From the Jan. 1, 1926 edition of the Gazette:

The following letter was recently received by Captain George Fred Tilton, master of the ship Charles W. Morgan, from F. G. Hillman of New Bedford. It not only serves to show that Capt. Tilton’s family and the family of the ship-building Hillmans were very close to each other, but also what every Vineyarder knows, that the Island has been producing men of outstanding talent and wisdom from a very early date.

The letter follows:

Dear Capt. Tilton:

“While going over some old paragraphs I have found that the will of Ruth Hillman of Chilmark, signed March 29, 1760, was witnessed by Silas Allen, Thomas Tilton and Sarah Jones.

“Ruth Hillman, who was of great age at the time of making her will, was the mother of John Hillman (named for his father), who was the great grandfather of Zachariah Hillman, who served his apprenticeship in ship-building with Col. George Claghorn, the master constructor of the U. S. frigate Constitution, as well as of the Rebecca, the first whaleship to round Cape Horn and take a hold full of oil in the Pacific Ocean.

“Zachariah Hillman married a Miss Norton, a Vineyard girl, and they had three sons and three daughters. He conducted a shipyard in New Bedford. His oldest son was a contractor and builder. The other two sons learned the shipbuilding trade from their father. Following his death, Aug. 15, 1824, Jethro and Zachariah Hillman established a shipyard and the Charles W. Morgan, among others, was built by them.

“Capt. Henry C. Hathaway, now living at 62 Campbell street, was present as a boy at the launching of the ship Hillman, which occurred on the 11th of June, 1851. She was in the merchant service and was destroyed by fire while in the harbor of Hong Kong. A British gunboat fired upon her repeatedly in an endeavor to sink and there stop the damage to other shipping, but she hurried to the water’s edge.

“I have taken the liberty to mention these things because I have no doubt but that Thomas Tilton was an ancestor of yours, and I thought it would be of interest to you to know that there was in the beginning, from the old Colonial days, a neighborliness and friendliness between the Hillmans of Chilmark who were the ancestors of the builders of the Morgan, and those of the man who now so fittingly commands her.”

Charles Vincent is responsible for this one. According to the report, someone came into Issokson’s tailoring shop, and asked Iky to put a gusset in a pair of pants. Misunderstanding, the obliging tailor rolled up a copy of the Gazette and tucked it into one of the pockets. It is said that he went out and bought the Gazette at that. Needless to say the customer was amused and so were many others. By the way what the Sam Hill is a gusset?

“Hard up” or “hard down,” that’s the way the luck is running. Two weeks ago the fish were running “fins out” all around offshore, but there wasn’t any fishing weather. Last week the weather was fairly moderate for the first few days, but the fish had moved. Over 100 vessels were down on the shoals during the first part of Christmas week. They took some yellow tails, but they couldn’t find the haddock. No one reported any worthwhile catch of cod either, but of course it is quite possible that there may have been a few trips run into New York.

Business has slacked up some in Menemsha Pond. Of course, as one fisherman put it, “there will be pickings all winter.” But most of the lads up that way are getting all set for a slant at the scallops. The season is about to open there.

All of this sort of thing makes the older lads remember how it was years ago — not so many years either. After the pots and traps were ashore, there would be just a little flurry with the cod and perhaps some would follow the pugs for just a little while before they went into the mud. But it was pretty near a safe bet that everyone would be hauled up high and dry by Christmas. Nowadays the larger boats are never out of commission. There is work for them on every moderate day and they are there to do it. They used to say “God pity the Georgymen,” because they were about the only lads to do any winter fishing, and it was an accepted fact that the crews of those vessels were made up of lads who had made a poor season and couldn’t afford to stay ashore. How different it is today!

The dredge and otter trawl have made Georgymen out of them all, although the lads on the smallest boats enjoy more comfort than those on the vessels of a few years back.

Inboard rigs, power winches and warm, snug pilot houses have done much to remove the dread of winter fishing. Perhaps we shouldn’t dwell on this subject too long, for we are now on the long slant for spring. But you can bet your last jig that there will be plenty of icicles cracked off the bobstay before the herring run.

Compiled by Hilary Wall