There are so many reasons to be pleased with nostalgia in Oak Bluffs, not the least of which is that you’ve aged well enough, long enough (so far) to experience it. You may have noticed over these last 194 columns (but who’s counting?) that I find the characters of Oak Bluffs intriguing. Chief of the Wampanoags from 1928 to 1960, the Rev. Leroy C. Perry, Ousamequin (Yellow Feather) is an easy favorite. Unlike other town characters, however, no matter how delighted I’ve been to have met him, it turns out that Chief Yellow Feather was a person of consequence who required more research.

In November 1933, the chief spoke at the Edgartown Men’s Club on Indian folklore, something he toured and spoke about at schools and YMCAs around the country. In his remarks he stressed that the people of his tribe were not “red faced Savages” but in fact were a kindly and brotherly people who had been convinced to swap away all they had possessed without compensation of any kind. It was reported that the chief was an “eloquent, witty and convincing speaker.”

A letter to the editor in the Gazette on Sept. 18, 1936 told of a memorial service conducted by the chief where he remarked on the historical times of Thomas Mayhew, Indian preachers Japhet Hannits, Towanquattick and Hiacoomes. Surprisingly, he noted that the original pewter set used by the early preachers for communion had been entrusted into Reverend Perry’s care. It would be wonderful to locate the historic plate, tankard and cup they used.

In January 1946, Reverend Perry’s second wife, Susie F. Gladding Perry, died at the Vineyard hospital from burns she received in a fire at their home. They were married in 1907; she was 76 when she died. Some years before Chief Yellow Feather’s death in 1960 (he and Susie are buried in Oak Grove Cemetery) he wrote a letter to the Boston Herald stating: “I am sorry that any group of so-called Americans assumes the right to classify the descendants of the ‘original aborigine’ called, unfortunately, by Christopher Columbus, ‘Indians’. We are not and never were Indians. We, here, were Wampanoags . . .”

The letter was signed, Rev. LeRoy C. Perry, Supreme Chief Sachem, Ousa Mequin, Oak Bluffs. His obituary in the Gazette notes he was survived by his widow (evidently his first wife) Cynthia Taylor Perry and three children, and mentioned he had his own chapel in Oak Bluffs. I can’t help wondering if that was the now abandoned African American Meeting House near the corner of Garvin and Dukes County avenues.

The Association of Food Journalists announced that our Jessica B. Harris won the Carol DeMasters Service to Food Journalism Award recognizing individuals who have made significant contributions to the field of food journalism. Jessica has authored more than a dozen cookbooks, is a full professor at Queens College and earned her Ph.D. from New York University. She is a consultant for the cafeteria of the Smithsonian African American Museum of History and Culture that opens this September and will accept the award in September.

In Niantic Park news, the town is proceeding with a poured-in-place rubber surface for the playground and working on details. An official reopening is planned for June.

Philip Swift’s funeral service is this Saturday, April 16, at Chapman, Cole and Gleason at 11 a.m. with a reception afterwards. Having worked at Jardin Mahoney for a number of years, Phil will be missed by many.

Getting mail in Edgartown is challenging, aren’t you glad we seceded? And soon, liquor in Vineyard Haven. We need toll booths at our bridges.

Keep your foot on a rock.

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