Chatham Celebrates The Past With History Weekend

By: Tim Wood

The Nickerson Family Association campus will be one of many locations hosting activities over History Weekend June 17 to 19. TIM WOOD PHOTO

CHATHAM – A lot of history will be on display in Chatham this weekend.

History Weekend, sponsored by Historic Chatham, highlights the town's past by focusing on its museums and other institutions that promote history. Nine local organizations will be participating in events that begin on Thursday.

The weekend happens to coincide with the 125th anniversary of the Nickerson Family Association, which will sponsor a number of activities at its Chathamport campus. The Association was founded on June 19, 1897, when William Emery Nickerson hosted a reunion and picnic in town for descendants of William and Anne Nickerson. Some 500 people attended, and the Association has sponsored reunions almost every year since.

This year also marks 385 years since William and Anne arrived in Salem from England, said NFA President Bob Nickerson. The Association's genealogical center was dedicated 25 years ago. This year also marks the town's 310th anniversary.

To mark the occasion, the Association is renaming its facilities on Orleans Road – which include the Caleb Nickerson Homestead and its genealogical center – the William and Anne Nickerson Historic Homestead Site (Founders of Chatham).

The Association is essentially splitting its functions into two parts, explained Nickerson: the genealogical center and the homestead site. The latter will soon be enhanced by the addition of an antique barn originally erected by William and Anne's son in about 1700, originally located near Bassing Harbor. The structure has been disassembled and will be raised again in the near future. The homestead site will focus more on history, while the genealogical center will continue to serve as a resource for Nickersons and researchers. Both will operate under the auspices of the NFA.

This weekend's activities will include a lecture about the Nickerson barn at 11 a.m. Saturday followed by a talk about the excavation of the William and Anne Nickerson homestead site on land adjacent to the NFA. Eleven key elements of the site of the founder's home have been marked with descriptions, and visitors can walk the land and imagine what it was like when the Nickerson family first settled there.

At 1 p.m. there will be another talk on Colonial beekeeping.

The Eldredge Public Library will host the first History Weekend event on Thursday, June 16. At 5 p.m., William Cullinane will lecture on “Wind, Mills and the Revolutionary War in Chatham,” providing a brief history of the development of windmills, the building of the Godfrey Mill in Chatham and the role of Colonel Benjamin Godfrey plays in the American Revolution. The program takes place at the Main Street library and is limited to 40 people; registration is required at the library website, eldredgelibrary.org/.

The Marconi-RCA Wireless Museum will host the debut of Dick Kraycir's new book, "Marconi/RCA Wireless Museum – Ocean Waves and Radio Waves." Former president and executive director of the center, Kraycir and writer Sue Mellen details the history of the station through photos and text from its founding in 1914 to its eventual demise as satellites replaced wireless radio technology.

The museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, showcasing its “Chatham Navy Radio, 1942-1945” exhibit. On Sunday at 2 p.m., there will be a live ship-to-shore radio demonstration. During History Weekend, admission to the museum will be reduced to $5 for adults and seniors.

For those interested in perambulations, there will be two walks over the weekend, both on Saturday at 10 a.m. The Friends of Trees and Chatham Conservation Foundation will sponsor a walk at Chase Park focusing on more than two dozen noteworthy trees in the park. The cost is $15 per person and the walk is limited to 20 people. Register at www.eventbrite.com/e/chase-park-walk-tickets-344851619477.

For a historic walk in downtown Chatham, meet at 10 a.m. Saturday at the community center for a free one-hour Chatham Walk, which will touch on significant buildings and events in the history of the town.

New exhibits at the Atwood House will be open on Friday and Saturday from 10 to 4 p.m., with half-price admission for non-members. The Benjamin Godfrey windmill on Chase Park will be open Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; the sails on the windmill will be up and it will be grinding corn, weather permitting.

Although the Chatham Lighthouse tower remains closed to the public, the Coast Guard Auxiliary will conduct tours of the grounds on Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m. The Chatham Railroad Museum and historic caboose will be open Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. The Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge on Morris Island's visitor kiosk will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the loop walking trails will be open from dawn to dusk. The historic circa 1818 Mayo House on Main Street, owned by the Chatham Conservation Foundation, will be open for tours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday at 11 a.m., a Meadow Talk will be held at the mini-meadow along the Main Street side of the Mayo House.

For more information, visit historic-chatham.org.