21. Nickerson Homestead
On this site stood the home of William and Anne (Busby) Nickerson and their family, the first English settlers of Chatham. They arrived in Salem in 1637 aboard the ship, John and Dorothy, with four children and Anne Busby’s parents. A weaver by trade, William left Norwich , England to escape the persecution of Bishop Wren of the Church of England against nonconformists.
After first settling near Little Bass Pond in Yarmouth , William bargained with Monomoyick tribal sachem, Mattaquason, for a parcel of land at Monomoit (now Chatham) in 1656. A shallop, cloth, several kettles, axes, knives and wampum served as payment. By 1664 William, Anne and eight of their nine children and their families were living in various parts of the 4000 acres of Monomoit. Because it was illegal to purchase tribal lands directly, however, it wasn’t until 1682 with a payment of ninety pounds and a Plymouth Colony Court settlement that the purchase was made legal. William was active in both civil and religious affairs. He called his family together on the Sabbath to read and explain the scriptures and later became a lay leader and founder of the village church, now the First Congregational Church of Chatham.
William & Anne’s original homestead site lies a short distance from the Nickerson House. A stone slab has been placed there to mark the location. William and Anne are interred on the hill a short distance from this site at the end of A. Leonard Way off Training Field Road .
Eighth generation descendent, William Emery Nickerson, inventor of the Gillette safety razor, gathered 300 Nickerson’s together in Chatham in 1897 to form a family genealogical society. For the next 30 years correspondence was collected from scattered Nickerson descendents all around the United States and Canada . Today the Nickerson Family Association continues to update and add to genealogy records. Award winning volumes have been published reflecting years of research which have been devoted to Nickerson genealogy. An on-line Nickerson genealogy data base is available for research by Association members. The tradition of an annual reunion, established over a century ago, continues to this day.
The Nickerson House serves as a genealogical research center and headquarters of the Nickerson Family Association. The relocated early 19th century Caleb Nickerson House operates as a period restoration and living history museum. Both buildings were relocated to this site over water.