The Indians of Connecticut were a resourceful people who made extensive use of the land’s riches. They were hunter-gatherers, and they were farmers. They were capable of cultivating maize, beans, squash, pumpkins, artichokes, and tobacco. When it was time, everyone in the tribe worked at turning up the soil in the fields. Their tools were simple: sticks, clamshells, and the shells of horseshoe crabs. When the planting was finished, the women would have the responsibility of caring for the crops, excepting tobacco which was cultivated by the men. It was customary to fertilize the land with fish, and periodically to leave the fields unplanted. In some cases, hawks were used as guards of the fields to protect the crops from other birds.
The Indians used various nuts and berries for food. There was a variety of nuts, walnuts, chestnuts, and acorns. In some cases they were boiled and eaten, and in other cases they were ground up and used in breads. Wild strawberries, gooseberries, and huckleberries were also part of their diet. These were eaten raw or mixed in meal.
Those tribes which lived near a river or on the Sound fished in the summer months, and hunted for deer and moose in the fall and winter. Those tribes which did not have fishing sites subsisted on land animals throughout the year. Weapons and snares were used to catch animals. The bow that the Indian used was made of hickory, and their arrows were fashioned from reeds and tree branches with sharp stone points at the end. Snares were constructed from hemp rope and small, bendable trees.
The Indian diet was a varied one; they ate deer, moose, raccoon, rabbit, squirrel, otter, and beaver. With their spears and nets, many of them feasted on fluke, lobster, bluefish, salmon, bass, and cod. Turkey, duck, pheasant, owls, and crows were also a part of the Indian’s diet. Occasionally, seals were hunted for food and skins. The preparation of these foods was as varied as the kinds of food. Some of it was boiled, roasted, or dried in the sun; and some of it was smoked and preserved.
In the summer, the most common type of dress was the simple breech-cloth. This was made from squares of skin that was attached around the waist by a snakeskin. Occasionally, they wore leggings or a mantle about the shoulders. The type of winter dress was generally made of skins that were fashioned into leggings, moccasins, and robes. Skins were sometimes decorated with paintings. The robes were made of furs and skins from deer, bear, moose, beaver, and fox. Male children went naked until about twelve years old, and female children wore a small breechcloth from birth.
In addition to decorating their clothing, they often decorated themselves. Many would wear feathers and seashells in their hair, paint their faces and other parts of their bodies. Some were tattooed by scratching themselves with a sharp object and adding a dye to the open sore. Earrings, necklaces, and bracelets were commonly worn by male and female.
The most common shelter built by the Indians was a type that was generally dome-shaped. The men would collect saplings and place them in the ground in an upright position. The saplings formed a circle of from ten to sixty feet in diameter. They were then bent and tied together. The women were given the task of weaving mats with which they would cover the dwelling. The wigwams were very good protection from the elements, and are said to have kept out the hard rains that fell on Connecticut. They also covered their dwellings with the bark of trees. A hole was cut in the top to allow the smoke of the campfire to escape. Entrance to the wigwam was made from the skin of an animal hung over an opening. The Indians usually slept upon skins or mats that were laid on the ground or upon planks of wood.
Some Indian footpaths still exist in Connecticut. It is believed that the Post Road that lies between Boston and New York closely follows an old Indian trail. The Indians would change their eating and hunting habits according to the seasons; these footpaths were the main mode of travel to and from their favorite hunting and fishing places.
Using little more than a stone ax and muscle, an Indian brave would make, in several weeks, a dugout canoe. The dugout canoe was the simplest and most widely used type of boat . Birchbark canoes were also used, but were not as common as the dugout. The birchbark canoe was made by forming a “skeleton” of a canoe with saplings, and covering the skeleton with bark. There are also reports that some Indians made use of a birchbark sailboat.
Tools and Utensils
Many of their implements (axes, gouges, arrowheads, knives, and pipes) were made of stone. To start a fire, the indins would scratch a piece of flint onto a piece of rock containing iron to produce a spark.
