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Martha's Vineyard

MARTHA'S VINEYARD, an island including the greater part of Dukes county, Massachusetts, U.S.A., lying about 3 m. off the southern coast of that state. Its extreme length (east to west) is about 20 m., and its extreme width (north to south) about 9? m. Along its north-west and a portion of its north-east shore lies Vineyard Sound. Its principal bays are Vineyard Haven Harbor, a deep indentation at the northernmost angle of the island; and, on the eastern coast, Edgartown Harbor and Katama Bay, both formed by the juxtaposition of Chappaquiddick Island. The surface is mainly flat, excepting a strip about 2 m. broad along the north-western coast, and the two western townships (Chilmark and Gay Head), which are hilly, with several eminences of 200 to 300 ft. the highest, Prospect Peak, in Chilmark township, 308 ft. Gay Head Light, a beacon near the western extremity, stands among picturesque cliffs, 145 ft. above the sea. Along the southern coast are many ponds, all shut off from the ocean by a narrow strip of land, excepting Tisbury Great Pond, which has a small outlet to the sea. Others are Sengekontacket Pond on the eastern coast; Lagoon Pond, which is practically an arm of Vineyard Haven Harbor; and, about a mile east of the Harbor, Chappaquonsett Pond. Martha's Vineyard is divided into the following townships (from east to west): Edgartown (in the south-eastern part of the island), pop. (1910), 1191; area, 29*7 sq. m.; Oak Bluffs (north-eastern portion), pop. (1910), 1084; area, 7^9 sq. m.; Tisbury, pop. (1910), 1196; area, 7"! sq. m.; West Tisbury, pop. (1910), 437; area, 30'$ sq. m.; Chilmark, pop. (1910), 282; area, 19-4 sq. m.; and Gay Head, pop. (1910), 162; area 5-2 sq. m. The population of the county, including the Elizabeth Ids. (Gosnold town, pop. 152), N. W. of Martha's Vineyard; Chappaquiddick Island (Edgartown township), and No Man's Land (a small island south-west of Martha's Vineyard), was 4561 in 1900 (of whom 645 were foreign-born, including 79 Portuguese and 72 English-Canadians, and 154 Indians), and in 1910, 4504. The principal villages are Oak Bluffs on the north-cast coast, facing Vineyard Sound; Vineyard Haven, in Tisbury township, beautifully situated on the west shore of Vineyard Haven Harbor, and Edgartown on Edgartown Harbor all summer resorts. No Man's Land, included politically in Chilmark township, lies about 6^ m. south of Gay Head. It is about ij m. long (east and west) and about i m. wide, is composed of treeless swamps, and is used mainly for sheep-grazing; the neighbouring waters are excellent fishing ground. Martha's Vineyard is served by steamship lines from Wood's Hole and New Bedford to Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs, and Edgartown. The Martha's Vineyard railway (from Oak Bluffs to the south-east extremity of the island, by way of Edgartown), opened in 1874, was not a financial success, and had been practically abandoned in 1909, but an electric line from Oak Bluffs to Vineyard Haven provides transit facilities for that part of the island.

For more than a century whale fishing was practically the sole industry of Martha's Vineyard. It was carried on at first from the shore in small boats; but by the first decade of the 18th century vessels especially built for the purpose were being used, and by 1760 shore fishing had been practically abandoned. The industry, seriously crippled by invasions of British troops during the War of American Independence especially by a force which landed at Holmes's Hole (Vineyard Haven) in September 1778 and again during the War of 1812, revived and was at its height in 1840-1850, only to receive another setback during the Civil War. In the last part of the 19th century its decline was rapid, not only because of the increasing scarcity of whales, but because of the introduction of the mineral oils, and by the end of the century whaling had ceased to be of any economic importance. Herring fishing, on both the north and the south shore, occupies a small percentage of the inhabitants, and there is also some deep-sea fishing. Sheep-raising, especially for wool, is an industry of considerable importance, and Dukes county is one of the three most important counties of the state in this industry.

Martha's Vineyard was discovered in 1602 by Captain Bartholomew Gosnold, who landed (May 21) on the island now called No Man's Land, and named it Martha's Vineyard, 1 which name was subsequently applied to the larger island. Captain Gosnold rounded Gay Head, which he named Dover Cliff, and established on what is now Cuttyhunk Island, which he called Elizabeth Island, the first (though, as it proved, a temporary) English settlement in New England. The entire line of sixteen islands, of which Cuttyhunk is the westernmost of the larger ones, have since been called the Elizabeth Islands: they form the dividing line between Buzzards Bay and Vineyard Sound, and in 1864 were incorporated as Gosnold township (pop. in 1005, 161) of Dukes county.

