From the Archives

Below is a list of articles that have been published in the Museum’s newsletter Mainsheet. The articles look at interesting aspects of Woods Hole history and feature research by Museum Archivist Susan F. Witzell and by several other guest writers. To see an article, click on a link.

Date Title and Author
2006 Eaton photos and new accessions by Susan F. Witzell
2007 Spring Woods Hole’s First Yachtsman by John Valois (Alfred Harrison).
2008 Spring Part 1. Reminiscences of a Summer at the Breakwater Hotel 1960 by Allan W. Swank.
A Bill Eaton Sea Tale 1964 by John Howard McClellan
2008 Fall Part 2. Reminiscences of a Summer at the Breakwater Hotel 1960 by Allan W. Swank.
2009 none
2010 Spring A Town Called Nobska — a Cautionary Tale? by Les Garrick. (Secession of the Summer People).
2010 Fall The Log Books of Captain Anthony Howes by Nancy Bundy.
2011 Fall Prosperity from whaling created new-style houses in the 1840s by Susan F. Witzell (Captain Thomas Davis house and Eldridge house).
2012 Spring The Loose Untailored Fabric of History – the Treasure Trove in the Archives by P.K. Simonds.
2012 Fall New Accessions – Summer 2012 by Susan F. Witzell (Sarah Bryant Fay’s bread and milk mug; a sugar bowl from the City of Columbus; and the tale of the shipwreck).
2013 Spring The Hurricane of 1938 by P.K. Simonds.
The story of some bicentennial cannon balls and a tale of cooperation by Susan F. Witzell.
2013 Fall Quissett Oral History and the Fay Farmhouse by Susan F. Witzell (Molly Willett oral history collection and results from The Moors research).
2014 Spring A History Mystery by Susan F. Witzell (Vedeler-Fish photo album).
2014 Fall The Younger Joseph Story Fay by Susan F. Witzell (new photos of Fay from the 1860s).
2015 Spring Train Stations and Ferry Terminals in Woods Hole by Susan F. Witzell
2015 Fall The Old Stone House Rejoins The Old Candle House – or Why I Love Archivists by Mark Foster
2016 Spring Fishmonger Restaurant and Other Restaurants at the Bridge by Susan F. Witzell
2016 Fall Blacksmiths in Quissett and Woods Hole by Susan F. Witzell

From the Archives — The Eaton Collection and New Accessions

by Susan F. Witzell

During the summer we were presented with a wonderful collection of photos taken by Elizabeth (Betty) Eaton. Mrs. Eaton passed away in the early summer of 2006. The photos she had taken over many years were collected from her house and donated to us by her friends and neighbors, the Densmore family.

Naushon cedar tree

Naushon cedar tree

Betty Eaton was the wife of Bill Eaton, the Boatman for Naushon Island from 1961 to 1987. She was a talented amateur photographer, working with a 2 ¼ x 2 ¼ format camera. Her images of the scenes before her were acute and well-composed. She apparently had a darkroom or the ability to have custom 8 x 10 black and white prints made. In addition to the black and white photos, she also took many 2 ¼ x 2 ¼ slides. Betty was very interested in gardening and hybridized daylilies. A dark red lily was registered as ‘Naushon’. Continue reading

From the Archives — Woods Hole’s First Yachtsman

By John Valois

The enchanted Golden Age of yachting during the years of approximately 1880 to 1895 was also a time of enormous proliferation of summer mansions, often called “cottages”, along the New England coastal shore. The available waterfront property with views of oceans, bays and sounds filled rapidly. The building of large yachts continued but small boats such as cat boats became popular, finding excellent anchorages in harbors, coves and inlets. Buzzards Bay was considered at that time the finest sailing area on the coast, having warm deep water, excellent winds and many harbors to cruise but most of all being a place to race. Newport became the racing Mecca during the Golden Age but Buzzards Bay was its equal in small boat racing in one-design classes.

