Chatham, The Turning Point: The Mayflower and the Nickersons

For centuries, descendants of William and Anne Nickerson who are also descendants of Mayflower passengers, have traced and celebrated their genealogies.

Warren Sears Nickerson (1880-1966) of East Harwich was a ninth-generation descendant of William Nickerson. No less than nine of Sears Nickerson’s ancestors sailed aboard the Mayflower.

In 1931 Nickerson published a book called Land Ho! 1620: A Seaman’s Story of the Mayflower– Her Construction, Her Navigation and her First Landfall. Nickerson wrote his meticulously-researched account of the ship’s 1620 journey around the 50-mile “Back Side” of Cape Cod from Monomoy to Provincetown from the perspective of a seaman.

On the afternoon of Nov. 9, 1620, the Mayflower came to a turning point in the dangerous Pollack Rip off Chatham.  There, Capt. Christopher Jones steered the ship north, effectively ending its voyage to the Hudson River. Two days later the ship anchored in Provincetown where it remained for roughly five weeks before sailing west to Plymouth.  Seventeen years later, in 1637, William and Anne Nickerson landed in Salem.  In 1664 the Nickersons were the first English pioneers to settle in Monomoit, later the Town of Chatham.  In between the fateful turning of the Mayflower and the Nickersons’ arrival in Cha­tham, Chatham added one more quirky footnote to 17th century history. Less than a mile of the Nickersons’ future home­stead, the Native American Squanto, who taught the Pilgrims to plant crops, died under mysterious circumstances near Jackknife Cove.  The year was 1622.  A plaque at the Nickerson Family Association (NFA) commemorates Squanto’s life, as does a stone that proclaims that Squanto died “within gunshot” of the stone.

For centuries, descendants of William and Anne and descendants of the Mayflower Pilgrims have intermarried, especial­ly in the small towns of Cape Cod.  The intermixing of Mayflower and Nickerson heritages is well-illustrated by the Sears Nickerson family.  The NFA owns a model of the Mayflower made by Nickerson’s late son-in-law George Pearson Marble (1922-2008).  The ship was presented by Nickerson’s grandson Warren Nickerson Marble to the NFA in memory of his grandfather.

So, it is appropriate that in 2020, the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s landing, that Nickersons, an estimated 50 per­cent of whom are also Mayflower descendants, celebrate their Mayflower heritage. In the fall of 2018 Ron Nickerson, past vice-president of the NFA, co-founded, a Chatham Mayflower group.  The descendants are planning a luncheon at Chatham Bars Inn on Nov. 19, 2020, 400 years to the day after the Mayflower turned around just off-shore there.  The group plans field trips and other commemorations in the months leading up to the November 2020 landing of the Mayflower.

If you are a Mayflower descendant, 2020 is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to celebrate your dual Nickerson and Mayflower heritage. Please check out  If you have a Mayflower/Nickerson connection with a Nova Scotia line, Brian Smith may be able to help you. Contact him at  After the Nickerson reunion (Sept. 6 to 9), follow the Pilgrim Trail driving tour from Chatham to Provincetown.