Martha's Vineyard (vĭnˈyərd) [key], island (1990 est. pop. 8,900), c.100 sq mi (260 sq km), SE Mass., separated from the Elizabeth Islands and Cape Cod by Vineyard and Nantucket sounds. As a result of glaciation, the island has morainal hills composed of boulders and clay deposits in the north, and low, sandy plains in the south. The English were the first to settle the island (1642); they engaged in farming, brickmaking, salt production, and fishing. Martha's Vineyard became an important commercial center, with whaling and fishing as the main occupations, in the 18th and early 19th cent. In the late 1800s the island, with its harbors, beaches, and scenic attractions, developed into a summer resort. It is divided into the towns of Chilmark, Edgartown, Gay Head, Oak Bluffs, Tisbury, and West Tisbury. Much of the island's interior is set aside as a state forest. In the late 1980s the small Wampanoag tribe, based in Martha's Vineyard, took legal action to reclaim ancestral land in Gay Head.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.