mill has eight-foot fans, and in anything above a moderate breeze performs in a very satisfactory manner. Needless to say, there is no lack of batteries for this skipper in charge, and all fishermen are praising his ingenuity in thus harnessing the wind in the interests of economy.
Somewhere on the great plain of Martha’s Vineyard death and the heath hen have met. One day, just as usual, there was a bird called the heath hen, and the next day there was none. How he came to his end no human being can know. The bird has been reported dead many times before, only to reappear dramatically in the spring. But there have never been circumstances like this. Not one of the men who have watched the heath hen in the last years of its existence now believe it to be alive. James Green, whose observations have been the surest reliance, has not seen it for more than a year. Every spring the last of the race has come to the field on Mr. Green’s farm in West Tisbury to keep an immemorial tryst: almost to the very day and hour it has appeared and reappeared during the mating season.
The official report of Dr. Alfred O. Gross announcing the apparent extinction of the heath hen is first published in this issue of the Vineyard Gazette. This eastern prairie chicken was once bountiful throughout the east. It was especially abundant from Massachusetts to New Jersey. Unfortunately the heath hen was easy to kill. It had as enemies the fox, and the hawk, but most of all the cat and man.
Such was the slaughter of the heath hen in the early days that it was virtually, and perhaps entirely, extinct on the mainland a hundred years ago. That left the flock on Martha’s Vineyard the only reserve against extinction. In the final years there were many pleas that prairie chickens be imported for the purpose of tempting the last heath hen to mate. The experiment was never tried. Probably it would have failed. Once three prairie chickens were liberated on the Island after a sportsman’s show at Boston. Apparently they died quickly. There is little doubt that heath hen will be reported again. It is easy for untrained observers to mistake other birds for this.
Compiled by Cynthia Meisner