Pilgrims, Wampanoags and Cape Cod Sea Camps

By: Camp Cod Sea Camps

The Pilgrims and Cape Cod Sea Camps


In 2020, there will be a celebration of the Pilgrims settling in Plymouth and beginning their venture here in Massachusetts.  We probably all have our stories of the Pilgrims settling in Plymouth in 1620 and their subsequent encounters with the native Wampanoag peoples.    The Mayflower actually arrived in New England on November 11, 1620 after a voyage of 66 days. Although the Pilgrims had originally intended to settle near the Hudson River in New York, dangerous shoals and poor winds forced the ship to seek shelter at Cape Cod.    Later encounters on the Connecticut River between Plymouth settlers and the Dutch who settled NY were not friendly.  (Perhaps the seeds of the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry today…)


The first sighting of land was off what is now Monomoy Shoals and Nauset Beach.   Without access to a safe harbor, they proceeded north around the tip of Cape Cod and found a sheltered anchorage in Provincetown.   From there an exploration party was sent to scout the land, looking for water, food and possible habitation sites.   One venture came ashore at what is now known as Corn Hill.  There, the Pilgrims found evidence of Wampanoag habitation with some 50 acres having been planted and harvested of corn.  They also found and pillaged a stockpile of corn for their own use which led to an inevitable standoff.


Heading south, the Pilgrims came ashore on a beach in present day Eastham.  The beach’s name commemorates the “First Encounter” between the group of Pilgrims, led by Myles Standish and William Bradford, and the Nauset Tribe of the Wampanoag Nation. On December 8, 1620 the two groups met along the beach here. Earlier, European explorers had visited and even captured members of the Nauset Tribe leaving them with some less-than-fond memories of white visitors.  So the “First Encounter” was not a pleasant one. The Native Americans slung arrows and fired muskets at the Pilgrims and, in the end, both sides retreated and the Pilgrims beat feet for Plymouth.


So this is where Cape Cod Sea Camps explores a connection to those fateful days.   On board the Mayflower were the Howland and Tilley families.  Our executive director Nancy Garran and Sailing Master Garran Peterson can trace her roots back to Howland and Tilley who are their 9th and 10th great grandfathers.    The landing all took place within view of the present Cape Cod Sea Camps on the shores of Cape Cod Bay.   Undoubtedly, there were a number of Wampanoag settlements in Brewster and they were on or near the beach watching as the Mayflower sailed by the outer bar on its way to their ultimate landing in Plymouth.   So, your campers are sailing on Cape Cod within shouting distance of where the Pilgrims sailed by 400 years ago.


As Provincetown, Plymouth and the Mayflower Society begin planning for the 400th Anniversary this coming summer, there is heighted awareness of the role the Wampanoag played in assisting those early settlers, as well as the disease and devastation the Europeans brought to the area.    While a number of Pilgrims (including the Tilleys) did not make it through the first winter, those that did can attribute their survival to the Native Americans.   In a long over-due tribute to the Wampanoag Nation, Provincetown is looking to add a Wampanoag Nation monument alongside the current tribute to the Pilgrims.   We hope this can be completed by summer and add to the other sculptures of revered sachem Massasoit in Plymouth.


CCSC continues with their Wampanoag connections to this day.   Monomoy (the boys divisions) carries the name similar to the Monomoyick Tribe that settled the Harwich/Chatham area, and the site of the original Camp Monomoy.   Wono (the girls divisions) resembles the name of one of the Tribes early sachems.   We also use the original tradition of wampum sharing as a testament to friendship, relationships and honest intentions.


Please let us know if you have any Mayflower or Wampanoag descendants in your family tree.   If so, you may be interested in reading “Of Plymouth Plantation” by William Bradford edited for readability by Harold Paget.   For history buffs, this gives a fascinating history of 17th century colonial America as well as the events leading up and subsequent to the 1620 landing.  Amazon has a Kindle version now.

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