“To be or not to be” - stock or no stock - railroad or no railroad - was the principal question before the community last Saturday, and the town and its “dependencies” (?) turned out en masse to meet the emergency. Every able-bodied voter was in attendance, and the people seemed determined that the matter shouldn’t go by default.

Hon. J. T. Pease was chosen moderator.

The second article of the warrant, “To see if the town would subscribe to the stock of the Martha’s Vineyard Railroad,” &c., coming up, Mr. Samuel Osborn submitted the following resolution:

Resolved, By the citizens of Edgartown in town-meeting assembled, that the Selectmen be and are hereby authorized to subscribe to the capital stock of the Martha’s Vineyard Railroad Company the sum of $15,000, and that they be and are hereby authorized to hire said sum in the name of the town of Edgartown, upon its bonds, and to pay over the same to the proper officers of said Railroad Company upon the appropriate action of the proper officers of said company; provided, that the bona fide subscription to the capital stock of said company, together with this sum of $15,000, shall be not less than $40,000.

It will be seen that a subscription of $15,000 is asked for, on condition the $25,000 shall be otherwise subscribed. The latter sum must be first subscribed before the Selectmen can pay over the former to the officers of the road. On a subscription of $40,000, a road costing $75,000 can be built, the company bonding the road for the remainder. The statues provide that a railroad company can bond its road for an amount equal to the capital subscribed. The Old Colony company will take $40,000 worth of bonds if necessary. The law provides special guards for towns. Not only will the town become a bona fide stockholder, but it has privileges over private individuals: the latter can cast votes representing only a limited number of shares; the former votes on the basis of its whole stock. That a road nine miles long could be built for $75.000 had probably never entered the mind of any one present. It had not seemed possible to the speaker until he had posted himself on the subjects of broad and narrow gauge, grades, &c. The road from Woods Hole to Sandwich cost $450,000. Had we the same kind of country to build over and adopted the same character of construction, it might cost us in the same proportion. But a road constructed on the narrow guage principle, with a less weight of iron and over our level country, could be built for the moderate sum of $75,000. Gentlemen present had the figures to show this. Mr. Osborn said he would rest the matter there for the present and wait for further developments.

Mr. C. F. Dunham offered as an amendment “provided the road goes to the westward of the Camp Ground and Sanchacantackett pond, and that proprietors of land along the line contribute land gratis. This amendment was afterward withdrawn.

Mr. I. N. Luce said he had a word to say. Should say what he thought, and not talk to please the crowd who stamped and clapped their hands on that floor. He would amend by striking out everything after “Resolved” and inserting “that the town will not subscribe.” Towns who mix themselves up in private enterprises commit a fatal blunder. Take care of your poor, your schools, your roads: these are the legitimate functions of a town government. Let private projects take care of themselves. It was as absurd to ask the town to develop Katama as to ask it to keep Mr. Osborn’s ship in repair and find her spars and rigging. The Katama Land Co. were abundantly able to develop their property. If they need a railroad, let them build one. He protested against the town coming in and forcing his neighbor Silas Daggett, who didn’t want any road, into paying for one. Katama had money enough, and ability enough, but lacked confidence in its own scheme. He warned them against increasing the debt of the town to an extent that it could never redeem. Try to sell your land to a party from abroad; he asks - “What is your debt, and what your valuation?” It was policy to tax this town no more. It was oppressing property-holders - his neighbor Silas Daggett and others - who own estate from which they realize nothing. Some of his best friends were in favor of subscribing to the stock of this road; that was no reason why he should be. No one is so easily deceived as to the prospective profits of any given enterprise as a town. Not long ago it was announced that a carriage road down the beach was all that was necessary to insure the building up of the town and the prosperity of its inhabitants. The road was built, but the results were not as was promised. There had been a heavy increase of the town debt, but no increase of taxable property resulting therefrom. As for himself, it was for his interest, personally, to play second fiddle to this road, to electioneer for it, vote for it, and all that, but his conscience would not allow it.

