The Old Variety Store behind the Flying Horses has come into the public spotlight with the news that the owner wants to tear it down and replace it with a new building.

The old wooden edifice will now be judged for its historical significance, with the value of its provenance certain to be publicly debated.

The long-shuttered stand that sits across from the Oak Bluffs police station promoting Gifts and Souvenirs on its well-weathered roof and sidewall is revered by many (including this writer) as the pavilion that formerly housed the legendary Shipwrecked Tallman’s peanut stand. The history of the peanut stand dates to the 19th century and includes a bona fide shipwreck tale.

The hapless Charles Tallman of Osterville missed his assignment on the bark Bounding Billow and instead joined the schooner Christina as first mate on a trip to Boston, sailing from Brooklyn on Jan. 4, 1866. The Christina stopped at Holmes Hole (today Vineyard Haven) overnight on Jan. 5 where Tallman’s brother in law, the Rev. J.N. Collier, was the Baptist minister. Christina resumed her fateful trip the next day, only to be caught in a blizzard-fueled northeaster off Chappaquiddick’s shallow Hawes Shoal. While stranded, no doubt aggravated by a cement cargo, with a shattered keel her anchor swung loose and bashed open the hull, causing her to sink on Sunday, Jan. 7. That Monday with gale winds and 20-below-zero temperatures, a woman spotted the ship’s masts with Tallman and the crew clinging to the rigging in the wind and waves of the storm.

It took until Thursday, Jan. 11, for a whaleboat manned by Capt. Thomas Dunham and five others to rescue Charles Tallman, the sole survivor of the four days and nights of icy weather. Frostbite took most of his fingers and left his hands and legs mutilated. Cared for in Holmes Hole for weeks when part of his legs and feet were amputated, Tallman was called “one of nature’s noblemen” by the Gazette. Nicknamed Shipwrecked Tallman, the ironic name for a literal washashore who probably never again left land, he became a beloved character in his new town of Cottage City. To support himself he sold peanuts and pictures of himself with notes on the back about his experience. Sometime between his rescue and 1874, the Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Company built him an octagonal-shaped pavilion at the base of Ocean Park. Construction of the peanut stand began with tragedy but was consummated by the warmth of community.

One hundred and fifty two years later, thanks to a caption by the late Arthur Railton in the February 1984 Dukes County Intelligencer, we learn that the wooden gifts and souvenir structure now next to the Flying Horses was actually the Boston Herald building, originally located on Ocean Park across the street from Tallman’s octagon. Like the Gazette, the Herald was founded in 1846 but published as a single two-sided sheet and sold for a penny.

At some point — it’s unclear when — the Herald building was moved and incorporated into the Old Variety Store that was owned by the family of Jane Peters for more than a century. The Peters family sold the building to current owner Joseph Moujabber in December 2017. The photograph of the store provided by Jane Peters dates to about 1917 and shows Anna M. Cohan and Bert Riggs, but not the Herald building. But we know it was standing across from Tallman’s peanut pavilion in a sketch from 1886.

Loosely connected to that past was Rev. Leroy C. Perry, also known as Ousamequin or Chief Yellow Feather of the Wampanoags (1928-1960). Before his death, the Boston Herald published a letter from him that said in part: “I am sorry that any group of so-called Americans assumes the right to classify the descendants of the ‘original aborigine’ called, unfortunately, by Christopher Columbus, ‘Indians’. We are not and never were Indians. We, here, were Wampanoags . . .” In all capital letters it was signed “Rev. LeRoy C. Perry, Supreme Chief Sachem, Ousamequin, Oak Bluffs.”

Chief Yellow Feather is buried in the Oak Grove Cemetery in Oak Bluffs.

The Old Variety Store, like many homes in the Camp Ground and Cottage City Historic District, has been much modified from its original state and may no longer exhibit enough of its history to lend itself to restoration. The remaining Boston Herald stand however, having already been moved at least once, may be worth saving appropriately at another site.

We should remember Chief Yellow Feather’s words — and Shipwrecked Tallman’s lost octagon is hard to forget. Perhaps the Vineyard Trust could provide assistance in salvaging the part of the Old Variety Store, the familiar and forlorn Boston Herald’s landmark building, as an icon of these diverse memories.

Skip Finley is the former Oak Bluffs columnist for the Gazette and author of a soon-to-be published book about the history of black whaling captains.