Gosnold, Massachusetts

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{island, water, area}
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Gosnold is a town that encompasses the Elizabeth Islands in Dukes County, Massachusetts, United States. As of the 2000 census, the town population was 86, making it the least populous town in Massachusetts. Most of the residents live in the village of Cuttyhunk, while most of the land in the town is owned by the Forbes family.



The earliest settlers of the Elizabeth Islands were the Wampanoag Native Americans. The tribe did not settle permanently on the Elizabeth Islands, but used them in summer for hunting, fishing, and gardening. Occasionally, arrowheads or stone tools are unsurfaced on the islands. The islands' names come from the Wampanoag language.

The Elizabeth Islands, including Cuttyhunk, were discovered by Europeans in 1602 by Bartholomew Gosnold. He and his crew attempted to establish a trading post on Cuttyhunk so that they could trade with the natives, the first attempt by Europeans to do so. The trading post was abandoned after only a few weeks, and Gosnold decided to return home. Upon his return to England, the British Crown claimed jurisdiction of the island chain.

Gosnold was first settled in 1641, the year of purchase of the islands by Thomas Mayhew, Sr. The islands were claimed by the Wampanoag until 1658, when the Wampanoag sachem transferred the deed of ownership to Mayhew. Constituting Dukes County, New York since 1683, the Elizabeth Islands, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket, were transferred to the newly created Province of Massachusetts Bay in 1691. Gosnold was officially incorporated in 1864, having formerly belonged to the town of Chilmark.[1]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 140.2 square miles (363.0 km²), of which, 13.3 square miles (34.6 km²) of it (9.52%) is land and 126.8 square miles (328.5 km²) of it (90.48%) is water. Gosnold ranks 272nd out of the 351 communities in the Commonwealth in terms of land area; however, it has the longest distance between points within municipal limits of any town in the Commonwealth. It consists of the Elizabeth Islands, including Nonamesset Island, Uncatena Island, Naushon Island, Pasque Island, Nashawena Island, Penikese Island, Cuttyhunk Island and several smaller islands. The string of islands extend roughly southwest of the southwestern tip of Falmouth, with the closest island, Nonamesset, being less than a third of a mile away at its closest point. More than half the population lives on Cuttyhunk, with the majority of the rest living on Naushon.

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