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Early encounters--Native Americans and Europeans in New England

from the papers of W. Sears Nickerson

Warren Sears Nickerson

Publication Year: 1994

Early Encounters contains a selection of nineteen essays from the papers of prominent New England historian, antiquarian, and genealogist Warren Sears Nickerson (1880-1966). This extensive study of his own family ties to the Mayflower, and his exhaustive investigation of the first contacts between Europeans and Native Americans, in what is today New England, made him an unquestioned authority in both fields. 
     The research upon which the text of Early Encounters is based occurred between the 1920s and the 1950s. Each of Nickerson’s works included in this carefully edited volume is placed in its context by Delores Bird Carpenter; she provides the reader with a wealth of useful background information about each essay’s origin, as well as Nickerson’s reasons for undertaking the research. Material is arranged thematically: the arrival of the Mayflower; conflicts between Europeans and Native Americans; and other topics related to the history and legends of early European settlement on Cape Cod. Early Encounters is a thoughtfully researched, readable book that presents a rich and varied account of life in colonial New England.

Published by: Michigan State University Press


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xiii

It is with sincere appreciation that I acknowledge the many people who assisted in the research and preparation of this manuscript. I thank Charlotte Price, the curator of the WIlliam Brewster Nickerson Memorial Room at Cape Cod Community College, for calling my attention to the few pieces by W. Sears Nickerson in the Memorial Room. I am grateful to the daughters of W. Sears Nickerson for permitting me...

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pp. 1-41

In 1986 D. W. Meinig1 called attention to the dual meaning of the word "encounter." "In the benign sense, it means 'to meet unexpectedly.' But in its root sense, it means 'to meet in conflict.'''2 W. Sears Nickerson through his historically-based accounts of first encounters between Native Americans and Europeans in New England encompasses both these meanings, whereas the current revisionist views of Columbus, the man credited with the first encounter...

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Before the Mayflower: The Vikings and the French

Long before the arrival of W. Sears Nickerson's ancestors on the Mayflower, the coast of North America was visited by Vikings and by French explorers. Nickerson describes the experiences of these earliest visitors in several of his writings, and his...

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The Wineland of Leif the Lucky

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pp. 45-53

In "The Wineland of Lei[ the Lucky," JD Nickerson relates a composite story of Viking sagas from the original sources. In this work, Nickerson tries to prove that Leif's predecessor, Biarni, landed at Cape Cod. The date of composition is unknown, but the idea was clearly fixed in his mind in 1921. As far as sources or notes go, Nickerson starts his account by...

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First Blood: The Death of the Carpenter of St. Malo

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pp. 54-58

"First Blood: The Death of the Carpenter of St. Malo" is an account of the earliest authentic record of the killing of a white man by a Cape Cod Native American. Nickerson left no notes on "First Blood," except for the internal reference to Voyages of Sieur de Champlain. I have added all notes from the primary source and silently corrected all errors. I have combined two articles, what was possibly the original effort...

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The Fight at Fortun

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pp. 59-68

Tucked away under the crazy-bone of the ragged elbow of Cape Cod lies a little, landlocked cove known as Stage Harbor. As we pause near the stage or wharf which gives the Harbor its English name and read the tablet marking the spot where Champlain's Frenchmen died in 1606, it is hard to realize that the beach-plum-covered bluffs across the Harbor on...

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The Coming of the Mayflower

Since nine of Nickerson's ancestors were aboard the original Mayflower when it made its historic voyage, it is not surprising that much of Nickerson's research was in that area. From this interest in his own genealogy, couple with his sea-going knowledge, he wrote a book published in 1931...

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The Captain of the Mayflower

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pp. 71-74

Nickerson left no notes for this piece except for internal references such as "the Port Books show" and a second letter to Paul Haney, American Broadcasting Co., written 22 February 1954, about the Thanksgiving Day broadcast where Paul Haney named Tom Jones, the Pirate, as the captain of the Mayflower. In the letter, Nickerson lists...

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That Bright Dawn When Mayflower I First Sighted Cape

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pp. 75-87

W. Sears Nickerson, a Mayflower descendant, discussed in his book, Land Ho!—1620: A Seaman's Story of the Mayflower, Her Construction, Her Navigation and Her First Landfall, the controversial questions as to just what part of Cape Cod the Mayflower first sighted and where she spent her time between that first sighting and her final anchoring in Provincetown Harbor. He warns readers that one must...

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William Bradford’s First Wife: A Suicide

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pp. 88-98

Much Pilgrim lore never recorded in the archives of any society of Mayflower descendants was common table talk on Cape Cod. Probably seventy-five percent of the pioneer settlers on the Lower Cape were of Mayflower extraction, and they not only brought along to their new homes their religion and customs but also much of their unwritten family...

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The First Encounter

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pp. 99-101

Nickerson's only information on his source for disagreement with the placement of the First Encounter follows: "This committee may have had information on which to base its choice of the particular spot which I have never run across in my many years of research into the lives and times of the Lower Cape Cod Indians. However, I have made a careful study of the events leading up to and including the fight as told in...

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The Sparrow Hawk

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pp. 102-106

A family named Sparrow settled in the vicinity of Old Ship Harbor in 1675. Mr. James L. Sparrow, a descendant, in 1863 stated that according to family tradition a vessel dating from the early days of the colony lay buried in the sands of Potanunaquut Harbor and that its name was Sparrow-Hawk. Nickerson left no notes on this article which I have...

