What would Jennie Athearn think of the recent articles and advertisements in the newspapers about the real estate listing at Big Homer’s Pond? Jennie was one of the last of the Tisbury Pond people. Born in 1850 the daughter of Jonathan and Martha Athearn, she lived her whole life near the pond. She was a direct descendant of Simon Athearn who challenged the hegemony of the Mayhews on a regular basis. We are probably lucky no one has made her into one of those Vineyard eccentrics!

So far as I know, she never named her chickens, climbed telephone poles, or wandered about the beach in a red dress. She did teach school and she did walk everywhere... 8 miles ( to Sanderson Mayhew’s store from her house and back.) in a day was not unusual. She evidently preferred a life of solitude and quiet dignity. She did not suffer interviews gladly. The Gazette did an interview with her in 1926. She didn’t say much. I hesitate to think what she would think of Jennie Athearn Road being discussed in The NY Times and The Wall Street Journal in large headlines. I even wonder what she would think of the road being called “Jennie Athearn.”

Her full name was Jennie Lind Athearn... and she was named for the famous Swedish NIghtingale who so beguiled America in the middle of the nineteenth century. And the name was not ill-chosen. According to Dionis Coffin Riggs, in the small book she edited about Tisbury people called “People to Remember” Jennie was very fond of music as were a lot of the folks at Scrubby Neck, yet another name for the area. So, perhaps she was not always as reclusive as she became in later life. She died in 1929. The Athearn family land in that area which once extended in both directions from her house near Big Homer’s Pond had long been divided and partially sold... mostly to various consortiums of duck hunters... both local and off-inslanders. The executor of her estate, Ernest Flanders, who was also her nephew, sold her interest in her land to the Tisbury Pond Club after her death. Her surviving sister, Angelina “Lina” Call had sold hers earlier.

The Athearns owned lots of land at various “necks” of the Tisbury Great Pond; at one point the collective family owned over 1000 acres. I wondered if perhaps there was a Homer Athearn... but now I think not. The two inner ponds at Jennie’s farm “Big Homer’ and “Little Homer’ may come from the Native American name of the Neck: “Pasquanahomon”... which elides easily into Homer...

RIP Jennie.