On Feb. 17, 1880, Cottage City became the only town in the state of Massachusetts to secede — ironically due to taxation without representation, the same reason the new United States ended its relationship with Britain. It only took America a brief 15 years to discover and fall in love with our town. Crowds thronged the magical new City in the Woods, and people came from all over to see the fascinating new town and its pleasing amenities. Whaling was on the wane; most of the ships had moved on to New Bedford and Edgartown was on the downswing, jealous of its northern neighborhood thriving on tourism. It improved a road, built a railroad and refused to fund a bridge to Vineyard Haven in order to pick the pockets of people bringing the new economy with them to America’s newest watering place.

Once Cottage City realized the schools wanted and fire equipment needed was not to be forthcoming, the end was near. Irony prevails in Oak Bluffs where, with the need to diversify, four of the six founders of the Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Company had made fortunes captaining whaling ships. So it was only fitting that secession was assured by the 1879 Islandwide election of Chilmark’s Stephen Flanders, a supporter of Cottage City’s separation whose vote set us free. Capt. Stephen Flanders’ career began on whaleships at age 15. Captain Flanders, an ancestor of my Chilmark Real Estate buddy Julie Flanders, served as master of the Kate Cory, Cleone, and Janet of Westport, and New Bedford’s Sea Ranger, Robert Edwards and Alice Knowles where, on his last trip to the Atlantic from June 6, 1883 to Sept. 16, 1884, he killed about nine whales worth $555,641 in today’s dollars. As reported in the Vineyard Gazette, Captain Flanders “never lowered for whales on Sunday, never lost a man from death, and never met with a serious accident.” Thanks to a Chilmark whaling captain and, appropriately for Black History month, the original people and black residents of Farm Neck who voted in favor, at 4:40 p.m. on Feb. 17, 1880, Gov. Thomas Talbot signed a petition in the state legislature proclaiming Cottage City independent of Edgartown. Tuesday we celebrate our 135th anniversary proving it takes a village . . . to leave one.

Victorian Secrets, the Martha’s Vineyard Museum’s exhibit showcasing 19th century undergarments, opens today with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Sign up for membership and attend free, otherwise the $7 admission fee is worth it for you and your sweetie to kick off Valentine’s Day weekend with a guarantee there’ll be some underwear seen.

There’s a Valentine party for kids at the library tomorrow from 10 a.m. to noon with crafts and, of course, candy. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the library hosts Hearts and Chocolate if you’d like to write a valentine to a favorite character in literature, and the best of these wins a prize.

At 4 p.m. tomorrow the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society hosts the award-buzzed movie Selma, free to people under 18 years old (while space lasts) followed by a dialogue with Gretchen Tucker Underwood and Isabella Hazell El-Deiry in tribute to Polly Murphy, Peg Lilienthal, Virginia Mazer, Nancy Smith and Nancy Whiting. Nancy Weadock Whiting was, as Gazette editor Julia Wells wrote in her memory, “a person of many interests, sturdy character and liberal politics.” Mrs. Whiting and these other four white ladies drove to a small southern town in the sixties to take clothes to its black community, helped some register to vote and wound up arrested and spending the night in jail. Mrs. Whiting was also instrumental in founding the MV NAACP in 1963. Thanks to MV Museum if you’d like to hear Mrs. Whiting’s stories in her own words, call 508-275-9149 and press #229 and/or #235.

On Monday the United Methodist Church will have a Valentine’s Tea at the parish hall at 2 p.m. with English afternoon tea sweets and sandwiches. Tickets are available at Phillips Hardware for $8. Call Rose Kaszuba at 406-890-4255 for information.

Look What A Wonder, the gospel opera by Walter Robinson (not Johnson as I wrote last week) debuted at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center last Sunday. As a footnote, West Tisbury’s Walter Robinson was the young African American band member that Lucy Bideau Hart Abbot let stay at her home until her father insisted that either he or they leave. They all did.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Keep your foot on a rock.

Send your Oak Bluffs news to: sfinley@mvgazette.com.