Long Island's Original East End,
and its connection to New England

This is the story of the Island of Martha's Vineyard and the 300+year old tradition that followed Martha's Island through 3 name changes, 2 states and a typographical error in a legislative bill.

On November 1, 1683 when the first General Assembly of Freeholders established the first 12 counties of New York and created the office of Sheriff in each county, Martha's Vineyard was known as Martin's Vineyard and was in Dukes County in New York. The other original counties were Albany, Cornwall, Dutchess, Kings, New York, Orange, Queens, Richmond, Suffolk, Ulster and Westchester.

The effect of these laws was to combine the separate jurisdiction of the Vineyard and the Island of Nantucket and to add another office or two to the civil list, which was promptly filled by Matthew Mayhew, of Martin's Vineyard, who seemed to feel that nothing was too small for his attention from chief magistrate down to register of deeds. Prior to this, Nantucket had been conducting its own affairs under a local autonomy subject to a certain suzerainty of the Mayhew proprietary government.

Martin's Vineyard becomes Mathew's Vineyard at or before a meeting of Dukes County officials meeting at Nantucket on September 21, 1686 to discuss the establishment and timing of when the Court would meet on each of the main islands of the county.

On October 7, 1691, by the Charter of William and Mary, Dukes as well as Cornwall County leave New York and become counties in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

However, with the passage to Massachusetts, the good people of Nantucket, after several tries, were finally successful in their attempt to separate from the grip of the Mayhews on what is now (and forevermore) Martha's Vineyard. On May 28, 1695, the General Court (Assembly) of Massachusetts allowed Nantucket to secede from Dukes County, but the enacting legislation permanently changed the name of Dukes to "Dukes County" by inadvertently putting the word "County" after Dukes in the bill.

Cornwall County becomes part of Maine when Maine secedes from Massachusetts in 1820. Cornwall County included Pemaquid and its dependencies, comprising what is now a considerable part of the coast Maine,

CONTRIBUTED BY WALTER GREENSPAN

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