Flames on the Plains

From Gazette editions of July, 1909:

The woods fire which raged across the Vineyard Plains two days this week burned over, it is estimated, an area of from nine to ten thousand acres, or a tract three by five miles in extent. Some sixty men from Edgartown under the direction of Forest Warden George N. Cleveland, a large force from West Tisbury, and others from the country round about, fought the flames for hours before they were got under control. The spectacle presented by the fire on Monday night as viewed from Edgartown village, some two miles from the flames, was magnificent, and the reflection of the fire could be plainly seen in New Bedford, thirty miles distant.

At no time, despite published reports to the contrary, was the village of Edgartown seriously menaced — in fact no extensive growth of woods is near the town, and with the protection afforded by the water hydrants which fringe the village, no grass or running fire is ever likely to endanger the town.

There has been a good deal of mystery as to the origin of the fire, but in the absence of anything authentic, it is believed that it was started as a result of a burning match carelessly thrown into the dry bushes that cover the Vineyard plains.

The First Portuguese Band paraded the streets Monday afternoon discoursing inspiring music. The band made a fine appearance and played well. Later it gave a concert on South Summer street, in front of the store of the enterprising manager of the organization and were afterwards invited into Mr. Silva’s house to partake of refreshments. Mr. Silva, who is the popular Summer street grocer and a very busy man, has yet found time to bestow much interest in time and money in developing the musical capabilities of the band, so that it has become a permanent fixture, and people appreciate the efforts to entertain. May Manager Silva and the band continue to flourish and go on to still greater succeses.

The special town meeting upon the electric lighting question in Edgartown was largely attended. A petition opposed to electric lighting in Edgartown was presented by Mr. George Cleveland who spoke several times during the course of the meeting. The meeting was also addressed by Mr. Jared Chambers, of Brooklyn. A native of Edgartown, he expressed himself heartily in favor of progress and especially in the proposed direction. His remarks were earnestly applauded. Remarks were made in favor of electric lighting by Messrs. C.G.M. Dunham and Samuel Keniston. The sentiment of the voters present manifestly increased in favor of electric lights as the meeting continued. Voted — that it is the sense of the meeting that the selectmen grant the petition of the Vineyard Lighting Company as promptly as due observance of legal requirements will permit to light the streets of the town.

The shearers have returned to Menemsha Creek from Naushon and Nashawena, where they sheared 1921 sheep. Capt. Norman Cook of Provincetown has a fish trap off Squibnocket and has six men to assist him in the work. The party is living at Sandy Point, in Gay Head.

At eight o’clock in the morning, a party of five in an open boat, eighteen feet long, with a Bridgeport motor, left Menemsha Creek at the head of Menemsha Bight for a tour around the Island. The wind was directly ahead until Devil’s Bridge was crossed, and Gay Head rounded about nine o’clock. Thence the course lay off Squibnocket Beach and Point, with Noman’s Land on the other side, and along South Beach for three hours and a half. Off Wasque, the heaviest seas were encountered. Cape Pogue Light was reached at one-thirty, and Oak Bluffs at half past two, where a stop was made. At Vineyard Haven another stop was made until five. West Chop was passed and Vineyard Sound was entered. It was moonlight when Menemsha Creek was reached and the circuit of the Island completed. The amount of gasoline consumed was about seven gallons, with actual running time about ten and a half hours.

The trip is a most attractive one, the shores being very interesting and varied in character. Those in the party were the skipper, Elliot Mayhew and his son, Walter Mayhew, both of whom are known to everyone in Chilmark. The professions were represented by Rev. Charles Johnson, the minister in Chilmark; Dr. Elon Huntington, Surgeon to the U.S. Navy; and lawyer Alfred Robinson, who spends part of each summer at the old place under Flag Hill on Squibnocket Pond.

It seems that this is the first time that a small boat has circumnavigated the Island in a day, but now the motorboats are so serviceable and readily procured, it is likely that the round-the-Island tour, which is so readily made and so enjoyable, will become an almost weekly feature of the season in pleasant weather.

Compiled by Cynthia Meisner