Charles Rathbone Stark.

Groton, Conn. 1705-1905 online

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Date Due







U. S. A,


NO. 23233


rS 1924 095 618 447

Cornell University

The original of this book is in
the Cornell University Library.

There are no known copyright restrictions in
the United States on the use of the text.




Member of
New England Historic Genealogical Society-
Rhode Island Historical Society
New London County Historical Society

"And as far as I remember, the inhabitants of
granite countries have always a force and health-
iness of character, more or less abated or modified,
of course, according to the other circumstances of
their lives, but still definitely belonging to them as
distinguished from the inhabitants of the less pure
districts of the hills." John Ruskin





This edition is limited to
300 copies, of which this is

No. 267

Copyright, 1922, by
Charles R. Stark














XIII WAR OF 1812 278












CHARLES R. STARK (Frontispiece)










This history of my native town was undertaken in loving
remembrance of my uncle, the late Judge William H. Potter,
my school instructor and afterwards my business partner.

He awakened within me a love for the subject which was
encouraged and stimulated by my association in later years
with Rev. Frederick Denison, A. M. Both these gentlemen
had written Groton histories. That of Judge Potter was
largely destroyed by a fire in his office, the only manuscript
volume saved having come into my possession after his
death. That of Mr. Denison was given to me shortly before
his death and I have availed myself of the liberty given
to me to make such use of them as I deemed proper. It
has been my aim to gather up and put into permanent
form much that has been published at random pertaining
to the history of the town. I have tried to be accurate in
my statements and to publish nothing that is not well au-
thenticated. It has been a labor of love, entered upon with
no hope of reward beyond the satisfaction that comes from
giving to the public the history of this noble old town —
a town noted for its historical associations and its primacy
along many lines.

Here was won the first decisive victory in Indian warfare,
here was fought the most serious battle of the Revolution
in Connecticut. Here was founded the first Baptist
church in the State and here was bom the first Episcopal
bishop in America. In Groton in 1725 was launched the
first large ship built in America and near the same spot in
1905 were put afloat the two largest merchant steamers
that have so far been constructed in this country. The
town was the home of the clipper ship captain who made



the quickest passage ever made between New York and
San Francisco, as well as that of the captain who made the
greatest number of passages around Cape Horn.

It will be noted that I have adhered to what I believe to
be the original method of spelling "Pequonnoc."

I had hoped to bring out this book in 1905, the date of
the 200th anniversary of the founding of the town, but
the death of a business associate made such changes in my
business relations and multiplied my cares to such an ex-
tent as to render the undertaking impossible. I have, how-
ever, ended the history at that date.

I wish to express my thanks to the Massachusetts His-
torical Society for permission to use "Mason's Account of
the Pequot Fight," to Professor William Allen Wilbur, Dean
of George Washington University, and Henry R. Palmer
for their kindly assistance and helpful suggestions, to Miss
Anna B. Williams of New London for use of the chapter
on the "Rogerenes," to George E. Tingley of Mystic, Walter
F. Brooks of Worcester and John R. Hess of Providence,
for the use of illustrations, and to all friends who have in
any way assisted in the preparation of the work.

Charles Rathhone Stark

GROTON, CONN. 1705-1905



WHEN the crowned heads of Europe in conjunction
with the Pope of Rome proceeded to parcel out the
New World among its discoverers, New England was al-
lotted to Great Britain, by virtue of having first been seen
by Sebastian Cabot in 1498. The account of his voyage is
quite vague, though in the year above mentioned he is be-
lieved to have sailed from Labrador to Cape Hatteras.

His claim to the discovery was disputed, however, by
France, who laid claim to the country by virtue of its dis-
covery by Verazzano in 1524.* Verazzano was a Floren-
tine navigator, who made several voyages to America in
the employ of the King of France, and on one of these voy-
ages, in 1524, he sailed from the Bay of New York, skirt-
ing Long Island, passing Block Island and entering Nar-
ragansett Bay. It is probable that on one or the other of
these voyages Europeans for the first time looked upon
the fair shores of Groton. Adrian Block, the Dutch navi-
gator, explored the coast of Connecticut in 1614, and has
left a map showing his explorations, which is to this day
a. fair outline of its coast.

