When the English began arriving in Connecticut in the early 17
century, they found the land populated with Native American peoples. Among theses tribes were the Mohawks, Pequots, and Quinnipiacs. From the very beginning, relations between the Europeans and Native Americans were poor. Neither side understood the language and customs of the other. The Europeans intrigued the Natives with tools and gadgets they had never seen before. The Native Americans did not understand the concept of private property according European interpretation. The English saw the Natives as inferior, and began cheating them out of their land. The English would offer such intriguing tools and gadgets, as payment for large tracks of land. If payments were accepted, the native people would be forced to live permanently else where. This is the concept of private property the Native Americans did not understand. If land was sold to a European colony, Native Americans could never again farm, hunt, fish or live on that land. If the native peoples were to refuse payment, the Europeans found excuse to use their technological superiority, and took this land by means of war.
The Quinnipiacs had been living along the banks of the Quinnipiac River for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years before the English arrival in 1638. They were a peaceful people, as their tribe was too small to war with neighboring tribes. They lived in wigwams along the river and shores of the neighboring Long Island Sound. The Quinnipiacs fished the river with hand made nets much the same way we do today. Then the waters of the river and sound were much cleaner, and the marine life much more abundant. We can only imagine their delight, when in summertime, schools of blue fish raced up the river as they still do today. But the Quinnipiacs relied much more on clams and oysters, as they were abundant in the shallow bays along the sound, and the New Haven harbor. (Today the harbor is much smaller and deeper than it was in the 17
century. At the time of the Puritan arrival, the harbor slowly receded into a marshy creek up to what is now State Street. It was filled in over the years, by developers looking to expand the downtown area.)
The Quinnipiacs were also farmers and hunters. They hunted animals such as deer, rabbit, raccoons and squirrels for food and clothing. They grew vegetables such as corn, and potatoes, which became of great importance to the English and Irish as a food source. The Quinnipiacs were very resourceful in terms of food, and they readily shared these resources with the English Puritans.
Thus far, it may sound as if the Quinnipiacs lived in a utopian world. But in 1638, they were a people close to extermination. Not by the Europeans however, but by other neighboring tribes, especially the Pequots. The Quinnipiacs had once populated the banks of the entire river and shores of the neighboring sound. But their population had suffered great losses from wars with neighboring tribes, starvation due to poor harvests, and terrible diseases. In 1638, the Quinnipiacs lived only in what is now Momauguin, East Haven under Momauguin, the sachem. There was also a small band living behind East Rock, near Hamden, under the sachem Montowese. In all, there were only 150 Quinnipiac Native Americans left at the time of the Puritan arrival in New Haven. They were forced to pay the Pequots wampum taxes or face total annihilation.
When 500 Puritan colonists landed in the New Haven harbor, the Quinnipiacs welcomed their arrival. They knew the English and Dutch had other settlements in the area, and they couldn’t stop one from being built here on the Quinnipiac.
The English began building a settlement in what is now Downtown New Haven. After a year, they offered to buy what is now the towns of New Haven, East Haven, Branford, North Branford, North Haven, Wallingford, Cheshire and parts of Orange, Woodbridge, Bethany, Prospect and Meridan. The Puritans also claimed Greenwich, Stamford and Southold Long Island, as no native peoples lived there already. For this land, the Quinnipiacs received one dozen spoons, one dozen hoes, one dozen hatchets, one dozen bowls, two dozen knives, and four cases of French knives and scissors.
All these items must have been very useful to the Quinnipiacs, but the English Puritans knew they were cheating the natives and stealing their home. The Quinnipiacs were allowed to live in a small part of North Haven which we now call Montowese, and on the East Shore in New Haven. One hundred or so years latter, the remaining Quinnipiacs were moved to a reservation northern Connecticut, with several other Connecticut tribes.
