The Block Island Times

This week in history, March 30, 1897: No Foolin'

By Robert M. Downie | Apr 01, 2013
Courtesy of: Robert M. Downie The ferry Mount Hope makes a fast exit from Old Harbor about 100 years ago, not always fast enough for those in great haste.

This story is not an April Fool's joke. It is repeated below from the original newspaper of 1897. The immediate aftermath is not known.

Back then, 116 years ago, ferries left from both harbors: from New Harbor for Long Island and New York City, and from Old Harbor for Newport and Providence, R.I.

Having two of something, instead of one, can be advantageous. But often, conversely, having two of one thing, is clearly one too many:

"There appears to be considerable excitement in Block Island's social life yesterday. Halsey Littlefield [age 52], who is a one-legged man . . . discovered that his wife, Mary Littlefield [age 39] had decided to separate herself from him and the two children and seek other climes. To aggravate the case, he learned that Lamont Browning of Providence, formerly engineer on steamer G. W. Danielson, who has been spending a part of the summer on the island, was accompanying her.

"The two had their trunks packed and drove to the New York boat in the New Harbor, but failed to arrive in time. They then drove to the Old Harbor, and boarded the Mount Hope. The husband was not idle meanwhile, for he followed the pair about. He met the man and smashed his crutch upon him, but failed to inflict a mortal wound, and so Browning was able to continue his escape.

"The trunks, however, had to be left behind, owing to the closeness of the pursuit. Mr. Littlefield secured a constable to go on board the Mount Hope after his wife, but there appeared to be some doubt as to the officer's authority on the boat, and the steamer left with the two among her passengers.

"A dispatch was sent to the police in Newport to arrest the couple on the boat's arrival, but as the telegram failed to reach Newport until after 6 o'clock, and the departure of the Mount Hope [for Providence] the police there could do nothing."

There seems to have been a happy ending for Halsey, for by the census of 1900, at least, he and Mary were living together again on Block Island, in the house they had built in 1891 on Spring St., just past Amy Dodge Lane.

In 1910, the year of their 30th wedding anniversary, they were still together, running a small store on the first floor, which opened out onto the road, under the porch.

Alas, Halsey died in 1915, age 70, and is buried at the Island Cemetery — not with his wife, but with his parents and siblings.

His widow Mary returned to her birthplace in Washington, DC, where she lived with a sister into the 1930s — her island past well behind.

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