Not many Vineyarders have heard of the “King’s Highway” or know that any such road exists on the Island. King’s Highway, or “Hie” Way, as it was in the beginning, is, according to tradition, the old road between West Tisbury and Quitsa. It is approximately halfway between the South and Middle Roads and parallels the two from the vicinity of the West Thibury-Chilmark line to a point not far distant from Beetlebung Corner, following the line of Ridge Hill and crossing the Guerin and Henry Allen estates. The course from Beetlebung Corner can only be guessed at, but the portion described is known to a number of persons who have had oc­casion to use it more or less and is unobstructed and open to traffic, al­though it would hardly be advisable to attempt to drive through it with a valuable new vehicle because of the growth of underbrush and overhang­ing tree limbs.
Chilmark, once second in population among the Island towns, was a town of many roads which crossed and re­crossed its territory in every direction extending front shore to shore by many and devious ways. King’s High­way passes through a veritable net­work of ancient roads.
How or when this road originated can only be guessed at. Dr. Banks in his history states that the South Road was the first “hie way” in the town, probably existing from the earli­est occupation of the town by the English. It was not laid out, however, until 1704, when, upon petition, the se­lectmen laid it out as follows:
“Beginning att the road on the top of the hill near the meeting house, running to a heap of stones near the house of Nathan Basset and from thence mining to a stake and a heap of stones, being in an old field some­time within the Inclosour of Nathan Basset: and from thence to the north­erly Corner of the land of Ebenezer Allen and so where the way now runs that is now on the south side of the land of Willie Tilton.”
It would appear from this plan that the road served for those who lived on the present South Road and those of the Middle Road as well and it is quite possible that this was the orig­inal King’s Highway since it appears to follow the general course of the old road as it now exists.

Worn Down by Years of Use

That it was in use for a lengthy period is indicated by the depth to which it has been worn, for it is quite 4 feet deep in spots where there is lit­tle grade and where erosion from run­ning water would be slight. The open portion is in a surprisingly good state of repair, accounted for by the fact that it has been used more or less up to the present time by farmers and others who have drawn wood from their lots or stone front the old walls in the woods.
The woods are quite thick and the trees of considerable size on both sides of this road as it winds along the southern slope of Ridge Hill, but the presence of the founda­tion of an old stone wall, built as closely as possible to the road, indi­cates that at some time the land must have been clear and used for pasture or cultivation.
At the present time not a sign re­mains of human occupancy of the land, except this wall but there is, deep in the woods, a peculiar looking stone set up by the roadside. It is a flat stone stood on end, resembling an old-fashioned tombstone. Beside it is a larger boulder, so situated in the bank of the road as to resemble a horse-block. Possibly a house once stood there and the boulder was in­deed used for mounting. Perhaps travellers on the King’s highway stopped at this roadside house for shelter and refreshment.
The road passes certain landmarks that are but little known, among them Bailey’s Swamp, known to all older Vineyarders as a place where snakes congregated in great numbers and formerly supposed to harbor rattle­snakes, although no one ever pro­duced a rattlesnake from that or any other spot on the Island.
Six Roads is another landmark, where King’s Highway forms one of six roads that cross at one point, ex­tending to all points of the compass like the spokes of a wheel, and lead­ing to various parts of Chilmark and West Tisbury.
At the eastern end of the known portion of King’s Highway is the Goat Pasture, which is partially clear today.

May Have Been First Public Road

One tradition of the road has sur­vived the centuries since it was first laid out, and support the theory that it was the original South Road and the first public highway in the town, probably the only one previous to the Revolution.
It was and is still said that a man could not be arrested for crime or misdemeanor while travelling upon this road. This is probably incorrect. Nevertheless, there is an existing law in certain Canadian provinces that provides that a fugitive may only be arrested on a King’s highway by a special king’s officer. In these provinces a King’s highway is distinguished from other roads, as a State road is distinguished from a town road or street in this country and it seems likely that the custom may have been the same on the Vineyard in days when the King’s Highway was a main travelled road.
Possibly it may again be opened to public use, as property adjoining and abutting on this ancient road has just changed hands and it may be practical to use the old road to reach portions of this tract. If so, one more treat is in store for the travelling public of the Island, for from this road may be seen views of Island scenery and ocean totally different from any visible from other roads.