From the Vineyard Gazette of January 1914:
The first exports from New England to Europe were two cargoes of sassafras, gathered by Martin Pring and his company on Martha’s Vineyard and the neighboring islands, and taken by Pring to England in sloop Speedwell and bark Discoverer, two small vessels. They came over in 1603, setting sail from Milford Haven, April 10th. With the sassafras on board they sailed from the Vineyard August 9th and arrived at Bristol, England, Oct. 2, 1603. Sassafras at the time was held in high esteem for its medicinal qualities.
Capt. Thomas Arey is supposed to have been the first of the Edgartown white people to settle on Chappaquidick, about 1750, and he was undoubtedly in his time the largest land owner there, owning some 250 acres bought off the Indians. Capt. Arey was followed by Joesph Huxford, Thomas Fish, Henry Fish, Benjamin Pease, Jr., Thomas Smith, Matthew Butler, Joseph Swasey, Jr. In 1790 the population is said to have been 190 whites and Indians.
On Jan. 1, 1854, according to the published reports, there were engaged in the whale fishery of the United States 602 ships and barks, 23 brigs, 38 schooners, a total tonnage of 208,029. Three-quarters of the above tonnage was owned in Massachusetts.
One of the luckiest of whalemen of fifty years ago, possibly the most fortunate, was Capt. Clement Norton, formerly of Edgartown. He was credited with having assisted in taking 30,040 barrels of oil, sailed over a million miles, went twelve voyages as master, and never lost a spar larger than a topsail yard.
In February, 1871, the Post Office Department sanctioned the change of name from Holmes Hole to Vineyard Haven — our thriving neighbor on the North.
The first postmaster at Edgartown was Beriah Norton, appointed Jan. 1, 1795, and on the same date a Postmaster, Issac Daggett, was appointed for Holmes Hole, now Vineyard Haven. Since the Edgartown office was established in 1795, nine men have held the position and Mr. (Henry L.) Ripley will be the tenth.
Gen. William J. Worth, an American general, was born at Hudson, N.Y., in 1794, where his parents, Edgartown people, were temporarily residing. He served in the war of 1812, against the Indians in Florida, and in the war with Mexico; died at San Antonio, Texas, in 1849. He was buried in New York city, where there is a statue to his memory.
Henry Marchant, laywer, was a member of the Continental Congress from Rhode Island for four years. He was born on Martha’s Vineyard in 1741.
The large tree at the rear of the Edgartown National Bank building is a black walnut, and has grown, it is said, from a nut planted by the late Heman Arey on the day of the laying of cornerstone of Bunker Hill monument, June 17, 1825.
The steamer City of Columbus, of the Boston-Savannah Line was wrecked on the Devil’s Bridge off Gay Head on the morning of Friday, Jan. 18, 1884.
As far back as 1782 at least, there was an iron mine on Martha’s Vineyard, located near Prospect Hill in Chilmark, the ore from which mine went mostly to Taunton forges. During the war of 1812, it is related, ore from this mine was taken to Carver and was there converted into shot for the frigate “Constitution,” which in 1814 was fitting out in Boston. These balls made from Vineyard iron ore were used by the Constitution when she fought and captured the two British ships of war, the Cayane and Levant, off Madeira.
The designer and constructor of the frigate Constitution was a Chilmark man, Col. George L. Claghorn, born July 6, 1748. Col. Claghorn was active during the Revolution, in which he served as lieutenant, captain and major. After the Revolution, he engaged in shipbuilding.
After passing Cape Pogue, bound eastward, the coasting vessel picks up on succession lightships as follows: Cross Rip, Hankerchief, Shovelfull, Pollock Rip, Pollock Rip Shoals, and then they are “out of the woods,” as it were.
Compiled by Alison Mead