From the September 29, 1939 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

Such quantities of striped bass as were reported last weekend around the Island have not been duplicated in probably half a century. Schools of these fish that appeared to fill the waters as far as eyes could see were sighted off the South Side, in Vineyard Sound, and in many of the creeks, harbors and coves.

On the ocean surf, off the South Beach, huge fish could be seen swimming in the rising, curling breakers and Menemsha Creek was reported “solid full” on several different nights and early mornings.

How many of these fish were taken is not known, but it was apparent that everyone who owned a rod and reel was fishing somewhere during the weekend, and no fisherman returned empty handed. Fish weighing from nine to forty pounds were exhibited, with many running between thirty and thirty-five. The ice chests of markets were all liberally supplied, and many fish were on exhibition in trucks along the streets. The names of Charles Call, William H. Andrews, Fred Place, Allan Keniston, Eliot Norton, Allen Gale and Harry Norton, were mentioned in the list of fortunate fishermen who succeeded in landing one or more of these silvery giants.

Queer indeed was the tale that came from Menemsha Creek, where the great mass of fish was reported. With jigs, spinners, eels, clam worms and other devices, the fishermen attempted to lure the fish but without avail. A visitor from the mainland told of using strips of red inner tubes, and when this was tried, a number of fine fish were taken.

Not since the famous old days of the bass clubs has any such rod and reel fishing been known, and it is not unlikely that even the fishing in those days fell below the present variety.

The European war drew near to the Vineyard last weekend when a German submarine was reported off the New England coast, some said near Noman’s Land, evidently lying in wait for allied shipping bound overseas. Although no official statements could be obtained and from reports of fishermen, that the U.S. Coast Guard was taking an active interest in the report.

Although the neutrality laws would permit a ship of war belonging to a warring nation to enter any U.S. port for supplies, fuel or other necessities, and would guarantee to such a craft under the closest of surveillance in order that no overt acts may be committed with the territorial waters.

For some time there have been rumors current around the waterfronts, where the larger fishing vessels lie, that German subs have been seen on the offshore fishing banks. It has further been stated as a fact that submarines have hailed fishermen and negotiated for the purchase of fresh fish. That liquor has been traded for fish at times has also been reported.

Officials who have been approached on this matter have said that there is nothing illegal or even irregular about this, but the reported presence of belligerent craft so close to the coast has had a disquieting effect on many persons.

A New York newspaper called up the other day to inquire as to the likelihood that a German submarine might be using Noman’s Land as a base. As soon as the reports were published that mysterious submarines were operating off this coast we might have known that good old Noman’s Land would come into it - our own island of mystery, adventure and romance. From the day of Leif Ericsson to the day of hijacking and rum running, Noman’s Land has been haunted by destiny in all its secret and conspiring moods.

Many there are who still think that the name of the island derives from the fact that it was beyond the domain of any man. This is not so. Tequenoman was an Indian, and the last part of his name is used in the name of Noman’s Land. But this is not a real flaw in the island’s title to an esoteric reputation. The annals of Noman’s Land are full of the unusual and the strange, and in the fiction of Louis Joseph Vance and others they take flight as far as an ingenious imagination can reach.

On Noman’s flocks of sheep were once pastured, and it was said that the sheep were deaf because of the constant roar of the surf against the shores. On Noman’s a Vineyarder dug for treasure and the hole may still be seen. On Noman’s lived Henry Davis who sued to compel the town of Chilmark to erect a school there. On Noman’s there have been hundreds of wrecks, most of them leading at least to stories of piracy and salvage and at the most of stories of lost treasure. On the island, too, the codfishermen had their strange shanty village, Gulltown, and gathered in the fall of the year to pursue a dangerous calling, their boats being hauled out nightly by oxen.

We do not know that Noman’s Land has, as yet, had much to do with submarines, but it is not too late to begin. Where there is mystery, there lies Noman’s lonely in the sea and the fog, inhabited not only by a caretaker but by a goodly crew of strange ghosts.

Compiled by Hilary Wall