From the October 18, 1935 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

Vehicular travel is directed toward Manter’s Hill and The Brickyard in old Cape Higgon these days, the old road having been opened after having remained closed by nature for several decades, and although the occasion for the reopening of the road for travel is the utilization of the ancient site for a pleasure resort, the interest and traditions of the spot are once again renewed.

Historical records set the brickyard by Smith and Barrows at 1851, and further states that the establishment was operated for twenty years thereafter. Three acres were laid out in yards and the plant and twin metal smokestacks poured smoke to the sky when the engines were in operation. Later, when water power was employed, the great wheel was itself a wonderful piece of mechanism, operated as it was by the famed Roaring Brook, which was turned from its course for a long distance to flow through a deep gorge, dug, so it is said, by the sea. Though the ruin of the brickyard is complete, the brook still follows the path into which it was directed by the brickmakers long ago.

Old people have said much regarding the “freshet” that destroyed the mill dam, caused the Roaring Brook to overflow and wash away its banks, carrying buildings down to the sea and undermining others, causing them to fall. But the old pictures, made some seventy years ago, refer to a great breach made by the sea, which tore down a portion of the sea wall, and apparently flooded a large area during a storm of frightful intensity.

There is, also, somewhat westerly from the brickyard, and included in the property buildings of the old company, an area of land where no vegetation grows. Settled slightly from the level of the surrounding county, it is sandy and barren. An earth tremor, accompanied by explosive sounds, and a cloud of smoke smelling of sulphur, have been mentioned in old stories in connection with this spot, and hints that an earthquake or volcanic disturbance might be responsible have been made by old residents.

But of all this vast territory owned and controlled by the brick company, there is no place nor object containing the interest and romance of the Harris house, once a part of the original holding, but later purchased by the Harris family and still owned by them.

The story that has been handed down for many generations is that the house was found on Noman’s Land by the first white people who came to the Vineyard. The tradition says that one William Norton, who owned the present Harris farm, desired to purchase the old house on Noman’s Land as it was expensive and slow work to hew out building timber.

The story then goes on to relate that Norton failed to obtain the house at a figure that he offered, and connived to have the price lowered by employing some boys to “haunt” the house at the time when he and the owners visited Noman’s Land to inspect the property. The haunting was so effective that his offer was eagerly accepted and the house was flaked and brought to its present site.

But the tale goes on to relate that the first owners of the house on Noman’s, used it for a barn, that it was sold to some of the early inhabitants of Noman’s, rehabilitated and used by them as a dwelling until a fight occurred in one of the rooms and a man was killed there - all this before it came to the Vineyard.

“Aunt” Rebecca Manter, wife of the miller of Roaring Brook, said that it had long been known that the dining room of the house could not be papered without the greatest difficulty, and that during the process someone from California was always sure to appear. An amusing tale, as the present owners of the house agreed. But on one occasion, several years ago, they planned to paper this room, and made arrangements with a paper hanger to do the work. The paper hanger was prevented form carrying out his part of the contact; others were employed, only to fall ill, and several months passed without any progress being made. On a January day, in the midst of a Blizzard, the family decided to paper the room themselves, and began the work. Before the day was over, not one, but two persons, both from California, appeared at the house. Neither was known to the other, and one had never visited the Vineyard before. No one believes that there is anything to this old wives’ tale, but all agree that it is strange that it should have occurred, and the room is papered now.

There are many other interesting things in and about the old Brickyard and the surrounding country, all calculated to interest the delver into history and folk tales. The brick barn has stood for more than a century, and the old grist mill near the brickyard presents a picturesque view of ruin. No one has every suggested ghosts or other supernatural visitations, but there are few places in Chilmark where human agencies are known to have been so active over so long a period as at the Brickyard around it.

Compiled by Hilary Wall