Scions of Nantucket Founders (part 7 – first section)

Introduction: In this article, Melissa Davenport Berry continues her series about the founders of Nantucket, Massachusetts, and their descendants, showing photos of the island’s annual “Main Street Fete.” Melissa is a genealogist who has a website, americana-archives.com, and a Facebook group, New England Family Genealogy and History.

Today I continue my series on the scions of the founders of Nantucket, Massachusetts, featuring photographs from the “Main Street Fete” held on the island annually to raise funds for the preservation of the community and to support operations for the Nantucket Cottage Hospital.

All photos are courtesy of the Nantucket Historical Association (NHA) collections.

Each year Nantucket sets the clocks back to a time when town criers served up the news, ladies in petticoats hosted tea parties, and whaling captains sailed the globe.

When you enter this island world – no matter what year – there is a sign showing the mileage around the world from the Nantucket store “Gardiner’s Corner,” starting with Sconset (7.5 miles away) and stretching thousands of miles to exotic faraway lands where the whalers of the past ventured. This link is a reminder of the thriving whaling industry that made Nantucket one of the most prosperous places in America.

The “Thar Blows” compass mural was created by H. Marshall Gardiner on the side of his store in the early 1930s, located at the intersection of Main Street & Washington Street in Nantucket, Massachusetts.

Photo: compass mural on the side of “Gardiner’s Corner” store, Nantucket, Massachusetts. Credit: Nantucket Historical Association.
Photo: compass mural on the side of “Gardiner’s Corner” store, Nantucket, Massachusetts. Credit: Nantucket Historical Association.

Nantucket’s Main Street Fete allows scions of the early settlers whose names include Starbuck, Macy, Folger, Coffin, Bunker, Gardner, and Coleman to dress and act out the styles and customs of their ancestors – and they really put on a show!

I found some great newsclips in my genealogy searches, like this one covering the Main Street Fete from1923 featured in the Boston Herald.

An article about Nantucket's "Main Street Fete," Boston Herald newspaper 19 August 1923
Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 19 August 1923, page 40

The wonderful illustrations in this newspaper article show the mood of a century past, but NHA has the snaps that show it all. Many of them appear in “The Inquirer and Mirror” archive edition for Saturday, 25 August 1923.

First up, lads depicting the sea captains and merchants. In this photo we see: (standing from left to right): Samuel Merwin; Tony Sarg; Captain Walter N. Chase; Austin Strong; Breckenridge Long; Captain Benjamin Whitford Joy; and John Martin; (kneeling left to right): G.F. McMillen; and John Cross.

Photo: men at the Nantucket fete, 1923. Credit: Nantucket Historical Association.
Photo: men at the Nantucket fete, 1923. Credit: Nantucket Historical Association.

Next, the great dames of the island dressed in period costumes of their Quaker ancestors. In this photo, we see: (seated from left to right): Miss Susan “Susie” Emma Brock, daughter of mariner George and Charlotte (Coleman) Brock. At the age of six, she accompanied her parents on the clipper ship Midnight on a voyage around Cape Horn. She published her story in Doubling Cape Horn in 1926; Miss Sarah Lucretia Macy, daughter of Charles Wendall Macy and Sarah Swain Coffin; Miss Ellen Judkins, daughter of Benjamin Judkins and Sarah Mitchell; Miss Lucretia Macy Gardner, one of the many offshoots born to Robert Folger Gardner and Lucretia Folger Macy.

Photo: women at the Nantucket fete, 1923, at 85 Main Street (the Jabez Bunker-Prince Gardner House), all ears on the town crier played by A. F. Musgrave. Credit: Marshall H. Gardiner collection at the Nantucket Historical Association.
Photo: women at the Nantucket fete, 1923, at 85 Main Street (the Jabez Bunker-Prince Gardner House), all ears on the town crier played by A. F. Musgrave. Credit: Marshall H. Gardiner collection at the Nantucket Historical Association.

I just had to slip in some more photographs from NHA. The first two show a real town crier of Nantucket.

Photos: William Bunker Ray. Credit: Nantucket Historical Association.
Photos: William Bunker Ray. Credit: Nantucket Historical Association.

William Bunker Ray (1815-1899) was the son of Nathaniel Ray and Merah Bunker and a descendant of several Nantucket settlers. Master Ray was a colorful figure in town, a trumpeter, and a well-known Civil War veteran. He married Charlotte Ramsdell, daughter of John Ramsdell and Sabrina Norton, leaving descendants.

Another precious reminder of Nantucket old days is this photograph of Helen Marshall (1851-1939) dressed for a Main Street Fete, undated.  She is wearing Quaker garb and a bonnet once worn by her grandmother Mary Coffin Brown Pinckham, daughter of William Brown and Mary Coffin, who married Seth Pinkham, son of Jethro Pinckham and Susanna Coffin. Mary and Seth’s daughter Malvina Folger Pinkham married Captain John Marshall, parents to Helen.

Photo: Helen Marshall. Credit: Marshall-Pinkham-Farrier Family collection at the Nantucket Historical Association.
Photo: Helen Marshall. Credit: Marshall-Pinkham-Farrier Family collection at the Nantucket Historical Association.

According to NHA, Helen joined her family for the 1856–61 voyage of the whaling bark Aurora, commanded by her father Captain John Marshall.

Helen was born on the island of Faial in the Azores, near the beginning of her father’s previous command. She spent her early years aboard whalers with her parents.

On returning to Nantucket, she continued her education on the island and at Vassar College. She did a Grand Tour of Europe with her friend Ann (Mitchell) Macy, a sister of astronomer Maria Mitchell.

Helen taught at Nantucket High School and later at the Norwich Free Academy in Connecticut. She maintained a cottage at Sconset in her retirement.

Here are a few videos of past Main Street Fetes digitized by George Blood Audio and Video Store:

Stay tuned for more Main Street Fete features…

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Note on the header image: flag of Nantucket, Massachusetts. Credit: NuclearVacuum; Wikimedia Commons.

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