Dukes County, Massachusetts

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The County of Dukes County is a county located in the U.S. state of Massachusetts. As of 2000, the population was 14,987. Its county seat is Edgartown[1]. The county consists of the island of Martha's Vineyard, and the Elizabeth Islands (including Cuttyhunk).



The original inhabitants of the islands were Wampanoag, who had several villages. Political jurisdiction over the lands were granted by English monarch in overlapping claims to two different British nobles, from which Massachusetts Bay Company settler Thomas Mayhew purchased them in 1641. Mayhew established a colony in his new domain, carefully purchasing land ownership rights from the native inhabitants, and maintaining native governments to continue unimpeded. In 1665, Mayhew's lands were included in a grant to the Duke of York. In 1671, a settlement was arranged, allowing Mayhew to continue to rule while placing his territory under the jurisdiction of the Province of New York.

Dukes county was thus established as Dukes County, New York, on November 1, 1683, and included all of Mayhew's lands - Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and the Elizabeth Islands. The county was transferred to Massachusetts on October 7, 1691, and at the same time Nantucket Island was split into the separate Nantucket County, Massachusetts. The 1695 incorporation statute created a county "by the name of Dukes County," as opposed to the standard form "the county of Dukes" which is the reason for the redundancy in the formal name, "County of Dukes County".[2]


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 491 square miles (1,271.7 km2), of which 104 square miles (269.4 km2) is land and 387 square miles (1,002.3 km2) is water. The total area is 79% water.

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