The Indians who lived near the shore also made extensive use of shells as tools. Clamshells and the shells of horseshoe crabs were used for digging and skinning animals.
Wood was a commonly used material for making utensils. Maple wood was used to make bowls and spoons. They used wood to make pipes with beautiful carvings on them. The bark of trees was also used to make containers for holding liquids or for making arrow quivers.
Mats and baskets were woven by the women. They were fashioned from a variety of materials such as bark, leaves,and twigs. In some cases, even porcupine quills were woven into baskets. These handicrafts were often dyed.
The use of earthenware was not common in southern New England. Pipes and bowls made from clay have been found; but these were not representative of the common utensils used by Connecticut Indians.
The Puritans were eager to reform the Anglican Church and return power to the members of the congregations by having ministers, elders, and other officers popularly elected by the congregation. Queen Elizabeth was against these moves, for it would reduce her authority. Through the Archbishop of Canterbury, she demanded conformity and threatened ministers with loss of their positions for non-conformity. The largest faction of the Puritan movement believed change should be made from within the Church of England. Other factions strove to become independent of the Anglican Church.
In 1603, under the rule of James I of Scotland, the Puritans found no relief from persecution. Under his successor, Charles I, conditions had become so intolerable that a group of people migrated to the New World; they established Plymouth Colony. It was at this time that Thomas Hooker, the “Father of Connecticut,” was a lecturer in the Anglican Church. He was a powerful and popular preacher whose talents became widely known. Hooker was constantly warned by superiors to forego his Puritan practices. Finally, he fled from England in late 1629 and went to Holland where he did not remain for long. The promise of a fresh start in the New World caused him, in 1633, to return to England to settle his affairs and then sail for New England. While in England he was nearly discovered and arrested. By disguising himself, Hooker was able to make his departure on board a ship bound for New England, the
Thomas Hooker was in good company with John Cotton, an outstanding preacher, and John Stone, who later became his assistant. The 200 passengers on board the
were preached to very often by these three leaders. On September 4, 1633, they arrived at Boston and were welcomed by the residents there. Hooker became the pastor of the congregation at Newtown (Cambridge), and Stone became the teacher of the congregation.
In a relatively short period of time, Thomas Hooker and his congregation wished to remove themselves from the Massachusetts Bay Colony and settle in the rich lands of the Connecticut River Valley, not because of religious differences, but because living conditions were becoming cramped in the Boston area. The land around the Connecticut River was spacious enough for cattle raising and agriculture. Some people believed that Hooker and Cotton, both being strong leaders, needed their own sphere of influence. Debate over the request for removal from the Boston area went on from 1634 to the time of approval in 1635.
What was the attraction of Connecticut? In 1614, Adriaen Block, a Dutch explorer and trader, sailed up the Connecticut River. The Dutch set up trading posts on the river in an area that is now Hartford. In the 1620’s, the Dutch had approached the residents at Plymouth with a venture for settling Connecticut. The English refused because they were suspicious of the Dutch. Indians from Connecticut, who were seeking protection from the fearsome Pequots, traveled to Plymouth Colony to encourage settlers to come to Connecticut. In 1632, Edward Winslow of Plymouth Colony made an exploratory trip to Connecticut. The site he selected for a settlement was probably the area that is now Windsor. Windsor was actually founded in 1633 by William Holmes who named the settlement Dorchester. By 1635, conditions were right for migration to Windsor by others from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. However, an early and severe winter forced many from Dorchester back to the safety of their former colony. Those few that stayed survived by hunting for food with the aid of the Indians. Meanwhile, Watertown (Wethersfield) was settled.
Legal questions arose about the right to set up government in the various settlements which caused Hooker and his company to delay their departure. Once this question was settled, by appointing John Winthrop, Jr. as governor of the colony of Connecticut, Hooker and company were on their way. The lands of Connecticut were under the auspices of the Warwick Patent grantees, and the Massachusetts General Court would serve as the governing body. In March 1636, the General Court authorized eight men who resided there to “carry on judicial duties, issue decrees, and even wage war.” Meanwhile, Saybrook was settled, first as a fort, later becoming a settled town.