Mr. Benj. Luce said Mr. Osborn had no equal for bringing light out of darkness, but there was one point on which he had failed to enlighten his hearers. He had gone on to say how much the road would cost, and had compared it with other roads; but not a hint to whether it would pay. He was astonished that the gentleman should have overlooked that little point. There were some forty voters who would like instruction in regard to that. Mr. Luce concluded by remarking, very impressively, that he had done for the present but not the future.

Capt. Nathaniel M. Jernegan had a word to say about the road as a source of profit. It would cost about $80,000, and money could be had at 7 per cent. The establishment could be run for $30 a day, one half the cost of running a steamboat. About 50,000 people come to Oak Bluffs and vicinity during the Summer, who would average at least one ride a piece. Every one who has noticed the success of similar enterprises, must agree with him as to the probable success of this. The horse railroad, at Vineyard Grove, which starts from the Highland wharf, swings round the Camp Ground and comes back again, forming a figure 9, sold 40,000 tickets last year. Our Summer population is a community of idlers, and they grasp at anything that offers calculated to vary the monotony of existence. The road from Worcester to Lake Quinsigamond was instances, as being a case in point. 50,000 people would ride down to our South Beach every Summer, and at fifty cents each, or even half of that, would afford a very handsome profit. Moreover, we need better communication with Oak Bluffs and Boston in the Summer than we have had, as all who remember the nocturnal arrivals and break-of-day departures of the steamboats will agree. The speaker understood that there was strong opposition to this road in a certain quarter. We were wanted to buy a steamer. What then? These people would lie by until we had built up our property and made it attractive and a favorite resort, and then “they will put on their boats with their through tickets and run you off.”

Mr. Osborn said that it was well known that the principal opponents of this road were well-disposed towards the town - remarkable so, - were men who would give it all the aid and comfort in their power. That if the citizens of the village should have overlooked anything that might conduce to their comfort and prosperity, these men would be swift to suggest it. But they had suggested nothing to get us out of our difficulty, nothing which should extricate us from the mire of our indebtedness, and in the absence of any such suggestion we must adopt what seemed feasible. We might be mistaken; nobody was infallible; but we must do what seemed to be for the best. He should be very happy to hear all that might be said against the project. We were in need of all the light we could get. Something had got to be done, or we should go under. He would say a few words in answer to the gentleman who wanted to know if the thing would pay. 50,000 people come to this island, (and land at the north end of the town) for whom our South Beach, with its magnificent surf, has as strong an attraction as would Niagara Falls for us were we in its vicinity. To run over a few figures: a train can complete a round trip in an hour. For the first six weeks of the season, with only one trip a day, there would probably be an average of 200 passengers a trip, or 7200 for six weeks, which, at fifty cents per ticket, would about to $3600. The following six weeks there would be, say, five trips per day, making 18,000 passengers who would pay $9000. Total, $12,600. Cost of running, $2500. Net, $10,100. He expected ten per cent. What was good for individuals was good for the town. A gentleman had said that this project was only in the interest of Katama; but the same gentleman only a short time before had told him that the construction of a railroad across the township would be similar in its results to the casting of a stone into a pond; the primary waves therefrom extending their influence to other waves, until the movement reaches from center to shore.

I. N. Luce. “It must have been my brother Ben. who said that.” Mr. O. “No Sir; you’re the man.” “Every acre of this township,” he said, “would feel the revivifying influence of this enterprise.” But today he was pulling back in the traces, like certain animals, sometimes, in going over the mountains. In truth, we might as well argue that the sun’s beams warm the earth and encourage vegetation as to spend time in attempting to show what the effect of railroads is on a community or country. Most of this opposition comes from people who are suspicious that somebody will make more money than they. Mr. Osborn then read extracts from an article in the Boston Advertiser showing the opposition to a road in Quincy and Dorchester in the early days, wherein urged were, “that it would affect the price of oats,” and that “it would destroy Mr. Gillet’s business” as stage-coach proprietor. Quincy and Dorchester no doubt had their Farm Necks and Eastvilles and here is where they appeared. His friend had probably seen them when he was in Boston, and they had taken counsel together. The recent growth of Falmouth was instanced. As for the town debt, it was large; but he knew men in the town who had carried along a debt of fifty or sixty thousand apiece, and finally paid it off as it matured, and there wasn’t much of a stir about it either. Our debt is $100,000 or rather less, and our advertised valuation $2,000,000. But could you bring forth all the government bonds and the deposits from saving banks, the two millions would swell to four. Men should not come in here feeling as though every one of them had got to pay the whole town debt himself. Were it all to be paid at once, it would be divided up into comfortable little parcels that every man could take care of as easily as his supper. He could talk for hours, were there time; the subject was exhaustless.

