Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Connecticut (2023)


On April 24, 1638, five hundred English settlers, under the leadership of John Davenport and Theophilus Eaton, arrived at the harbor to settle permanently on the lands of the Quinnipiac Indians. Dangerously weakened by disease, the Quinnipiacs welcomed the English as military allies. On November 24, 1638, the sachems (chiefs) of the Quinnipiacs: Momauguin, his sister Shaumpisbuh, and their uncle Quosoquonsh signed a treaty with Davenport and Eaton. The eastern side of the harbor was designated as a reserve for the Momauguin band. Ownership of the remaining lands was formally transferred to the English.

During the early years of New Haven, the Quinnipiacs traded deer meat to the colonists, who were unskilled in hunting. In imitation of the Indians, the English built weirs (dams)to catch fish. The Quinnipiacs served as guides, messengers, traded canoes, killed wolves that preyed on livestock, and taught the whites how to fish and clam.

Although war never broke out between the colonists and the Quinnipiacs, New Haven was not exempt from cultural conflict. During the 1650s, the Indians found it difficult, due to the environmental changes caused by the English occupation, to maintain their traditional way of life. By the terms of the treaty of 1638, the Quinnipiacs were not allowed to plant crops outside their reservation. At a town meeting , in 1657, Momauguin proposed to buy back from the English a tract of land at Oyster Point to plant on. This unusual request, after some debate, was rejected by the town.

During the city's 35011 anniversary celebration, it is important to remember that the "First New Haveners" were American Indians. An archaeological study conducted at the Burwell Karako site, located a few miles northeast of Fort Nathan Hale Park, suggests an ancient Indian occupation of the East Shore that dates back 8,000 years.

The Indians who lived in the New Haven area in the 1600s were coastal Algonquians whom the English called the Quinnipiac Indians. Quinnipiac, an Algonquian word meaning Long Water Land was used also to describe the future site of New Haven and the principal river of the region. Since the Quinnipiacs no longer exist as a tribe, historians have dismissed them as insignificant. Consequently, the Quinnipiacs remain almost unknown to modem New Haveners.

Unlike the better publicized Western Plains Indians, the Quinnipiacs were not nomadic, did not live in tipis, wear flowing war bonnets or ride horses. In place of tipis, the Quinnipiacs lived in round houses called wigwams. They traveled either on foot or by dug canoe. They practiced intelligently a variety of subsistence activities such as fishing, farming, gathering and huntirig.

The European discovery of North America forever changed the lifestyle of the Quinnipiac Indians. In 1633, shortly before the arrival of the English to Connecticut, an epidemic disease, introduced by Europeans, drastically decimated the Indians of New England. By 1638, between only 250 to 300 Quinnipiac survivors remained in the area thattoday encompasses 300 square miles in modern New Haven County.

The population of the Quinnipiacs was further reduced due to their Participation in Great Britain's colonial wars. in the 1700s, land fever was hot in Connecticut, particularly along the East Shore where the colonists noted the declining number of Indians. The remnant that remained were pressured to sell their reservation lands. In 1731, there was a movement to move the Quinnipiacs onto a new reserve in Waterbury.

In the 1760s, the last of the Quinnipiacs migrated to join the Tunxis Indians in Farmington. In 1773, the last of the Indian land on the East Shore was sold. By the outbreak of the American Revolution, the Quinnipjacs, as a tribe, were gone from New Haven.

As late as the 1840s, however, former members of the tribe returned to the East Shore to fish, clam, sell baskets and do agricultural work. Those Quinnipiacs who had moved to Farmington were absorbed by other tribes and migrated to Green Bay, Wisconsin. It is possible that descendants of the Quinnipiac Indians may be there yet.

(Video) History of Connecticut

— John Menta

Note: The late John Menta researched the Quinnipiacs in depth. He even traveled to Wisconsin to seek information on possible descendants, but to no avail. This Eastern Native American tribe had dwindled, migrated and disintegrated, leaving unidentified remnants scattered from New England to Wisconsin.

Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Connecticut (1)This monument to the Indians of the region whose ancient place names like Connecticut, Quinnipiac, Hammonasset, Wepawaug still haunt and identify our daily landscape was dedicated on November 12, 2000. The Quinnipiac Memorial Monument at Fort Wooster Park, on Townsend Avenue, stands on a height above New Haven Harbor just below one of the oldest burial sites of the Quinnipiac tribe. It looks down the slope to the rich fishing and oystering grounds of prehistoric Indian generations, and it salutes the small local tribe whose members helpfully instructed the English colonists in wilderness skills and welcomed them as protectors against raiding parties from other, larger tribes such as the Pequots.

The memorial stone of highly polished black granite from Madras, India, has been etched with carefully detailed life-size images of an Indian family, father and mother and daughter. They are walking with a pet dog toward the shore and a meeting with the unknown people aboard the ship coming in from the sea. Bethany stone carver Peter Horbick has created the images and other memorial carvings on the monument. Doris Townshend, who organized the memorial committee with her husband, Henry G. Townshend, has written the inscription. It states, simply but poignantly: "A Quinnipiac Indian family walks to the harbor to meet the English newcomers as their way of life changes forever, April 24, 1638." Deb and Harry Townshend initiated the drive to create a monument because the Townshend family lived for generations in proximity to the Indians on the harbor's eastern shore. Capt. Charles Hervey Townshend wrote a basic history of the Quinnipiac people in 1900. The recent emergence of a new American Indian identity in Connecticut suggested a public recognition for the Quinnipiacs, who were participants in the start of the New Haven community.

"Both the General Society of Colonial Wars and the Connecticut Society were proud to be contributors to this project, and lifelong Society member Harry G. Townshend and his wife, Deb, deserve great credit for inspiring and completing this Monument initiative."

The Quinnipiacs

The Quinnipiac Indians were hunters and farmers who occupied South-Central Connecticut. They belonged to the Algonquian group of tribes, the most widespread linguistic family of North American natives. The name Quinnipiac means long water land or long water country.

The tribe's territory covered over 300 square miles, nearly half the area of present-day New Haven County. It extended approximately twenty miles inland from Long Island Sound in the south to what is today the center of Meriden in the north. Along the coastline, their territory covered the region from Oyster River (the Milford/West Haven border) in the west to the region just east of the East River (the Gilford-Madison border). The Quinnipiac's territory included present-day New Haven, West Haven, East Haven, North Haven, Hamden, Branford, and Guilford.

According to John Menta, when the English settlers arrived in 1638, the Quinnipiac tribe comprised four distinct groups: the Momauguin band in New Haven, the Montowese band in North Haven, the Shaumpishuh or Menunkatuck band in Guilford, and the Totoket band in Branford. Actually, the tribal affiliation of the Montowese is controversial an historians disagree whether they belonged to the Quinnipiac or the Wangunk tribe of Middlesex County. Menta refers to them as the "North Quinnipiac." There may have been blood relations between the Montowes and the other Quinnipiac bands, but there is no documentation to prove this.

The four bands were unified as a tribe by their language, Quiripi, a dialect of Eastern Algonquian. They were also unified by their culture, blood relations (except possibly the Montowese) and the geographical location of their villages.

Though each of the four bands had their own sachems(leaders) and were politically autonomous, there is no indication that there was an political conflict between them. Political ties between the bands were based mainly on kinship. For example, the Menunkatuck sachem, Shaumpishus, was the sister of Momauguin, sachem of the New Haven band.

(Video) Religious Society in Colonial Connecticut

The leaders of the bands were sachems, who were wise men or women who acted as civil or village chiefs. They exercised considerable influence as long as they were competent leaders and were not domineering. A sachem typically made important decisions only after consulting with his or her counselors, who were the older, respected members of the band. Although the position of sachem was often hereditary, a leader's office was not guaranteed solely by birthright. Sachems had to respect the limits of the power granted to them, and a leader who was disliked by his village could be replaced by one of his or her siblings.

Archeological and historical evidence related to the religious beliefs of the Quinnipiac tribe is very limited. However, we can speculate on some of the fundamentals of their beliefs and practices by examining those of the Algonquian group in general. Unfortunately, even our knowledge of Algonquian religion is limited; English settlers considered the natives practitioners of a false or satanic religion.

