History of Bridgeport and Vicinity, Volume 1 – George Curtis Waldo jr.
In three huge volumes George Curtis Waldo jr. has amassed a wealth of information on the beautiful town of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Volume one spans the settlement of the town, its governments, military and educational history and much more. It also includes chapters on the evolution of nearby Stratford and Fairfield. Volumes two and three contain hundreds of biographical sketches of the most prominent men and women of these towns, offering an almost flawless overview of the most important Connecticut people. These three volumes are treasure chests for everyone interested in the history of Connecticut and/or genealogical sources thereof.
History of Bridgeport and Vicinity, Volume 1
Excerpt from the text:
THE ALGONQUIN TRIBE
Closely connected with, and influencing, the early history of Bridgeport and vicinity were the Indians, some description of whom is necessary as a foreword to the story of Bridgeport, Stratford, Fairfield and Southport.
At the time of the first white settlement of the east coast this territory was occupied by a branch of the Algonquin tribe, known generally by the name of Mohicans, and particularly in the southeastern part of Connecticut as Mohegans. The shores of Long Island Sound were their habitat; here they had lived for countless generations, hunted, fought and loved in their own way until the white man came and dispossessed them of their native soil.
The Algonquins were a tribe of North American Indians dwelling principally in the valley of the Ottawa River and around the tributaries of the St. Lawrence. The chief tribes composing this nation of Indians were the Algonquin, Malecite, Micmac, Nascapi, Pennacook, Fox, Kickapoo, Delaware, Cheyenne, Conoy, Cree, Mohican, Massachusetts, Menominee, Miami, Misisaga, Mohegan. Nanticoke, Narragansett, Nipmuc, Ojibway, Ottawa, Pequot, Potawatomi, Sac, Shawnee and Wampanoag. The Algonquin was one of the strongest of the Indian nations and it was with members of this tribe that the early settlers of Connecticut had most to do.
There are evidences which have been found which seem to prove that the Indians first came to the Valley of the Housatonic from the Hudson River and first settled in the vicinity of the Town of Kent.
There they found numerous small falls in the river and accordingly christened the stream Pootatuck, meaning, in their language, “river of the falls.” The first white settlers in turn gave these Indians the name of Pootatucks. The second settlement was undoubtedly made at New Milford. In this latter place the great council fire was held for the entire tribe; here their government was centralized and so remained until the territory was sold to the New Milford Company in 1703. In this way the Indians were slowly pushed toward the Sound, where they lived during the summer months, fishing and gathering oysters and clams; in the winter months they traveled inland and hunted game. The first meeting between these Indians and the white men occurred during the summer of 1637, when Captain Mason and Lieutenant Davenport surrounded the Saseo Swamp in Fairfield and killed or captured a portion of the Pequot tribe which had sought refuge there. Aso, it is said that the Indians then living in the vicinity were fined for harboring the Pequots.
The Pequonnock Indians, of the Paugussets, were in the greater numbers on the shore of the Sound from New London westward. There were three villages of this tribe on the Pequonnock River and the lower coast line; one of these communities was located at the foot of Golden Hill south, one at the head of the cove near the junction of State Street and Fairfield Avenue, and the other one west of the Uncoway River, or Ash Creek as it is now called. The name Pequonnock means “cleared field” or “opened ground” and was used by the Indians to designate the land on the east side of the Uncoway River extending northward to the old King’s Highway and southward to the Sound, including two or three hundred acres of land. This name was not then applied to the Pequonnock River, but only to the ground above described, now a part of the City of Bridgeport. Also, on this plain, “at the north end of the cove in the Black Rock harbor,” was the old Indian planting field, covering about one hundred acres; here, loo, was the old Indian fort, standing near the end of the cove.
COMING OF THE FIRST WHITE MEN
In 1639 settlements were made at Stratford and Fairfield by the English. At Stratford the white men found numbers of Indian known as the Cupheags. Their village was very small and was governed by Chief Okenuck, an Indian descended from a long line of chieftains. Shortly afterward he removed to Pootatuck with his people, which place later became Shelton. A short time prior to the coming of the English the Indians on the Uncoway River and on the Housatonic had given to the General Court at Hartford territory at both Stratford and Fairfield and it was upon this ceded land that the settlers located the next year. It is probable that there were no reservations of land for the Indians at Stratford for the Cupheags and not until 1659, when Golden Hill was set aside, were there any reservations in the town. The planting ground at the old fort was held by the Indians until 1681, then sold. Subsequently, this ground was known as the Old Indian Field and was so called in the early Fairfield records.
