59 School Street, Box 1310, Edgartown MA 02539 - 508.627.4441
Martha's Vineyard Museum MV Museum


c. 1860

Unknown Maker

Probably Martha's Vineyard


Gift of the West Tisbury Public Library

Died Feb. 25, 1858
Aged most 9 years
O my heart has consumed
In the coffin under ground

Thus begins the tombstone for Ada Queetie, one of Nancy Luce's whimsically named hens. Nancy Luce (1814–1890) was a poor woman, eccentric and maligned by many. She lived alone with her chickens and cow near Tiah's Cove in West Tisbury, becoming a tourist attraction while she was alive and a legend after she died.

When she was young, Nancy Luce was a businesswoman who traded with merchants in Edgartown, riding horseback across the Island to sell knitted stockings and homespun that she and her neighbors made. She returned with rice, cloves, and other goods to resell Up Island.

In her mid-twenties, Nancy became ill and could no longer knit. Her elderly parents were also unwell, and she had to care for them. Her deep unhappiness manifested itself in the poetry she wrote. Her only consolation seemed to be the devotion she felt for her hens. residences.

Her eccentricities became commonly known, and gawkers traveled to her farm to observe the "Hen Lady" and sometimes to torment her, both verbally and physically. Nancy took advantage of their interest by selling booklets of poetry and advice on poultry keeping, along with photographs of herself holding chickens.

After her favorite hens died, she had tombstones carved for them and asked to be buried alongside them when her time came, a request that was not honored. Nancy Luce is buried in the West Tisbury Cemetery, where her grave is surrounded by plastic chickens and other tokens of esteem placed by modern admirers. Her hens' tombstones were removed by her house's new owner, and the bones of Ada Queetie, Beauty Linna, and Tweedle Dedel Beebbee Pinky rest in obscurity in unmarked graves.

With thanks to the following individuals who have adopted this object for one year:
Marty and Joanne Homlish
John Rosenmiller