Martha's Vineyard Rod & Gun Club

The Martha's Vineyard Rod & Gun Club is a private non-profit club for members and their guests. It has been serving the sportsman's community on the island since the early 1900's. The organization consists 100% of volunteers and the members donate thousands of man-hours each year to make all of their programs a reality.

History of the M.V. Rod & Gun Club The Rod & Gun Club is the only club of this type on Martha's Vineyard. It was founded in 1911 and incorporated in 1938. Since 1952, the club has been located on 16-acres of land in Edgartown overlooking spectacular Sengekontacket Pond and Nantucket Sound.

The facilities consist of a clubhouse, 1/2 mile of private, sandy, saltwater shoreline, two casting ranges, a 50-yard firing range, a 50-yard archery range, one skeet field and one trap field. Opening soon will be a 3-D archery range and long distance target archery range on 100-acres in the state forest.

A Letter from Basil Welch about the early days.

May 22nd, 2004


I have just received my copy of Shots & Casts and I would like to clear up a small matter and that is giving credit where credit is due. A short while ago in Shots & Casts you had a story about Howard Andrews and Ed Tyra buying the property and building the clubhouse that is home to the Martha's Vineyard Rod and Gun Club. This last issue had a sentence that claimed Mr. Andrews as one of the founders of the club.

This letter is not to take any credit away from Mr. Andrews. Indeed he did much for the club and was an excellent leader. However, I just want to correct the records a little if I may. I am one of the oldest members of the Rod and Gun Club. I am 80 years old. I am also one of the longest time members of the club having joined in the early 50's. Dues were $2.00. Howard Leonard was the secretary, his father Alpha was the treasurer and Howard Andrews was the president. The club, which was, founded in the early 1930's met in Oak Bluffs over Garlands Red and White Market. Membership was low due to a combination of a pool table, suspected gambling and irate wives. A big drive was put on to get new and young members, which was successful. Many veterans from World War II joined the club and meetings and suppers were held once a month in different towns. After a while the subject of owning our own property came up. A building committee was appointed. If my memory serves me correctly, Buddy Oliver, Howard Andrews, Ed Tyra and I think Carmen Ciancio were picked. Possibly John Warren Norton was also.

Club elections were held and my brother Mac, who is now 83 and living on the Cape, was voted in as President. The building committee brought in two pieces of property. The piece that the club owns today which is known as Dividend Meadows and owned by Jesse J. Oliver and the old sheep ranch on County Road, West Tisbury abutting the state forest and including all the land and barn known as Misty Meadows, the Granary Gallery and the land to the West Tisbury School There was quite a difference in the price and the Dividend Meadows property was chosen. Before the sale could be finalized, Jesse Oliver died. Buddy got his Mother to sign the papers and the sale was completed. However, with only 60 or so members and dues of $2.00 per year, the sum of 5 to 6000 dollars was scary. Roy Goff, a semi wealthy member suggested that we sell shares in the club at $20.00 per share, noninterest bearing and this made things sound better. M. Martin Gouldey of Edgartown, a lawyer and club member kept the Board of Directors in his office one night from 7 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. setting it all up. Shares would be sold to club members only at $20.00 per share. The shares would be noninterest bearing and nontransferable. They would be called back only when the club had enough money to buy then all back, at the original cost, they were not to increase in value. The property would be held by a trust, known as the Martha's Vineyard Rod and Gun Club Realty Trust. More members were welcomed and many shares were sold. This is how the club was financed.

It was time now to build a new clubhouse. Plans were made and everyone pitched in on Saturdays and Sundays with shovels, rakes, saws and hammers. Club members tore down the old pavilion that Jesse Oliver had his clambakes in and tore down the old camp that stood where the present pistol range is now located. Trucks and tractors were borrowed and willingly loaned. Lumberyards and contracting shops were canvassed for anything usable. Plywood, doors, shingles, whatever they would give. Members worked hard. Ed Tyra, John Warren Norton, Ralph Case, Howard Andrews, Carmen Ciancio, John O. Silvia, Mac Welch, Ed Donald, Lloyd Mayhew, Red Dolby and myself were the carpenters and helpers who put in a phenomenal amount of time. Alfred Churchill donated all the inside and outside paint and Tony Gaspar did the painting. Eugene Belisle did all the plumbing and if my memory serves me right, Gene also put on the first supper we had in our own clubhouse. Joe White and George White dug the septic and leveled the floor for the slab. Bob Goodale sent down the cement trucks. The building went up quickly. The roof was shingled with leftovers from various contractors and from the Beach Road, the multicolored roof looked much like a roof for cormorants. Roy Goff donated all the stone for the fireplace and had them delivered. Fred Thifault built the fireplace and donated all the labor and materials. Gordon Bassett did all the electrical work. I don't have any figures but I believe the building materials that had to be bought cost less than $5,000.00 and it took less than two years to build. Nobody and I do mean nobody worked harder than John O. Silvia, Carmen Ciancio, Ed Tyra and Warren Norton. Everyone had a different idea how it should be built and how it should be run but they were the ones who never showed up to do the work.

To help raise money, Mac Welch started Sunday Trap Shoots. We acquired a second hand trap and built a trap house under the bank in front of the clubhouse. "Keep your head down" was the rule of the day. Small hams were given as prizes that were donated by various stores and we began to get more and more people coming to the club. The deer shoot and raffle were introduced at this time. More people joined the club and the membership rose to surprising numbers. At one time in the 1960's the membership was 220. Dues were up to $5.00 and although we were no longer selling shares we charged all newcomers a $10.00 initiation fee. The bookkeeping was a real pain. One set of officers for the Realty Trust and another for the club. Minutes for each meeting had to be kept separately for the secretary and treasurer who held the position for both organizations.

It was decided in the late 60's or early 70's that the club should buy up the shares in the Realty Trust and own the property. One enterprising person who had become disgruntled at the club thought he would block this. He bought up quite a few shares but he never read the small print, which clearly stated that the shares could not be transferred except back to the Realty Trust and that whatever time the shares were called in, after a period of time they would become null and void. This ex member got stuck with a number of worthless shares. Most of the members who had shares, donated them back to the club, which helped the treasury considerably.

Most of this is on paper somewhere. How do I know it? I was the secretary of the club for 8 years and also of the trust, back in the late 50's and early 60's. Then I was president for one year in the 60's and I am now a lifetime member of the club. Although I haven't attended any meetings for quite a while, I follow the doings of the club. There were 5 or 6 books - red ledger type books - that held secretary minutes. There were also treasurers' books. They should all be at the clubhouse. I hope they are. There's a great deal of history in those pages and a lot of good names of people now gone.

The point of this whole great long letter as I said in the beginning is not to discredit Mr. Andrews but rather to explain that a lot of work by a lot of guys who gave a hell of a lot of time and money and bought the land and built the clubhouse that is now enjoyed by a great many people, members and nonmembers.

So much history is lost each time a person dies. Al Prada, Ed Tyra, Red Dolby, M. Marty Gouldy, Steve Gentle, Gene Belisle, Carmen Ciancio, John O. Silvia, Tom Pease, Clayton Hoyle, Alpha Leonard, Tony Gaspar, Joe and Doc Amaral and so many others who all had a hand in making the club what it is today.

Keep the good work going.

Thank you for your time,

Basil Welch

PS During the turmoil of buying land, building a clubhouse and really building a club, Ben Morton and Abie Brickman talked the club into sponsoring a Striped Bass Derby - the forerunner of the present Bass & Bluefish Derby. The club did agree to sponsor it but after a few years, dropped it. We found we were doing all the work and bearing all the responsibility and they were taking all the credit.

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