Mattapoisett was site of last fatal shark attack in Bay State: 1936
Martin Smith remembers July 25, 1936, as a fine summer Saturday, warm and clear.
The tranquility was soon shattered.
Smith, 13 at the time, had just finished lunch when he heard a commotion at the beach near his family's summer cottage in the Hollywoods section of town.
What he witnessed that day — what became the last fatal shark attack in Massachusetts — has remained with him ever since.
As he swam in the waters off the beach, Joseph Troy Jr., 16, a summer visitor from Dorchester, was grabbed and bitten by a 6-foot shark and dragged underwater less than 50 yards from shore.
The badly injured youth was rushed to St. Luke's Hospital in New Bedford. He died on the operating table that night while surgeons were amputating his left leg.
"The Troys' cottage was just across the street from ours," Smith recalled. "When I got down to the beach, Joseph was lying there with a great bloody wound in his thigh. He was moaning in shock."
The boy, along with a family friend, had been swimming out from the beach to meet the Black Cat, a catboat that had just picked up its mooring after a morning sail, when the shark attacked, Smith said.
The Black Cat's owner, Hubert Fisher, jumped into his dinghy and, with the help of the other swimmer, Walter Stiles of Boston, got the boy aboard and took him to the beach.
Using an old wooden door as a stretcher, neighbors carried the badly injured teen to a car and he was rushed to the hospital.
In the meantime, the people left aboard the Black Cat were still waiting to come ashore. Smith and a friend were ordered to clean up the blood from the dinghy so the passengers could be landed.
It was not a pleasant task, and the events of that day have lingered long after.
"I never swam in deep water after that," Smith said.
The wind had been from the southeast the day before the attack, he said, a condition that roils the bottom and results in poor visibility. That could have been a critical factor, producing an instinctive reaction from the shark when it saw the flash of a swimmer's white leg, Smith said he believes.
The Standard-Times report of the incident said Joseph Troy was still conscious when he was wheeled into the operating room for the amputation.
The attending surgeon, Dr. E.D. Gardner, said the boy told him he was horrified not so much by the bite as the thought of being dragged down while in the grip of the shark.
In the aftermath of the attack, beaches around Buzzards Bay were deserted and swimming came to a halt along much of the Massachusetts coast, the newspaper reported.
Although the attack was without precedent, sharks had previously been observed in Buzzards Bay. Just a week earlier, a 6-foot shark had been caught in Marion harbor.
Although there have been no further attacks on humans locally, sharks still occasionally make their presence felt on SouthCoast.
In September 1959, another big shark made local headlines when Russell Boardman, 15, of Mattapoisett, harpooned a 6-foot, 2-inch, 173-pound white shark off West Island from the bow of his father's 30-foot sportfishing boat.
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