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Thomas Mayhew, an English merchant and a settler of Watertown, Massachusetts, not far from Boston, bought in October, 1641, from Lord Stirling and Sir Ferdinando Gorges, through their agent James Forcett, the islands of Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and the Elizabeth Islands. Lord Stirling and Sir Gorges having received their right of ownership from the English Crown.

Among the families that were here in 1650 we find the names of Butler, Bland, Smith, Burchard, Daggett, Folger, Bayes, Trapp, Mayhew, Norton, Pease, and Vinson.

Martha's Vineyard

Martha's Vineyard

Martha's Vineyard (including the smaller Chappaquiddick Island) is an island off the south of Cape Cod in New England. The islands both form a part of the Outer Lands region.

Often called just "The Vineyard," the island has a land area of 87.48 square miles (231.75 km²) and is the List of islands of the United States by area|58th largest island in the United States, and the third largest on the East Coast of the United States. It is the largest true island of the East Coast of the US (not connected to mainland by a bridge or tunnel).


English settlement had its origins in the purchase of Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and the Elizabeth Islands by Thomas Mayhew (governor)|Thomas Mayhew of Watertown, Massachusetts from two English "owners". During his lifetime, he had friendly relations with the Wampanoags on the island in part because he was careful to honor their land rights as well. His son, also Thomas Mayhew, began the first English settlement in 1642 at Great Harbor (later Edgartown, Massachusetts).

Like the nearby island of Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard was brought to prominence in the 19th century by the whaling industry, during which ships were sent around the world to hunt whales for their oil and blubber.

Island life and residents

Locals refer to Martha's Vineyard as "the Vineyard" and its residents as either "Vineyarders" or simply "Islanders." People who move from the mainland ("off-Island") to the island ("on-Island") are sometimes called "wash-a-shores."

Martha's Vineyard has also been or is home to a number of artists and musicians, including Evan Dando, Tim "Johnny Vegas" Burton of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, James Taylor, Carly Simon, Livingston Taylor, Ben Taylor, Kate Taylor, Alex Taylor (musician)|Alex Taylor, Tom Rush, Geoff Muldaur, Maria Muldaur, Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish, Willy Mason, Unbusted, Mike Nichols, Gordon Healy, Kahoots, Slim-Bob Berosh and Timo Elliott. Historian and author David McCullough is also an island resident, as are the young-adult books authors: Judy Blume and Norman Bridwell Late authors Shel Silverstein and William Styron also lived on the Vineyard, as did writer, journalist and teacher John Hersey, poet and novelist Dorothy West and artist Thomas Hart Benton. Various writers have been inspired by the island—including the mystery writer Philip Craig who set several novels on the island. The Academy Award winning Patricia Neal owns a home in Edgartown, and James Cagney, Lillian Hellman, and Katherine Cornell all found the Vineyard an exciting, rewarding place to live.

President Barack Obama vacations in Martha's Vineyard

Deaf Utopia

Some early Vineyard settlers carried a gene for deafness (the first known deaf one was Jonathan Lambert, 1694), and over years of marriage, generation after generation was born with hearing loss. At one point, one in four children was born deaf! There were so many deaf people on the Vineyard (most deaf lived in Chilmark) that residents developed a sign language, Martha's Vineyard Sign Language (MVSL). MVSL later merged with mainland signs to form American Sign Language.

Edgartown, Dukes County

Annals of Edgartown

The beginnings of the history of Edgartown took place in Watertown, when, on March 16, 1641-2, the grant of township was made by the two patentees, Mayhew senior and junior, unto five of their townsmen as previously stated, and the first foundations were laid in that year when young Thomas Mayhew set foot on the shores of its great harbour, with his companions, to consummate the title and take possession.

The identity of the passengers who came in that first shallop to Great Harbor in 1642 as companions of young Mayhew is yet an unsolved problem. We only know he came with some other persons and that there were divers families, including some of Watertown, and the records lend us no aid in the solution. Speculation may be indulged in to the extent of supposing that some of the original grantees of Watertown came to look over their deed of gift, but we know that of these only John Daggett remained to become a settler, and he may be included with the first contingent. To these we may add John Folder, John Smith (John Bland), possibly Edward Sales of Rehoboth, and their families, and- here we stop, lest speculation carry us too far.


Contributions welcome.