From the Sept. 16, 1920 edition of the Vineyard Gazette, by David M. Cheney:
Let my Vineyard friends give me their attention: a brief lesson in geography.
Locate on your map Kapawack.
And when you have found that small enclosure of the earth’s crust, see if you can find Strauney.
I wager that I have caught you napping on both counts: for call your island Kapawack, as the Indians did, or Strauney, as we like to fancy the bold Norse rovers did, it is Martha's Vineyard for all that. And I am now going to recall for the readers of the Gazette a walk that I had some seven years ago along the north shore of Martha’s Vineyard.
It wore, I remember, its autumn dress. Its promontories flamed under October’s cloudy skies, its plains glowed burnt sienna and purple and scarlet. Its hills by the restless sound, where they fell away in abrupt cliffs of drift and clay to the water’s edge, alone preserved the wonted fashion of the age.
From the hard sands just west of Ceder Tree Neck, from a lovely gorge in the woods on the estate of George A. Hough, of New Bedford, (that fantastically named summer home known as “Fish Hook,” in West Tisbury,) it is a winding, roundabout, and hard walk along the shore nine miles to Menemsha Bight, where the fishermen are. To tramp that path requires good muscles and a sunny day.
Heaven forbid that walking ever become a lost art! The man who walks has time to chew the cud of thought, so roll over and over deliciously in his mind choice bon-mots from his reading or his experience.
The Oriental leisure in the slowness of walking, too, is a luxury in these fast days. The pedestrian can afford to look with condescension at the poor, jounced automobile riders who pass him by, and to reply to any pitying driver who stops with the proffer of a lift. “Thanks, no. Today I am walking.”
On the beach of Martha’s Vineyard’s north shore, too, you can remember, if you like, as you go, the similar walk of that great walker upon Cape Cod sands, Henry David Thoreau. And you wish, as you step over stones and dodge pebbly places by turning inland about the brow of steep banks, that he accompanied you, that of his wisdom he might give you wisdom, and open your eyes to the color and beauty of the island world.
He who walks the beach can go sailing, in his mind, with the ships and visit strange lands. He may catch the distant flash of a whaler’s square-sails, bound for Africa or the south seas. He may see against the skyline the long smoke-pennant of a warship, hurrying on only Uncle Sam knows what difficult errand to England or Mexico, China or Maley. He may see some lone fishermen in a little, pitching dory, pulling his lobster pots, or fishermen in larger craft drawing their heavy nets. These nets, he finds spread like vast, black cobwebs on the upland meadows, drying in the sun, — and when he reaches Menemsha, he will find high-booted men kneeling over them, sewing the rents the teeth of the sea have made.
On the south, are hilly lands where the sheep wander. Here and there, along the beach route, are those relics of decayed industries, — the brick works at Roaring Brook, where the waterwheel by the dory that will never float again and the high chimney leaning to its fall add splendid picturesqueness to miles of flaming woodlands, high hills, and the slopes where low cedars and bayberry bushes grow; and paint works, where no paint is made; and where rise hills of clay, white as drifted snow.
Inland, after entering Menemsha, and after passing again the road where, looking back, you see the cloud that is Nomansland miles away to the southwestward, — inland, are deserted houses with roofs falling in, where old whaling captains lived and entertained their jovial sea-friends. Inland, too, are the fair little farms, where people live, today, in comfort among the beautiful hills. Inland, too, are old roads, wild tangles, ruined mills, high hills — such as Peaked (the highest on the island;) and Seven Gates Farm, the estate of the late Nathaniel Southgate Shaler, the “Uncle Nat” of Harvard College men of other days, who delighted to hear their soldier-teacher boast of his Vineyard Home.
So, years ago, I passed by the back road to West Tisbury, and Fish Hook again. I saw sand and pebbles of the beach-path, a climbing road that gave sudden glimpses of the sea to the north and south. He who would know that America vies with Europe in beauty, and who would grow proud of his own country’s scenery, should “see America first.” In such a program what better beginning can the traveler make than the Elizabeth islands, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket? And among these not the least lovely is Martha’s Vineyard.
Upon its uplands the fishermen still heap their lobster pots or dry their great nets; and thither return the whaling men from far waters, to live out their old age in reminiscent ease by their own warm hearths — within sound of the sea.
Compiled by Hilary Wall