From the Feb. 12, 1932 edition of the Gazette:

The story which follows, that of Manuel S. Brown of Oak Bluffs, is illustrative of the shrewd methods of some of the Vineyard’s foreign-born citizens in employing the soil as an economic reserve.

For Mr. Brown is not a farmer. He is simply a man who has learned to turn his hand to anything, not the least of which is the cultivation of land. Born in the island of St. George, Azores, he came to this country as the result of a rumor which proved to be unfounded. His father had come to the United States some time before, but not with the idea of remaining for any length of time. Due to the compulsory military training law in the Azores at that time, it was the custom to hold boys of 16 years of age and over, who had not served in the army, in the country. Many of them succeeded in leaving by different ways, and a rumor reached the father of Brown in this country that the law had been changed so that no boy of 8 years or older could leave. The idea was disturbing to him, as his own son was slightly under 8 years, and he sent for his family.

Needless to mention, the family name was not Brown, and the change in names took place when the present Mr. Brown started to attend school in New Bedford when he first arrived in this country. On his first day in school he gave his name, but an older pupil told the teacher that the name should be Brown. It was so entered on the school rolls. Later, when his mail, checks and other business correspondence had gone astray on many occasions because his correct initials were the same as those of numerous others, he made application to change his name when he applied for his citizenship papers, and had his name legally changed to Brown. This occurred in Oak Bluffs, where he came with his parents while still a small boy, settling near his present home in the Shawmut avenue section.

This district was a howling wilderness in those days, with scarcely any cleared land anywhere in the vicinity. Scrub oak and heavy timber prevailed and there was no houses at all. Much of the land now owned by his father and himself was cleared by Mr. Brown while he was still attending school, his spare time being employed in this manner. But he soon went to work with his father, doing anything that would earn a dollar. Digging cellars and grading was one favored occupation of the two, and the basements of many of the Oak Bluffs houses were excavated by them. They worked on the beach bulkheads as well, and Mr. Brown states rather grimly that he received a boy’s pay but did a man’s work.

He retains a vivid memory of the Oak Bluffs of those days, a town much different from that of the present. He has numerous pictures of the place, with the impressive old Sea View hotel on the waterfront, the various places of amusement, and the great amount of unoccupied land in what is now the center of the village.

At this time a horse-car system extended from Highland Wharf into the camp ground and around the tabernacle. It was proposed to further extend this system to the New York wharf at Eastville, to the present town pier, and to Lagoon Heights. The last-named locality was then a thriving and select little residential section. Mr. Brown obtained employment in the gang of workmen who laid the new tracks, and when the job was completed he was employed as “hill-boy,” to wait with extra horse at the heaviest grades and help pull the cars up the hills. Somewhat later he became a driver and still later a motorman, when the horse-cars were replaced by electric-driven vehicles. For sixteen summers he was an employee of the Vineyard trolley company, and his experiences were many and interesting.

During the winter months, when the cars did not run, Mr. Brown was employed by various Island contractors upon construction jobs of every kind.

Through all these years, Mr. Brown had owned a few acres of land adjoining the home of his boyhood. Here he built his house and lived after his marriage. He cleared the land during his spare time, and when it had been cleared, he planted it, tending his crops at night, or in early morning, and during such holidays as he had.

He obtained a little more land, some by purchase, and some by leasing, and began to keep some livestock. So when the street railway business began to decline, and he found that it would be to his best interest to leave it, he was not fearful of the future. Continuing to work his land and tend his cows, he added a horse to his livestock and found it possible to earn an honest dollar with this draught animal. And whenever there was a job of carpentering, he was able to leave his other work to take advantage of the opportunity.

So today, when many day workers lack employment, Mr. Brown has very few worries. There is sufficient work about his place to keep him employed, and to earn a livelihood.

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox