Posted in Coni Dubois

Tribes of Farmington Connecticut

Connecticut was home to several Native American tribes, including the Mohegan, Pequot, Nipmuc, and Eastern Woodland Indians. The Mohegan and Pequot were the two most powerful and largest tribes. They were both part of the Algonquian-speaking tribes, and their populations were estimated at 2,000 and 8,000 people respectively. The Nipmuc tribe was a smaller group that often merged with other tribes. The Eastern Woodland Indians were more nomadic and spread throughout much of the eastern United States. These tribes had a rich culture and believed in the power of nature and spirituality. Today, these tribes continue to preserve their culture and heritage through museums and cultural centers.

The indigenous people of North America inhabited the Eastern Woodlands, a cultural area that stretched from the Atlantic Ocean through to the eastern Great Plains and from the Great Lakes region to the Gulf of Mexico, covering the present-day Eastern United States and Canada. The Plains Indian culture area is located to the west, and the Subarctic area lies to the north.
Indigenous groups in the Eastern Woodlands spoke various languages belonging to several language groups, including Algonquian, Iroquoian, Muskogean, and Siouan. They also spoke isolated languages such as Calusa, Chitimacha, Natchez, Timucua, Tunica, and Yuchi. Many of these languages remain in use today.
The origin of Farmington lies in the fertile meadows beside the Farmington River that Native Americans referred to as Tunxis Sepus (“at the bend of the little river”). The Tunxis Indians, a sub-tribe of the Saukiogs, built a temporary settlement on these meadows where they fished, farmed, and hunted during the harvest seasons.

Farmington is situated in Hartford County, and its eastern boundary is marked by the Talcott Mountain ridgeline. The Tunxis Indians named the region Tunxis Sepus, meaning “bend of the little river,” which eventually became known as Farmington after its incorporation in 1645. In the 1800s, Farmington gained a reputation as the “Grand Central Station” of Connecticut’s Underground Railroad.
The Farmington River Valley, which includes the area of present-day Farmington, Connecticut, was home to various indigenous peoples for thousands of years before the arrival of European settlers. The primary group of indigenous people who lived in the region was the Tunxis tribe. In the 17th century, European colonists established settlements in the area, leading to conflicts between the indigenous peoples and the settlers. The Tunxis people were eventually forced to abandon their ancestral lands and move to reservations in other parts of Connecticut, while others assimilated into the colonial society.
Today, the Indian tribes and their descendants continue to be an important presence in Connecticut, and their culture and traditions are celebrated and preserved through various cultural heritage organizations and events.

The early Connecticut Tribes were led by several chiefs throughout its history. The information that survives regarding the chiefs of the Indian people is, unfortunately, limited.

Some of the known Tribes include:
The Tunxis tribe, also known as the “Koasek,” lived in central Connecticut and western Massachusetts. They had close relationships with the tribes around them, including the Massachusett, Mohawk, and Mohegan. They primarily lived in villages along the river, which are now part of the towns of Farmington, Avon, and Simsbury.

