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Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

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A cherished paradise, located South of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, the island of Martha’s Vineyard is known for being an affluent summer spot. It is regarded as the third largest island on the East Coast and the 58th largest in the U.S, covering roughly 88 square miles (232 square km). Most of the island is nestled in Dukes County, Massachusetts, where both the Elizabeth Islands and the island of Nomans Land are also situated. Martha’s Vineyard is unique in a number of ways, with one being that the island’s deaf history played a significant role in the development of American Sign Language. Early settlers carried a gene for deafness and the earliest deaf communities in the US emerged on Martha’s Vineyard, as well as the development of a special sign language called Martha's Vineyard Sign Language (MVSL) that later merged with mainland signs.

 

The original inhabitants of the island were the Wampanoag people who live in Aquinnah for at least 10,000 years. The Wampanoag people called Martha's Vineyard “Noepe”, meaning "land amid the streams". In 1642, there was roughly 3,000 Wampanoag on the island, but by the mid-1700s, Indian fever virtually wiped out the population to an estimated 313, from which they never recovered. It is believed that the island was named for the daughter of British explorer Bartholomew Gosnold who was named Martha. The island was also known as Martin's Vineyard, which some believed was in honor of the captain of Gosnold's ship, John Martin.

 

The first Europeans credited with exploring Martha's Vineyard were the Vikings, some 500 years before Columbus stumbled upon the Americas, naming it Vineland. In 1524, Italian explorer Giovanni di Verrazano, under a charter from the king of France, mapped much of what today is the east coast of the United States. In 1602, Bartholomew Gosnold charted Martha's Vineyard for the British Crown. Later, Massachusetts Bay Colony businessman Thomas Mayhew was given a grant to the island and developed a friendly relations with the Wampanoags, honoring their land rights. The whaling industry brought Martha's Vineyard to prominence until the 1870s when it declined. The island’s reputation as a tourist colony and haven for the wealthy grew during the 1900s.

 

Martha's Vineyard is divided into six towns: Tisbury ( the island's primary port of entry for people and cargo), Edgartown( island's largest town by population and area), Oak Bluffs (known for its gingerbread cottages), West Tisbury (the island's agricultural hub), Chilmark, (features the island's hilliest terrain) and Aquinnah (home to the Wampanoag Indian tribe ). From grandeur sunsets, endangered lighthouses, quaint cottages, to migratory birds, Martha’s Vineyard is vibrant, tranquil and quaint altogether.


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