Samuel de Champlain seems to have been the first European to come to
the area of present-day Chatham. His logbooks contain references to
a tribe called the Monomoyicks, and his geographical descriptions
match the area.
English colonization began when William Nickerson of Yarmouth
purchased some land from the Sachem (Chief) of the Monomoyicks,
By the 1700's , there were about 50 families living in "Monamoy."
After being part of Yarmouth for a while, and then Eastham, Chatham
was incorporated in 1712.
Prior to the Revolutionary War, the town was slow to prosper. The
remote situation of the settlement made it particularly vulnerable
to both English and French warships which prowled the waters.
After independence though, things got going. The fishing industry,
saltworks, and shipbuilding were all part of the economy.
Agriculture was always a mainstay, and by the time the 19th century
rolled around, whaling was adding to the fortunes of the town and
By the late 1800's Chatham was beginning to change in the same ways
that other towns on the Cape were changing. With the railroad in
1887, came summer visitors attracted by the seaside charm…and the
resort economy was born. In fact, what the early settlers saw as
liabilities are now its greatest strengths: isolation, and exposure
to the ocean.