The first permanent settlement by English colonists occurred in 1766, when Thaddeus Carver arrived from Marshfield, Massachusetts, and later purchased on the southern shore near what would become known as Carver's Harbor.
The first settlers were actually the Indians but the first families of Vinalhaven are considered to be Arey, Calderwood, Carver, Coombs, Dyer, Ginn, Greem, Hopkins, Lane, Leadbetter, Norton, Philbrook, Pierce, Robert, Smith, Wadsworth, Warren and Vinal. On June 25, 1789, Vinahaven was incorporated as a town. In 1847, the North Island was set off as North Haven.
High quality granite was discovered in 1826, and Vinalhaven became one of Maine's largest quarrying centers for the next century. Today the island is dotted with old granite quarries, many of which have since filled with groundwater and are popular swimming holes for residents and visitors alike. Vinalhaven granite, mined by the Bodwell Granite Company, can be seen in the State Department Building in Washington, New York's Brooklyn Bridge and Cathedral of Saint John and the Union Mutual Life Insurance Building in Boston.
Granite was shipped for Customs Houses and Post Offices in New York, St. Louis, Kansas City, Buffalo, etc., the railroad station and the Board of Trade in Chicago, the Washington Monument and federal office buildings in the Capital, foundation stone and the eight huge polished columns for the nave of the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City, the Pennsylvania Railroad Station and the Masonic Temple in Philadelphia as well as private mansions, monuments, bridges, dams, etc. and thousands of tons of paving blocks for the streets of Portland, Boston, New York, Newark, Philadelphia and other cities.
Vinalhaven is a noted lobster fishing community. Vinalhaven has the largest area of fishing ground in Penobscot Bay, and lobstermen have been known for aggressive fishing practices. Like neighboring North Haven Island, Vinalhaven is well-known for its summer community of wealthy Northeasterners, mostly from Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. The northern end of Vinalhaven, on the Fox Island Thoroughfare opposite North Haven, is often informally considered part of North Haven, since Vinalhaven's north shore is less than half a mile across the Fox Island Thoroughfare from that community's town center.
There were 550 households, out of which 29.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.6% were married couples living together, 7.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.0% were non-families. 32.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.25 and the average family size was 2.82.Lobstering is a considerable part of the islands economy. Almost everyone lobsters.
In the town the population was spread out with 23.7% under the age of 18, 6.4% from 18 to 24, 27.8% from 25 to 44, 23.6% from 45 to 64, and 18.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 92.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.1 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $34,087, and the median income for a family was $42,917. Males had a median income of $36,094 versus $17,750 for females. The per capita income for the town was $21,287. About 5.7% of families and 9.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.1% of those under age 18 and 8.6% of those age 65 or over.