From the Feb. 2, 1968 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

One person who was not particularly impressed by the cold spell that had the Vineyard pretty solidly frozen in last month is Mrs. Arthur C. Vincent of Edgartown. “In 1886,” she said the other day, “we had one worse than this one.”

Mrs. Vincent has no trouble at all remembering an occurrence of 82 years ago. She was 14 years old at the time, and still vivid is the memory of one Saturday morning during that earlier cold snap — “It was the 18th of January, I think” — when she and her best chum, Edith Ripley, who was to become Mrs. Charles H. Marchant, the wife of the Old Editor of the Gazette, went skating on Edgartown harbor.

The boat, which in those days came into Edgartown harbor and on which Mrs. Vincent’s father, Manuel Norton, served as steward for many years, was frozen in for three weeks that year, and Mrs. Vincent remembered that the lighthouse keeper at Cape Pogue walked across the harbor to town to get supplies.

These recollections of days in Edgartown are now far beyond the memory of all but a very few living persons were made as she sat in the living room of the house on School street that has been her home for 72 years. Or rather, to be entirely precise, as Mrs. Vincent invariably is when she is discussing dates, it will have been 72 years this coming Monday.

Age has come gracefully on her. With a bright alertness, she deplores the inevitable infirmities that have curtailed her activities, as would be perfectly natural in a woman whose life has been filled with vigorous pursuits. However, although she is troubled with difficulty in hearing and in walking, she still enjoys one of her great pleasures, reading. She also enjoys recounting to friends the happenings of an earlier day, and her anecdotes are often concluded with that old Vineyard expression, “Now, isn’t that quite a tell?”

Mrs. Vincent’s father came to the Island from the Azores when he was 14 years old. His last name had been Marchard, but he adopted the surname of Norton from the captain of the vessel, John Oliver Norton. She described her father as a calm and quiet-spoken man. He had gone to the little school in Edgartown, where he was taught by Miss Charlotte Andrews, a teacher who became something of an institution herself during her long career, which extended until the time Mrs. Vincent herself was a pupil in the school.

Her father made two trips around Cape Horn on whaling voyages that lasted four years each. During his years as steward on the Vineyard boats, usually on the little side-wheeler Monohansett, Mrs. Vincent recalled, “he had to get up at half past 4 in the morning and go down to the boat, and he did not get back until 7 at night, and he got paid a dollar a day. When he got through the head man gave him $35 out of his own pocket, and that’s all he got out of the company.”

One of the daily pleasures in those days, she said, was to go down to the dock at 6 o’clock of an evening and watch the boat come in, but she said that it seemed to her that she herself never came in on the boat from the mainland that there wasn’t a load of lumber or something to be let off at Vineyard Haven, and often the boat did not reach Edgartown until 8 o’clock or thereabouts.

Mrs. Vincent had an uncle who was a great friend of one of the sons of Dr. Daniel Fisher, and she said that they were great devils as young men. As a case in point, she told of the time Nancy Smith came over from Chappaquiddick with her basket of eggs to sell, and the Fisher youth set off a firecracker close enough to her to cause her in her fright to send the eggs flying. She was subsequently rewarded with a $10 bill. Mrs. Vincent was graduated from the Edgartown School in 1889. The class before hers was memorable, too, since it was the only one to her knowledge that never had a graduation. For some reason, all but one member in the Class of 1888, a boy, had failed to complete the final year of school, and he refused to stand up alone to be presented his diploma.

In 1896, the then Miss Annie M. Norton married Arthur C. Vincent, and he took her in to live in the School street house, the oldest part of which had been, in the tradition of old Vineyard houses, something else and somewhere else. It had been moved from the other side of the Old Edgartown Lighthouse bridge, where it had served as Dolphus Pease’s workshop. To the south of the house after it was moved to School street as far as the Edgartown Boys’ Club, which Mrs. Vincent still calls “the school,” there was nothing but a field of daises.

“The daisies were so high we used to play hide and seek in them, and you couldn’t find anybody.”

Not only has the field of daisies disappeared, Mrs. Vincent remarked, “Everything has changed.”

“Even the streets are new, and I don’t know where they are,” she said, and remarked particularly about the changes in Ocean Heights.

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox