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With a population of 10172 and a median income of unknown, Surfside is an excellent location with an extremely active market.
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Nantucket probably takes its name from a Wampanoag word, transliterated variously as natocke, nantaticu, nantican, nautica or natockete, which is part of Wampanoag lore about the creation of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. The meaning of the term is uncertain, although it may have meant “far away island” or “sandy, sterile soil tempting no one”. Wampanoag is an Eastern Algonquian language of southern New England. The Nehantucket (known to Europeans as the Niantic) were an Algonquin-speaking people of the area.
Nantucket’s nickname, “The Little Grey Lady of the Sea,” refers to the island as it appears from the ocean when it is fog-bound.
The earliest European settlement in the region was established on the neighboring island of Martha’s Vineyard by the merchant Thomas Mayhew. In 1641, Thomas secured Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, the Elizabeth Islands, and other islands in the region as a proprietary colony from Sir Ferdinando Gorges and the Earl of Sterling. Thomas led several families to settle the region, establishing several treaties with the indigenous inhabitants of Nantucket, the Wampanoag people. These treaties helped prevent the region from becoming embroiled in King Philip’s War. The growing population of settlers welcomed seasonal groups of other Native American tribes who traveled to the island to fish and later harvest whales that washed up on shore. Nantucket was part of Dukes County, New York until 1691, when it was transferred to the newly formed Province of Massachusetts Bay and split off to form Nantucket County.
In October 1641, William Alexander, the Earl of Stirling, deeded the island to Thomas Mayhew of Watertown, Massachusetts. In 1659 Mayhew sold an interest in the island to nine other purchasers, reserving 1/10th of an interest for himself, “for the sum of thirty pounds … and also two beaver hats, one for myself, and one for my wife”.
Each of the ten original owners was allowed to invite one partner. There is some confusion about the identity of the first twenty owners, partly because William Pile did not choose a partner, and sold his interest to Richard Swain, which was subsequently divided between John Bishop and the children of George Bunker.
Anxious to add to their number and to induce tradesmen to come to the island, the total number of shares were increased to twenty-seven. The original purchasers needed the assistance of tradesmen who were skilled in the arts of weaving, milling, building and other pursuits and selected men who were given half a share provided that they lived on Nantucket and carried on their trade for at least three years.
By 1667, twenty-seven shares had been divided among 31 owners.
European settlement of Nantucket did not begin in earnest until 1659, when Thomas Mayhew sold his interest to a group of investors, led by Tristram Coffin. The “nine original purchasers” were Tristram Coffin, Peter Coffin, Thomas Macy, Christopher Hussey, Richard Swain, Thomas Barnard, Stephen Greenleaf, John Swain and William Pike. These men are considered the founding fathers of Nantucket, and many islanders are related to these families. Seamen and tradesmen began to populate Nantucket, such as Richard Gardner (arrived 1667) and Capt. John Gardner (arrived 1672), sons of Thomas Gardner.
Before 1795 the town on the island was called Sherburne. The original settlement was near Capaum Pond. At that time the pond was a small harbor, whose entrance silted up, forcing the settlers to dismantle their houses, and move them northeast by two miles to the present location. On June 8, 1795, the bill proposed by Micajah Coffin to change the town’s name to the “Town of Nantucket” was endorsed and signed by Governor Samuel Adams to officially change the town name.
In his 1835 history of Nantucket Island, Obed Macy wrote that in the early pre-1672 colony, a whale of the kind called “scragg” entered the harbor and was pursued and killed by the settlers. This event started the Nantucket whaling industry. A. B. Van Deinse points out that the “scrag whale”, described by P. Dudley in 1725 as one of the species hunted by early New England whalers, was almost certainly the gray whale, which has flourished on the west coast of North America in modern times with protection from whaling. Nantucket’s dependence on trade with Britain, derived from its whaling and supporting industries, influenced its leading citizens to remain neutral during the American Revolutionary War, favoring neither the British nor the Patriots.
Herman Melville commented on Nantucket’s whaling dominance in Moby-Dick, Chapter 14: “Two thirds of this terraqueous globe are the Nantucketer’s. For the sea is his; he owns it, as Emperors own empires”. The Moby-Dick characters Ahab and Starbuck are both from Nantucket. The tragedy that inspired Melville to write his famous novel Moby-Dick was the final voyage of the Nantucket whaler Essex.
