Edgartown, Massachusetts

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{island, water, area}
{town, population, incorporate}
{school, student, university}
{build, building, house}
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Edgartown is a town located on Martha's Vineyard in Dukes County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 3,779 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Dukes County.[1] Edgartown has the largest population and area in the entire Dukes County and Martha's Vineyard.

Contents

History

Edgartown was first settled by the English in 1642. Rev. Thomas Mayhew, Jr. led a group of families to start a colony on the island after its purchase by his father Thomas Mayhew. Originally called Great Harbor, it was incorporated in 1671, and is one of the two original towns on Martha's Vineyard, along with Tisbury. The town's current name is in honor of Edgar, the young son of James II of England who died at the age of three in 1671.

The younger Mayhew began his work which led to his becoming the first church planting Protestant missionary after he settled in Edgartown. A Wampanoag Indian named Hiacoomes who lived nearby became his partner in founding the churches in the Indian communities.

Edgartown is well known as having been one of the primary ports for the whaling industry during the 1800s. Ships from all over the world would dock in its sheltered bay and captains would build grand mansions for their families with ornate top floor rooms called widow's walks, which overlooked the harbor. A myth developed that wives would watch for months from these tiny rooms, hoping to see the sails of ships that would bring their husbands home from the sea. There is little or no evidence that widow's walks were intended or regularly used for this purpose. They were frequently built around the chimney of the residence, thus creating an easy access route to the structure, allowing the residents of the home to pour sand down burning chimneys in the event of a chimney fire in the hopes of preventing the house from burning down.[2][3]

As more economical alternatives became available the whaling industry began to decline. By the beginning of the 20th century, its influence on the tiny town which had made its fortunes through the industry, was ended. Today the town is more known for tourism, as well as the site of Chappaquiddick, where Ted Kennedy's infamous incident took place in 1969.

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