  1. The Wangunk, an Algonquian-speaking Native American group, once occupied the region and settlement of Mattabesset alongside the Connecticut River. It is worth noting that the Mattabesset River flows into the Connecticut River near Middletown, Connecticut. European colonial settlers established and developed Middletown on the western part of the region, while a series of settlements emerged on the eastern side, including Chatham and Middle Haddam, which eventually became East Hampton, Connecticut. The Wangunk people were the original inhabitants of the region, and Dutch Europeans first visited the area in 1614. When English colonizers arrived in the area, the Native American sachem, Sowheag (also known as Sequin), led the local community. Following conflicts with the new settlers, Sowheag relocated from Pyquaug – which was later named Weathersfield – to Mattabesett.
  2. Great Sachem of the Mattabessett Indian Tribe, Sequasson Sequin Sowheag, was born in 1530 in Livingston, New York, USA. His parents were Mattabesetts Seguin Montauk and Sarah Phinney Root. Sowheag later married Sowheag Sequassan “Sequin” Mattabesetts-Wyandance in 1542 in Wethersfield, Hartford, Connecticut, USA. Together, they had at least two sons. Sowheag passed away between 1605 and 1635 in Montauk, Suffolk, New York, USA, at a remarkable age of 105 years old. There are varying spellings for Mattabesset, such as Mattabesec, Mattabeseck, Mattabesset, Mattabesset, and Mattabéeset. Despite this, it is commonly pronounced as “Matta-bess-ic.”
    • The Pequot and Mohegan tribes were believed to have migrated from the direction of the Hudson River. At the time of initial contact with Whites, the Pequots were viewed as warlike and feared by neighboring tribes. The Pequot and the Mohegan were jointly ruled by Sassacus until the revolt of Uncas, the Mohegan chief. In 1635, the Narraganset drove the Pequot from a corner of present-day Rhode Island that they had been occupying. Two years later, the murder of a trader who had mistreated some Indians embroiled the Pequot in war with the Whites. At the time, their leader controlled 26 subordinate chiefs and claimed authority over all of Connecticut lying to the east of the Connecticut River and as far west as New Haven or Guilford, as well as all of Long Island except the westernmost end. Through the intervention of Roger Williams, the English secured the help or neutrality of surrounding tribes. The English then attacked and demolished the principal Pequot fort near Mystic River, killing over 600 people of all ages and genders. The tribe was so weakened that after several desperate attempts at further resistance, they split into small groups and abandoned their homeland in 1637. Sassacus and many of his followers were intercepted as they attempted to flee to Mohawk, with most of them either captured or killed. Those who surrendered were divided among the Mohegan, Narraganset, and Niantic tribes, and their land came under the control of Uncas. Although their Indian overlords treated them harshly, the Pequots were eventually taken out of their hands by colonists in 1655 and relocated to two villages near Mystic River, where some of their descendants still reside. Some individuals relocated to other places such as Long Island, New Haven, and the Nipmuc country, while others were kept as slaves among English settlers in New England or sent to the West Indies.
  3. The Pequot Indians, also known as Sickenames in a Dutch deed mentioned by Ruttenber (1872), meant “destroyers” according to Trumbull’s (1818) translation. The Pequot tribe belonged to the Algonquian linguistic stock and spoke a y-dialect that was closely related to Mohegan. The Pequot tribe held the coastal area of New London County from the Niantic River to nearly the Rhode Island state border. Before being forced to leave by the Narraganset, the Pequot extended into Rhode Island up to the Wecapaug River.
    The Pequot tribe had a range of settlements: Asupsuck, which positioned inland from the town of Stonington; Aukumbumsk or Awcumbuck, located near Gales Ferry in the center of the Pequot territory; Aushpook, situated in Stonington; Cosattuck, presumably close to Stonington; Cuppanaugunnit, likely located in New London County; Mangunckakuck, probably positioned below Mohegan along the Thames River; Maushantuxet, located in Ledyard; Mystic, near West Mystic on the west side of the Mystic River; Monhunganuck, situated near Beach Pond in Voluntown; Nameaug, near New London; Noank, found at the present-day site of that name; Oneco, located in the town of Sterling; Paupattokshick, positioned on the lower stretch of the Thames River; Pawcatuck, probably near the Pawcatuck River in Washington County, Rhode Island; Pequotauk, located near New London; Poquonock, found inland from Poquonock Bridge; Sauquonckackock, situated below Mohegan on the west side of the Thames River; Shenecosset, located near Midway in the town of Groton; Tatuppequauog, located below Mohegan along the Thames River; Weinshauks, situated in Groton; and Wequetequock, positioned on the east bank of the river of the same name. Mooney (1928) estimated the Pequot tribe had a population of 2,200 in 1600. Following the Pequot War in 1637, the population was reported to be 1,950, but this figure is likely too high. By 1674, the remaining Pequots in their native territory numbered around 1,500, which dwindled to just 140 in 1762. In 1832, only 40 mixed-blooded individuals were reported, but the census of 1910 recorded 66 individuals, 49 of whom resided in Connecticut and 17 in Massachusetts. The Pequots are most renowned for their bitter and catastrophic experience during the Pequot War, as described above. A post village in Crow Wing County, Minnesota bears their name.