Mr. I. N. Luce thought it was a pitty the gentleman had not argued a little more and been less funny. The subject did seem exhaustless if treated as it had been. The point which he wished to make, and which should be kept in view, was this: the road might be a good thing; but if so, let those build it who believed in it. They had no right to force him or his neighbor, Silas Daggett, to contribute to it. Once more - Were they willing to involve the town further in debt? Were they willing to present these things to their non-residents. We were told about the laws of the State and what other towns were doing and had done. He would venture the declaration that no town had ever invested in a railroad which was entirely within its own limits.

Mr. Constant Norton said he could only say a few words to fortify Mr. Luce: that gentleman had covered about all the ground. A short time ago the cry of retrenchment was heard in the land, and the people were clamorous for reform. Accordingly they came together in town meeting and cut down a few salaries, and before the week was passed a warrant appeared in the Gazette calling upon the town to convene and vote to subscribe to the stock of a railroad company! He was reminded of the man who had been in the habit of taking a drink at every saloon on his way to his work, and who resolved to reform, and accordingly passed two taverns, but stopped at the third and took three drinks as a treat to his resolution. The same kind of talk we have heard this afternoon had been made use of when the Beach Road was to be voted upon. The predictions then utters had not been verified. There was nothing to base the expenditure upon; no commerce, no manufactures, a little agriculture, and the agriculturists were the people who would suffer. It was doubtful whether the fact of a part of our town being a watering-place had been of any advantage to us; the expenses kept pace with the revenue. Indeed he was inclined to think the balance was against us. It was doubtful whether we should be any better off with another watering-place which this railroad was to build up. As for suggesting any way out of our difficulty, he had been one of the first to warn us not to get into difficulty; not to become involved by building beach roads, &c.

N. M. Jernegan said a good deal had been said about “voting away people’s money” - “forcing others into paying taxes for something that would not benefit them,” and the like. He would like to know how we raised any of our money. Wasn’t every motion in town-meeting to appropriate money opposed by somebody? Didn’t he have to pay money for schools, with no children to reap the benefit thereof? He had heard a good deal about Silas Daggett. Who was Silas Daggett? (S. H. Norton - “One of our nice men.”) A man whose money is all in government bonds and savings banks. “Nice man!” He was somewhat acquainted with the personal history of this nice man, and could indulge in a few little reminiscences which would not place him in a very enviable light. Great stress had been laid on the Beach Road and the debt it had entailed. Past mistakes could not be remedied. He would ask any man if it was any reason, because he was poor and in debt, that he should sit down and do noting. He had looked the thing over carefully, and he believed it to be a good investment, and that it would build up the town. Some hardships of course there would be, but the greatest good of the greatest number was the end to be attained.

Mr. Benj. Luce here made one of his characteristic speeches. He said there was one feature of this thing that stuck out very prominently, that was ominous of a dead suck! If the investment was as good as represented, every dollar would have been taken before the town could convene. The fact was, the Katama Co. were desperate and had staked their all on a single through. (N. M. J. - “Not much.”) Was friendly to the road himself, as it would pass within thirty feet of where he kenneled.

H. Daggett thought that after the town had paid the $15,000, and it had been spent, there would be a further assessment. He had never known an instance where this was not the case. He would be more willing to vote for subscription if the road was to come inside the ponds than down the beach, where it would come in conflict with the driveway. Coming down through the interior, it might enhance the value of the lands through which it ran in some degree, though not very much.

