Logo   History of Martha's Vineyard Island
The island of Martha's Vineyard got its odd name in the early 1600s, when mariner and explorer Bartholomew Gosnold stopped here.


It's said that Bartholomew Gosnold found wild grapes, and it's thought he had a daughter named Martha.


Vineyard residents are proud that their island is the County of Dukes County, not part of some mainland county, and they guard the anachronistic redundancy of that title.

For a long time Martha's Vineyard had its own representative in the Massachusetts General Court (state legislature), and when redistricting made the island a part of the Cape Cod legislative district, the islanders threatened to secede from Massachusetts and become part of another state, one that would allow them their own representative.

Islanders get their exceptional sense of independence from a history of struggle with and mastery of the sea, from the days when whale-hunting brought great wealth to an otherwise poor island.

Just about the time the whaling industry declined, the tourist industry began, and Martha's Vineyard found its place in the modern world. At first it was only a local Massachusetts resort, with most visitors coming from New England, but during the latter part of the 20th century New York celebrities, eschewing the Hamptons, bought houses on the Vineyard.

When President Bill Clinton and his family vacationed here in the 1990s, Martha's Vineyard became world famous. The visits of President Barack Obama and his family brought the Vineyard back into the news.

Today the big ferries that ply the waters of Vineyard Sound are packed with visitors every day in summer, and are also crowded on weekends in spring and fall.

—by Tom Brosnahan

Planning Your Visit

Getting to Martha's Vineyard

What to See & Do

Vineyard Haven

Oak Bluffs


Up Island


Tourist Information

About Martha's Vineyard

Woods Hole

Cape Cod

  Paris Girls Secret Society, the new novel by Tom Brosnahan


Whaling Church, Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard MA

The "Whaling Church" in Edgartown,
Martha's Vineyard MA.





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