From the Feb. 10, 1928 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

On Saturday, Feb. 4, one of the Vineyard’s most distinguished elderly ladies observed her 84th birthday. Mrs. Lucy P. Smith, of Oak Bluffs, is the lady who has reached this ripe age in good health and with unimpaired faculties and whose years have been filled with experiences which marked the lives of those brave women of other years, the wives of the Vineyard whalemen.

Brave they were, courageous and superbly patient as they voyaged the world with their husbands, or waited for years at home for the return of their ships. Yet perhaps they did not consider the unique loneliness of their lives, nor feel any pangs of self pity. For the Vineyard of those days was filled with the atmosphere of the sea and seafaring.

Mrs. Smith, who is the sister of the late Samuel Warren Vincent, was born and reared in Edgartown, where every man, woman and child of the time thought and talked of whales and whaling as the prime industry and chief source of the town’s revenue.

She smiles at present day arguments that girls marry while still children and is prone to dispute the opinion that there is anything modern or new about it, calling attention to her own marriage to Capt. George A. Smith when she was but seventeen years of age.

Captain Smith was not master of a ship at the time of his marriage, but was first officer, commonly called mate, of the famous ship, Charles W. Morgan. It was not a common practice for mates to take their wives to sea and Mrs. Smith remained at home for about four years following her marriage.

During that time several things occurred, chief among them being the rise to master’s rating by Captain Smith and the birth of their son Fred. At 21 years of age Mrs. Smith went to sea with her husband, who was commanding the whaling bark Nautilus, and with her she took their little son, three years of age.

Modern mothers who consider that the care of their children is a nerve racking and never ending problem would probably breathe a heartfelt sigh of thanksgiving after listening to the tales of Mrs. Smith’s experience at sea.

Absolutely fearless and born with an instinct and desire to climb, her little son had to be watched constantly, and it may be gathered that the sailors, always fond of children, were by no means guiltless of aiding and abetting the child in his mischievous pranks. At sea or shore, Mrs. Smith was obliged and during the first two years’ cruise in the Atlantic she experienced many a shock from the antics of her son.

Not the least of these was the sight of the boy at the top of the tremendous stairway on Ladder Hill, St. Helena, where the ship stopped. It speaks well for her nerves that she suffered no shocks, nor did she contemplate leaving the ship to return home.

Rounding Cape Horn, the ship sailed from the Sandwich Islands and here Mrs. Smith and her son stayed for nearly five years during the periods that the ship was in the Arctic. At that time there was a community of captains’ families in Honolulu, all spending the time there while the ships were in the dangerous, cold climate.

Such was the yearly program followed by Mrs. Smith during the years that she spent away from home. And after months at sea, life was pleasant at Honolulu, although there were times when her son nearly turned his mothers hair gray with fright.

Lofty trees, the hotel cupola and the roofs of houses were the places that he seemed to prefer investigating, and Mrs. Smith tells many a tale of social functions suddenly interrupted by the announcement that her boy was in some lofty and dangerous spot from which a fall would have undoubtedly proved fatal. Yet, singularly, he never received any but slight injuries.

Returning home around the Horn, Captain and Mrs. Smith established their home in New Bedford, and there Mrs. Smith lived for a number of years while her husband was at sea. Her son had begun to attend high school when Captain Smith was asked to make a voyage into the Arctic from San Francisco and refused to go unless his wife accompanied him.

Reluctantly she agreed to go, and this time was forced to leave her son behind. The voyage was made in the bark Abram Barker and lasted but a single Arctic season, and Mrs. Smith still exhibits the handsomely engraved gold watch which was presented to her by the ship owners in appreciation of her sailing with her husband.

Mrs. Smith is remarkable for her memory which surpasses that of most persons. Seated by her great cabinet which is filled with curios she will related in detail where and how she obtained each one, often mentioning some interesting or humorous incident in connection with it.

There is no hesitating as she speaks, and one goes from the presence of this wonderful old lady with two exclamations upon his lips: “How can anyone remember so much!” and yet, having seen the sights that she has, “How can anyone forget!”

Compiled by Hilary Wall