In June of 1636, Thomas Hooker and 100 people, 160 head of cattle, and a number of goats and swine left Newtown for Connecticut. They settled an area they called Newtown (now Hartford). The trip took them more than two weeks, traveling ten miles a day. Narrow Indian footpaths forced them to walk in a single file, one reason for the slow pace.
War Between the Pequots and the Settlers
It was in 1633 that a small trading party under the leadership of Captain John Stone of Virginia was wiped out by the Pequots. This party of men had hoped to hunt and trade in the area near the mouth of the Connecticut River. The Pequots had other skirmishes with Dutch traders during this period. Fearing reprisals for this last bloody encounter, the Pequots sent emissaries to Boston to assure the English that they still wished to carry on trade with them. They offered to give up those who were guilty of the slaughter of Stone’s party in return for peaceful relations. Peace was at hand, but not for long. In 1636, John Oldham, an explorer and trader, went on a trading expedition. When his vessel was close to Block island, it was overrun by Indians who killed everyone aboard. A special expedition was then dispatched under the command of Captain John Endecott. It was discovered that the Pequots had not attacked Oldham’s expedition, but the Block Island Indians had. However, the Pequots had given refuge to the perpetrators of this slaughter. Endecott’s party did not encounter any unfriendly Indians; but they did manage to wipe out indian villages, burning wigwams, crops, and whatever else they could find. These actions led to further hostilities.
The Pequots sought an alliance with the Narragansets in order to exterminate the white settlers in Connecticut. They had already undertaken a campaign to wipe out those who lived in the English fort at Saybrook. The authorities of the Massachusetts Bay Colony sent Roger Williams to negotiate with the Narragansets and convince them not to join with the Pequots. He may very well have been the decisive factor in preventing this alliance.
In April 1637, a party of Pequots traveled up the Connecticut River near Wethersfield. They attacked a number of settlers there, killing six men and three women. When the Indians canoed back down the river, they displayed the clothing of their victims as they passed the Saybrook fort. As a result of this, John Winthrop was urged by many to undertake an action against the Pequots.
On May 1, 1637, the General Court at Hartford ordered an engagement against the Pequots. The three river towns offered men, ammunition, and provisions for this undertaking. Captain John Mason was put in charge of this offensive force of approximately ninety men. Uncas, chief of the Mohegans, offered the help of himself and 80 of his braves in this endeavor. His motives were to overthrow Sassacus, the chief of the Pequots, and to take over the dominion of Miantonomo, the chief of the Narragansets. This force was later joined by at least twenty Narragansets. After a fierce engagement, many Pequots were killed; some were able to escape alive. Those that survived blamed their defeat on their chief, Sassacus. However, Sassacus was able to retain control and wanted to make a last stand and fight. But he could not convince his men to remain. They fled and headed westward toward the Hudson.
This fighting expedition of English and Indians were joined by at least 200 additional men from Massachusetts; together they pursued the fleeing Pequots westward. The Indians traveled slow because women, children and elderly were with them. Finally, in a swamp in Fairfield, the English surrounded the Pequots. Mason permitted Thomas Stanton, a member of his force who knew the Indian language, to proceed into the swamp to convince the Pequots to allow their women, children, and elderly to leave. Stanton went in and returned after a short while, leading about 200 Pequot women and children out of the swamp. In a fierce battle, all but sixty or seventy Indians were killed. Those who fled found no refuge among their Mohawk brothers who either killed them, or returned them to Hartford. Many of the survivors were given to Uncas and Miantonomo to become their subjects. Some of the Pequot warriors refused to live in such disgrace,; they settled in parts of Connecticut for a short time, but were met again by Stone’s fighting force and were finally exterminated.