The natural appearance of the land was not greatly dif-
ferent then from what it is today. The same hills were
crowned with forests, the same streams found their way
to the sea through the same valleys, and the same mighty,
^anite ledges gave a rock-ribbed appearance to the land,

* "A B^f Centui?y:of Conflict," Parkman, pp. 47 and'49.

2 GKOTON, CONN. 1705-1905

and protruded into the sea itself. Here and there could be
found a clearing, made perhaps by some fierce forest fire,
which had swept unchecked through the trees, leaving a
place where the rude savage planted his wigwam and cul-
tivated his maize. The low lands along the river banks
were also probably bare of trees, and abounded with sea
fowl, which, with fish and clams, comprised no small part
of the diet of the natives. It is not known what tribe in-
habited this region when it was first discovered, but at
the time of the English occupation the Pequots held sway.

They were a fierce and warlike race, an offshoot from the
Mohegans, that not long before had fought their way
from beyond the Hudson, across the southern part of the
present State of Massachusetts, until striking the fertile
valley of the Connecticut they turned southward towards
the coast, thrusting themselves like a wedge through the
tribe of Niantics, and established their headquarters in
what is now the town of Groton. The Niantics were di-
vided, a part being beyond the Pawcatuck in Rhode Island,
and a part beyond the Niantic in Connecticut.

The Dutch made the first settlement in Connecticut, at
the mouth of the river of that name, in 1632. The English at
Boston and Plymouth had been invited the previous year
to come and settle on the Connecticut River, so it is quite
probable that the Dutch came by invitation of the natives.
In June 1633 Governor Van Twiller of New Netherlands
sent a party up the river as far as the site of the present
city of Hartford, where they purchased land of Wapyquart,
or Wapigwooit, the grand sachem of the Pequots, styled
in the treaty Chief of Sickenames (Mystic) River, and
owner of the Connecticut. It was not long before the Pe-
quots quarreled with the Dutch, and the latter killed Wapy-
quart or Wapigwooit, and his son Sassacus became a
sachem in his stead. In October 1633 William Holmes of
Plymouth sailed up the Connecticut, and defying the Dutch
at Hartford sailed past their fort and landing at Windsor-
erected a trading house, thus beginning the first English
settlement in Connecticut. The land on which this trading


house was erected had been purchased of the sachems of
the River Indians, whom the English considered its rightful
owners, and "*thus, on the very first settlement of the
English in Connecticut, they offered a distinct, though
perhaps an unintentional insult and injury to the most
powerful tribe in the country. The Pequots had con-
quered this portion of the Connecticut valley, and had
obliged its original owners to submit to their authority.

"Their claim had been acknowledged by the Dutch : it was
confirmed by immemorial Indian custom: and it was at
least as just as that by which some civilized and chris-
tianized nations hold large portions of the globe." The
Pequots were too busy with their war with the Dutch to
make open protest to this slight, though it must have
rankled within, and we cannot tell how much it may have
had to do with the final outbreak. During the summer of
1633 had occurred the murder of Captains Stone and Nor-
ton by the Pequots and their tributaries the Western
Niantics. These men were English traders from Virginia,
who had entered the Connecticut River for the purpose of
trading with the Indians. A number of the Pequots were
allowed on board the vessel and were hospitably enter-
tained. While the crew were asleep they were cruelly
murdered and the vessel was plundered. When called to
account for the crime by the English, Sassacus pleaded
that he thought the men were Dutch and made other
excuses which were not acceptable.

The Pequots proved themselves to be skilful diplomats,
and for more than two years succeeded in deferring set-
tlement. They sent an embassy to Boston, seeking to
convince the authorities that the murdered men were the
aggressors and justifying the Indians in their action,
winding up with the proffer of a present of "otter-skin
coats and beaver and skeins of wampum" — their olive
branch of peace. The English were suspicious of their
motives, and while accepting the present did not cease
their demands for the surrender of the murderers. In the

* "History of the Indians of Connecticut," DeForest, p. 76.