Through various rituals and ceremonies, the Algonquian natives recognized and showed respect to the supernatural powers they believed inhabited all things in the universe. For example, hunters said prayers to the spirits of slain animals to insure future success.

The Algonquians believed in a variety of deities, such as gods of the sun, moon, sea, fire, and the four directions. Two deities that were especially prominent in the Algonquian mythology were Kiehtan (or Ketan or Cautantowwit), the creator god, and Hobbamock.

Kiehtan was believed to be a benevolent spirit who dwelled somewhere to the southwest. After death the souls of both the good and the evil departed to Kiehtan's realm, where they enjoyed a life similar to their earthly existence.

According to one historian, Hobbamock seems to have been a collective term for the disembodied souls of the dead which reappeared in the shape of humans, animals, and mythic creatures, and on occasion entered living humans who then became powwows.

Powwows, also called shamans or medicine men, were the religious leaders of the New England Algonquians. They were also doctors who used herbal and spiritual cures and were skilled in making splints and setting bones. Powwows also served their people by changing and predicting the weather and by providing supernatural guidance through the interpretation of dreams, which were a central part of native spiritual life. Some powwows supposedly had other magic powers as well. O prestigious powwow, Passanconway, was believed to be able to metamorphose himself into a flaming man.

Although the Quinnipiac natives were allies of the New Haven settlers, as a tribe they held to their own beliefs and rejected Christianity throughout the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Not until 1725 did the settlers of the Connecticut Colony (which had absorbed the New Haven Colony in 1624) make a significant effort to convert the natives.

The preferred dwelling of the New England natives was the dome-shaped wigwam (wetus), also known as the round house. They were built by women who used a variety of materials, such as wood, sod, bark, and woven grasses. The typical wigwam was six to eight feet high and ten to sixteen feet in diameter at the base. This was large enough to house one or more families. In some cases a stone fireplace was placed in the center; a wicker mouth opening at the top allowed smoke to escape.

Animal skins were also used as covering on wigwams to retain heat. The Quinnipiac had to endure some severe winters, with the frost penetrating the ground up to four feet in depth. Even as late as the nineteenth century some of the Quinnipiac continued to live, at least during the summer, in wigwams .

In times of peace, the most important occupation of the Quinnipiac was hunting for animals. They used bows and arrows, spears, clubs, stones and spring poles, and traps, snares and pits for fur animals. They sold animal skins to traders who took advantage of the increasing demand of the markets in Western Europe. The skins not sold were used for clothing and for covering wigwams. The tribe's diet consisted of the flesh of animals, such as deer and fowls. Also, the women cultivated corn, the tribe's main agricultural product, as well as beans and squash. From the rivers and harbor the natives harvested shell and scale fish. Oysters and clams were perhaps the most common shellfish harvested by the Quinnipiac. Quahog, scallops, snails, lobster and mussels were also harvested.

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The Quinnipiac also speared eels and caught clams with their feet by means of a treading process. Some of these techniques were taught to the English settlers.

New England Algonquians supplemented their diet with a variety of wild plants. We can speculate that the Quinnipiac behaved similarly since, as explained above, they belonged to the Algonquian family of tribes. In winter, Algonquian women gathered edible roots and nuts. In the summer, wild fruits were gathered, including plums, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and grapes. In autumn, walnuts, acorns, and chestnuts were dried and placed in storage until winter, when they were often used in soups or stews.

Little is known about the history of the Quinnipiac tribe before the first European contact made by Adrian Block. Block was a Dutch sea captain credited as the first European to have discovered Connecticut. His voyage up the Connecticut River in 1614 triggered sporadic trade between the merchants of Amsterdam and the Connecticut Algonquians. Because the Quinnipiac tribe was well situated on the coast with an adequate harbor, they were one of the coastal tribes of Connecticut that profited from beaver trade with the Dutch.

In August, 1637, an exploring party bound for Quinnipiac lead by a wealthy English Puritan named Theophilus Eaton departed from Boston. After exploring the Quinnipiac area, Eaton left seven men to winter at Quinnipiac. Eaton and John Davenport returned with a company of 500 followers on April 24, 1638.