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The French, the English, and the Indians: War in the Colonies, 1690-1745

Nickerson wrote about the exploits of several people during the French and Indian wars. These wars were in fact a series of conflicts that corresponded to larger conflicts on the European continent. The first of these wars was known as King William's War (1688-1697) in the colonies. It was during this war...

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Mary Corliss Neff

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pp. 109-116

Nickerson left no sources for his Mary Corliss Neff story, but there are numerous options from the storehouse of material on Mary's companion, Hannah Duston (also spelled Dustin, Dustan, and Dustun). The primary sources for this are Cotton Mather and Samuel Sewall who interviewed Hannah Duston. Of the three times Mather set pen to this account, I recommend Cotton...

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How the Smiths Came to Cape Cod: Mary Smith of Oyster River

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pp. 117-122

Nickerson gave no sources for this undated story about his great grandmother. I have edited and included additional information from the sources that I located in researching the subject. Most of the material on the massacre comes from Everett Stackpole, Lucien Thompson, and Winthrop Meserve, The History of the Town of Durham, New Hampshire (Oyster River Plantation), which draws heavily on Rev. John...

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Honor Bright: Elizabeth Vickery and the French Privateers

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pp. 123-129

This account is a combination of oral tradition and genealogical research. Nickerson writes, "I have never attempted to prove or disprove its historical accuracy, but I know it persists in other branches of the family besides my own." I found his source from another branch of the family with his note, "The above was sent me by a descendant of Elizabeth Vickery, & although I believe Elizabeth was the daughter of Rev. Jonathan...

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Exploit of a Cape Cod Indian at Louisbourg, 1745

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pp. 130-133

This is one of the few articles where I found any notes or sources. Notes clearly indicate that Nickerson used the following sources: Francis Parkman, France and England in North America; Mary Rogers Bangs, Old Cape Cod The Land: The Men The Sea; Charles F. Swift, History of Old Yarmouth; Charles F. Swift, Genealogical Notes of Barnstable Families, Being a Reprint of the Amos Otis Papers; and...

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Life and Legend on Cape Cod

The architecture of the early settlers in New England and the ancient foot paths of the Native Americans are monuments to those earlier periods. Nickerson described the architecture of a Cape Cod home in "A Cape Cod Colonial—Uncle Elathun's House," which was built just previous to the Revolution...

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A Cape Cod Colonial: Uncle Elathun's House

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pp. 137-144

This was written about 1925, before Elnathan Eldredge's house was moved to West Yarmouth. Although I have freely cut this piece and edited the mechanics, I have otherwise left it in Nickerson's words, believing that part of its charm rests in his first person point of view and in his addressing the reader in the second person, thereby...

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The Wading Place Path

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pp. 145-149

"The Wading-Place Path" was published in a local newspaper, the Cape Codder, on 5 October 1961, but it is clear from Nickerson's correspondence with Cleon Stanley Crowell (1891-1961) that he had worked on it for decades. Cleon Crowell and his father, Anthony Elmer Massachusetts. Elmer Crowell painted The Wading Place Bridge in 1890, probably as a wedding present to his wife, Laura. The scene depicts the buggy...

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Pompmo and the Legend of Paw Waw's Pond

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pp. 150-156

Nickerson attempts in "Pompmo and the Legend of Paw Waw's Pond" to fuse legend to historical fact. He fails to acknowledge the legend as it existed in the area, which he surely must have known. A historical marker at the pond (I have seen a picture of it published in 1976) which according to William Quinn, caretaker of historical markers in the...

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Old Maushope's Smoke: A Cape Cod Indian Fog Legend

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pp. 157-164

The only reference Nickerson gives for his source is "It was told by the Mattakeese Indians who lived at Iyanno's Town on the south shore of Barnstable Bay." I do not know, but I surmise that Nickerson's account is either derived from written accounts of oral traditions and/or from the...

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Native American History and Genealogy

Unquestionably, Nickerson's greatest contribution to Native American scholarship is in this section on Native American history and genealogy, especially his article, "The Old Sagamore—Mattaquason of Monomoyick" and "Micah Rafe—Indian Man: Last Full Blood on Lower Cape Cod," which are only a sampling...

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The Praying Indians of Lower Cape Cod

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pp. 167-192

Nickerson left about seventy notes for "The Praying Indians of Lower Cape Cod. '" I have silently and freely edited this article, adding additional notes. Almost all of Nickerson's quotations in this article are paraphrases (occasionally with factual errors), making a silent editorial practice necessary to avoid numerous, awkward editorial notes. Since the quality varies significantly from the articles published in the Bulletin of the...

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The Old Sagamore: Mattaquason of Monomoyick

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pp. 193-219

Nickerson had two articles published in a scholarly journal, the Bulletin of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society; "The Old Sagamore" was published in July 1958 and "Micah Raft" in January 1961. Since Nickerson saw these two articles as completed and since the Bulletin is available to scholars, I have decided to reprint the two pieces as they appeared. Reflecting the period in which the two articles were written...

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Micah Rafe, Indian Man: Last Full Blood on Lower Cape Cod

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pp. 221-246

It is with mingled feelings of reverence and hesitation that I attempt the story of Micah Rafe, the last full blooded Indian on Lower Cape Cod; reverence, because he stands alone at the journey's end of his people; hesitation, because all we have learned about any Cape Cod Indian is, at best, but fragmentary and incomplete. The Indians kept no written...


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pp. 247-252


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pp. 253-258

E-ISBN-13: 9780870139017
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870134111

Page Count: 258
Publication Year: 1994