In 1908 Charles Gilbert Hine published The Story of Martha’s Vineyard, a collection of geographically based stories of people and incidents around the Island. It’s a well written piece that expresses quite a sense of humor. Mr. Hine was an author of local history and an amateur photographer. He worked for his father’s publishing house and the family spent their summers here where his grandparents had a house. Hines Point, across the Lagoon, was named after his family. He tells the story of our Camp Ground in glowing terms with tidbits like when $60 was raised on appeal in 1844 for a “colored” woman to buy the freedom of her son. The first year Hines’ family visited they stayed in a cottage in Oak Bluffs across from Hartford Park’s consecrated tree — meaning either on Pequot or Massasoit — that he described as the house nearest to the water at the time. He devoted quite a bit of writing to East Chop, describing the same road we all love along the bluff. One story I particularly enjoyed was The Battle of the Hedge Stakes, which took place during the War of 1812 when the British were destroying our shipping and one of our schooners had been stranded. Valiant Islanders banded together, mostly farmers who, lacking weapons, grabbed the stakes from a nearby hedge fence before sailing to the aid of the hapless schooner, and used them successfully to club the English sailors who had lowered a boat from their ship in an attempt to burn the American ship. Hedge Fence is a popular fishing spot about a mile or so east of East Chop, where a natural ridge between five to 10 feet deep is surrounded by water about 70 feet deep, perfect for smaller fish to be eaten by larger ones waiting in the depths, as I was taught by my late friend Captain Bob Weiss. It’s probably just kismet, but I love imagining the battle was how Hedge Fence came by its name.
One startling thing Mr. Hine pointed out about East Chop – according to professor Henry L. Whiting who first mapped the Island in 1845-6, was that he measured the 80-foot high bluff noting that it had retreated 75 feet between 1845 and 1871, about three feet per year. He estimated that 13 million cubic feet had been carried away — even back then. Good thing the town is on top of this erosion problem today.
The Mansion House Hotel is celebrating 29 years in the month of January. Islanders can stay at the 48-room hotel for $29 a night. The timing may be perfect as many eagerly anticipate the grand opening of JB Blau’s new Copper Wok restaurant, adjacent to the hotel, which although it is in Vineyard Haven, is Oak Bluffs’ closest year-round hotel.
The Oak Bluffs library has movie night Thursday at 6 p.m. in the library meeting room, and Skinny’s Fat sandwiches will be available. Author Ed Merck will also be at the library speaking on his new book, which is an account of his passage up the east coast. Next Friday, Jan. 10 is the library’s second mini golf fun raiser. Admission for adults 21 and older is $18 per person or $30 per couple. The Saturday version is for families.
It’s only 111 days until Giordano’s restaurant opens and 127 until Featherstone Center for the Arts’ 5th Annual Garden Tea Party & Fashion Show.
Sam Low and friends pulled off a flash mob serenading our Oak Bluffs Post Office staff as seen on Facebook with the carol We Wish You a Merry Christmas. They changed the lyrics to “We want some milk and cookies and bring it right here.” Postmaster Paul Leonard was clearly delighted about the marvelous moment of mirth in days of myrrh.
With the town considering taking ownership of the East Chop Association’s East Chop bluff in order to qualify for federal funds to repair it, I can’t help but wonder if the town would get beach rights to what used to be called Highlands Beach — the East Chop Beach Club? What do you think?
The best resolutions are those easiest to keep. Among mine is smiling more. We have lots to be happy about in Oak Bluffs. What a fabulous year 2014 is going to be!
Keep your foot on a rock.