Downtown Harbour, Nantucket Island
Moshup was one of the first inhabitants of Martha’s Vineyard. He was kind hearted and wise, s god to the people, great and good, and to anyone who was troubled they could come to him for counsel and advice. In one instance, a lovely maiden, who was poor and, thus, prevented from marrying the man of her choice came to him for help. Her father and the father of her beloved were chiefs in the Wampanoag, a tribe that lives on the Vineyard. The two chiefs were equal in rank, but her father was poor. The other chief was rich; he would not give consent for his son to marry such a girl.
The couple, after talking things over and trying to convince the father of the groom to relent, decided that their only hope lay in Moshup. The girl was quite lovely and the best speaker of the pair. The lovers decided she would plead their case before Moshup.
First, her father, being a typical father of that time, had no desire to let his daughter go off on such a journey, with the boy. Waiting until he left on a hunt, she started her journey to Aquinnah, where Moshup lives. This was the second issue. Her family lived on the east side of the island. Aquinnah was far and she would have to climb the steep slopes of the clay cliffs. The cliffs reach upward five hundred feet or more.
Yet, the girl was determined, as is the case of those in love. Finally, she stood before Moshup. She was frightened, as he loomed above her, but when he spoke, his voice was gentle and soothing. Thus, she found the courage to tell him her story.
Moshup considered the matter, as told to him. He decided the couple and their parents should meet with him on Sampson’s Hill, on the eastern portion of Chappaquiddick, an island off Martha’s Vineyard. At the meeting, the lovers discussed the matter. The fathers squabbled. Moshup pulled out his pipe and started to smoke.
Now, keep in mind, the pipe was in accordance with his size. Thus, it took quite a few bales of tobacco to fill it. Sitting there, puffing away, he listened to everyone, but said not a word.
Finally, when he finished smoking, he knocked the ashes out and a sudden breeze carried them into the sea. There then arose a massive hiss and huge clouds of smoke and vapor. In moments, a dense fog hung over the whole area.
Moshup had s secret reason for doing this, but the young couple didn’t appreciate being caught up in such smoke and noise; they were beginning to doubt Moshup. To them Moshup appeared a silly old giant, who was slow to offer a remedy to their urgent problem. Then, their amazement, the fog lifted; everyone saw a beautiful new little island in the ocean, gilded by the sun as it rose from the east.
This is how Nantucket was born, created to meet the needs of two Vineyard lovers that wished to marry. You see, the island could serve as the dowry for the bride. Thus, there was no reason for the man’s father to object, any longer, to the marriage. Moshup himself performed the ceremony, the nuptials celebrated in his royal mansion, in a manner fitting two such loving people and then he sent the young couple off to their new home with his blessings.
Nantucket thus offers confirmation that great Moshup did in fact once live. Quite a few of the people, of Nantucket, are known to be upset their home wasn’t part of the original creation of the area, but merely made to help a young couple get their start in life. Yet, I would be pleased to know that my island had such a noble beginning as to aid the cause of true love.
There are some who call Nantucket “The Devil’s Ash Heap,” but I leave it to you, dear reader, to judge that a deliberate slur born of malice. No, it is clear that Nantucket is a place of love as the facts above make clear.
First settled in 1641, Nantucket is the Algonquin word for “far away island.” There are roughly eleven thousand permanent residents of Nantucket; ten times that during the summer. Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard are part of the state of Massachusetts. In 1977, the two islands attempted to secede from the state, unsuccessfully. Two central characters in Moby Dick, Ahab and Starbuck, lived on Nantucket. The novel derives from the exploits of the father-in-law of Herman Melville, who was a principal resident of Nantucket and a whaler. His mansion offers tours during the summer.
This is the first installment, in a four-part series, on the Wampanoag. They were earliest known settlers of Martha’s Vineyard, which, today, is a summer colony for vacationers, off the east coast of Massachusetts.
Click here to read installment one.
Click here to read installment two.
Click here to read installment four.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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