Grape Newspaper – Martha’s Vineyard News

From the June 22, 1956 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

Everyone who knows the top island area of ​​a vineyard knows Middlemark, “the house on the side of the road.” Few realize that this place has been a landmark and so much more for so many years.

Perhaps no one knows exactly when the house was built. The original owner, Fred A. Mayhew, he has occupied the place with his wife for seventy-six years. But they were not newly married until then, and the age of the house may be between eighty and ninety.

It wasn’t a farmhouse at the time, and it wasn’t, but it was the only town office in Chilmark for many years, and it was the unofficial, unauthorized office of half of the shops in New Bedford, all arising from the fact that Fed Mayhew drove the mail stage to Vineyard Haven , and in the summer also to Cottage City, and was the town’s clerk for many years. It was also due to the location of the old Chilmark Town Hall, tucked away in the middle road, and the absence of anything resembling an office in this old structure.

The post stage, which carried passengers and baggage, was a high-wheeled, three-seater carriage, open on both sides in summer except for canopies that could be brought down in the event of rain, but were roofed. In winter, the theater was a massive wooden box, with doors and windows on either side, providing some sort of shelter for the passengers and driver within its scattered, grinding, and loose interior.

And for many years the journey began from this house, at 4 a.m., rainy or shovel, hot or cold, and the stretch of horses he drew was expected to make the early boat out of Vineyard Haven, with mail and travelers, if any, which I did with uninterrupted regularity. .

He stopped at post offices on the road, West Tisbury and North Tisbury, made the trip and returned at night after resting the horses all day in Vineyard Haven or Oak Bluffs.

At night, especially on a winter night, this island trip was not pleasant. Much of the road was dusty, dirty, rough, with many hills that the horses had to climb wearily. It was cold on the platform, and if there were many passengers, there was also luggage, because only large bags and packages were placed on the outer shelf. There were also mail bags and express parcels, as well as packages of all descriptions, because at that time the stage driver dealt not only with those items shipped by courier and express, but went shopping for all and variety during the day, returning purchases for delivery at night.

Bringing them back means coming to Middle Mark with the theater and mailing to the Menemsha Post Office in a smaller and lighter form of transport.

Such was the state of the place, somewhat of a post office, a post office, and even a waiting station, in those years before there were cars, before there were phones.

Fred Mayhew was a city clerk, issuing licenses, dogs and marriages, keeping city books, and performing many other services as a justice of the peace. His wife was a sworn aide, and she handled these matters in his absence, and their only desk was a golden oak “secretary”, topped with glass bookshelves found in the dining-room. Here wills are seen and sworn in, affidavits written and stamped or marked with the official “SS”, which are still admissible in law under certain circumstances. But there was more than it is.

The Mayhouses owned the most sophisticated timber barn in town. It is part of the house today, but back then it was completely detached, accessible by walking on the board, well made and kept in good condition.

The point is that the town clerk, who was in charge of the town’s books and documents, and perhaps some money as well, the town had a safe, large and modern place at the time, probably as good as many others, but nowhere to put it. Then, the city clerk provided floor space in his lumber pantry, and the safe was installed there.

Moreover, since he had free access to the safe at any time, and the safes were few and far around the island, the Chilmark people brought their bank books and valuable papers and demanded that they be kept in the city safely, and so that upon completion, the amount of safe deposit business that They are handled in that large store sometimes. Because the town books were kept here, the elect held their meetings in this wooden storeroom.

There will come a time when no one will remember any of these things; When the Middle Mark loses his identity with the island he used to be. It would not matter if the name Mayhews was forgotten in connection with the house, or the names of many people who used to come to this place on their various assignments. But as a landmark that was once an important institution, the place owns the history and it would be unfortunate that no part of that history has survived down the generations.

By Hilary Walcox

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