EASTHAM — History will be docking at Rock Harbor this summer. Tying up next to the Coast Guard boat that rescued 32 sailors from the Pendleton shipwreck in 1952 will be a craft similar to the one that brought men from the Mayflower’s anchorage in Provincetown Harbor in 1620 to Eastham for their first live encounter with the indigenous Nauset people.
“We’ll have some ceremonies and possibly some trips out into the bay” in the replica vessel, the shallop Elizabeth Tilley, select board member Peter Dibble said at the Feb. 24 meeting of the Eastham 400 Commemoration Committee. Built in 2000 by Peter Arenstam, the boat will be towed from Plymouth to Provincetown early in July for festivities there before being towed or sailed to Rock Harbor for a stay of several days.
At last week’s meeting, Dibble displayed Richard C. Ellington’s scale model of the shallop, built to mark the 400th anniversary of the Dec. 8, 1620, event at modern-day First Encounter Beach. “It’s perfect,” Dibble said.
In another event planned by the committee, historian Ian Saxine, whose book The Story of the “First Encounter” at Nauset has sold out its first edition and is being reprinted, will speak at Nauset Regional High School on March 27.
“We’re trying to find as many points of interaction as possible, so teachers are able to address things while bringing in another layer of authenticity,” NRHS Principal Christopher Ellsasser said. “We’re trying to weave together this opportunity with the learning that’s already happening.”
Visitors to the Cape Cod National Seashore can do their learning while sitting on the sand at First Encounter Beach from Memorial Day weekend through the summer. The “109 nights,” as committee vice chair Tom Ryan described the program, will commence with the ringing of a bell 15 minutes before sunset and continue with a daily 10-minute presentation of “some fragment of our history” and a reading from Saxine’s book, plus a preview of coming events.
On the nine Sundays of July and August, a “sunset series” will offer interactive programs around an electronic “campfire” at the beach. “Campfires are not bonfires,” Ryan said. “This is an electronic device approved by the fire department [that sits] like a bowl in the sand.”
Also in the works is a tour of Cove Burying Ground, where three Mayflower passengers are interred. It’s hoped that high school students could be involved in all three programs.
The committee voted to request $25,000 from town meeting in May: $12,000 for two part-time coordinators for the beach events, $6,000 for the cost of bringing the shallop to Rock Harbor and housing its crew, $4,000 for reprinting Saxine’s book, $2,000 for printing signs and beach sticker insignias, and $1,000 for rack cards.
At the meeting, the committee reviewed other groups’ marking of the 400th anniversary. The Eastham Historical Society, which will open the First Peoples exhibit at its 1869 Schoolhouse Museum on May 1, has been working with an archaeologist to catalog its collection and is planning an extensive speaker series. The Cape Cod National Seashore will have three new outdoor exhibits: on Wampanoag use of salt marshes, on the Pilgrims’ search for water, and on the signing of the Mayflower Compact. The Federated Church of Orleans, which traces its history back to the congregational society founded in Eastham in the 1640s, will hold an open house during December. Eleven boxes of historical records from the church have been digitized and are available through the archives of the Eastham Public Library, which is planning a roster of special events.
Ryan said that the Wellfleet Historical Society “has focused on their Native American collection and discovered they have representative items from all 10,000 years of documented habitation of Nauset. They’re doing a special exhibit all summer.” Over in Orleans, he said, the historical society “will focus on the seven [settler] families that came here. The focus isn’t how they related to Native Americans, or their faith structure — it’s their clothing and habitation.”
The Cape Cod Genealogy Society will hold a free event at the Eastham library and the Chapel in the Pines next door on March 29 from 11:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. There will be talks on Mayflower descendants, Native American genealogy, and researching female ancestors, as well as 20-minute genealogical consultations for those interested in possible links to the Mayflower.
For further details on 400th anniversary events, go to easthamthefirstencounter.org.