No records show whether some of the atrocities committed by the settlers were real or contrived. The escalation of hostilities was inevitable in light of the events that led up to the elimination of the Indians. Revenge for the killing of innocent settlers seemed to be the only course of action to take. The people were controlled by events. One attitude prevalent in the l7th century was that any people of the Christian faith had the Divine Right to land which was occupied by “savages who worship false gods.” Certainly, this conception justified the events which occurred. One cannot attempt to justify 17th-century ideas with 20th-century attitudes.
Evolving a Government
Connecticut had been ruled by a governor and eight “magistrates”: Roger Ludlow, William Phelps, William Pynchon, Henry Smith, John Steel, William Swaine, Andrew Ward, and William Westwood. However, as life became more complex in the colonies, there arose a need for a more definite form of government. The simple government did the best that it could under the circumstances. In May of 1638, Hooker delivered a sermon to the people that set forth the following ideas: a) the choice of the magistrates belongs to the people, given to them by God; b) those who select the magistrates and other public officers should also have the power to limit their powers. There is little doubt that this sermon had a great effect on the framers of the new government.
The Fundamental Orders became the true beginning of a government in Connecticut. Written and adopted in 1639, the Fundamental Orders called for a General Court to convene in April and September. The April session was held to select six magistrates and a governor. Each town,through their deputies on the General Court, had the right to nominate two choices for governor. There were three basic ideas that were written into the Fundamental Orders: 1) the separation of church and government, 2) no taxes that were not approved by the people of Connecticut, and 3) the freemen of the colony would have the right to elect the governor and the magistrates. Meanwhile, Connecticut continued to grow.
Settlement of New Haven
The founding of New Haven was mainly a religious one. It was to be an “experiment” based on Puritanism. To find the roots of New Haven, one must go back to St. Stephen’s Church, Coleman Street, London. In 1624, John Davenport was elected vicar of this parish. Davenport, like many of his fellow parish leaders, was a forceful preacher and a well-liked man. However, Davenport had similar problems to Hooker and others. He was accused of Puritan practices; but he quickly refuted those charges. Though he was not, at first, a Puritan, he gradually became a staunch promoter of Puritanism. He became involved with an old friend, Theophilus Eaton, who sought to organize an expedition to New England. The two of them began to form a solid core of followers who were friends and parishioners at St. Stephen’s. The prime motive for the migration of the Davenport/Eaton Company to the New World was religious; the people of their company were staunch supporters of Puritanism. They sailed for New England aboard the
and another ship in May 1637 and arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in June. They were offered several sites in
Massachusetts, but none was suitable to them. They had intended to settle in Massachusetts, but since many of them were merchants in London, they sought a site with a harbor to enable them to continue in trade.
Word had traveled quickly about the rich land of an area called Quinnipiac (New Haven). In August 1639, Eaton and others went to inspect this area. Some of Eaton’s party stayed there for the winter, while Eaton returned north to report to his followers about the desirability of the area. In March 1638, Eaton, Davenport, members of their original company, and new followers from the Massachusetts Bay Colony left for their new home, New Haven. They arrived there on April 24, 1638.
The Indians there, the Quinnipiacs, were friendly. They were willing to sell the land to Eaton and Davenport; but they reserved hunting and fishing rights on these lands. Monauguin, the local
, sold the land which stretches from the coast of what is now Milford to Guilford, and inland to include what is now Bethany, Cheshire, Meriden, Orange, Prospect, Wallingford, and Woodbridge. The cost was “twelve coates of English trucking cloath, twelve alcumy spoons, twelve hatchetts, twelve hoes, two dozens of knives, twelve porengers, and four cases of French knives and size.” In a later agreement in 1645, the Indians received a reservation of more than a thousand acres in the East Haven—Morris Cove area. The indins and the settlers were always on friendly terms, which was unusual for the time. During this initial period of settlement, the people lived in shelters dug in the ground. This was a far cry from the dwellings they were accustomed to in their former affluent lives in London. But, this would soon change.
