Building a Family Legacy

As a member of our Founders Circle, you provide more than financial support for our work—you lay the foundation for our future, ensuring the next generation will have robust access to nature.

In addition to Founders Circle membership, many of our supporters who want to leave a lasting legacy of conservation have also made a planned gift to The Trustees, such a charitable gift annuity, or a gift through a will.

August is National Make-A-Will Month, and people all around the country are creating plans to make their mark on the causes they care about most. The Trustees has partnered with FreeWill, a free online resource that guides you through the process of creating your legally valid will in just 20 minutes.

Read on for a story about a fellow Founders Circle donor, Vida Poole, and how generations of her family took the extra step to include The Trustees in their estate plans and ensure their land on Martha’s Vineyard would not only be preserved, but explored and enjoyed by all future generations.

Summertime on Martha’s Vineyard evokes thoughts of long relaxing days and sunsets on the beach. Centuries ago, it was also the peak season for the Brickyard in Chilmark, the site of one of the island’s major industrial operations of the 1800s.

Thanks to generations of generosity from one family, anyone can now explore this uniquely breathtaking landscape and vital piece of Vineyard history. For more than 150 years, the Harris family has lived on, worked on, played on, and cared for this incredible land before passing it on to The Trustees, creating a legacy of conservation that will live on forever.

Vida Poole remembers summers in Chilmark as a kid, picking blueberries, bird watching, and running through the fields with her cousins. When she was older, Vida and her parents would cut back brush to keep the trails passable at Menemsha Hills.

“This place has always been home to me,” Vida said.

Vida Poole, whose family donated Menemsha Hills and The Brickyard to The Trustees.

Throughout the years, her family has donated more than 200 acres of land that now make up two of The Trustees 123 reservations—Menemsha Hills and The Brickyard.

Vida’s great-grandfather, Nathaniel Harris, purchased the land in Chilmark in the 1860s, including the brickworks that was already in operation. The Brickyard operated six months out of the year and employed 100 people, producing more than two million bricks a summer at the height of its operation.

The brickworks ceased operation in the late nineteenth century, when brickmaking became cheaper on the mainland, and the land was passed down to Vida’s grandfather and grandmother. The 18-acre Brickyard was then passed on to Vida’s mother, Flora Harris Epstein, while her cousins, Nathaniel and Catherine Harris, received the abutting 211-acre Menemsha Hills property, which they donated to The Trustees in 1966.

Vida’s mother, a Life Trustee and member of The Trustees planned giving group, Semper Virens Society, bequeathed The Brickyard—with its 45-foot-tall chimney, historic artifacts, and trail to Menemsha Hills—to The Trustees, which officially it opened to the public in 2021.

You want the property to be preserved and you want the property to be enjoyed by people who can appreciate it."

– Vida Poole

Following the donation, and in preparation of the property’s opening, Vida explored decades of family papers, photos, and maps that she donated to The Trustees Archives & Research Center, shedding light on the property’s past and the role it played in the industrial history of the Vineyard.

“You want the property to be preserved and you want the property to be enjoyed by people who can appreciate it,” Vida said.

While the land is now public, Vida still carries on the family connection to the land. Vida said that her daughter, Sarah, wasn’t able to spend as much time on the Vineyard growing up as Vida did. But last summer, she and Sarah, now living in upstate New York, spent time together roaming the property.

“She’s heard me refer to places and wanted to come down and learn about them, and keep some of the history of the place,” Vida said. “I have such a strong pull to the land and my daughter feels it too, it’s just so beautiful.”

Thanks to Vida, her mother, and her ancestors, anyone and everyone now has the chance to be drawn to that same beauty.