While the Quinnipiacs lived near the English, they were forced to live under English rule. The Quinnipiacs also agreed to the following terms set forth by the colonists:
1. They must not set traps where cattle might be caught or hurt.
2. They must not frighten away or steal fish from the English nets.
3. They must not come to town on Sundays to trade or hang around the houses while the English were at church.
4. They must not take any boat or canoe belonging to the English without the consent of the owner.
5. Not more than six Indians at a time were to come to town with bows and arrows or other weapons.
6. They must never harm in any way an English man, woman or child.
7. They must pay for cattle they killed or injured in any way.
8. They must not allow other Indians to come and live with them without the consent of the English.
9. They must promise to tell the colonists of any wicked plot against them.
10. They must agree to have all wrong-doers punished by the English.
11. The natives would be paid for any damage done them.
12. All those who wronged the Indians in any way would be punished by the colonists.
The English established these terms with the Quinnipiacs, for they did not understand their native customs and traditions. In terms of respect for private property, they felt the natives were poorly behaved. The Quinnipiac did not own livestock, and would often take animals which belonged to the Puritan colonists. The Puritans were also very religious, even for their time. When the Quinnipiac would come to trade on Sundays, the colonists became very disturbed. The Puritans did not want their own people corrupted by the native traditions, and therefore set rules for their social behavior. Soon after, missionaries would convert many Connecticut Native Americans to Christianity.
Today, in courtrooms across Connecticut, several Native American tribes are trying to reclaim their lands. Some, such as the Mashintucket Pequots have been successful in this process.
Early New Haven
The story of New Haven begins in 17
century England. The founders of New Haven left England for religious reasons. They felt the Church of England, and its head, King James I, were corrupt. King James believed he was made king by God, and to question his rule was to question God. The Puritans were trying to “purify” the church of England, for they feared eternal damnation if they followed the king. King James and his bishops, ordered all English people to worship God in a way the Puritans thought went against the teachings of the Bible. So the Puritans held their own services, yet were forced to pay taxes to the Church of England. Anyone suspected of being a Puritan minister could be thrown in prison until he gave up his Puritan ideas. King James felt the Puritans were a nuisance to him. He was also very interested in forming English colonies in America. So he encouraged the formation of Puritan colonies in what is now New England.
John Davenport and Theophilus Eaton were two very wealthy and influential English Puritans. They had helped form the Massachusetts Bay Company. A few years latter, Davenport and Eaton became the leaders of a new company, which they formed to go the New England. Puritans from various parts of England joined them. They were farmers and merchants looking for new prosperity and religious freedom. Each family or individual in the company was expected to contribute money, according to ability to pay. Davenport and Eaton gathered about 250 men, women and children and they hired two ships. The name of one ship was the
. The name of the other ship is now unknown. They stopped for a short time in the Netherlands, and then set sail for Massachusetts Bay.
When they reached Boston, they were very disappointed. The Puritans there were already fighting over how their church would be run. They were also disappointed to find much of the good farmland, and the Boston harbor had been claimed by enterprising English merchants. Eaton and Davenport wanted to form a colony of their own.
was still sailing across the Atlantic in 1637, the English of New England were fighting a fierce war against the Pequot Indians. In May, the English burned a fort near New London, and killed hundreds of Native Americans. Those who escaped fled westward along the shores of the Long Island Sound. The soldiers from the colonies gave chase and killed nearly all of them in a swamp near Fairfield. During the pursuit the soldiers stopped at a place called Quinnipiac, or Long-water-land. The English liked Quinnipiac very much. Captain Stoughton, reported that he had found the best location for a settlement anywhere.
When Davenport and Eaton heard of this place on the sound with a river and natural harbor, they sent a party to investigate at once. The seven man party stayed the winter, living in wigwams near what is now the corner of Congress and Meadow Streets. They began building a few shelters, for their fellow countrymen who were to arrive the following spring. On April 24, 1638, John Davenport and about 500 followers arrived at the site of the party’s camp. They had gathered additional followers in Boston. Many Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Company were disappointed, as they learned the king declared it the Massachusetts Bay Colony, subject to British taxation.
The Puritans began planning a city a once. Eaton and the planners working with him marked off a half-mile square near the harbor (remember the harbor extended much farther inland than today). The sides of the square are now George, State, Grove and York Streets. If you look at the map below, you will notice that the streets now called Church, College, Chapel and Elm divided the square into nine equal parts. The square in the center became the Green, which was used as a market and meeting place. The remaining squares were divided again, and named after the most prominent resident who lived there. People who did not have much money invested in the company, were also given land, but outside the square.