Ogkeshkuppe, the original name of Oak Bluffs, has always been a religious place, a highlight of which is a historic rock — Pulpit Rock — located near Pecoy Point. Much evidence supports it being located down Pulpit Rock Road, on the left amid a stand of trees on the way to the point.

The original people called the neighborhood ‘Pohqu-auk,’ meaning open land. If you look at old maps and pictures you’ll see most of this part of Oak Bluffs — almost all the away over to the Lagoon — was treeless, rolling meadows. This special place was used for gathering shellfish and eels, and growing corn, squash and tobacco. The main source of fresh water was the Land Bank’s Weahtaqua (place of the boundary spring) Springs Preserve at the southernmost point of the Lagoon that the original people traversed using a trail system that remains, up to and beyond the Southern Woodlands.

To the left of Pulpit Rock Road is the historic Norton cemetery where a boulder in the back resembles a pulpit. That’s the one I suspect may have been the actual rock because it’s closer to the trail system and farther from where I imagine the original people actually lived.

Along with headstones, there are also rocks the native people used to mark their graves. Of course that’s just speculation. What’s important about this place, and that rock, is that it’s the spot where in 1648 Thomas Mayhew Jr. proselytized the native born Hiacoomes and convinced him to adopt the Christian religion. This is widely believed to have been the first time that occurred in America.

Hiacoomes went on to teach Christianity. In an Oct. 16, 1651 letter to Rev. Henry Whitfield, Mr. Mayhew described the location of Hiacoomes’s teaching.

“Where stood the rock on a descending ground upon which he used to sometimes stand and preach…”

Pulpit Rock was also where the former slave John Saunders preached to the original people and other people of color when he brought Methodism here in 1787. There’s a monument to him as part of the African American Heritage Trail at the parking lot further down the road towards Pecoy Point. It occurs to me that some type of acknowledgement of an event from 1648, 187 years before even our Camp Ground was founded, might be warranted for Pulpit Rock as well.

Martha‘s Vineyard Magazine’s Cook the Vineyard is at noon on Monday, July 20. Oak Bluffs lifestyle personality Sissy Biggers will introduce five Vineyard cookbook authors whose recipes will be prepared and served by Lola’s, with wine from Channing Daughters Vineyard. This is the second year for the well-received event and if there are tickets left you can get them at eventsmv.com. Act now!

The 11th Della Hardman Day celebration is next Saturday (July 25) at 4 p.m. in Ocean Park. The annual event is sponsored by the town of Oak Bluffs and the Della Hardman Day Committee to celebrate community, culture and the life of Della Hardman, who for many years was the writer of this column. She signed off each week with the warm advice to “Savor the Moment.”

This year, the guest speaker is Cornell William Brooks, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Della Hardman Day is free and open to the public, and for more information you can contact her daughter Andrea Taylor at msataylor@msn.com.

It’s great to see the rapid progress of the renovation of Niantic Park following a long hard winter, but there is much still to do and the help of the public is always welcome. Thanks to reader George Moran’s reminder, if you would like to contribute, checks for the playground can be sent to The Friends of Oak Bluffs, P.O. Box 1281, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557. For contributions for basketball, tennis and the rest of the park, send to the Town Of Oak Bluffs Niantic Park Fund, P.O. Box 1327.

I hope you were one of the many who attended last weekend’s fabulous Martha’s Vineyard Sound Festival at Waban Park. It was amazing. Kenyatta Hill was my favorite even if Dennis daRosa and I may have been the oldest people there. Congratulations and thanks to his son Phil for bringing the music back to O.B.

Earlier this week only one moped was not rented of the 14 that are usually parked in the unauthorized parking spot next to the Strand. The proprietors must be doing a great business. At $25 per ticket for nighttime parking, the town could sure use that $350, maybe to add to the coffers of renovating Niantic Park.

Keep your foot on a rock.

Send Oak Bluffs news to sfinley@mvgazette.com.