It was in the summer of 1638 that John Brockett, a surveyor, was placed in charge of plotting the town land. The town plot was laid out in nine squares. The central one was the marketplace; later it became the New Haven Green. (See Figure 8)
The next task was to set up a form of government. In June 1639, they met to organize their church. The people voted that the Scriptures provided “a perfect rule” for the governing of men. They chose twelve men who would select seven as the founders of the permanent church and state. These were known as the “seven pillars.” They were: Davenport, Eaton, Jeremy Dixon, Thomas Fugil, Matthew Gilbert, Robert Newman, and John Ponderson.
In October 1639, the “seven pillars” called to order the first meeting of the civil government. Their first piece of business was to deal with the murder of an English settler by a Nepaupuck Indian. Indians had witnessed the deed and had testified. The Indian was sentenced to be executed by beheading. The head was displayed in the marketplace the next day.
The plantation of New Haven gave birth to the new colonies of Milford, Guilford, Branford, Stamford, and Southold on Long Island. Though a number of them had been independent colonies at first, ultimately they became a part of the New Haven Colony. At a General Court meeting on October 27, 1643, the new colony was officially organized. Theophilus Eaton was elected the Governor of the New Haven Colony.
In May 1643, the colonies of Plymouth, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Haven sent representatives to Boston to draw up a formal union for the mutual defense and benefit of the members. The New England Confederation faced a serious problem at the outset. A disagreement between Uncas, the Mohegan chief, and Sequasson, the chief of another tribe, had taken place. Uncas attacked Sequasson and some of his braves, killing a number of them. Miantonomo, chief of the Narragansets, sought to avenge this attack upon his friend, but Uncas was victorious once again. Uncas brought Miantonomo to the white settlers at Hartford. They in return gave him back to Uncas, who executed him. The Confederation served its purpose for a number of years to come, especially during the period of strained relations between the English and the Dutch settlers in the area.
As might be expected of people of strict Puritan beliefs, the colony had strict standards of behavior for its members. Any behavior which did not meet these strict standards was met with punishment that came swiftly and was public. The Puritans even had a strict code of behavior for bachelors. They were required to take up residence in an approved household and be under the supervision of the master of that house. Naturally, drunkenness and infidelity were dealt with in a severe manner, usually by whippings and public scorn and ridicule.
The ascension of Charles II to the throne in 1660 was of great concern to the Puritans in Connecticut, for they could no longer rely on the Puritan influence in England that they had enjoyed under Cromwell. They faced the grim fact that their colonies had no legal foundation. A meeting was called, at which time it was resolved to send emissaries to England and petition Charles II for a charter. Gov. John Winthrop, Jr. was the logical choice for this mission. He arrived in England in September 1661. Winthrop and his party were successful in procuring a charter from King Charles. This was good news for Connecticut, but the Puritan colony of New Haven was gravely concerned because the Charter set Connecticut’s southern boundary at Long Island Sound.
Meanwhile, two of the men who had signed the death warrant of Charles I, Colonels William Goffe and Edward Whalley, had to flee to Boston to escape being captured. Pursued by agents of the crown, they fled to New Haven to seek refuge. A friend of theirs, Richard Sperry, took them to the top of West Rock where they stayed for nearly a month. They were protected from the elements in the famous “Judges Cave.” A third regicide, Colonel John Dixwell, under the alias of James Davids moved to New Haven where he lived a normal life.
The concealment of the regicides in New Haven did not win any favors for the colony. New Haven was growing increasingly weaker and poorer. Many towns in the New Haven Colony were growing restless over this precarious situation. Greenwich, Southold, and Stamford chose to become a part of Connecticut. Connecticut wanted to incorporate New Haven into the colony under the new charter. However, New Haven strongly resisted this move. Pressure was exerted by Massachusetts on both the Connecticut colony and New Haven Colony, because this internal struggle was attracting much unfavorable attention in England.
New Haven became poorer as more of its towns seceded to become a part of Connecticut. In 1665, New Haven became a part of Connecticut.
Some of New Haven’s inhabitants left Connecticut for New Jersey to establish a new “Bible State” there. In November of 1668, John Davenport left New Haven to take a position in a church in Boston. He died there after one year. New Haven did not “disappear” after its absorption into Connecticut. It was co-capital with Hartford until 1875, and its last governor, William Leete, served as governor of Connecticut from 1676-1683.
During the period between the Pequot War and 1667, relations with the Indians of New England grew tense again. Many of the old
, who were finally on good terms with the white settlers, had died off. The new leaders, seeing their lands slowly whittled away, sought to reverse this trend. Over the years, missionary efforts to convert the Indians to Christianity were not successful. In 1662, Massasoit, chief of the Wampanoags of eastern Rhode Island and Plymouth, died. His son, Philip, was now the
. He was bitter towards the whites for taking land and trying to disarm the Indians of his tribe.
In Swansea, Massachusetts, three Indians of Philip’s tribe were hanged after being convicted of murdering a Christian Indian. In June 1675, war broke out between the Indians and the settlers. The Wampanoags and the Narragansets united in an effort to rid their land of the white settlers. At first, the fighting was localized. Gradually, Connecticut was drawn into the war which became known as King Philip’s War. Human sacrifices were numerous on both sides; the fighting ended in the summer of 1676. Governor Leete pledged peace with the Indians, and promised sufficient lands for them. In other New England colonies, the treatment of the Indians was more severe. Many of them were sold into slavery.
In 1674, Connecticut was again besieged. This time it was threatened by the new governor of New York, Major Edmund Andros. Andros sent a letter to John Winthrop stating that Charles II gave him claim to all the land west of the Connecticut River. He demanded that this land be surrendered to him. Connecticut refused, citing the charter of 1662 which gave them claim to that land. Andros’ contempt for Connecticut was actually caused by Connecticut’s encouragement of the Long Islanders’ rebellion against the rule of the Duke of York. On July 8, 1675, a number of armed ships under the command of Major Andros appeared off the shore of Saybrook. Shortly thereafter, Andros was granted permission to come ashore to talk with the leaders of that community. Seeing that he would meet with strong military resistance if he attacked, Andros left without resolving anything.
The English throne was moving to consolidate the colonies of New England in order to combat the influences of a new colonial power in America—France. In 1684, Massachusetts lost its charter due to violations of the English acts of trade. It was now under direct royal control.
Connecticut was engaged in boundary disputes with Rhode Island at the time. King Charles II undoubtedly wanted to consolidate Connecticut and Rhode Island into New England. But Charles II died in 1685, at which time his brother James II, came into power. King James wanted to make Connecticut a part of New York. Major Andros under orders from James II stating that Connecticut’s charter was to be surrendered, tried to force Connecticut to surrender. Connecticut again resisted.
On October 22, 1687, Major Andros wrote a letter to Governor Treat saying that he intended to come to Hartford to take control of the government. The Assembly was called together to meet Andros when he arrived. Andros was led to the governor’s chair by Gov. Treat. Andros began to read the king’s orders for the annexation of Connecticut and demanded that the charter be surrendered at this time. It was then that the famous “Charter Oak Incident” occurred. The charter disappeared. Even though the fact was that Connecticut was now a part of New York, this act of defiance was symbolic of Connecticut’s protest to the course of events.
Rule under Andros was unbearable. His policies included exorbitant fees, restriction of freedom of the press, and an advance filing of bonds for all intended marriages. But rule in England under James lI was also intolerable. Because the King was a Catholic, he ordered all members of the clergy of the Anglican Church to read a Declaration of Iindulgence. They refused. His unpopularity reached its highpoint when he tried seven bishops for seditious libel. Public opinion forced the acquittal of these men. When a son was born to James II, assuring a Catholic heir to the throne, an appeal was made to the Protestant ruler of the Netherlands, William, and his wife, Mary, to take over the throne. James fled to France, and open rebellion erupted in the colonies when news of these events reached them. The government was restored to the form it had had prior to the rule of Andros.