Martha's Vineyard And Nantucket

There is no such place as Martha's Vineyard, except in geography and

common speech. It is Martin Wyngaard's Island, and so was named by

Skipper Block, an Albany Dutchman. But they would English his name, even

in his own town, for it lingers there in Vineyard Point. Bartholomew

Gosnold was one of the first white visitors here, for he landed in 1602,

and lived on the island for a time, collecting a cargo of sassafras and

returning thence to England because he feared the savages.

This scarred and windy spot was the home of the Indian giant, Maushope,

who could wade across the sound to the mainland without wetting his

knees, though he once started to build a causeway from Gay Head to

Cuttyhunk and had laid the rocks where you may now see them, when a crab

bit his toe and he gave up the work in disgust. He lived on whales,

mostly, and broiled his dinners on fires made at Devil's Den from trees

that he tore up by the roots like weeds. In his tempers he raised mists

to perplex sea-wanderers, and for sport he would show lights on Gay Head,

though these may have been only the fires he made to cook his supper

with, and of which some beds of lignite are to be found as remains. He

clove No-Man's Land from Gay Head, turned his children into fish, and

when his wife objected he flung her to Seconnet Point, where she preyed

on all who passed before she hardened into a ledge.

It is reported that he found the island by following a bird that had been

stealing children from Cape Cod, as they rolled in the warm sand or

paddled on the edge of the sea. He waded after this winged robber until

he reached Martha's Vineyard, where he found the bones of all the

children that had been stolen. Tired with his hunt he sat down to fill

his pipe; but as there was no tobacco he plucked some tons of poke that

grew thickly and that Indians sometimes used as a substitute for the

fragrant weed. His pipe being filled and lighted, its fumes rolled over

the ocean like a mist--in fact, the Indians would say, when a fog was

rising, Here comes old Maushope's smoke--and when he finished he

emptied his pipe into the sea. Falling on a shallow, the ashes made the

island of Nantucket. The first Indians to reach the latter place were the

parents of a babe that had been stolen by an eagle. They followed the

bird in their canoe, but arrived too late, for the little bones had been

picked clean. The Norsemen rediscovered the island and called it

Naukiton. Is Nantucket a corruption of that word, or was that word the

result of a struggle to master the Indian name?

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