From the “Argument Settler” column in the Vineyard Gazette editions of January 1914:
Answers to some of the arguments overheard and noted during the past week are as follows:
The first exports from New England to Europe were two cargoes of sassafras, gathered by Martin Pring and his company on Martha’s Vineyard and the neighboring islands and taken by Pring to England in ship Speedwell and bark Discoverer, two small vessels. They came over in 1603, setting sail from Milford Haven, April 10th. With the sassafras on board they sailed from the Vineyard Aug. 9th and arrived at Bristol, Eng., Oct. 2d, 1603. Sassafras at the time was held in high esteem for its medicinal qualities.
As far back as 1782 at least, there was an iron mine on Martha’s Vineyard, located near Prospect Hill in Chilmark, the ore from which mine went mostly to Taunton forges. During the war of 1812, it is related, ore from this mine was taken to Carver and was there converted into shot for the frigate “Constitution,” which in 1814 was fitting-out in Boston. These balls made from Vineyard iron ore were used by the “Constitution” when she fought and captured the two British ships of war, the “Cayane” and “Levant,” off Madeira. Hine’s “Story of Martha’s Vineyard,” page 161, tells you more about it.
Another fact of much interest to Vineyarders is that the designer and constructor of the frigate “Constitution” was a Chilmark man, Col. George L. Claghorn, born July 6, 1748. Col. Claghorn was active during the Revolution, in which he served as lieutenant, captain and major. After the Revolution he engaged in shipbuilding.
Capt. Thomas Arey is supposed to have been the first of the Edgartown white people to settle on Chappaquiddick, about 1750, and he was undoubtedly in his time the largest land owner there, owning some 250 acres bought from the Indians. Capt. Arey was followed by Joseph Huxford, Thomas Fish, Henry Fish, Benjamin Pease Jr., Thomas Smith, Matthew Butler, Joseph Swasey Jr. In 1790 the population is said to have been 190 whites and Indians.
After passing Cape Pogue bound eastward the coasting vessel picks up in succession lightships as follows: Cross Rip, Handkerchief, Shovelfull, Pollock Rip, Pollock Rip Shoals, and then they are “out of the woods,” as it were.
One of the luckiest of whalemen of fifty years ago, possibly the most fortunate, was Capt. Clement Norton formerly of Edgartown. He was credited with having assisted in taking 30,040 barrels of oil, sailed over a million miles, went twelve voyages as master, and never lost a spar larger than a topsail yard.
The Eel Pond near the village of Edgartown was in 1775 called Gurnet Pond, and about 1795 was called on a State map Daniel’s Pond.
New Bedford was established Feb. 23, 1787; made a city March 9, 1847. Fall River was founded Feb. 26, 1803; made a city April 12, 1854. By the census 1910 New Bedford had a population of 96,652; Fall River 119,295.
The area of the township of Edgartown is 29.7 square miles; of the County of Dukes County 113 square miles. Suffolk County is 48 and Nantucket county is 52 square miles. The area of the other Vineyard towns is as follows: Chilmark, 19.4; Gay Head, 5.2; Gosnold, 13.2; Oak Bluffs, 7.9; Tisbury, 7.1; West Tisbury, 30.5.
1000 shingles, laid 4 inches to the weather, should cover 100 square feet of surface.
The Vineyard Gazette after its establishment in 1846 was printed in the Milton Building, Main street.
On Jan. 1, 1854, according to the published reports, there were engaged in the whale fishery of the United States 602 ships and barks, 23 brigs, 38 schooners, a total tonnage of 208,029. Three-quarters of the above tonnage was owned in Massachusetts ports.
In February, 1871, the Postoffice Department sanctioned the change of name from Holmes Hole to Vineyard Haven — our thriving neighbor on the North. The first Postmaster at Edgartown was Beriah Norton, appointed Jan. 1, 1795, and on the same date a Postmaster, Issac Daggett, was appointed for Holmes Hole, now Vineyard Haven. Since the Edgartown office was established in 1795 nine men have held the position and Mr. Ripley will be the tenth.
The late Sol Smith Russell, actor, who summered at Edgartown, was born in Brunswick, Missouri, June 18, 1848. He was for nearly two years a drummer boy in the Union Army early in the War. His first performance in Chicago was in 1863, and for many years after he delighted American audiences.
Henry Marchant, lawyer, was a member of the Continental Congress from Rhode Island for four years. He was born on Martha’s Vineyard in 1741.
The large tree at the rear of the Edgartown National Bank building is a black walnut, and has grown, it is said, from a nut planted by the late Heman Arey on the day of the laying of the corner stone of Bunker Hill Monument, June 17, 1825.
The steamer City of Columbus, of the Boston-Savannah Line was wrecked on the Devil’s Bridge off Gay Head on the morning of Friday, Jan. 18, 1884.
Compiled by Hilary Wall