From the Jan. 27, 1932 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

If anyone in the fishing port of Edgartown should ask who, of all the veteran fishermen, knows most about the trade, it is a fair guess that many a man would answer, “Frank Osborn” and probably add to that, “he has fished everywhere, and for everything.”

While this would be somewhat of an exaggeration, it is a fact that Captain Osborn has fished in many places and for many varieties of sea-food, and his knowledge of these things is far greater than that of most men who sail the North Atlantic.

A husky man is Captain Osborn, with hardly a gray hair in the heavy, dark brown thatch that covers his head, yet his remarks quickly draw the question as to his age, and his reply that he has weathered his seventieth birthday was received with astonishment.

“No,” he replied in answer to the question, “I wasn’t born in Edgartown. Salem was my birthplace, but I landed here before I was six months old. It was my grandfather, Edgar Marchant, who founded the Vineyard Gazette, and my father was lost on an Arctic whaling voyage on one of my grandfather Osborn’s ships.

“How long have I been fishing? Good Lord, I’ve fished all my life! Ever since I was big enough to bait a hook and hold a line.”

The captain then began to tell of his early days in Edgartown, when all boys went fishing, especially for bluefish. “We used to sail across to Chappaquiddick in our little boats, and then walk across to the South Beach to heave and haul through the surf,” he said. “There were some Indians, ready to bring up their ox-carts and haul the fish across the island for us. Used to charge half a cent apiece for it. And then we’d take ‘em down the harbor where the smacks anchored, and sell ‘em for a couple of cents, sometimes three to four if the market was good.

“Everything was sail in those days, and I’ve stood here on the shore as a boy, and watched the schooners running in out of a blow. I’ve seen ‘em standing in before it, sailing like race horses, and then when they hauled up to make the anchorage, the sails would fly right out of the bolt-ropes. We don’t have any wind like that nowadays.”

It was in those days of sail that Capt. Osborn did a great deal of his outside fishing, as it was called. In sailboats and schooners, he went out through Muskeget, and ventured into the open ocean with the hand-liners and swordfishermen of his day. “Weather never stopped Frank Osborn,” observed the old-timers, and they will relate that on many an occasion he was given up for lost when the fleet was caught in squalls or gales and all ran for home but Osborn. He refused to run, and holding on until the last moment, was often unable to run if he wished, so hove-to and rode out the blow, while the folks ashore prepared to mourn his passing. But somehow he always returned safely.

He was about twenty-eight years old, and had tackled about every variety of fishing common to the coast, when he decided to go west. San Francisco, and the coastal ports to the southward, was his goal, and thither he took his way.

After several years in California, Capt. Osborn returned home, but he continued to go fishing just the same. On the banks of Maryland and Virginia, he sailed with the mackerel fleet. He followed the swords in nearby waters, and chased them east to the Canadian provinces. When winter came, he sailed for Pensacola aboard a red-snapper fisherman, and fished for these tropical varieties on reefs that lay one hundred miles from port.

There was salvaging to be done in those years, if any man sailing from Edgartown possessed a boat that was capable of carrying any weight. Ships were wrecked all around the nearby coast, and the water was filled with floating cargo. All one summer fishermen picked up sacks of flour, sacks that had been in the water so long that grass had grown on them. Yet, beneath a couple of inches of hard crusted flour, the contents of the sacks were as good as ever. Tubs of butter were adrift for months, and when storms and sea had burst the kegs, great lumps were to be found drifting everywhere. This butter was undamaged by salt water, save for a thin stratum on the outside. And there were sacks of cocoa beans too, and many other things that Capt. Osborn helped to salvage by the ton.

But his nature would not allow him to remain long at home. A few years passed, and he returned to the west again, where he took up fishing, where he had left off.

And now he is at home once more, but probably not to stay.

“I’ve made several small fortunes, fishing,” he says, “but somehow I always lost my money.”

But there is no trace of regret in the captain’s voice as he says this. Money means but little to a man who can live like the sea-birds, and that is the way he has lived. The sea has supplied his needs, bearing his floating home, and supplying both labor and sport, food and the cash for other things. What more could a man ask?

Compiled by Hilary Wall