In 1892 Alfred Craven Harrison retired from his presidency of the Harrison, Frazier Company, a large sugar refinery in Cuba. He sold his partnership to the American Sugar Company and he returned to his family home in Philadelphia. He continued his activities in philanthropy and in various clubs, especially the Corinthian Yacht Club of Philadelphia. Alfred married Kate de Forest Sheldon in April 1872. Her father was President of the New York Bank and Trust. Mrs. Harrison became interested in Woods Hole as a possible summer residence. She had heard of Mr. Mahlon Ogden-Jones who had built a summer “cottage” designed by Edmund Wheelwright. The estate was on three acres overlooking Little Harbor, Woods Hole. Queen Anne motifs dominated the interior of the house, tall chimneys, varied roof-lines, and leaded glass windows. In 1892 the Mr. and Mrs. Harrison bought this estate from Mr. Ogden-Jones. Continue reading

From the Archives — Reminiscences Of A Summer At The Breakwater Hotel, 1960 (Part 1)

By Allan W. Swank

“You’re kidding! You’re asking me if I want to go with you to Massachusetts? For the whole summer? I’d be crazy if I said anything but yes!” And so it began. My brother had spent the previous summer working as a waiter at a hotel on Cape Cod and his employer had just written to ask him if he wanted to come back and work as the head waiter next summer. Larry hadn’t answered her yet. What ever gave him the idea of asking his 16 year old little brother if he wanted to go along, I’ll never know.

I like to think that I got out of school early that spring/summer but I’m not sure. It’s hard for me to imagine that happening but it could have. I do know that we were among the first summer employees to arrive at the hotel. Larry ushered me into the hotel to meet Miss Redfield. She was a dainty, petite, little old lady and the held a smoking cigarette between her fingers. I soon came to expect to see her always with a cigarette or have one lit nearby. Rumor had it that she smoked three packs a day but I never saw her inhale (shades of Bill Clinton). I often spotted burned out butts with long ashes attached lying in ash trays. Heloise was a very pleasant, grandmotherly woman. Continue reading

From the Archives — Reminiscences Of A Summer At The Breakwater Hotel, 1960 (Part 2)

By Allan W. Swank, 2008

Part 1 of Allan Swank’s Reminiscences appeared in MAINSHEET, Spring 2008. He was 16 years old in 1960 when he came to work with his brother at Miss Redfield’s Breakwater Hotel.

Woods Hole. Weird name, but then, really no stranger than town names anywhere else. I understood Woods Hole was the location of the Marine Biological Laboratory and that the MBL held world renown. I never took any tours or saw any of the inner workings of the Labs but I came to be constantly aware of the fact of the MBL’s presence. My first fascination with Woods Hole has stayed with me, well, till now, now that I think about it. For this teenager, Woods Hole presented a whole new world. Larry, having had former experience there, shared a couple of hints with me. “Never order a chocolate shake. You’ll get a glass of chocolate milk. To get a shake, order a frap“. With a chuckle, I thought, “OK “. Mocha, another new discovery, quickly became my favorite flavor coffee/chocolate. Other items, locally common but completely foreign to me, were the stuffed quahog (my thanks to Susan of the Woods Hole Historical Museum for reminding me of a bunch of forgotten details), and fried clams. The Cap’n Kidd served up the best around. Continue reading

From the Archives — A Town Called Nobska: a Cautionary Tale?

By Les Garrick

100 years ago some wealthy shore-dwelling summer dudes proposed to divide Falmouth Township into two distinct towns. Their mouthpiece was realtor Horace S. Crowell, the developer of Penzance Peninsula in Woods Hole. It was not an idle threat. Crowell was backed publicly by wealthy Bostonian Henry H. Fay, a son of the late Joseph Story Fay, who in 1850 and 1852 had purchased a large part of Woods Hole from Ward M. Parker. The father and later the son bought more land in Woods Hole and in Falmouth. Henry built a summer residence on Nobska Point in 1879. The senior Fay, a respected public benefactor, reforested some land in Woods Hole and donated properties in Woods Hole for churches, a school and a recreation field, as well as giving the town Good Will Park in Falmouth.

In December 1906 Crowell filed “An Act to Incorporate the Town of Nobska” at the Massachusetts General Court. If it became law, the new town would consist of all coastal lands on Buzzards Bay from Woods Hole to Bourne and all land west of a line bisecting Long Pond thence to the western edge of Deep Pond in Hatchville and finally to the town line where Sandwich and Bourne meet. It would contain three-fourths of coastal Falmouth. Continue reading

From the Archives — The Log Books of Captain Anthony Howes

by Nancy S. Bundy

“for we see people almost every day disappointed in their hopes & desires and we are taught to believe it is all for the best.”

August 22, 1848

The portraits of Captain Levi Howes (1812-1874) and his wife Myra, recently acquired by the Dennis Historical Society and published in their September, 2010, newsletter, gave us the impetus to take a further look at the clipper ship logs of his brother, Captain Anthony Howes (1820-1868), in the Woods Hole Historical Collection. These log books of voyages by the Amulet and the Hippogriffe were donated by Ellen Clark Howes, wife of James Sturgis Howes, Jr.

