Encyclopedia Vineyardia: J

James and Jacob: Irish “lunatics” released on Chappaquiddick in late November 1822. The schooner Mary Ann arrived in Edgartown from New York under the command of Captain James Achesson. Aboard were James and Jacob, surnames unknown, one in irons, both reportedly insane. They were under the watch of a Mr. Kelley, who claimed that he had been paid $400 by the two men’s fathers to return them to their homeland. He had paid Achesson $48 for their passage to Canada, but by the time they got to the Vineyard, Achesson, and perhaps Mr. Kelley, had had enough of James and Jacob and the two charges were rowed ashore onto a remote part of Chappaquiddick and abandoned. The schooner continued on to Canada. Fortunatus Pease, pilot of the Mary Ann and an Islander by birth, later testified to the Edgartown selectmen that Achesson told him he “did not care if the Lunatics went to Hell,” that “they were both bear headed and miserably clad and one of them without stockings.” Fortunately, the helpless men were soon discovered by Edgartown residents, who placed one in the Edgartown jail and the other under the care of Edgartown’s overseer of the poor. The British consul in Boston was notified, and British newspapers picked up the story: hope was raised that their families in Ireland would hear the story and identify them. The men were eventually taken to the Lunatic Asylum in Charlestown, Massachusetts. Their fates, however, are unknown.

Chris Morse

James Pond: Roughly fifty-acre great pond located behind Lambert’s Cove Beach in West Tisbury. Originally called Onkakemmy, by 1682 the pond was being called James Pond, and later Pond Royale, presumably in honor of James, Duke of York, who became the “proprietor” of much of the New England coast in 1663. 

Jernegan, Rev. Prescott: Edgartown clergyman and scam artist. After serving in several churches off-Island, Jernegan returned to the Vineyard in 1896 and formed the Electrolytic Marine Salts Company with his boyhood friend Charlie Fisher. Armed with a secret process to extract gold from seawater, the company convinced a thousand stockholders to invest upwards of $750,000, and each week an ingot of gold worth $2,000 was delivered to their Boston office. Only it was a scam. After an insider who knew that the gold was melted down from old jewelry tried without success to blackmail them, the story was given to the newspapers and the partners successfully fled the country with a quarter million dollars in cash stuffed into suitcases. 

Jewel thieves, the: A gang of pickpockets and lockpicks who struck Cottage City, now Oak Bluffs, over several days in late August 1877. The Pawnee House suffered severely after clothing and jewelry were stolen from its guests. Thieves also entered a guest’s room in the Sea View Hotel, picked the lock of her trunk, and stole $3,000 worth of diamonds. Nine people had their pockets picked near the Tabernacle, and one thief was caught attempting to steal a woman’s watch near Clinton Avenue.

Jitneys: Unregulated, owner-operated automobile taxis that operated for a few years between the end of electric trolley service between Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven in 1918 and the rise of scheduled bus service in the 1920s.

Johnson, Peter: Wampanoag fisherman from Gay Head, hero of the City of Columbus disaster in 1884, and murder victim. More than a hundred passengers and crew died in the cold waters off of Gay Head when the passenger ship City of Columbus ran aground on the rocks at Devil’s Bridge, but when word reached residents of Gay Head that dozens of passengers were trapped on board, Peter Johnson and Leonard Vanderhoop were among the first to volunteer to crew a rescue mission in a lifeboat. Many lives were saved, and many bodies recovered, by Johnson, Vanderhoop, and others in the dangerous surf that day. Seven years later Johnson was found butchered “in a horrible manner”: face down in a boat on the shore in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, the victim of an unsolved homicide.