Island Wilderness: Imagining the Early Years of Martha’s Vineyard
In June of 1671, Governor Thomas Mayhew was sole proprietor of Martha’s Vineyard. When Island Wilderness begins, he has ruled for twenty-nine years. History shows Mayhew as a more or less benign despot, an intelligent conciliator, even in his relations with the Indians. Then a gruesome act of piracy brings him, and his small kingdom, to the belated notice of Royal Authority. The seventy-eight-year-old governor is summoned to Fort James (Manhattan) to explain the breakdown of order in his domain—and why he has ignored all taxes, military direction and royal inquiries for the last twenty-five years. The inquisition lasts a week, and is chaired by examiners who are determined to remove Mayhew from his position and his property, but the old fox has more fight in him than anyone supposes. Based on original documents, the writer offers a lively and satisfying picture of the Vineyard’s eccentric first governor (and of his world-weary royal antagonist), as well as Indians, soldiers, and settlers. Unsurprisingly, the historical characters are better fleshed out than the fictional, for the author’s background is in journalism.