UNCLE ICHABOD, FINANCIER AND MONEY LENDER

 About three miles from Oak Bluff, in Farm Neck, lived Ichabod Norton the son of Major Peter Norton. Ichabod Norton was born on the farm of his ancestors December 17, 1761, and died there June 10 1848. Uncle Ichabod as he was known all over the island was one of the greatest financiers of his day. Because he was a great money lender he was often called the “Bank of Edgartown”. In time of want or trouble the sufferer knew that Uncle Ichabod would help him. He was leberal, firm and just in all his dealings. The following motto was carved over his fireplace: "Deal justly; love mercy; and walk humbly with thy God.” He was very hospitable and the traveler was always made welcome at the “Esquire’s House.” After the death of his mother in 1804, his sisters Miss Lydia and Miss Martha Norton lived with him until their deaths in 1815 and 1816. They had a colored servant, who had deserted a ship in the Vinyard Sound about 1790. His name was John Harry Monus John Peter Tobirus Peter Toskirus Peter Tubal Cain. They called him “Old Harry” for short. He never told of his past. He was a devoted servant until his death about 1845. His only pay for fifty years’ service was a silver dollar which he wore around his neck on a string. After his death it was stolen by one of the neighbors. The family always thought that “Old Harry” had run away from a southern plantation because he was always very polite. One time he was sent to a cousin of the family to borrow a little pepper, and this is the way he delivered the message: “My mistresses, the Miss Lydia and Miss Martha Norton, send their respects to their cousin Mrs. Rebecca Norton and family, and hope that they find themselves well, and that they can easily lend a little pepper.” Harry refused to sleep in a bed, but every night he would place his mattress near Uncle Ichabod’s door so as to protect him. A man who had lost a horse by death came to Uncle Ichabod with a petition for help. The petition read as follows: “The Almighty having seen fit to take from this poor man his only beast of burden, we the undersigned are willing to help him secure another.” After reading it the Esquire passed it back to the man saying: “The Almighty might see fit to take away the new horse and all my fortune couldn’t keep you in horses.” A few days later the man returned with a new petition and passed it to the Esquire, who said: “Seeing that you and the Almighty have been in communication and have come to some understanding, I will help you this time.” Before he left he gave the man five dollars. As time passed on Uncle Ichabod amassed a fortune of fifty-two thousand dollars. As fate would have it, he was blessed with fifty-two heirs.

A QUEER RECEPTACLE FOR DRYING BEANS

While one of his nephews from Farmington, Maine was visiting him Ichabod was taken suddenly ill and was afraid that he wouldn’t live, so he sent the nephew to Mr. Peakes, a cabinet maker at Vineyard Haven, to order a mahogany coffin. The nephew, thinking that he should hve some reward for his walk to Vineyard Haven, ordered a mahogany dining table, charging it to Uncle Ichabod. Although the old man recovered within a few days Mr Peakes brought over the coffin and table. The Esquire was much pleased with the coffin and complimented the maker, but what about the table? Mr. Peakes told the story and the nephew was called in. He made all kinds of excuses but they wouldn’t hold, so the nephew finally said that a coffin should have a suitable support. Uncle Ichabod paid fifty silver dollars for the coffin and twenty- five for the table. He said nothing more to the nephew. At that time Mrs. Mary Kidder, a niece, happened in and Ichabod said to her: “Mary, do you want a mahogany table? If so, take that one and get it home as soon as the devil will let you.” Later the table came into the possession of her son, Dr. Benjamin H. Kidder, U.S.N., and at his death it went to his widow. The coffin was kept a number of years in the spare chamber to dry beans in until it was used for its original purpose.  A well-to-do old maid from Chilmark used to come to Uncle Ichabod for advice regarding her property. She was considered the plainest woman in Chilmark, and to add to her facial beauty she had a full beard.  One day when she came to see Uncle Ichabod she seemed very nervous, and finally told the old man that she had received a proposal.  The Esquire looked at her and said:  “Debby, does he want you or your property?  Oh! Esquire Norton, how could you ask such a question?  He wants me, my person, for he told me so.”  Debby married the man. A year later she came to Uncle Ichabod with a great story regarding her husband’s treatment.  He had secured her property and driven her out of her house.  A few years before his death Uncle Ichabod told his relatives that if any of them wished to have their share of his estate before his death they could have it.  In this way he made over three thousand dollars on his own estate.  This money he used for charity.  The Town of Edgartown has a fund for the “worthy poor” started from the money obtained in this way.  When Ichabod died many of his heirs who had cashed in on their share thought that they could come in again for more. Here is the epitaph that one of the disappointed heirs wrote for his stone:

 “Here lies old Twelve-and-a-half per cent. The more he had the less he spent; The more he had the more he craved. Oh! Lord, can Ichabod be saved?

Uncle Ichabod was ahead of them for he had had his monument set up and marked with the following inscription before his death: “His house was open to travelers, and his hand ever open for the benefit of others.  He arrived at a good old age, was at last gathered to his fathers.  His noblest of mottoes, an Honest Man.  Endeared to his fellow-beings by firmness and fidelity in public affairs, and his honesty in all his private dealings.  By prudence and economy he amassed a large fortune, which he wisely distributed for the benefit of his friends and relatives.”  A memorial service was held for him at Farmington, Maine, and one of the attendants wrote to a relative on the Vineyard:  “The devil never looked on a happier set of mourners.