When Butch and I tell people about our research quest and our attraction to northwestern Connecticut, I tell them that Butch descends from the Pequot and I descend from the Puritans of the same place and that my ancestor, William Phelps was on the Windsor Governing Council of eight who declared the Pequot War in 1637. Then Butch quips, “And the battles still go on!” (We squabble a lot…but don’t tell anyone!)
I had never been to Windsor. William Phelps, along with many of my ancestors was a founder of Mass. Bay Colony in 1630, then Windsor and later Simsbury.
Butch, Scruffy and I took to the highway and went over Talcott Mountain and into Windsor to the Historical Society there. Greeting us at the town green was a statue of John Mason. John Mason was the Englishman who led the Pequot Massacre at their Indian fort in Mystic Connecticut. It is a sad story, one that turns my guts inside out. Mason and his men attacked the fort at Mystic. The warriors were gone, only women, children and elders remained. Mason set fire to their wigwams at the break of day. Some accounts relate that up to 700 perished in the blaze and 700 escaped only to be killed by Mohegan and Narragansett Indians waiting in the woods surrounding the fort.
John Mason’s statue had been erected first in Mystic. The descendants of the slain Pequot wanted it removed. Finally they got their wish and it was hauled off to Windsor and placed in the green. Shortly thereafter, someone tossed a can of blood-red paint onto it in protest. Mason’s statue still stands, but it is a grim reminder of the cruelty of mankind and the near extinction of the Pequot people.
Saturday morning I met up with Patrick Casey and his wife at the New Hartford Historical Society. They were excited to meet me when I told them that I was researching James Chagum’s presence in New Hartford. They had been trying to gather information for an “Indians of New Hartford” display but had little information. When they saw me come in with my thick, 3-ring notebook on “Chagum”, they lit up!
A nicer couple I have never met! They showed me where the first known Indian property owner’s land was , (Kasceton) and where James Chagum’s land, bought from Cornelius Indian was located. They gave me a pile of maps to use as locators and copied off several articles on the New Hartford Indian settlements and Satan’s Kingdom. Satan’s Kingdom was one of the Indian settlements, possibly called “Sachem’s Kingdom” originally, but because of the fear it festered into the hearts of the white town’s people in New Hartford, the name changed through time.
When we talked about James Chagum having originally come from Block Island, the Caseys remarked that they were quite familiar with the place. They had been there many times diving for shipwrecks. Mrs. Casey prided herself in saying that she descended from one of the original white families who settled on the Island in the 1660’s. “Oh really”’ I said……….”Which family was that?”
“Well, do you know that the original Rathbun family had a slave named “Bette Chagum”, who they indentured from her parents, Great James and Janey Chagum, and payment for her was in blankets and rum????”
Needless to say, she gasped and her eyes shot down to the floor. Amazing the connections you can make, if you dig deep enough!
Later, Butch, Scruffy and I had lunch at “Chatterlys” in the town center. If you are ever there, try their “crispy goat cheese salad”. It’s delightful!
Entry # 5 Our Vacation
Our next excursion from our campground was to Hartford, CT to visit the State Library and the State Historical Society.
We had two missions: In our possession is a copy of a “Pequot Captive List” with the name “CHAGUM” on the list along with about 128 others. Some are identified as Pawcatuck Pequots and Chagum is on the list of Wequepage Pequots. It was a list coming from Major John Mason and Robert C. Winthrop taken at Pawcatuck, listing Pequots “subscribing themselves under the government of the English”.
Our second mission was to meet with Diane Lee at the State Historical Society to see the oldest piece of furniture in their possession, William Phelps’ storage chest. You may remember the name. William Phelps came to America in 1630 with the John Winthrop Fleet and then moved on to establish the first English town in the wilderness of Connecticut AND in the midst of Pequot territory.
While at the State Library I located the “Pequot Captive List” that I had a copy of, on the microfilm. (Note from Coni – this list is the one previously donated by Sheryl)
There was no additional information except what I already had in my possession. I decided to move on to the next document and noticed that many of the same names were on that one as well. This document had a date and an explanation with a subtitle, “Ninegrett’s Pequots”. Upon further study, I counted a possible 47 names on the original list that were also listed there, plus many more…………….. but no Chagum. Possibly there was another page missing or Chagum had gone into hiding. Once home, I found information pertaining to the same date that was on the document…..October 10, 1654. John Mason, who was now recently addressed as “Major Mason” rather than his former title, “Captain Mason”, had arrived at Pawcatuck with 40 horsemen and 270 infantry and rendezvoused at Thomas Stanton’s trading post on an expedition to “impress” Ninegret who was threatening war on Uncas, Chief of the Mohegan and an ally of the English. Most of the Pequot, assigned to the Narragansett after the Pequot War of 1637, ended up living with Ninegret, Chief of the Eastern Niantic. The latter document stated that those undersigned would not go to war without the permission of the English and that if the English assigned them to other places, they would comply without resistance.
