From the Sept. 6, 1957 edition of the Gazette by Joseph Chase Allen:

Gazette readers have undoubtedly noticed, from time to time, the interest in the Middle Road, that midland artery which connects the villages of West Tisbury and Menemsha (called Chilmark center by some).

It is to be wondered at, in the light of recent discussion relating to widening and improving, that this road is not the widest and straightest on the Island, because, so far as any records show, the eastern portion, the Panhandle, to Tea Lane, certainly, and perhaps somewhat farther, is the oldest known “hie-way” on the Island.

The oldest records, some of them dated before 1700, speak of “Mark’s Valley,” which included the easterly portion of the Middle Road up through the deep hollow in which are located the Wortman property, and others nearby, some still existing as they were, so far as land boundaries are concerned, others entirely lost through the disappearance of buildings and the transfer of land titles.

The corner where the Middle Road actually begins, has been known by various names and was, at one time, the intersection or junction where at least four roads met. But for close to a century it was called Baxter’s Corner, in honor of Captain Dennis Baxter who owned the present house and lived there. Captain Baxter was a whaleman, and duly famous as such.

The other houses to be found on those places lying westerly, are all associated with historic details, and some of them are of undetermined age and associations. That much of this area was owned at one time by the Allen family, serves to help establish the age of one or two of the house to within a few years.

For the anciently called Davis Place, now the home of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur A. Norton,was an Allen holding before some three generations of the Davis family owned it, and the Sherwood house, on land adjoining, and also an Allen place, was the home of Ebenezer Allen, who was a son of the pioneer, and was living there in 1721.

Whether or not the house was the same in that day as it now is, in size and outline, is not known. The reason for this is the fact that this house consists of two separate houses moved and joined together, the second half having been brought, exactly how the Lord only knows, from Chappaquansett, near the summer home of Katharine Cornell.

Neither one of these houses is as ancient or historically important as the field, a meadow, just east of the Wortman house. Nor is the field as important or ancient as the remains of the mill-dam which can still be seen from the road near this point. Form the dam once held water from the grist-mill of Samuel Tilton, first of his name to locate on the Island, and one of the two ancestors of all the Island inhabitants of the name.

The field was anciently known as the Hewing Field, and it was here, according to tradition, that framing for the old, oak-timbered dwellings and barns of the Island was fashioned by the expert hewers who wrought with axe and adz.

On this road, too, nearly opposite from the mill-dam mentioned, lies a half wild tract overgrown with woods and weeds. Only a handful of Island inhabitants ever heard of this place described as “Hazelton’s”. Yet that was its name, and the name came from that of the family which once lived there and who are probably buried there as well, for ancient moss-covered field stones mark half a dozen graves.

The name of Hazelton, variously spelled, is still memorialized in the name of “Huzzleton’s Head,” which just into Vineyard Haven harbor, crowned with pitch pines, and lofty.

The intersection of the Middle Road and Tea Lane, was a part of the civic center of the entire up-Island section at one time. There is real antiquity to be considered in the appearance of the corner of the stone wall which fences the two roads at this point. Not only is the wall unusually high, but it is built with unusual care, a huge stone pillar being built into it as if to insure against any and all disturbance, which may well be true. Examination of the ground and road level will show that, despite the efforts of mankind to maintain the level, it has been worn down to a considerable distance below that of the soil and turf beside it - all evidence of much use.

Exactly why this corner was regarded so importantly, is difficult to say. Actually, there was nothing on the spot, so far as is known, to warrant such feeling. Yet it was on this corner that a finger-post was erected; a sign, with black hands pointing east and west, and the legend “Tisbury 2 1/2 miles,” and “Menemsha, 3 miles.” It has been said that this finger-post, an institution smacking of Old England, was the first to be established on the Island.

And thus it may be realized that Middle Road is truly an historic way, worthy of more than passing consideration. Perhaps even worthy of being dotted with signs and other indications to locate some of these historic spots.

Compiled by Hilary Wall