Brownell, Ashley & Company
New Bedford, Massachusetts
Gift of Mrs. Clara G. Leavitt
When ninety-year-old Ulysses E. Mayhew was interviewed in 1938 after "a band of prankish youngsters" stole his old peddler's cart, he took the opportunity to remind people of some of the difficulties of Up Island living back in the 1880s, when the cart was new.
Mayhew owned the general store in West Tisbury that is now Alley's. He kept it well stocked, but the rocky, unpaved, rutted roads made getting to the store a time-consuming ordeal for customers in remote parts of West Tisbury, Chilmark, and Gay Head. So he decided to bring the store to them. With the cart filled with groceries, tools, tobacco, dry goods, and other useful stock, the driver left early in the morning and returned in the evening, though Mayhew recalled sometimes locking up the cart and leaving it along the roadside if he found himself too far away at nightfall.
The heavily laden, top-heavy cart moved slowly and was not altogether stable, capsizing on occasion, which resulted in spectacular spills. Within a decade, Mayhew decided to retire the vehicle. He kept it stored in his barn, though on at least one special occasion, his eighty-sixth birthday, he had it pulled out so he could pose in front of it.
Like many Vineyard men of his day, Mayhew led an active and varied life. In just one of many stories he could truthfully tell, he was a fourteen-year-old cabin boy on the whaling bark Lafayette when it was burned off the coast of Brazil by the famous Confederate raider Alabama in 1863. The Edgartown whaleship Ocmulgee, captained by Abraham Osborn in 1862 off the Azores, was the first of sixty-six vessels burned by the Alabama in actions that devastated the shipping industry during the Civil War.