4; GROTON, CONN. 1705-1905

fall of 1635, John Winthrop, Jr., acting under a grant
from Lord Say and Sele and Lord Brook and other pat-
entees of Connecticut, with a party of twenty men from
Boston, effected a settlement at Saybrook, thus securing
control of the Connecticut River and its adjacent territory.
They were just in time to forestall similar action, on the
part of the Dutch, who had designs on the fertile valley
of the Connecticut. Lion Gardiner was the engineer in,
command under Winthrop, and he spent the winter of
1635-6 in the erection of a fort and of houses for the col-
onists. He seemed to take a more favorable view of the
Indian character and course of action than did the people
of Massachusetts Bay, and cultivated friendly relations
with them. Miss Caulkins writes thus:* "It is not to be
assumed, however, that the friendship of the Pequots was
founded on any higher principle than greediness of gain or
desire of obtaining assistance against the Narragansetts.
The government of Massachusetts distrusted all their pre-
tensions, and while Winthrop was still at Saybrook sent
instructions to him to demand of the Pequots 'a solemn
meeting for conference' in which he was to lay before them
all the charges that had been brought against them; and
if they could not clear themselves, or refused reparation,
the present which they had sent to Boston (and which was
now forwarded to Saybrook) was to be returned to them,
and a protest equivalent to a declaration of war was to be
proclaimed in their hearing. These instructions were
dated at Boston, July 4, 1636, and together with the present
were brought to Saybrook by Mr. Fenwick and Mr. Hugh
Peters, with whom came Thomas Stanton to act as inter-
preter. Lieut. Gardiner notes the arrival of Mr. Oldham
at the same time, in a pinnace, on a trading voyage. The
others came by land. The Pequot sachem was sent foi;
and the present was returned. Lieut. Gardiner, who
foresaw that a destructive war would be the consequence,
made use of both argument and entreaty to prevent it, but
in vain."

* "History, of New London" p. 28,


Just d.t this time occurred the murder of John Old-
ham at or near Block Island. He was an English trader
of some unsavory notoriety at home, and engaged in trade
with the Indians. The true cause of his murder is unknown,
but it is thought to have been jealousy of his connections
with the Pequots. The Narragansetts and Niantics were
suspected of duplicity in this affair, and Canonicus was
called to Boston to explain his connection with it, but he
Succeeded in proving his innocence to the satisfaction of
the authorities, and fastened the responsibility upon the
Indians of Block Island. The action of the colonists was
sharp and decisive. We again quote from Miss Caulkins:*

"The murder of Mr. Oldham caused great excitement.
Not only all the Indians of Block Island, but many of the
Niantic and Narragansett sachems, were accused either
' of being accessory to the crime, or of protecting the perpe-
trators. An expedition was forthwith fitted out from
Boston for the purpose of 'doing justice on the Indians'
for this and other acts of hostility and barbarism. Ninety
men were raised and distributed to four officers, of whom
Capt. John Underbill, who wrote an account of the expe-
dition, was one. The superior command was ^ven to
Capt. John Endicott. His orders were stem and vindic-
tive : 'To put to death the men of Block Island, but to spare
the women and children and to bring them away, and to
take possession of the island ; and from thence to go to the
Pequods, to demand the murderers of Capt. Stone and
other English, and one thousand fathom of wampum for
damages, etc., and some of their children for hostages,
which if they should refuse they were to obtain by force.'
(Winthrop's Journal, Vol. 1, p. 192). These orders were
executed more mercifully than they were conceived. En-
dicott's troops did little more than alarm and terrify the
natives by sudden invasions, threats, skirmishing and a
wanton destruction of their few goods and homely habita-
tions. At Block Island they burned two villages contain-
ing about sixty wigwams, with all their mats and corn,

* "History of New London" p. 29.