The island suffered great economic hardships, worsened by the “Great Fire” of July 13, 1846, that, fueled by whale oil and lumber, devastated the main town, burning some 40 acres (16 hectares). The fire left hundreds homeless and poverty-stricken, and many people left the island. By 1850, whaling was in decline, as Nantucket’s whaling industry had been surpassed by that of New Bedford. Another contributor to the decline was the silting up of the harbor, which prevented large whaling ships from entering and leaving the port, unlike New Bedford, which still owned a deep water port. In addition, the development of railroads made mainland whaling ports, such as New Bedford, more attractive because of the ease of transshipment of whale oil onto trains, an advantage unavailable to an island. The American Civil War dealt the death blow to the island’s whaling industry, as virtually all of the remaining whaling vessels were destroyed by Confederate commerce raiders.
As a result of this depopulation, the island was left under-developed and isolated until the mid-20th century. The isolation kept many of the pre-Civil War buildings intact and, by the 1950s, enterprising developers began buying up large sections of the island and restoring them to create an upmarket destination for wealthy people in the Northeastern United States.
In the 1960s, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard considered seceding from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts which they tried in 1977, unsuccessfully. The secession vote was sparked by a proposed change to the Massachusetts Constitution that reduced the islands’ representation in the Massachusetts General Court.
As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 10,172 people, 4,229 households, and 2,429 families residing in the county. The population density was 226.2 inhabitants per square mile (87.3/km2). There were 11,618 housing units at an average density of 258.4 per square mile (99.8/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 87.6% white, 6.8% black, 1.2% Asian, 0.1% American Indian, 2.6% from other races, and 1.8% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 9.4% of the population. In terms of ancestry, 20.9% were English, 18.8% were Irish, 11.5% were American, 10.9% were German, and 6.4% were Italian.
Of the 4,229 households, 28.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.8% were married couples living together, 8.3% had a female householder with no husband present, 42.6% were non-families, and 29.7% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.39 and the average family size was 2.93. The median age was 39.4 years.
The median income for a household in the county was $83,347 and the median income for a family was $129,728. Males had a median income of $82,959 versus $46,577 for females. The per capita income for the county was $53,410. About 3.6% of families and 7.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.9% of those under age 18 and 8.2% of those age 65 or over.
Town and county governments are combined in Nantucket (see List of counties in Massachusetts). Nantucket’s elected legislative body is its Select Board (name changed in 2018 from Board of Selectmen), which is responsible for the town government’s goals and policies. It is administered by a town manager, who is responsible for all departments, except for the school, airport and water departments.
Nantucket is represented in the Massachusetts House of Representatives by Dylan Fernandes, Democrat, of Woods Hole, who represents Precincts 1, 2, 5 and 6, of Falmouth, in Barnstable County; Chilmark, Edgartown, Aquinnah, Gosnold, Oak Bluffs, Tisbury and West Tisbury, all in Dukes County; and Nantucket. Rep. Fernandes has served since January 4, 2017. Nantucket is represented in the Massachusetts Senate by Julian Cyr, Democrat, of Truro, who has also served since January 4, 2017.
Nantucket is in Massachusetts’s 9th congressional district, which has existed since 2013. As of 2013, it was represented in the United States House of Representatives by Bill Keating, a Democrat of Bourne. Massachusetts is currently represented in the United States Senate by senior senator Elizabeth Warren (Democrat) and junior senator Ed Markey (Democrat).
From 1900 to 1918, Nantucket was one of few jurisdictions in the United States that banned automobiles.
Nantucket can be reached by sea from the mainland by The Steamship Authority, Hy-Line Cruises, or Freedom Cruise Line, or by private boat. A task force was formed in 2002 to consider limiting the number of vehicles on the island, in an effort to combat heavy traffic during the summer months.
Nantucket is served by Nantucket Memorial Airport (IATA airport code ACK), a three-runway airport on the south side of the island. The airport is one of the busiest in Massachusetts and often logs more take-offs and landings on a summer day than Boston’s Logan Airport. This is due in part to the large number of private planes used by wealthy summer inhabitants, and in part to the 10-seat Cessna 402s used by several commercial air carriers to serve the island community.
Nantucket Regional Transit Authority operates seasonal island-wide shuttle buses to many destinations including Surfside Beach, Siasconset, and the airport.
Until 1917, Nantucket was served by the narrow-gauge Nantucket Railroad.
Nantucket waters were the site of several noted transportation disasters:
Owning a home is a keystone of wealth… both financial affluence and emotional security.Suze Orman
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