Dukes County Massachusetts, 1890

Dukes County lies in the Atlantic Ocean, off the southeastern shore of Massachusetts, and embraces Martha's Vineyard, the Elizabeth Islands, Noman's Land, and other smaller islands; the whole having an area of about 120 square miles.

These islands were discovered in 1602 by Bartholomew Gosnold; and the name Elizabeth Islands was given by him to the northern group in honor of the reigning queen. All were included in the grant to the Duke of York, and in this way their connection with New York began. In 1683 they were constituted a county, and very naturally received the name of the "Duke's County." In 1692, by the charter of William and Mary, they were reannexed to Massachusetts. In 1695, Martha's Vineyard, the Elizabeth Islands, and Noman's Land, were separated from Nantucket and made a county by themselves, retaining the name given to the whole.

The first settlement in the county of which any record exists, was Thomas Mayhew's, at Edgartown, in 1642; but there is a tradition of a settlement much earlier. The colonial population was stated at 2,822; but this undoubtedly included the aborigines. During the Revolutionary War the shipping of these islands was almost entirely destroyed; while many of the inhabitants were taken prisoners, and suffered long confinement in the prison-ships of the enemy. In the war of 1812, the people, on account of their exposed condition, assumed a neutral attitude. The business interests of the county are not "chiefly centred in the fisheries, navigation, and salt manufacture," as formerly. There are several manufactured articles whose product reaches a larger value than that of salt; and the aggregate value of all manufactures in 1885 was $149,071; the value of the entire fisheries product was $112,103; while the farm product was $211,320. There is also some return from investments in navigation; and a considerable income from summer residents. The valuation in 1888 was $3,384,166. There were 1,276 voters; the entire number of permanent residents being 4,135. The families in 1885 numbered 1,218, while there were 2,012 dwelling-houses, leaving a goodly number for the use of the summer sojourner.

The variation in population has not been large. In 1870 the number of inhabitants was 3,787; in 1875, it was 4,071; in 1880, 4300; showing a slight falling off during the present decade, young people and some families going away.

The county has nineteen school-houses, valued at $18,565, and occupied by 585 pupils, constituting five primary, two grammar; and one high school. There are eighteen public libraries, containing about 10,000 volumes; two annual newspapers with weekly issue [?]; and fifteen churches.

The towns embraced in this county six in number are Chilmark, Cottage City, Edgartown, Gay Head, and Tisbury, on Martha's Vineyard, and Gosnold, comprising the Elizabeth Islands. Edgartown is the county seat.

Dukes County is in the First Congressional District, and First Council District, has one representative in the General Court, and in junction with Barnstable and Nantucket counties, one State senator.

Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890, pp.69-70