Ode to Quansoo

From Joseph Chase Allen:

Smoother than prairie land, wearing a summer coloring of greens and browns, Quenames, named originally for the Indians’ eel-fishing-place, lies much as the settlers found it three centuries ago. The acres which comprise the original tract lie empty save for the half dozen buildings which mark the home sites of the ancients and their descendants. The woods form a distant screen against the northerly winds of winter. The place has a quietness that can be sensed from miles distant.

This area, Quenames, Quansoo and neighboring tracts, all connected by land, and separated in part by the coves of Tisbury Great Pond, was the choicest real estate on the Island 300 years ago. The wild hay grew in profusion and was relished by livestock. The pond was filled with fish. The wildfowl arrived in tremendous flocks, and shellfish could be found around the pond shores.

The land, entirely clear of rocks, lent itself to cultivation and pasturage, and wells could be dug almost anywhere. It was not strange that the Indians frequented the place during the months of mild weather, or that settlers favored establishing here. Thus it was that several farmhouses were built in the shelter of the woods, and for centuries the spotted cattle and sheep flocks grazed the pasturage, the corn waved on the tillage, and the men of Quenames became amphibious, reaping by land and water the benefits provided by nature.

Times have changed. Fewer have farmed the land, until today a furrow is seldom turned. The farmhouses are empty for the greater part of a year, the fields unattended and pastures empty. Yet Quenames lies unspoiled, a smiling land, where wild ducks nest in summer, where the marsh hay waves in the sweet winds, and nature smiles as only nature can do where her pattern has not been disturbed.

Wherever men tramp Vineyard trails

By farmland, village, hill or shore,

They meet with sights that speak of age,

Historical, romantic lore.

The old, old houses, quaint and low,

With shingles weather-worn and gray,

With tiny window panes that face

The east to greet the coming day.

And not the least of these old homes

That mellow every Island view,

Is this, the “Delly” Mitchell place,

Upon the plains of old Quansoo.

‘Tis not so much its ancient style,

Suggestive of a past grown old,

That gives the place its wholesome charm,

And hints of many tales untold.

It is the thought that this old house,

Through narrow, thick green-tinted lights

Has looked upon a world forgot,

And on strange, interesting sights.

’Twas here the Indian trail once ran,

By which the tribesmen reached the pond,

To camp and feast for days on end

When yellow perch and herring spawned.

’Twas here the hardy pioneers

Assembled by the twos and threes

Around the thick-grown black grass holes

To hold their famous mowing bees.

The spear, the net, the eelpot, wove

Of piney root, the clam rake, too,

The flint-tipped arrow, fowling piece,

And scythe, are emblems of Quansoo.

Borne by the strong and skillful hands

Of Nature’s nobles, white and red,

Who fowled and fished or mowed the hay,

And thanked their gods for daily bread.

And now, although the days are past

When men assemble here to toil,

Although the march of time has made

Of this, a treasure house, its spoil,

The charm endures; a leaping fish,

A fowl in flight; a wild dove’s coo,

And this old house preserves the past

And magic lure of old Quansoo.

Compiled by Cynthia Meisner