Stories From Marthas Vineyard - 23 stories, myths and legends from Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, Block Island and Cape Cod - Various Unknown - ebook

VINLAND, Claudia and Cabo de la Arenas have been but a few of the names given previously to Cape Cod. As far back as 985AD the Cape had been visited by the likes of Leif Eiriksson, although this is disputed, Giovanni da Verrazzano (1524AD), Estêvão Gomes (1525AD), Samuel de Champlain (1606AD), Bartholomew Gosnold (1602AD), Henry Hudson (1609AD) and Captain John Smith (1614AD). It was Gosnold who had the honor and privilege of being the final arbiter of the Cape’s name in 1602AD.With such a long history it is therefore not surprising that much has been written and said about Cape Cod. Herein readers will find 23 such stories, collected from various sources, with origins in Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, Cape Cod and Block Island. Stories like The Headless Skeleton of Swamptown, The Crow And Cat Of Hopkinshill, The Old Stone Mill, The Windam Frogs, Moodus Noises and many more. Appropriately, the book is commenced with a facsimile of The Mayflower Compact and ends with the Story of King Philip, Grand Sachem and Chief of the Wampanoag Tribe.MARTHA'S VINEYARD, called "Noepe" by the Native Americans, which in their picturesque language means "In the Midst of the Sea," is the largest island on the south-eastern coast of Massachusetts. However, there are those who correctly point out that there is no such place as Martha's Vineyard, except in geography and common speech. That it’s correct name is Martin Wyngaard's Island, so was named by Skipper Block, an Albany Dutchman. Sea fog is not uncommon in the area. When a fog started rising the Native Americans would say, "Here comes old Maushope's smoke"—but you will have to read the book to find out just why they say this.

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Legends & Stories


Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket


Block Island

Compiled by

John Halsted

With excerpts from

Myths and Legends of Our Own Land

by Charles M. Skinner [1896]

and from


by Henry Franklin Norton [1923]

as well as other sources.

Legends & Stories From Martha's Vineyard

Typographical arrangement of this edition

© Abela Publishing 2014

This book may not be reproduced in its current format in any manner in any media, or transmitted by any means whatsoever, electronic, electrostatic, magnetic tape, or mechanical ( including photocopy, file or video recording, internet web sites, blogs, wikis, or any other information storage and retrieval system) except as permitted by law without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Abela Publishing


United Kingdom


ISBN-13: 978-1-909302-90-7


[email protected]



The Edgartown Lighthouse


The May-Flower Compact

Martha's Vineyard And Nantucket


Love And Treason

The Headless Skeleton Of Swamptown

The Crow And Cat Of Hopkinshill

The Old Stone Mill

The Origin Of A Name

Micah Rood Apples

A Dinner And Its Consequences

The New Haven Storm Ship

The Windam Frogs

The Lamb Of Sacrifice

Moodus Noises

Haddam Enchantments

Block Island


The Buccaneer

Robert Lockwood's Fate

Love And Rum

The Whole History Of Grandfather's Chair

Chapter I

Chapter II

The Lady Arbella

Chapter III

The Red Cross

Chapter IV

Chapter V

The Loyalists Of Massachusetts

Punishment For Wearing Long Hair In New


School Discipline In The State Of


The Schoolmaster's Soliloquy

The Story Of King Philip

I. Philip's People

II. Philip's Childhood Home

III. Massasoit And His Two Sons

IV. Philip Hears Of The English

V. Philip Meets The English

VI. Philip's Education

VII. Philip's Daily Life

VIII. Philip's Relations With The English

IX. Philip Becomes Grand Sachem

X. Philip's Troubles With The Whites

XI. Philip And The Indian Councils

XII. King Philip's War

XIII. The Last Days Of Philip

A Facsimile Of The Treaty Made At



In ye name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwriten, the loyall subjects of our dread soveraigne Lord, King James, by ye grace of God, of Great Britaine, Franc, & Ireland king, defender of ye faith, &c., haveing under taken, for ye glorie of God, and advancemente of ye Christian faith, and honour of our king & countrie, a voyage to plant ye first colonie in ye Northerne parts of Virginia, doe by these presents solemnly & mutualy in ye presence of God, and one of another, covenant & combine our selves together into a civill body politick, for our better ordering & preservation & furtherance of ye ends aforesaid: and by vertue hearof to enacte, constitute, and frame such just & equall lawes, ordinances, actes, constitutions, & offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meete & convenient for ye generall good of ye Colonie, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witnes wherof we have here under subscribed our names at Cape-Codd ye 11. of November, in ye year of ye raigne of our soveraigne lord, King James, of England, France, & Ireland ye eighteenth, and of Scotland ye fiftie fourth. Ano. Dom. 1620.





An excerpt from

MARTHA'S VINEYARD by Henry Franklin Norton, 1923.