6 GROTON, CONN. 1705-1905

and destroyed seven canoes. Capt. Underbill says that
they also 'slew some four Indians and maimed others'.
From thence they proceeded to Saybrook to refresh them-
selves, and obtaining from Lieut. Gardiner a reenforce-
ment of twenty men in two shallops, they sailed for Pequot
Harbor, in order to demand satisfaction for the murder of

Captains Stone and Norton in 1633 The next

morning the English vessels proceeded into the harbor.
From the east side, now Groton, the natives flocked to the
shore to meet the strange armament, apparently uncon-
scious of offence. And now a canoe puts off from the land
with an ambassador: 'A grave senior, a man of good un-
derstanding, portly carriage, grave and majestical in his
expressions:' who demands of the English why they come
among them? The latter reply:

" 'The Governors of the Bay sent us to demand the heads
of those persons that have slain Capt. Norton and Capt.
Stone, and the rest of their company; it is not the custom
of the English to suffer murderers to live.'

"The discreet ambassador, instead of an immediate an-
swer to this demand, endeavored to palliate the charge.
Capt. Stone, he said, had beguiled their sachem to come
on board his vessel, and then slew him; whereupon the
sachem's son slew Capt. Stone, and an affray succeeding,
the English set fire to the powder, blew up the vessel and
destroyed themselves. Moreover, he said, they had taken
them for Dutchmen; the Indians were friendly to the
English, but not to the Dutch, yet they were not able
always to distinguish between them. These excuses were
not satisfactory: the English captain repeats his demand:
^We must have the heads of these men who have slain
ours, or else we will fight. We would speak with your sa-
chem.' 'But our sachem is absent,' they reply: 'Sassacus
is gone to Long Island.' 'Then,' said the commander, 'go
and tell the other sachem. Bring him to us that we may
speak with him, or else we will beat up the drum, and
march through the country and spoil your corn.' Here-
upon the messenger takes leave, promising to find the


sachem: his canoe returns swiftly to the shore and the
English speedily follow. 'Our men landed with much
danger, if the Indians had made use of their advantage,
for all the shore was high with ragged rocks.' But they
met with no opposition, and having made good their land-
ing, the Indian ambassador entreated them to go no
further, but remain on the shore, till he could return with
an answer to his demands. But the English, imagining
there was craft in this proposal, refused. We were 'not
willing to be at their direction,' says Underhill, but 'hav-
ing set our men in battalia, marched up the ascent.' From
the data here given, it may be conclusively inferred that
they landed opposite the present town of New London and
marched up some part of that fair highland ridge which
is now hallowed with the ruins of Fort Griswold and over-
shadowed by the Groton Monument.

"To the summit of this hill, then in a wild and unob-
structed condition, the English troops toiled and clam-
bered, still maintaining their martial array. At length
they reach a level, where a wide region of hill and dale,
dotted with the wigwams and corn-fields of the natives,
spreads before them. And here a messenger appears,
entreating them to stop, for the sachem is found and will
soon come before them. They halt, and the wondering
natives come flocking about them unarmed. In a short
time some three hundred had assembled, and four hours
were spent in parley. Kutshamokin, a Massachusetts sa-
chem, who had accompanied the English, acted as inter-
preter, passing to and fro between the parties, with
demands from one and excuses from the other, which
indicate a reluctance on the part of Endicott to come to
extremities, and great timidity and distrust on the side
of the Indians. The object of the latter was evidently to
gain time for the removal of their women and children,
and the concealment of their choicest goods, which having
been in great part effected, the warriors also began to with-
draw. At this point the English commander hastily put an
end to the conference, bade them take care of themselves,

8 GROTGN, GGNN. 1705-1905

for they had dared the English to come and fight with them»
and now they had come for that purpose. Upon this the
drums beat for battle, and the Indians fled With rapidity,
shooting their harmless arrows from behind the screen of
rocks and thickets. The troops marched after them, en-
tered their town and burnt all their wigwams and mats.
Underbill says, 'We suddenly set upon our march, and gave
'fire to as many as we could come near, firing their wig-
wams, spoiMng their corn, and many other necessaries that
they had buried in the ground we raked up, which the
soldiers had for booty. Thus we spent the day burning
and spoiling the country. Towards night embarked our-
selves.' "

