Across the pond with Rex Wailes: To Nantucket

November 13th 2019 by Nathanael Hodge

Part 9 of a weekly series of blogs about Rex Wailes' 1929 trip to the USA and Canada.
Poster Image

Friday 10.5.29

On Friday the 10th I took the 7 am. bus to Fall River. The whole of the country on Newport Island is remarkably pleasant. A fine coast line, looking over to the main land both east and west. All the fields are walled; there are many large old trees, and prosperous looking farms, some are 18th century and very pleasing. Everywhere the hoardings at the side of the road spoil things, but the country is prosperous and entirely agricultural. At Quaker Hill on the left hand side of the East Road, I saw a derelict smock mill, of the usual type, and with no sails or cap.

Colonel Ned Green (1868-1936)

We arrived at 8 a.m. and the New Bedford 'bus left at 8.35. Except at Dartmouth the road was uninteresting. It was very rocky, with but a few walls and very little agriculture. At Dartmouth lives Col. Green. He is the wealthy son (one legged) of old Hetty Green, the miser, who dressed like a beggar woman and died the richest woman in her own right in the land; Col Green is very liberal and has the show place of Rhode Island. He has a whale ship (set in concrete) completely fitted up, and a windmill. I rather wish that I had stopped off to see that mill. However, I didn't and it can't be helped.

The road to New Bedford had a double track light railway, with overhead wires, running down the centre, and a concrete 2-line roadway on either side. I had been developing a cold - caught on the Boston El (elevated railway that runs all the Boston public vehicles) no doubt - and found the glare from the concrete road very trying as it ripened!

Except from the boat I saw little of New Bedford. A number of touts pestered me to carry my grip – I wish I had let them - it was half a mile to the quay. I checked it here, bought my ticket to Nantucket and walked back into the town. A policeman directed me to a good "lunch" where I had a second breakfast of strawberries and cream, corncake and butter and a glass of milk, and bought three sandwiches for the boat. My first breakfast was at a 24 hour restaurant in Newport, where I had a half grape fruit and 2 biscuits of shreaded wheat.

A Nantucket ferry

We reached Woods Hole at 11.30 a.m. (the boat was the "Martha's Vineyard") being late because the boat in the reverse direction had stranded on a sand bank and was in at the jetty when we were due. The channel is very tricky, full of rocks and shoals visible even to the land lubber. The wind got up, and I found a place just aft of the deck house aft the funnel where I could get sun and be out of the wind. I got talking to an elderly bearded gentleman who came to sit there too. He had been to England twice and was very interesting but didn't talk a great deal. At Nantucket we found that we were both going to the same place - Roberts House, so went in the same taxi. Mrs Roberts was large, deaf, loud voice and a rheumatic leg, terrible accent – evidently not a Nantucketer by birth.

I had a letter of introduction to Mr. Harry B. Turner of the "Inquirer & Mirror". The elderly gentleman of the boat – now addressed as Doctor - piloted me to the office. Mr.Turner was working in the printing house but was most obliging. What I wanted was a copy of his paper "Nantuckets Old Mill". He did not know where he could find one but, luckily, his stenographer found a packet and I was duly presented with one, usually sold for "a quarter" - which I got him to autograph for me. He also gave me a small guide.

The Pacific Club. Image from Wikimedia Commons by Daniel Penfield [CC BY-SA 4.0]

I had another letter to Mr. Fred V. Fuller - also from Mr. Macy. Mr. Turner was just pointing out his office when Mr. Fuller came out. I accosted him, told him my business and gave him the letter. I walked down with him to the Pacific Club where he opened and read the letter. He at once shewed me photographs of two paintings of Nantucket windmills - the "Round Top Mill" now gone and the four on Mill Hills, of which the "Old Mill" is the sole survivor. He also gave me a small booklet on the Pacific Club. It is a club originally founded by whaling captains of whom none now are left, and is now continued as a social select club for old times. Mr. Fuller is a prominent member and the son of a whaling captain. He is a small made man, very pleasant looking of about 60 years.

He promised to get the key of the mill for me, and told me to be at his office at 9.30 a.m. next day.


Volunteer Guy Boocock who is listing the contents of the Rex Wailes collection has come across a Rex's file on Nantucket, which includes these items. The blue Pacific Club booklet has a handwritten note on the reverse to remind Rex to meet Mr Fuller at 9.30:

There is also a later letter from Harry Turner of the "Inquirer and Mirror":

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