The territory within the jurisdiction of the Council for New England was parcelled in 1635 among the patentees in such 1 In the 17th century both " Martha's Vineyard " and "Martin's Vineyard " were used, and the latter appears in a book as early as 1638 and in another as late as 1699, and on a map as late as 1670. It seems probable that the original form was Martin, the name of one of Gosnold's crew; according to some authorities the name Martha's Vineyard was adopted by Mayhew in honour of his wife or daughter.

terms owing to insufficient knowledge of the geography of the coast that both William Alexander, earl of Stirling, and Sir Ferdinando Gorges, proprietor of Maine, claimed Martha's Vineyard. In 1641 Stirling's agent, Forrett, sold to Thomas Mayhew (1592-1682), 1 of Watertown, Massachusetts, for $200, the island of Nantucket, with several smaller neighbouring islands, and also Martha's Vineyard. It seems probable that Forrett acted without authority, and his successor, Forrester, was arrested by the Dutch in New Amsterdam and sent to Holland before he could confirm the transfer. In 1644 the Commissioners of the United Colonies, apparently at the request of the inhabitants of Martha's Vineyard, annexed the island to Massachusetts, but ten years later the islanders declared their independence of that colony, and apparently for the next decade managed their own affairs. Meanwhile Mayhew had recognized the jurisdiction of Maine; 2 and though the officials of that province showed no disposition to press their claim, it seems that this technical suzerainty continued until 1664, when the Duke of York received from his brother, Charles II., the charter for governing New York, New Jersey, and other territory, including Martha's Vineyard. In 1671 Governor Francis Lovelace, of New York, appointed Mayhew governor for life of Martha's Vineyard; in 1683, the island, with Nantucket,. the Elizabeth Islands, No Man's Land, and Chappaquiddick Island were erected into Dukes county, and in 1695 the county was re-incorporated by Massachusetts with Nantucket excluded. Under the new charter of Massachusetts Bay (1691), after some dispute between Massachusetts and New York, Martha's Vineyard became a part of Massachusetts.

There is a tradition that the first settlement of Martha's Vineyard was made in 1632, at or near the present site of Edgartown village, by several English families forming part of a company bound for Virginia, their ship having put in at this harbour on account of heavy weather. It is certain, however, that in 1642, the year after Thomas Mayhew bought the island, his son, also named Thomas Mayhew (c. 1616-1657), and several other persons established a plantation on the site of what is now Edgartown village. This settlement was at first called " Great Harbor," but soon after Mayhew was appointed governor of the island it was named Edgartown, probably in honour of the only surviving son of the Duke of York. The younger Mayhew, soon after removing to Martha's Vineyard, devoted himself to missionary work among the Indians, his work beginning at about the same time as that of John Eliot; he was lost at sea in 1657 while on his way to secure financial assistance in England, and his work was continued successfully by his father. 3 The township of Edgartown was incorporated in 1671, and is the county-seat of Dukes county. In 1783 several Edgartown families joined the association made up of Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, Providence and Newport whalers, who founded Hudson, on the Hudson river, in Columbia county, New York. Oak Bluffs had its origin as a settlement in the camp meetings, which were begun here in 1835, and by 1860 had grown to large proportions. As the village expanded 1 Mayhew was born at Tisbury, Wiltshire, was a merchant in Southampton, emigrated to Massachusetts about 1633, settled at Watertown, Mass., in 1635; was a member of the Massachusetts General Court in 1636-1644, and after 1644 or 1645 lived on Martha's Vineyard.

* It appears from a letter from Mayhew to Governor Andros in 1675 that about 1641 Mayhew obtained a conveyance to Martha's Vineyard from Richard Vines, agent of Gorges. See F. B. Hough, Papers Relating to the Island of Nantucket, with Documents Relating to the Original Settlement of that Island, Martha's Vineyard, etc. (Albany, N.Y., 1856).

! In 1901, a boulder memorial was erected to the younger Mayhew on the West Tisbury road, between the village of that name and Edgartown, marking the spot where the missionary bade farewell to several hundred Indians. The Martha's Vineyard Indians were subject to the Wampanoag tribe, on the mainland, were expert watermen, and were very numerous when the whites first came. Nearly all of them were converted to Christianity by the Mayhews, and they were friendly to the settlers during King Philip's war. By 1698 their numbers had been reduced to about 1000, and by 1764 to about 300. Soon after this they began to intermarry with negroes, and now only faint traces of them remain.

it took the name of Cottage City. In 1880 the township was incorporated under that name, which it retained until January 1907, when the name (and that of the village also) was changed to Oak Bluffs. Tisbury township was bought from the Indians in 1669 and was incorporated in 1671. Its principal village, Vineyard Haven, was called " Holmes's Hole " (in honour of one of the early settlers) until 1871, when the present name was adopted. West Tisbury township was set off from Tisbury, and incorporated in 1892. Chilmark township was incorporated in 1694. Gay Head township was set off from Chilmark, and incorporated in 1870.

See C. Gilbert Hine, The Story of Martha's Vineyard (New York, 1908); Charles E. Banks, " Martha's Vineyard and the Province of Maine " in Collections and Proceedings of the Maine Historical Society, 2nd series, vol. ix. p. 123 (Portland, Maine, 1898); and Walter S. Tower, A History of the American Whale Fishery (Philadelphia, 1907)- (G. G.*)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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