This expedition resulted only in confirming the enmity
of the Pequots. Lion Gardiner had said to Endicott at
Saybrook, "You have come to raise a nest of wasps about
our ears and then you will flee away," and vainly endeav-
ored to dissuade him from carrying out his object. Open
warfare was carried on during the winter of 1636-7.
Sassacus was the possessor of that foresight which is one
of the marks of greatness, and he seems to have realized
: the danger confronting the red man — to have seen the im-
possibility of the two forms of civilization dwelling side
by side. Waiving his pride and haughty arrogance he sent
messengers to the Narragansetts trying to engage them in
an alliance against the English. The dangers confronting
the Indians were portrayed in glowing colors : the difficul-
ties of war with the colonists were not overlooked but the
policy ever afterwards pursued by the Indians was out-
lined, viz., to torture and kill individuals, outrage women
and children, rob and destroy houses, crops and cattle, and
so to make it impossible for the white men to live in the
country, in the hope that they would be forced to return
to the land from whence they had come. What the out-
come of these negotiations might have been but for the
intervention of one man is problematical. Hearing of the
efforts of the Pequots to enlist the Narragansetts the


authorities at Boston begged the services of Roger Wil-
liams. He tells of his efforts in a letter to Major Mason,
June 22, 1670.* "When the next year after my banish-
ment the Lord drew the bow of the Pequod war against the
country, in which, Sir, the Lord made yourself, with others,
a blessed instrument of peace to all New England, I had
my share of service to the whole land, in that Pequod busi-
ness, inferior to very few that acted, for

"(1) Upon letters received from the Governor and
Council at Boston, requesting me to use my utmost and
speediest endeavor to break and hinder the league labored
for by the Pequods against the Mohegans and Pequods
against the English (excusing the not sending of company
and supplies by the haste of the business) the Lord helped
me immediately to put my life into my hand, and, scarce
acquainting my wife, to ship myself, all alone, in a poor
canoe, and to cut through a stormy wind, with great seas,
every minute in hazard of life, to the Sachem's house.

"(2) Three days and nights my business forced me to
lodge and mix with the Pequod ambassadors, whose hands
and arms, methought, 'wreaked' with the blood of my coun-
trymen, murdered and massacred by them on Connecticut
River, and from whom I could not but nightly look for their
bloody knives at my throat also.

"(3) When God so wondrously preserved me, and
helped me to break to pieces the Pequods' negotiation and
design, and to make and promote and finish, by many
travels and charges the English league with the Narragan-
setts and Mohegans against the Pequods, I gladly enter-
tained at my house in Providence, the General Stoughton
and his officers, and used my utmost care that all the officers
and soldiers should be well accommodated with us," etc.

The scale, for a time evenly balanced, was finally turned
in favor of the English and a treaty was entered into,
which was never broken during the lifetime of Canonicus.
The disappointed and enraged Pequots at once commenced
war upon the English and during the fall of 1636 several
* Letters of Roger Williams 1632-1682. Bartlett p. 338.

10 GROTON, CONN. 1705-1905

skirmishes and ambuscades around Saybrook resulted in
loss of life. In April 1637 the Pequots made a raid upon
Wethersfield, killing eight men and women, carrying away
two girls as captives, besides destroying much property.
These affairs roused the colonists to action and on May 1
a court convened at Hartford, at which for the first time
all the towns were represented by committees. After con-
sidering the whole matter it was voted* "that there shalbe
an offensive war agt the Pequoitt, and that there shalbe
90 men levied out of the 3 Plantacons, Harteford, Wethers-
field & Windsor (vizt) out of Harteford 42 Windsor 30,
Wethersfield 18: under the Commande of Captaine Jo.
Mason & in case of death or sickness under the Comand of
Rob'te Seely Leift & the 'Idest Srieant or military officer
survivinge, if both these miscary." No time was lost in
recruiting, and on the 10th of May, 1637, the company of
ninety men, accompanied by seventy Mohegan Indians
under the command of Uncas, embarked for Saybrook.

Online LibraryCharles Rathbone StarkGroton, Conn. 1705-1905 → online text (page 1 of 37)