MARTHA'S VINEYARD, called "Noepe" by the Indians, which means in their picturesque language "In the Midst of the Sea," is the largest island on the southeastern coast of Massachusetts. It is twenty miles long and nine miles wide and but a few feet above the sea level in the eastern part, which is known as the Plains, one of the largest tracts of level ground in New England. However, the land gradually rises to an elevation of over three hundred feet above the sea level at Peaked Hill in Chilmark, not Indian Hill as believed by many summer visitors.

Martha's Vineyard, with Chappaquiddick, No-Man's-

Land, and the Elizabeth Islands comprise the County of Dukes County, which was incorporated November 1, 1668. The county was named for the Duke of York by the first governor, Thomas Mayhew, who was hoping thereby to gain royal favor. There are six towns on Martha's Vineyard. Edgartown on the east, named for Edgar, son of James II, who bore the title of Duke of Cambridge; Oak Bluffs on the northeast, named for its location and oak trees; Tisbury for the Mayhew Parish in England; later the village post-office was named Vineyard Haven because of its location; West Tisbury; Chilmark, for the English Parish of Governor Mayhew's wife, and Gay Head on the west, named for its wonderful cliffs of different colored clay.


The first Europeans that visited Martha's Vineyard were the Northmen, or Vikings, who landed about the year 1000AD, naming it Vineland. In some of their writings have been found descriptions that can be of no other place than Martha's Vineyard.

Another discoverer of this island was Verrazano, an Italian explorer, who first sighted the western extremity in 1524, and called it Claudia, in honor of the mother of Francis II of France.

The next explorer, and the first one to leave any account of the island, was Bartholomew Gosnold, of Falmouth, England. In 1602AD he sailed for Virginia. Contrary winds drove him to the Azores; thence he sailed a little north of west, and struck out boldly

The Famous Cliffs at Gay Head

across the Atlantic. He was the first Englishman to sail directly to the American coast, thereby saving nearly a thousand miles in distance and at least a week in sailing time. He landed on a cape which he named Cape Cod from the abundance of codfish found there. Then doubling the cape and sailing to the southward he landed on a small island about six miles southeast of Gay Head. He called this small island Martha's Vineyard. The next day he landed on the larger island. After exploring it and finding it so large, well wooded, and with such luxuriant grape vines, many beautiful lakes, and springs of the purest water, he transferred the name and called it Martha's Vineyard, in honor of his mother whose name was Martha. The other island he named No-Man's-Land.


Soon after Gosnold explored the group of islands to the northwest of the Vineyard, naming them the Elizabeth Islands in honor of Queen Elizabeth who was still reigning. There are eight islands in this group, named as follows: Naushon, Nonamesset, Uncatena, Wepecket, Nashawena, Pasque, Cuttyhunk, and Penekese. On May 28, 1602, Gosnold founded a colony on Cuttyhunk. Here he built the first house and fort erected in New England, intending to leave a colony there, but when he had loaded a cargo of sassafras root and cedar logs, the settlers were determined to return with him because they were afraid of the Indians.

The sassafras root was then in great demand in England as a popular medicine and cure-all. Gosnold counted on getting a great sum for it, but Sir Walter Raleigh accused him of trespassing on his land, which was from north latitude 34 to 45, and seized the whole cargo, much to the disappointment and disgust of the industrious sassafras diggers.

Referring to Gay Head Cliffs in one of his accounts, Gosnold called them Dover Cliffs, because they somewhat reminded him of the white cliffs of the same name in England. He found on Martha's Vineyard "an abundance of trees and vines of luxuriant growth."

Cuttyhunk Light and Gosnold Monument

His expedition was not a failure because it showed Europe a shorter and more direct route to America and kept up the interest in the new country. The Mayflower followed this route eighteen years later. In 1902 a large monument was erected to Gosnold's memory on Cuttyhunk, where the first fort was built three hundred years before.


About five years later, in 1607AD, Captain Martin Pring, with a more courageous company than Gosnold's, anchored in what is now Edgartown harbor on Whit Sunday and called it Whitsun Bay. He built a stockade on Chappaquiddick Bluffs which he called Mount Aldworth. Pring traded with the Indians, amused them with music, but enjoyed terrifying them with the sound of the cannon, and with two large mastiffs which he had on board his ship. He sailed away at the first sign of hostility with a cargo of the precious sassafras root. Those who attended the Tercentenary Pageant at Plymouth will remember the scene representing Pring trading with the Indians.

By this time the Vineyard had become known to the English by the Indian name of Capawock, and it seems to have been considered one of the most important places on the newly-discovered American coast. This was of course because of its geographical location, harbors and springs of purest water.

The following noted discoverers and explorers, the Cabots, Champlain, Cartier, and Captain John Smith, must have passed through Vineyard Sound and may have stopped for water at these wonderful springs; especially the one known as "Scotland Spring" at the head of the Lagoon Pond.

However, there are those who correctly point out that there is no such place as Martha's Vineyard, except in geography and common speech. That it is Martin Wyngaard's Island, and so was named by Skipper Block, an Albany Dutchman. But they would English his name, even in his own town, for it lingers there in Vineyard Point. Bartholomew Gosnold was one of the first white visitors here, for he landed in 1602AD, and lived on the island for a time, collecting a cargo of sassafras and returning thence to England because he feared the savages.

