From the Nov. 27, 1925 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

Ask anyone in Dukes County who William G. Manter is and 99 out of every 100 can tell you. It is noteworthy that nearly everyone will speak of him as “Will” Manter, unless it is some elderly person who may call him “Willie.”

It might be supposed from this that Mr. Manter is a social or political lion, but it is doubtful if any man ever attended more strictly to his own business. For “Will” is one of the “home-folks,” and his wide acquaintance and popularity have come about through the many lines of business in which he is engaged. It has been said that if anyone wants to buy anything, sell anything or find out anything, Manter’s office is the place to go.

William G. Manter is the scion of a family of whalemen. His father, Cyrus Manter of West Tisbury, was a sea captain, as was his grandfather - bold, hardy, seafarers, who held their own in the days of wooden ships and iron men. Thus it came about that when young William arrived at the age when he began to think seriously of the business of life, Captain Cyrus spoke to him in this wise: “Boy, don’t go to sea, whatever you do. The whaling business has seen its best days.”

While casting about for a lead to guide him to his destiny, young Manter worked for a time in the store of S.M. Mayhew and Company, and it was there that he received the only business training he ever had. During his spare time he was tinkering with tools, building a boat or sled and gradually he developed a liking for this sort of work and decided that he would learn the carpenter’s trade.

At that time Moses C. Vincent of Vineyard Haven was the leading contractor or builder, and work was very plentiful. So one morning young Manter hitched up the horse and drove down from West Tisbury, reciting over and over in his mind the speech he intended to make in asking for employment. But when the contractor was finally located on a job and learned the boy’s errand, “he took all the wind out of my sails,” as Mr. Manter expresses it, by declaring that he didn’t want any boys, that he already had a couple who were always under foot, and that boys weren’t worth a whoop anyhow, or words to that effect.

“Well,” said young Manter, “you are going to build a couple of houses near my home in West Tisbury. Are you willing for me to work on them if I don’t ask any wages?” “Yes,” snapped the contractor, “if you won’t get in the way!” and the business career of William G. Manter had begun.

Two large houses were built in West Tisbury, and Manter stayed on the job, working ten hours every day until they were finished, without drawing a cent, but keeping his eyes open and becoming more proficient as the time went on. In the following spring he was offered his first job in his chosen profession. Carpenters were scarce and he was employed by Jared Vincent. His wages were $1.50 for a ten hour day.

This position was not a lasting one, and a few months later he went to work for Horace A. Tilton at Vineyard Haven for $2.50 a day. His aptitude soon brought him a foreman’s position, but for seven years he worked for the same wages, the only difference being that during that time the working day was cut from ten to nine hours.

At the end of this period Tilton wished to sell his business because of impaired health, and it was purchased by Manter and his partner Norman Johnson. Anxious days for the partners followed. A little shop on Front street was their headquarters, an old white horse and a red express wagon their sole means of transportation. There was some jobbing, and now and then a small building to erect, but they weren’t in a position to hire any help.

At about this time an agent for Sol Smith Russell, the actor, advertised for bids on a house to be erected in Edgartown. It was by far the largest construction job ever attempted on the Vineyard up to that time and Manter and his partner shut themselves up and figured until they were blind, and at last sent in their bid. The bid was about $15,000 and theirs was the only one submitted.

Business picked up rapidly after that and the partnership was at length dissolved, each setting up for himself.

More and more contracting business came to Manter, and he stuck to that alone, until in 1908 he was offered an automobile agency. An agency called for a garage, then a repair shop, a paint shop and so on, until now the business of the William G. Manter Company is comprised of about 12 departments, operating independently, and occupying a plant which is valued at $40,000.

Small wonder that our Will is proud of having accomplished so much while still in the prime of life. Nor can he be blamed if he takes pride in the host of friends which he has made while achieving success. The two things seldom go together, but William G. Manter has never lost his geniality and kindness, or failed to live up to the standards set by the sturdy, God-fearing Yankees who came before him.

Compiled by Hilary Wall