  4. The Mohegan tribe is believed to have originated as a branch of the Mahican people. Under the leadership of Sassacus, who was the chief of the Pequot, they were initially subject to Pequot rule. However, they broke away from the Pequot and became independent. After the Pequot tribe was defeated in 1637, Uncas, the Mohegan chief, became the leader of the remaining Pequot and expanded his territory beyond his original borders. Following King Philip’s War, the Mohegan became the only significant tribe left in southern New England. However, as White settlements grew, the tribe dwindled in both size and territory. Many Mohegan people joined the Scaticook, and in 1788, even more, merged with the Brotherton in New York, forming the largest single group in the new settlement. Those who remained stayed in their original town of Mohegan, where a small group of mixed-blood tribe members still exists today.
  5. The Wawyachtonoc tribe of the Mahican Confederacy occupied the northwestern corner of Litchfield County, but their primary territories were in Columbia and Dutchess Counties, New York. The Mohegan tribe, which means “wolf,” should not be mistaken for the Mahican. The Mohegan people, who spoke a y-dialect closely related to the Pequot, were part of the Algonquian linguistic stock. Initially, the Mohegan inhabited most of the upper Thames Valley and its branches, and later they claimed control over some of the Nipmuc and Connecticut River tribes, as well as the old Pequot territory. The Mohegan had several villages, such as Ashowat, Catantaquck, Checapscaddock, Kitemaug, Mamaquaog, Mashantackack, Massapeag, Mohegan, Moosup, and Nawhesetuck, also several villages including Pachaug, situated in Griswold; Paugwonk, located near Gardiner Lake in Salem; Pautexet, situated near present-day Jewett City in Griswold; Pigscomsuck, found on the right bank of Quinebaug River near the current border between New London and Windham Counties; Poquechanneeg, located near Lebanon; Poquetanock, situated near Trading Cove in Preston; Shantuck, situated on the west side of the Thames River, just north of Mohegan; Showtucket or Shetucket, found close to Lisbon, in the fork of the Shetucket and Quinebaug Rivers; Wauregan, located on the east side of Quinebaug River in Plainfield; Willimantic, situated on the site of the present city of Willimantic, and Yantic, located at the present Yantic on Yantic River.
  6. Wappinger Indians. The valley of the Connecticut River was the home of several bands which might be called Mattabesec after the name of the most important of them, and this in turn was a part of the Wappinger.
  7. The Western Niantic Indians resided along the seacoast from Niantic Bay to the Connecticut River. The Western Niantic tribe had two known villages – Niantic or Nantucket, located close to present-day Niantic, and another village near Old Lyme. Originally considered part of the same tribe as the Eastern Niantic, the Western Niantic were separated from them by the Pequot. They suffered significant losses in the Pequot War and, following its conclusion in 1637, were made subject to Mohegan authority. Many Western Niantic people later joined the Brotherton Indians in 1788. While a small Niantic village near Danbury was reported in 1809, it may have contained members from western Connecticut tribes. Nevertheless, Speck (1928) found multiple individuals of mixed Niantic-Mohegan ancestry living among the descendants of the Mohegan tribe. These individuals were the descendants of a pure-blooded Niantic woman from the mouth of the Niantic River. The Western Niantic tribe had an estimated population of 600 in 1600, 100 in 1638, and around 85 in 1761. The name of the Western Niantic is commemorated in Niantic village, Niantic River, and Niantic Bay in New London County. Niantic is also the name of post villages in Macon County, Ill., and Montgomery County, Pa.
  8. The Algonquian town of Farmington, CT was initially inhabited by the Tunxis tribe before European contact. Sadly, the tribe was devastated by disease and violence, leaving only 50 members alive by 1725. However, in the mid-18th century, members of the Quinnipiac, Sukiaugk, and Wangunck tribes joined the survivors, forming a new group known as the Farmington Indians. Farmington Indians were predominantly Christian, having been introduced to the religion by Rev. Samuel Whitman in 1732. After he died in 1751, Rev. Timothy Pitkin continued the mission, though not as intensely as his predecessor. Nonetheless, the Farmington Indians catered to their own religious needs. Along with six other Algonquian settlements that eventually joined the Brothertown movement also, Farmington became an active participant in regional networks of Algonquian Christian worship.
  9. The Brothertown movement was a combined tribe created from Algonquian people found around the Long Island Sound. They immigrated to Oneida territory twice: first in 1775 and then again in 1783. Samson Occom preached in Farmington, and in 1772, he introduced his future son-in-law, Joseph Johnson, as a schoolteacher and preacher. Although Johnson’s formal teaching stint there was brief (only ten weeks), he used Farmington as his base from which to organize the Brothertown movement. The Farmington aided and supported Johnson’s cause, proving instrumental to his mission. Most of the immigrants on the unsuccessful 1775 expedition were from the Farmington Indians. These immigrants eventually found refuge in Stockbridge, MA, where some Tunxis were already residing. Years later, when Brothertown was re-established in 1783, Elijah Wampy, a leader from Farmington, joined and became part of the town’s leadership. However, not all Farmington Indians left for Brothertown; some chose to remain in their hometown. Nevertheless, by the end of the 19th century, these remaining Farmington Indians either left the area, died out, or assimilated into a different community.