This scarred and windy spot was the home of the Indian giant, Maushope, who could wade across the sound to the mainland without wetting his knees, though he once started to build a causeway from Gay Head to Cuttyhunk and had laid the rocks where you may now see them, when a crab bit his toe and he gave up the work in disgust. He lived on whales, mostly, and broiled his dinners on fires made at Devil's Den from trees that he tore up by the roots like weeds. In his tempers he raised mists to perplex sea-wanderers, and for sport he would show lights on Gay Head, though these may have been only the fires he made to cook his supper with, and of which some beds of lignite are to be found as remains. He clove No-Man's Land from Gay Head, turned his children into fish, and when his wife objected he flung her to Seconnet Point, where she preyed on all who passed before she hardened into a ledge.

It is reported that he found the island by following a bird that had been stealing children from Cape Cod, as they rolled in the warm sand or paddled on the edge of the sea. He waded after this winged robber until he reached Martha's Vineyard, where he found the bones of all the children that had been stolen. Tired with his hunt he sat down to fill his pipe; but as there was no tobacco he plucked some tons of poke that grew thickly and that Indians sometimes used as a substitute for the fragrant weed. His pipe being filled and lighted, its fumes rolled over the ocean like a mist—in fact, the Indians would say, when a fog was rising, "Here comes old Maushope's smoke"—and when he finished he emptied his pipe into the sea. Falling on a shallow, the ashes made the island of Nantucket. The first Indians to reach the latter place were the parents of a babe that had been stolen by an eagle. They followed the bird in their canoe, but arrived too late, for the little bones had been picked clean. The Norsemen rediscovered the island and called it Naukiton. Is Nantucket a corruption of that word, or was that word the result of a struggle to master the Indian name?


The tribes that inhabited Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard before the whites settled the country were constantly at war, and the people of the western island once resolved to surprise those of Nantucket and slay as many as possible before they could arm or organize for battle. The attack was to be made before daybreak, at an hour when their intended victims would be asleep in their wigwams, but on rowing softly to the hostile shore, while the stars were still lingering in the west, the warriors were surprised at finding the enemy alert and waiting their arrival with bows and spears in hand. To proceed would have been suicidal, and they returned to their villages, puzzled and disheartened. Not for some years did they learn how the camp had been apprised, but at the end of that time, the two tribes being at peace, one of their young men married a girl of Nantucket, with whom he had long been in love, and confessed that on the night preceding the attack he had stolen to the beach, crossed to Nantucket on a neck of sand that then joined the islands, and was uncovered only at low tide, sought his mistress, warned her of the attack, that she, at least, might not be killed; then, at a mad run, with waves of the rising tide lapping his feet, he returned to his people, who had not missed him. He set off with a grave and innocent face in the morning, and was as much surprised as anyone when he found the enemy in arms.


The boggy portion of North Kingston, Rhode Island, known as Swamptown, is of queer repute in its neighborhood, for Hell Hollow, Pork Hill, Indian Corner, and Kettle Hole have their stories of Indian crimes and witch-meetings. Here the headless figure of a negro boy was seen by a belated traveller on a path that leads over the hills. It was a dark night and the figure was revealed in a blaze of blue light. It swayed to and fro for a time, then rose from the ground with a lurch and shot into space, leaving a trail of illumination behind it. Here, too, is Goose-Nest Spring, where the witches dance at night. It dries up every winter and flows through the summer, gushing forth on the same day of every year, except once, when a goose took possession of the empty bed and hatched her brood there. That time the water did not flow until she got away with her progeny.

But the most grewsome story of the place is that of the Indian whose skull was found by a roadmender. This unsuspecting person took it home, and, as the women would not allow him to carry it into the house, he hung it on a pole outside. Just as the people were starting for bed, there came a rattling at the door, and, looking out of the windows, they saw a skeleton stalking around in quick and angry strides, like those of a person looking for something. But how could that be when the skeleton had neither eyes nor a place to carry them? It thrashed its bony arms impatiently and its ribs rattled like a xylophone. The spectators were transfixed with fear, all except the culprit, who said, through the window, in a matter-of-fact way, "I left your head on the pole at the back door." The skeleton started in that direction, seized the skull, clapped it into the place where a head should have grown on its own shoulders, and, after shaking its fists in a threatening way at the house, disappeared in the darkness. It is said that he acts as a kind of guard in the neighborhood, to see that none of the other Indians buried there shall be disturbed, as he was. His principal lounging place is Indian Corner, where there is a rock from which blood flows when the moon shines—a memento, doubtless, of some tragedy that occurred there in times before the white men knew the place. There is iron in the soil, and visitors say that the red color is due to that, and that the spring would flow just as freely on dark nights as on bright ones, if any were there to see it, but the natives, who have given some thought to these matters, know better.