In May 1879 a group calling themselves the Vineyard Publishing Association started the Cottage City Star in Vineyard Grove. The Star, a weekly newspaper (bi-weekly in July and August), was expressly founded to spearhead the effort of Oak Bluffs’ seceding from Edgartown. The whaling industry was no longer able to support the economy and Edgartown sought to simultaneously increase taxes and reduce or deny services for schools and safety. It refused to help fund, and objected to the construction of the bridge to Vineyard Haven to prevent Oak Bluffs consumers from easily shopping there — even though taxation without representation had failed 100 years earlier.
The Cottage City Star went into business expressly to portray Oak Bluffs in a more favorable light for the other Island towns that would ultimately get to vote on the secession. Its editor Howes Norris indicated that the movement was launched so the “oppressed section of Edgartown might give voice to their sentiments and have an aid in securing what they deemed their rights.” When Stephen Flanders was elected to the state house in October 1879, the paper achieved its goal and Cottage City was granted incorporation on Feb. 17, 1880. The Cottage City Star was sold to Charles Strahan, who gifted our Civil War confederate soldier statue, in September 1885. Remaining in Oak Bluffs, the Cottage City Star changed the name to the Martha’s Vineyard Herald and ceased publishing in 1922.
In 1877, a travel guide reproduced in the May, 1980 Dukes County Intelligencer waxed eloquently: “As to Oak Bluffs, with its great number of first-class hotels, its countless cottages, beautiful as the abodes of fairy land, its excellent society, moral, intelligent, and high toned, yet reasonably open, democratic, and kindly disposed to all, the best and safest shore for bathing almost on the Atlantic coast — it is the most beautiful of the seaside resorts of Massachusetts.”
In the 1920s the Pawnee House, one of those first-class hotels, had a porter named Jerry who announced himself when steamships arrived as “Porter for the Pawnee” at the top of his lungs. How astounding is it that our own John Tiernan, chief of comfort of the award-winning Dockside Inn, has developed a plan to begin a new “bag cab” business — Pedi-bikes — that will take your bags to where you’re staying while you shop and stroll our historic streets and parks. By the way, “Dockside Johnny” Tiernan’s great-grandfather Manuel Spidola deBettencourt signed the letter of secession from Edgartown. Also, I am delighted to learn that young Mr. Tiernan last month obtained and incorporated the name Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Company. Genius!
It’s St. Patrick’s Day for kids at the Oak Bluffs library tomorrow at noon featuring crafts, food and fun for ages 2 and up — up meaning those adults who can attend to supervise. On the actual St. Patrick’s Day – Monday, March 17 – citizens will be delivering pre-ordered daffodils to those who have contributed to the Martha’s Vineyard Cancer Support Group. They will also be on sale at Cronig’s, the Edgartown Stop & Shop and the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital for only $10. The MVCSG is an all-volunteer group that is promoting Daffodil Day as a rite of spring and to raise funds for Island cancer patients and families. You can get yours, or find out how you can help, by calling Diane Ballay-Foley at 508-693-7115 or AnneMarie Donahue at 508-627-7058.
Save the date for the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital health fair next Saturday!
I had a delightful conversation last week with Dr. Adelaide Cromwell who had read the column wherein I mentioned she had been the first to recognize Oak Bluffs as a resort for African American visitors. When she first came to the Island it was to visit her aunt, but her aunt didn’t own a home in Cottage City. She also let me know she wasn’t just Sen. Edward W. Brooke’s high school classmate at Dunbar in Washington, DC; indeed, they are cousins and it was she who suggested he might like it here, too.
We’ve been told what trees can be planted on Uncas avenue in front of our proposed bowling alley. Has anyone heard of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission having a hearing on the T and the R at the Strand — or the prospect of the two-by-fours holding down the tarps of the Island Theatre roof falling off?
Keep your foot on a rock.