OCCUPATION OF LAND
Many writers have claimed that in almost every case the land around Stratford and Fairfield was purchased from the Indians by the white men, but there is little to substantiate this belief. On the other hand, valuable authorities and records give the information that this land was not at first purchased, but for twenty years or more was considered conquered and ceded territory, and so declared by the General Court. Afterwards, through friendliness, the land was acquired from the Indians by agreements and deeds, with the ultimate object of ousting the red man.
The settlements at Stratford and Fairfield were under the supervision of Connecticut and were separate from the New Haven Colony. The land was granted to the settlers by the General Court, to which body the Indians had given it in 1638. As to the purchase of the land by the whites every record shows that no deeds were made until 1656. There is nothing said upon either of the town records and in 1681 when the final sale was made no deeds prior to 1656 are mentioned.
In 1656 the General Court at Hartford made the following record: “This Court, at the request of Stratford, do grant that their bounds shall be twelve miles northward, by Paugusett River, if it be at the disposal, by right, of this jurisdiction.” The Pequonnock Indians opposed the right of Stratford to this land. The Stratford settlers were anxious at this time to have their boundaries fixed by the court, as a tract of land had been sold by the Indians in the western part of Fairfield and trouble had arisen between them and the white men, due to the fact that the settlers’ cattle and hogs destroyed the Indians’ corn. Another factor which contributed to the Stratford settlers’ desire to have a definite understanding was the number of Indians in Fairfield, who were constantly being crowded into Stratford territory by the Fairfield residents. Prior to this time the General Court had attempted to settle the boundary question between Fairfield, Stratford and the Pequonnocks, also to compel the Indians to pay tribute to the Connecticut Court as conquered and protected subjects, which duty they had shirked at every opportunity.
In addition to this failure to pay proper tribute, the Indians exhibited signs of hostility in many ways and committed depredations many times. From 1643 to 1655 their warlike attitude became so threatening that the settlers kept troopers on guard at night and on Sundays, also called out the militia several times. The Indians demanded money in return for their lands and the Indians at Milford claimed a portion of the Stratford land. However, the claim of Ansantaway, the chief then at Milford, proved to be of little strength, for he gave a deed for all the land his people claimed on the west side of the Housatonic and agreed to accept in return whatever the English desired to give. The following order will show the effort made by the Connecticut Colony to settle the differences between the whites and reds:
“Hartford, March 7, 1658-59. By the Court of Magistrates. This Court having taken into consideration the business respecting the Indians, pertaining to the plantations of Stratford and Fairfield, and finding in the last agreement made with the Indians while Mr. Willis and Mr. Allin were down there, that those two plantations aforementioned are engaged to assure and allow unto those respective Indians pertaining to each town sufficient land to plant on for their subsistence and so to their heirs and successors:
“It is therefore ordered by this Court, and required that each plantation forementioned exercise due care that the agreement made by the magistrates be fully attended without unnecessary delay, so that the Indians may have no just cause to complain against the English, but rather may be encouraged to attend and observe the agreement on their parts, that peace may be continued on both sides; and further it is desired that the Indians may be allowed to improve their ancient fishing place which they desire.
“To the constables of Stratford to be forthwith published and sent to Fairfield to be published and recorded by the register.”
Three days later the Court took further action in substantiating the claims of the Indians in Fairfield and allowing them planting land for the future. The settlers of Fairfield were also ordered to consider them as legal residents of the “plantation.”
Not immediately did the three-sided problem come to solution. A cleared space of ground to the east of the Uncoway River (Ash Creek) became a much disputed point. The land in this space had been cleared by the Indians for planting and in all was a very desirable piece of ground. The possession of this land was one of the principal reasons the Fairfield settlers wished the Indians crowded over into the Stratford territory. The old line was retained, however, while a reservation was set aside on Golden Hill for the Indians. The latter retained their old planting field at the head of Black Rock Cove until 1681, when they sold it to Fairfield.
In the spring of the year 1659 the land question before Stratford and Fairfield was brought to the General Court at Hartford and decided. The Indians agreed to the following: That if the English settlers could prove that they had received the land by purchase, gift or conquest, it should be theirs. A number of witnesses gave testimony and the Court decided in favor of the plantations. The affidavits given by the witnesses are recorded in the town book under the caption, “a record of several letters presented to the Court at Hartford, whereby together with other evidences the Town of Stratford proved, and the Court granted a clear right to their land in reference to Pequonnock Indians with whom they had to do.”