  10. During the 18th and early 19th centuries, James Chaugham (also known as Chagum) was one such revered leader, belonging to the Barkhamsted Lighthouse Village alongside his wife Molly (or Mary) Barber. The names Chagum, Chagam, Chaugham, and Shawgum were linked to various Native American tribes in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Block Island. Chaugham’s leadership was vital, negotiating with colonial authorities and preserving his people’s autonomy amidst growing European influence. He was widely respected as a sagacious, sympathetic leader who fervently advocated for his people’s traditions’ protection and preservation. The historical narrative of the Chagum, Chagam, Chaugham, and Shawgum Indians throughout American history is intricate and multifaceted. Several individuals with these surnames were integral participants in early American history, with relations to both European colonizers and other Native American tribes. Moreover, some of them were chiefs or leaders within their respective tribes and played significant roles in diplomacy and decision-making
    • Today, many individuals with these surnames are tracing their roots and learning more about their ancestors and their contributions to early American history. It is through the work of genealogists like Coni Dubois that the stories of these tribes and their people are preserved and shared with future generations.
        • Information on Chagum connections:
        • Several different types of historical documents and records mention the Chagum, Chagam, Chaugham, and Shawgum surnames with Native American tribes and individuals. Some of these documents include:
          • Treaty records: Many treaties between Native American tribes and European colonizers or the American government include the signatures or names of individuals with these surnames.
          • Land records: Several land records in New England and other parts of the United States contain the names of Chagum, Chagam, Chaugham, and Shawgum individuals with land ownership or disputes.
          • Census records: Federal census records from the 1800s onwards often include information about individuals’ races or ethnicities, and many individuals with these surnames appear in these records.
          • Church records: Many Native American tribes were Christianized by missionaries, and church records from this period often include information about Native American congregants, including their surnames.
          • Family records: Many families with these surnames have kept records of their genealogy, including birth and marriage certificates, family bibles, and other documents.
            These are just a few examples of the types of historical documents and records that have information about the Chagum, Chagam, Chaugham, and Shawgum surnames concerning Native American tribes and individuals.
        • The Barkhamsted Lighthouse was a historical community located in what is now Peoples State Forest in Barkhamsted, Connecticut. Set on a terrace above the eastern bank of the West Branch Farmington River, it was in the 18th and 19th centuries a small village of economically marginalized mixed Native American, African American, and white residents. It was given the name “lighthouse” because its lights acted as a beacon marking the north-south stage road that paralleled the river. The archaeological remains of the village site were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991 as Lighthouse Archeological Site.
        • Today, Chief James Chagum/Chaugham is remembered as an important historical figure in Connecticut. Chief James Chagum/Chaugham was also a big part of the Satan Kingdom story. Satan Kingdom is a valley located in Farmington, Connecticut, USA. The origins of the name are not exactly clear but the name Satan Kingdom has been used since the 18th century and has a long history of Native American connections associated with it. Today, the valley is primarily used as a recreational area that offers a range of outdoor activities. It’s home to the Farmington River Tubing, which provides an exciting tubing experience in the river.
        • The Satan Kingdom State Recreation Area is also located in the valley and features hiking trails, fishing spots, and picnic areas. Overall, despite the ominous name, Satan Kingdom & Barkhamsted is a beautiful place to enjoy nature and outdoor activities.
        • Another location associated with Chagum’s is Chagum Pond, also known as Spring Pond, which is a freshwater pond located on Block Island off the coast of Rhode Island. The pond is named after the Chagum family, which was a prominent Native American family on the island during the 17th century. The Chagum family was part of the Manissean tribe, also known as the Island Indians, who inhabited Block Island before the arrival of European settlers. They were respected leaders among their people and worked to maintain good relations with the English colonizers who were expanding into the region. During the 1660s, tensions rose between the Manisseans and the colonizers over control of the island’s resources. Nevertheless, the Chagum family managed to maintain their position of influence on the island and continued to shape Block Island’s history for many generations. Today, Chagum Pond remains an important natural landmark on Block Island. The Chagum family is recognized as a significant part of the island’s indigenous history.