Edgartown’s whaling Capt. Nathaniel M. Jernegan contributed to the history of Oak Bluffs. His most notable trip, when he was 33 years old, was aboard the Eliza F. Mason that left New Bedford for the North Pacific on Dec. 2, 1853. Near the Gilbert Islands of the distant nation of Kirbati, Jernegan’s ship met up with the Jireh Swift, another whaler led by Capt. William Earl and they decided to hunt together given the potential danger of treacherous reefs.

On Dec. 17, 1854, the terrifying cry of “Fire!” broke out at 10:30 that evening. Both ships’ crews fought the fire into the next morning. With hatches closed to keep air from fueling the fire the work was long and difficult. They felt they were pouring “the Pacific ocean into the ship,” and over five feet of water were measured in the hull. Seeking a confession for the deliberately set fire, Jernegan made every man aboard place his hand on a bible. Lacking that, he singled out ten of the hardest looking characters and ordered them put in irons. Soon out of patience he randomly selected three men he hung on the rigging, feet barely touching the deck. Then he lashed them until one divulged the names of three who were responsible. The fire continued for three days—and the conspirators remained strung up by Jernegan who decided their fate would match that of the seemingly soon to be lost ship.

A fourth man was found to have set a cask of tar afire, making the wooden ship a cauldron in the sea. Laoma G. Pillsbury, William Powers, George St. Clair and ringleader Dorr Houghlin had planned escaping in the confusion to live on nearby islands and each received “four hundred lashes.” The ship was saved by a squall—as were the mutineers whose fates are unknown. Houghlin left the ship three miles at sea from Guam and presumably drowned.

The Eliza F. Mason was Jernegan’s third ship. He quelled a mutiny on the Adelina. Resulting from an error by his pilot, he almost lost the Gideon Howland. He was involved in a collision on the George & Susan and had another narrow escape on the high seas aboard the Thomas Dickason. But all his voyages were financially successful and he retired a wealthy man. His connection to Oak Bluffs is that he invested into the scheme to develop Katama—and the ill-fated Martha’s Vineyard Railroad Company—where he endured a heavy financial loss. Having led an interesting life until his death in 1889, if Nathaniel M. Jernegan hadn’t had bad luck he wouldn’t have had any.

Today at 5pm is the opening of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum’s latest exhibit telling the story about the Denniston family and historic Bradley Church. Admission is free for members (you really should join!) and $7 for non-members. The wildly anticipated exhibit is expected to be fabulous.

Connect to End Violence recognizes April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month to raise public attention of the problem. Join the group tomorrow, April 11, for a walk through Oak Bluffs to show support for victims and survivors. Meet at the bandstand in Ocean Park at 10:30 a.m. for registration. The Walk begins promptly at 11 a.m. Modest registration proceeds go directly to victim and survivor services. For more information, contact Jaime at jschwab@mvcommunityservices.com or (508) 684-8074, ext. 104.

It’s again time for Dads and Donuts at the library from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. tomorrow. Decorate donuts, stay between the lines in coloring books and play games with Dad in Oak Bluffs’ favorite family spot. The creativity never ends either; Saturday’s activities also include a visit by a bottle-fed calf from a Chilmark farm. Keeping with the theme there will be cow puppet making and books about bovines.

Wednesday, April 15 features an evening with banjo stars Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the high school Performing Arts center. Local musicians hold the duo in high esteem—tickets are $35 in advance and $45 at the door. More information is at www.eventsmv.com.

Oak Bluffs’ Emmy Award winning filmmaker Stan Nelson launched a Kickstarter campaign to assist the theatrical release of his movie, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution. Premiering to acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival. Fifty thousand dollars is being raised to help PBS bring the film to the public. Google Kickstarter Black Panthers to contribute.

Martha’s Vineyard Gourmet Bakery opens next Thursday—and there will be fritters at Back Door Donuts Friday at 7 p.m. Thirteen days to pizza and clams at Giordano’s—Thursday, April 23!

Keep your foot on a rock.

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