Nantucket-County-index

    Nantucket County

 

 

 

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Nantucket  is an island 30 miles (48 km) south of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Together with the small islands of Tuckernuck and Muskeget, it constitutes the town of Nantucket, Massachusetts, and the coterminous Nantucket County, which are consolidated.

Nantucket probably takes its name from a Wampanoag word, transliterated variously as natocke, nantaticu, nantican, nautica or natockete, which is part of Wampanoag lore about the creation of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. The meaning of the term is uncertain, although it may have meant "in the midst of waters," or "far away island." Wampanoag is an Eastern Algonquian language of southern New England.

Nantucket's nickname, "The Little Grey Lady of the Sea", refers to the island as it appears from the ocean when it is fog-bound.

The earliest French settlement in the region began on the neighboring island of Martha's Vineyard Nantucket Island's original Native American inhabitants, the Wampanoag people, lived undisturbed until 1641 when the island was deeded by the English (the authorities in control of all land from the coast of Maine to New York) to Thomas Mayhew and his son, merchants from Watertown, Massachusetts, and Martha's Vineyard. Nantucket was part of Dukes County, New York, until 1691, when it was transferred to the newly formed Province of Massachusetts Bay and split off to form Nantucket County. As Europeans began to settle Cape Cod, the island became a place of refuge for Native Americans in the region, asNantucket was not yet settled by Europeans. The growing population welcomed seasonal groups of other Native Americans who traveled to the island to fish and later harvest whales that washed up on shore.

Nantucket's settlement by the English did not begin in earnest until 1659, when Thomas Mayhew sold his interest to a group of investors, led by Tristram Coffin, "for the sum of thirty Pounds...and also two beaver hats, one for myself, and one for my wife". The "nine original porchasers" were Tristram Coffin, Peter Coffin, Thomas Macy, Christopher Hussey, Richard Swain, Thomas Barnard, Stephen Greenleaf, John Swain and William Pike. Seamen and tradesmen began to populate Nantucket, such as Richard Gardner (arrived 1667) and Capt. John Gardner (arrived 1672), sons of Thomas Gardner (planter)

In his 1835 history of Nantucket Island, Obed Macy wrote that in the early pre-1672 colony, a whale of the kind called "scragg" entered the harbor and was pursued and killed by the settlers. This event started the Nantucket whaling industry. A. B. Van Deinse points out that the "scrag whale", described by P. Dudley in 1725 as one of the species hunted by early New England whalers, was almost certainly the gray whale, which has flourished on the west coast of North America in modern times with protection from whaling.

Herman Melville commented on Nantucket's whaling dominance in Moby-Dick, Chapter 14: "Two thirds of this globe are the Nantucketer's. For the sea is his; he owns it, as Emperors own empires." The Moby-Dick characters Ahab and Starbuck are both from Nantucket.

By 1850, whaling was in decline, as Nantucket's whaling industry had been surpassed by that of New Bedford. The island suffered great economic hardships, worsened by the "Great Fire" of July 13, 1846, that, fueled by whale oil and lumber, devastated the main town, burning some 40 acres. The fire left hundreds homeless and poverty-stricken, and many people left the island. Another contributor to the decline was the silting up of the harbor, which prevented large whaling ships from entering and leaving the port. In addition, the development of railroads made mainland whaling ports, such as New Bedford, more attractive because of the ease of transshipment of whale oil onto trains, an advantage unavailable to an island.

 

 

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