In January 1929, Lucy P. Vincent Smith was asked to write about the Cottage City of 50 years prior. Involved with another project at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, I fortuitously came across her letter — that answered questions about the 1870s I hadn’t thought about. The three-and-a-half page document was typed from her handwriting, and notes on it indicate she was born in 1842 and died in 1933. Based on that, she was 87 when she wrote it. She had a great sense of humor.

The paper acknowledged that Cottage City hadn’t come into being in 1879 — so she wrote a brief introduction of how Capt. Shubael L. Norton and his cohorts had begun the new Oak Bluffs development. As we know, the Camp Ground community “became alarmed” and hurriedly built a tall fence to keep out the new “noisy disturbing element.” What I learned was that there were two gates, one at Pennacook avenue and another at the other end of Circuit avenue. Mrs. Smith recounted going “bluffing” with several other young people in 1868 after services one night.

“The moon was just rising as we reached the Bluffs trailing through a narrow path cut through the woods.” This was before the boardwalks and before Ocean Park — the bluffing continued and inspired Etta Godfrey’s 1872 song, the Oak Bluffs Galop (sic). Policemen were stationed at both gates to keep people out after curfew, and she and her friends had to run back so the fastest among them would beg for the gate to be kept open for the laggards. Lucy was apparently the fastest. They shared a tent in the Camp Ground divided in two with girls on one side and the brother of one of the girls on the other. She told how buckets were to be kept filled with water at the back of tents in the event of fire. The water was from two pumps; one near the association building and the other at County Park.

The gap and circumstance is unexplained, but in 1869 she wrote about her husband, a whaling captain, returning from a trip of “three years and eight months.” With his planning to ship out again — with his family — she decided they needed some time off alone and so “we boarded son in Edgartown then at a troublesome age, full of mischief realizing it would be no rest to take care of him at such a place as the Camp Ground then was and came not out of town for this was still a part of Edgartown generally called ‘Eastville.’”

Nice to know kids were the same in the 1860s as they are now — and interesting to find that even then parents with means knew what to do with them. Lucy P. Vincent Smith was a Tivoli Girl before her time — but no, she wasn’t the Jungle Beach Lucy Vincent, if that’s what you’re thinking. The Smith’s had an enjoyable vacation and bought a home before the next trip. We’ll pick up the story next week.

Tomorrow morning at 11 a.m. there’s a spring egg hunt for kids at the Oak Bluffs library sponsored by the Library Friends of Oak Bluffs. It’s followed next Saturday, April 26, by spring cookie decorating for people ages 2 and up, some of whom must be adult supervisors. Incidentally, Rosemary Hildreth, whose beautiful picture graces the 2013 Oak Bluffs Annual Town Report, chooses books for the library collection.

Dave Oliveira, one of our town constables, told me about the Vineyard’s Barnacle Club, one of the oldest men’s clubs in the country (circa 1883) and shared articles about it from the Vineyard Gazette as early as 1918. While each of the four articles between then and 1933 attest to the club’s congeniality, it’s not clear what all is included in membership, but clearly mirth is among the activities. A poem printed in 1918 begins, “The Vineyard has its Barnacle Club, A club with a far-wide fame / Acknowledged by all as Vineyard’s hub, Right proud they hold the name. / The “boys” oft meet for a friendly brush / With checkers, or cards night or day: I’ve witnessed some games of strenuous rush, / But no money’s involved in play.”

Ahh, Circuit avenue awakens after a long winter: there are new spots like Beetlebung Cafe, a brand new Lamppost, a new sidewalk opposite Conroy’s Apothecary and Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank, many comforting old friends reopening — despite the intractable Sand Theatre and its depressingly unkempt brother, the Island. I long for new zoning rules with the teeth of multi-thousand dollar daily fines.

Keep your foot on a rock.