Eaton was probably attracted by the adequate harbor, the supply of timber, springs for drinking water, open meadows cleared by the native the abundant shell fish and the friendly natives. Indeed, the Quinnipiac not only welcomed the English but provided the exploring party with furs and food during the first winter. The Quinnipiac also instructed the English in hunting, trapping, fishing, and planting.

Attacks by enemy tribes and two epidemics had weakened the Quinnipiac natives to such an extent that they were eager to form an alliance with the English.

The Pequots, a warlike tribe whose name means "the destroyers," were neighbors of the Quinnipiac. In addition, the Mohawks of New York claimed land occupied by the Quinnipiacs. The Quinnipiac were frequent victims of marauding bands of both Pequots and Mohawks.

In 1633, two epidemics, triggered by the Europeans' arrival in the New World, ravaged the native population of Southern New England. In the winter and spring of 1634, both plague and small pox decimated the natives living near Windsor, Connecticut; the latter disease spread to Western Connecticut and to the Mohawks in New York. One anthropologist has calculated that the Pequots of Southeastern Connecticut lost 77% of their population to small pox Since Europeans had not settled in the Quinnipiac region at this time, historians have no statistics on the affect of the epidemics on the tribe. Since the neighboring tribes were all affected, however, we can surmise that the Quinnipiac were also stricken.

By the time the English had arrived, the population of fighting men in the New Haven Quinnipiac band was reduced to approximately forty-six. One historian estimated that the population of the entire tribe was approximately 460 persons, although he admits that this estimation is imprecise. The Quinnipiac country was claimed by England by right of the Cabot discovery. Also, the area fell within the grant made by the Earl of Warwick to friends of Davenport and Eaton. But since the English lacked a title they felt obliged to negotiate with the Quinnipiac in a series of treaties. The first and most crucial treaty was signed on November 24, 1638. John Davenport and Theophilus Eaton represented the colonists. The tribe was represented by Momauguin, sachem of the Quinnipiac band at the New Haven harbor, his sister Shaumpishuh, and his councilors Sugcogisin, Quesaquanash, Carroughhood and Wesaucucke.

The Quinnipiac sold to Governor Eaton and his company of settlers all of their "pretended right" (according to the English) to a ten-mile square territory which embraced both sides of the New Haven harbor and the Quinnipiac River.

In return for the Quinnipiac's land, the English pledged to aid the natives in defending themselves from "wrong or harm" and supplied the following: twelve coats of English trading cloth, twelve "alchemy spoons," twelve hatchets, twelve hoes, two dozen knives, twelve porringers and four cases of French knives and scissors.

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In addition, the treaty declared Momauguin the sole sachem of Quinnipiac. The English also agreed to let the natives hunt over their land as before, and reserved a tract on the east side of the harbor for the Quinnipiac to cultivate. The tribe settled on the east side of the bay in a reservation which covered an area of about 1,200 acres.

Both parties agreed not to attack each other and to make reparation if any injury should ever occur between them. The Quinnipiac, although their numbers were low, agreed that they would admit no others to their tribe without permission from the colonists.

There is no proof that the agreements specified in the treaty were ever violated by either party. But while the tribe grew smaller, the English settlement expanded and consumed the nearby forests and other natural resources in its wake. The Quinnipiac did not foresee this, since they supposed that their neighbors would cultivate little land and support themselves by trading, fishing and hunting. John DeForest remarks that if the Quinnipiac could have anticipated the coming events, "they would have preferred the wampum tributes of the Pequots and the scalping parties of the Five Nations, to the vicinity of a people so kind, so peaceful and yet so destructive."

By October, 1639, the civil affairs of the English plantation were settled and the colonists began apprehending criminals. The historical account of one of the trials sheds light on how the English and the Quinnipiac dealt with incidents of violence. A Quinnipiac named Nepaupuck was accused of murdering some English settlers. During his trial, some of Nepaupuck's fellow tribesmen testified against him and he confessed his guilt. Taking into account the severity of the crime and the rule of the Mosaic law ("He that sheds man's blood by man shall his blood be shed"), the court decided that Nepaupuck would be beheaded. Nepaupuck said he was not afraid to die but that "the fire was God and God was angry with him, therefore he would not fall into God's hands." The next day his head was cut off and pitched on a pole in the market place. His skull was also exhibited besides those of other criminals on the gate towers of London Bridge.

