Margaret Knight

508 627-8894


Chappaquiddickers have a long tradition of self-reliance. We try to make-do rather than make a special trip to town. Now that most of us are wired to the Internet in some form or other, we could theoretically live here without ever leaving our homes – not that I’m suggesting it! But winter does make us hunker down some, even a winter as nearly tropical as this one has been. People who have lived here a long time remember folks who used to go to town as infrequently as once a week for groceries. Actually, I know of people who do that now!

When we were younger with time on our hands, we found plenty of ways to entertain ourselves on Chappy during the winter season, even without the Internet. I forget what most of them are now – but I do remember playing Freeze Tag in the pitch dark in a field and games of Murder played over many days. You probably have to really appreciate this small island if you live here year-round — otherwise it’s just too small.

Peter Wells is one of those people who appreciates the island and knows it down to its bones – literally. Last week he and I took a drive to look at Chappy graveyards, so I could write an answer to the question of how many graveyards are here, and where they’re located, including isolated marked graves. Peter seems to see below the surface of the island, partly because he worked for many years as a surveyor. Not only does that give him a different way of looking at the land, but he has discovered things during surveying jobs.

One discovery made while surveying for The Trustees is a small plot marked by short, cut granite posts in the woods near the border of their Wasque property. Pine needles cover the land but at least one stone that looks like a grave marker is visible. There are no inscriptions, but hopefully if anyone knows more about this cemetery they will let us know. The plot is near a raised line of earth that extends all the way from Katama Bay to Poucha Pond, which may have been made by stones thrown to the edge of a field, or by animals walking a fence line for many years.

Peter and I visited the gravestone of the horse Dolly that belonged to “Guvnor” Handy, who brought groceries to Chappaquiddickers in a cart pulled by Dolly. The grave is in the woods near the Quammox Road. Edo Potter wrote about them in the Chappy recollections book edited by Hatsy Potter. Dolly knew the route, so she delivered the groceries while the Guvnor slept off the results of his trip to town. In that same article, Edo mentions a sign on the wall of the old ferry house, drawn in the shape of a gravestone, that read: “This bench is dedicated to those who died waiting for the 3 o’clock ferry.” The ferry used to take a break between noon and three.

There’s a family graveyard on Tom’s Neck Farm, surrounded by a wooden picket fence with a guard dog statue at the gate, where there are three stones from the family of Hoar and Baker. My family has a couple of stones marking graves in a field not far from the largest cemetery overlooking Cape Pogue Pond. The main old Chappy cemetery is now surrounded by Land Bank property, and the brush has been cut back to give sweeping views of the pond. The cemetery holds the graves of many well-known Chappaquiddickers from over the years, as well as fieldstones marking Native American graves with no inscriptions. The other main cemetery on Chappy is the new one built by Bill Brine across from the Community Center. It’s surrounded by a stone wall and is for burying ashes. Beyond the back of it there are several more old gravestones of Simpsons and others surrounded by lilac bushes and lily of the valley.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Blind Joe Amos, whose grave is one of five or six in a little cemetery in the woods off North Neck Road. During my search for information about Blind Joe Amos, I contacted Joan Tavares-Avant, a Mashpee Wampanoag whose Native American name is Granny Squannit. She is former director of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Museum, a former tribal historian, and writes for the Mashpee Enterprise. Granny Squannit kindly sent me some information she had on Blind Joe Amos, written by Russell H. Gardner (Great Moose), who was Wampanoag Tribal historian for 40 years.

He wrote that Blind Joe Amos “was born in 1805 in a little community on the wooded shore of Mashpee Lake on Cape Cod. Blind from early childhood, he memorized complete chapters from the Bible, which his mother read to him, and soon began to conduct services in neighboring homes. When the Baptist movement gained a foothold on Cape Cod in the early 1800s, Blind Joe was ordained in a private home, then organized at Mashpee the first Baptist congregation among the Indian descendants on the Cape. In 1832 he formed the second Baptist congregation among the Wampanoags at Gay Head on Martha’s Vineyard and built the first Indian Baptist Church building in America. He became its first pastor.

“He returned to Mashpee in 1833 and began holding meetings in the little schoolhouse in South Mashpee. From there he moved into the Mashpee Old Indian Meeting House where he was pastor for many years. Blind Joe was married and had four children – many of his descendants are living in the area. His last pastorate was among the Wampanoags on Chappaquiddick Island off the eastern shore of Martha’s Vineyard. He died in 1869 and is buried in the Indian cemetery on Chappaquiddick.”

Granny Squannit also told me that he was married to a Chappaquiddick Wampanoag and had four children. In the little cemetery there is also a gravestone with the name Saphronia Amos, who died in 1885 – maybe his wife or child.

If anyone knows of other graves on Chappy, please let me know.

There’s another potluck on Wednesday, Feb. 15, at the Chappy Community Center, starting at 6 p.m. Claire Thacher and Roger Becker will be the hosts. At the last potluck, Annie Heywood stepped in to host at the last minute. According to CCC board member Marvene O’Rourke, those who gathered put the tables together and created a sort of elegant dinner party. Maybe she didn’t say “elegant,” but it sounded like a delightful community evening.

Next week Peter Wells will be writing the column, so be sure to read it as it will, no doubt, be full of good stories and interesting information.