Rev. A. Gannett said he was reluctant to take up time but wished to say a few words. They had been treated to flights of eloquence and magnificent imaginings that afternoon, but a great deal of it was the veriest nonsense. The question was, would the proposed road benefit the town as such? He wishes the land companies all prosperity; he should speak against the interest of no man or corporation. For the good of any community there must be a permanent business. If we appropriate money, it should be in that direction. Would the railroad do it? Somebody had talked about manufactures, but how would the railroad bring them? We had not been told. Supposing there were manufactures, could the products thereof be better transported by being sent to Oak Bluffs by rail, and then broken out and reshipped on the steamers? He believed the business for this place was shipbuilding. If one-half the money that has been put into the stock of land companies had been invested in that business, it might have made the town prosperous and its citizens contented. Finally, he was in favor of a boat rather than a railroad. The people who come here in the Summer have had enough of the latter; they want to sail.

Mr. E. Marchant said he was in favor of manufactures and all those things, but to-day we wanted a railroad and were going to have it. As for the manufactures, they would come with some of the men whom this road will cause to come here. Build this road and manufactures will come along, Katama will grow, everything else will grow, and we shall become a very Vineyard indeed. Refuse to encourage and lend our aid to this enterprise, and this town would soon disappear into the darkness of oblivion. All spirit of improvement would depart from our borders; men of brains would go where they could use them; for aught he could see to the contrary the town would become a waste, howling wilderness; rats and mud-turtles would crawl over our streets, and owls and bats sit in our high places. As for the road being a paying concern, he believed Edgartown alone would support it; there wasn’t a young man or woman but would go to the Bluffs every night after tea.

Mr. Norton. - “We don’t want them to go there; they get no good. Only last Summer a young friend of mine was passing by a cottage on the outskirts when a lot of handkerchiefs began to flutter from the windows. He said he didn’t know he had any acquaintances at that house.”

Mr. Marchant. - “Where would our daughters have been had it not been for the Camp Ground and Oak Bluffs? Instead of being provided with good husbands as many of them are, they would be keeping a twenty dollar school, or singing “the song of the shirt.”

Mr. Marchant went on to say that he believed in small taxes as much as any man; had said and done all he could to keep them down. But the fact, we were below others in our taxes, even in this county. Tisbury had been taxed $20 on a thousand.

Capt. Daggett said the difference in valuation was where it came in. He bought a wood lot in Tisbury and was taxed $5 for it. He bought one for the same price in Edgartown and was taxed $25.

Mr. Marchant said he had it on good authority that Capt. Daggett had been offered five times as much as he gave; this the latter denied, and challenged Mr. M. to produce his authority.

C. Norton said it made no difference how much others were taxed; our taxes had increased, and no man could gainsay it.

The vote was then taken on the resolution, by ballot, with the following result: Yeas, 149; Nays, 72; 1 2-3 votes in excess of a two-thirds majority. The announcement was greeted with prolonged applause.

Voted, That it is the sense of this meeting that the route of the railroad be on the west side of the Camp Ground, and on the west side of the Pond.

The meeting then proceeded to the consideration of the remaining articles, and the following votes were passed:

Voted, That a committee of five be appointed by the chair to cause a suitable school-house to be properly located and built or provided, for the accommodation of the northern section of the town, including Oak Bluffs, Eastville and vicinity, at a cost not to exceed $2500, and that they have power to use, sell, or otherwise appropriate the school-house at Eastville towards a part of the $2500, and that the Selectmen and Treasurer be authorized to hire a sum not exceeding $2000 to carry the same into effect.

Voted, That the committee appointed to erect a school-house in the vicinity of the Camp Ground be authorized to spend a sum not exceeding $2500, and that any expenditure beyond that sum is hereby expressly prohibited, and shall not become a charge upon the town.

Voted, That the Selectmen be authorized to renew notes the ensuing year.

Voted, That the town pay Joseph Silvia the sum of three dollars per week for each and every person now supported at the Alms House, and for every increase or diminution of the number a like sum.

Voted, That that portion of the 6th article, in reference to paying a claim of Joseph Silvia for repairs on his house, be referred to the Selectmen, with full powers.