Then we were off to the State Historical Society. Once we arrived, we were taken back to “storage” to take a look at William Phelps’ chest…not the hairy one, but the wooden piece that was quite possibly crafted by Thomas Barber, the joiner. We got to examine it, inside and out, and take many pictures.
What a wonderful day! We plan to return next year to conduct further research.
Entry # 6 Our Vacation – Last Entry
There are threads running through us that we do not quite understand; threads of the people who lived before us, the threads of our ancestors. Some threads are stronger than others, some threads interweave. Scientists may call it our DNA, but what they do not understand is the spiritual component of these threads.
Anyone who has spent time uncovering the mysteries of those who have lived before them, opening themselves to see, listen and feel with their hearts, can receive signs from these spirits. We find lost treasures through the help of those who want us to discover truths about their former existence. No life should be lived and then totally lost in the annals of time. It is by these “messengers” that we receive information about their lives. If permitted, these characters can come alive within us and use us as their instruments of discovery and recovery.
This last entry is concerned with the spiritual component of our trip, that I truly feel was led by our ancestors yearning for their story to be told.
The first time we went to Barkhamsted and Simsbury, Connecticut to discover our roots it was August of 2005.
Meanwhile back at the home front, I was having a struggle with my religion, and even though I continued praying, God was not at the center of my heart. I had doubts; I had feelings that just would not step aside. At my church I volunteered as a chaperone at a teen girls’ conference. I found out later that the conference was at the Civic Center in Hartford, Connecticut’s capital. There were 12 of us who were going. One was an Elmira College freshman, who had become involved with the church through its college outreach program. She had a great idea…. she would ask her parents if we all could stay at her house outside of Hartford instead of doing the hotel routine. They agreed to house and feed us as long as we agreed to go to Sunday service at their church. It was a deal!
We arrived in Hartford for the Revolve Conference. 10,000 females filled the center’s seats. Live Christian rock music shook the Center and lights were flashing around us. I didn’t know what to think, being in the same place with 10,000 other females and I had never heard this kind of music before. Then it was time to find our way to the agreed upon accommodations. It was dark and we had quite a way to go. In traveling, I saw a sign, Simsbury, 5 miles, then a little later, Simsbury, 3 miles, and then, Simsbury, 1 mile. We turned into the driveway and as we entered the house I asked, “Am I in Simsbury?” Yes, dear, why? I couldn’t believe I was back just a short two months later!
On Sunday we went to the Barn Church, otherwise known as the Covenant Presbyterian Church, for its non-traditional service. We began the service singing in praise of God. I could sing the melody of songs I had never heard before. I began to feel a change overcome me. Suddenly I felt centered. God had answered my prayers to be able to accept him into my heart. In an instance I received an unexpected gift, God’s gift of love and acceptance. This weekend was not supposed to be about me, yet I felt something I had never expected to feel that day. Strong feelings overwhelmed me and I broke into tears.
It all came together. God got my attention through what I obsessed with most….genealogy! Here I was in Simsbury, Connecticut feeling renewed and praising God, the same place where my Christian forefathers and my husband’s Indian ancestors praised their new God. The feeling was incredible, one I had never felt before. I knew in a moment that when I returned home, everything would make sense. It was an experience where all my loose ends, all the confusion that I could not sort out myself had finally woven together into place, making sense of life and God’s love for me. God had made his way into the center of my heart and into my life that day.
I could not wait to attend that church again and have Butch along for the experience. This trip was the third time at the church. Butch and I were again, overwhelmed with emotion as we sang along with the praise band. The Lord enlivened and energized every molecule of our beings.
We know that James Chagum was a Christian. He was friends with the Reverend Samson Occom, the first Native American minister, ordained by the Presbyteriam Church. Occom spoke of Chagum at least twice in his journal and even lodged with him.
There are many disagreements about religion , but most do agree that there is One Creator. We often look for symbols of his presence in our lives. One symbol of the Native American is the White Buffalo; a symbol of hope, rebirth and peace on earth for all people.
This last June a white bison calf was born on a farm in Goshen, Connecticut. A large number of Native Americans gathered there to celebrate the birth and to name the calf; “Yellow Medicine Dancing Boy”.
the last day of our vacation Butch, Scruffy and I went in search of the calf. With our GPS we found Goshen. I had the farmer’s name but not his address. We passed by a little library, turned around and went back. I walked inside and asked for their telephone directory and found the address there. (a regular sleuth, I am!) Re-programing our GPS we found the farm. Signs were everywhere. “No Trespassing!!!”, “No Parking!!!”, so we slowly moved on and turned down a road adjacent to the farm………more signs, “No Parking!!!”. We pulled over where the signs ended and there in the corner of the field, next to the road, was the white calf frolicking in the high grasses! Butch took many pictures. When we turned around to find our way back, across from the farm was a house for sale with a sign that read, “Buy this house and you can LIVE next to the White Buffalo!”
So there ends our wonderful vacation to our favorite little piece of heaven in Connecticut.