Although the treaties were honored by both parties, there were conflicts. For example, in 1657, the tribe petitioned the townspeople to acquire some English land near Oyster Point. The natives claimed that they had not been allotted enough land for cultivation on the east side of the river. The matter was referred to the Particular Court, which gave permission to the town to allow the Quinnipiac new land with several conditions set forth, one of them being that the natives were to kill their dogs because "some of them had done much mischief already." The tribe decided against killing their dogs and were refused additional land by the English.

The native uprising known as King Philip's War broke out in June, 1675. King Philip, the leader of the Wampanoag tribe, led a confederation of tribes against the colonists after they made continual encroachments on native lands.

News reached New Haven in July, 1675 that uprisings had occurred at Plymouth and Swansy, and the town began to prepare for war. The Quinnipiac informed the English that they would not support the warring natives. In fact, Quinnipiac warriors fought alongside the English. When war was formerly declared against the Narrangansett tribe on November 2, 1675 by the United Colonies of New England, troops consisting of 350 white men and 150 Mohegan and Quinnipiac natives were raised by Connecticut. In December, 1675, the Connecticut troops, along with Massachusetts and Plymouth contingents, attacked the Narragansett fort in the swamps of South Kingston, Rhode Island. After a long and bloody fight called the "Great Swamp Massacre," the Connecticut contingent had suffered the greatest loss in proportion to its numbers. The New Haven company had twenty-one men slain. A total of 300 natives perished during the battle, and 300 more died of their wounds or from the cold weather.

After the return of the New Haven troops, the colonists completed construction of fortifications around the town, which they had begun a few months earlier. Despite the fact that the Quinnipiac had fought with the colonists, it was ordered that "no Indian be suffered to come into the town to see the fortifications or take notice of any of our acts..."

Between the years 1680 and 1750 the tribe's population dwindled. In addition to King Philip's War, Quinnipiac natives were lost in the Canadian War of 1690 and the Louisburg expedition of 1745. Also, some of the tribe participated as soldiers and sailors in the English conquest of the West Indies, where many of them died in battle or from disease.

In 1695 the General Court of the Colony of Connecticut granted the tow of New Haven the right to sell the Quinnipiac's land All of the town land had been allotted or sold by about 1720. As the natives gradual died, a Proprietors' Committee formed by the townspeople sold the unoccupied land to settlers. These actions reversed a previous court decision. At a General Court held January 4, 1639, it was ordered that land purchased from the Quinnipiac could be used only as town property.

According to the Colonial Records, in about 1738 some of the Quinnipiac moved to Farmington and lived among the Tunxis tribe.

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President Stiles of Yale wrote that in 1740, only fifteen or twenty Quinnipiac families remained in town, and the census of 1774 showed only 71 natives in New Haven. By 1850, when John Deforest wrote his history on the Native Americans of Connecticut, the Quinnipiac no longer existed as a tribe. According to one source, the last sachem of the tribe, Charles, froze to death near a spring one mile north of the East Haven Meeting House in about 1770.

1638 Bibliography

New Haven Colony Links


What was society like in colonial Connecticut? ›

In towns along the coast, the colonists made their living fishing, whaling, shipbuilding and shipping. The economy of other parts of Colonial Connecticut was based on timber products, the fur trade, maple syrup, copper, livestock products, horses, rum, whiskey and beer.

What happened in Connecticut in 1636? ›

1636--Thomas Hooker and company journey from Newtown (Cambridge), Massachusetts to found Hartford. 1637--Pequot War. Captain John Mason leads colonists to decisive victory. 1638--New Haven Colony established by John Davenport and Theophilus Eaton.

What is the General society of the Colonial Wars? ›

The General Society of Colonial Wars is a hereditary society composed of men who trace their descents from forebears who, in military, naval, or civil positions of high trust and responsibility, by acts or counsel, assisted in the establishment, defense, and preservation of the mainland American colonies of Great ...

What was Connecticut known for in the 13 colonies? ›

In 1639, the Connecticut Colony wrote and adopted the Fundamental Orders. This document reflected our independent spirit and is considered by many to be the first written constitution of a democratic government. That's why Connecticut is nicknamed "The Constitution State."


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