As the Cape is inundated with tourists this month, can we perhaps sympathize with the Native Americans who were here before the Europeans arrived? But the Europeans never left, and the Indians were eventually wiped out, absorbed into the new population. A fascinating book of tales penned by W. Sears Nickerson, collected and edited by Delores Bird Carpenter, tells the stories of Early encounters : Native Americans and Europeans in New England.
Warren Sears Nickerson was born in East Harwich in 1880, youngest of 12 children. His father was a school teacher turned mariner and later, cranberry cultivator. He himself was a mariner, then briefly a steeplejack, and finally an undertaker. After suffering a heart attack, Nickerson was told to move to a warmer climate and ended up living in Florida. He turned to genealogy for solace, and while bedridden produced a well-received book about the Mayflower, aboard which were nine of his ancestors. He also became an authority on the Native Americans of the Lower Cape, documenting over 1300 individuals in three tribes.
Early encounters was published in 1994, and includes some material previously published in other sources. Most of Nickerson's papers are held at the Archives of the National Seashore in South Wellfleet (just down the road from me, but I never knew it existed!). The volume begins with a lengthy introduction written by the editor, and Nickerson's stories start with the Vikings and French explorers, followed by the Mayflower, the French and Indian wars, and legends and genealogy concerning the Cape's Native Americans. The last selection concerns Micah and Hosey (Stephen) Rafe, a couple both born around 1730 who were the last fullblooded Indians on the Lower Cape and left no descendents. There is an extensive bibliography and good index.
The shelves of our library contain a wealth of hidden gems like this one, come and explore!