In terse words describing a monsoon off Calcutta flooding the decks and drowning fowl, pigs and vegetables that were provisions for the voyage home; worries of looming water-rationing while becalmed in the Bay of Bengal; moments of lonely reflection on a life at sea and friends left behind; the need to shake off poetry reading and return to practical matters; forfeiting tobacco-chewing in favor of an occasional cigar for health reasons, the log book of the Amulet provides a glimpse, in an elegant cursive hand, of both the inner and worldly life of a clipper ship captain.

A page from the log bookFrom the tiny squiggle that is Sesuit Harbor on the map of Cape Cod Bay, came some of the finest sailing ships in the history of maritime commerce. The Shiverick Shipyard built clipper ships sailed by the seagoing sons of East Dennis, prominent among them the Howes and the Crowells. Their stories the Shivericks, the Howes and the Crowells are deeply entwined with the history of Woods Hole in the 1800s. Continue reading

From the Archives — Prosperity from Whaling Created New-Style Houses in the 1840s

By Susan F. Witzell, Archivist

In 1842 two new homes were built on the main road into Woods Hole village. One was near the Fays’ “Homestead” (Challenger) and the other was on the high corner where Water Street descends down the hill to School Street and Luscombe Avenue. They were both built in the new Greek Revival style, inspired by Greek temples, gable-end facing the street, wide corner boards and gutter returns, solid-looking window frames with little hollow squares on the upper corners and classically detailed front doors with pilasters. Both houses were faced with clapboard and painted white or light off-white colors.

The Eldridge House

Eldredge house, c. 1900, Fay Family Collection

Thomas Davis, his brother Jabez Davis and their cousin Owen Eldredge (or Eldridge) were in business together as ships’ suppliers, probably starting in the 1820s when the Swifts began building whale ships in Woods Hole and provisions and supplies of all kinds were needed for the long voyages. By 1842 the partners, Davis and Eldredge, were well-to-do enough to build brand new homes. Prosperity from whaling caused an explosion of construction in the village. New buildings, stores and houses were built all up and down Water Street. Continue reading

From the Archives — The Loose, Untailored Fabric of History—the Treasure Trove in the Archives

By P.K. Simonds

Fans of the Woods Hole Historical Museum are sometimes confused to see signs, postcards or old issues of Spritsail referring to us as the Woods Hole Historical “Collection” instead. We can settle the issue right now: we are both. We are the Museum and the Collection. But the way we are known has evolved over the years, and the reasons for that speak to a very important part of our mission.

The “Collection” refers now mostly to the Archives, that treasure trove of historical records, etchings, paintings, letters, manuscripts, oral histories, calling cards, vintage nautical charts and the like which occupy the top of Bradley House (as well as some space in the library).

When you visit the museum, much of what you see exhibited is from our collection. But the archives are more than a larder to stuff with whatever’s not up on the walls downstairs. Much more. Continue reading

From the Archives — New Accessions and the Wreck of the City of Columbus

By Susan F. Witzell, Archivist

Milk Mug

Bread and milk mug of Sarah Bryant Fay (Photo by Susan F. Witzell)

The archives received several very interesting artifacts this summer. From Dr. Elizabeth Gardner, great-granddaughter of Joseph Story Fay, we received a child’s “Bread and Milk Mug”, belonging to Sarah Bryant Fay. Sarah Bryant Fay (1855-1938) was the daughter of Joseph Story Fay. Later she was the patron of Michael Walsh, who developed the rambler rose, and her rose garden was known all over the country. The mug is a typical example of hand-painted English china of the early 19th century. It has blackberry flowers, vines and leaves. Mugs like this were popular items for small children, each child having their own mug for drinking milk or bread soaked in milk or other treats.

Sugar Bowl

Sugar bowl from the City of Columbus (Photo by Susan F. Witzell).

And from Ann Crowell Morrison, we received a beautiful white and gold sugar bowl. The bowl had been salvaged from the wreck of the steamer City of Columbus.

On January 17, 1884 the steamer City of Columbus left Boston for Savannah, Georgia. She steamed around Cape Cod and into Vineyard Sound. At approximately 3:45 AM she struck rocks on a ledge called Devil’s Bridge off Gay Head on Martha’s Vineyard and immediately began to sink with her port side under water. A few officers and strong men were able to climb into the rigging of the two sail masts. Two lifeboats with crew and some passengers got away. Continue reading