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Farmington's Heritage

 

History of Farmington
Part 1

Part 2: The Farming Town Prospers
Part 3: The Revolutionary War
Part 4: The Freedom Trail

 

Of Time and the River: The Tunxis Indians and the English Settlers

Farmington's history begins in the meadows by the Farmington River -- fertile land that the Native Americans called Tunxis Sepus ("at the bend of the little river"). The Tunxis Indians, a sub-tribe of the Saukiogs, established a seasonal village in the meadows, where they fished, farmed, and hunted.


Painting of Farmington River in the Barney Library

In 1640, a group of about a dozen English settlers from Hartford, Windsor and Wethersfield, seeking more land -- or "some enlargement of accommodation" -- bought territory from Sequasin, chief of the Tunxis Indians. They approached the land by the "Pilgrim's Path" from Hartford, which led over Talcott Mountain and descended to Mountain Spring Road. The territory extended north to Simsbury, south to Wallingford, northwest to Mohawk country, and east to Windsor, Hartford and Wethersfield -- about 225 square miles in all.

In June 1640, the settlers -- originally Puritans from Essex, England -- renamed the territory Plantation at Tunxis. The land was incorporated in 1645 as the town of Farmington by an act of the Connecticut General Assembly. In 1650, a deed was executed confirming the original sale, and it reserved land on the east bank of the river, near "Indian Neck," for the Tunxis Indians.

The settlers also built their village on the east side of the river, with their houses clustered by the Town Path, now Main Street, and along the path to the sawmill, now Colton Street and Diamond Glen Road. The townspeople and the Tunxis Indians lived together peaceably for the most part, though the northern and southern borders of the village were garrisoned against possible attack from other tribes.

Under an agreement, the settlers ploughed the land and the Indians cut wood for fuel and traded their corn and hides. A page from the account book of Martin Bull lists these trades: 2 hoes for 5 bushels of corn; 1 broad hoe for 1 buckskin; 1 hatchet for 9 lbs of tallow.


The Meadows by the Farmington River

When two Indian chiefs, Pethus and Ahamo, died in 1688, a meeting was held at the house of John Wadsworth to select a new chief, and a gift of meadowland was presented to Wadsworth for his help. The land is still owned by the Wadsworth family today.

In 1704, news of the French and Indian massacre of English colonists in Deerfield, Mass., led Farmington townspeople to fortify seven houses. After rumors of an Indian attack from Canada, settlers asked the Tunxis Indians to remove any war paint and wear white cloths around their heads so they could be distinguished in battle. A Mohawk Indian raid is said to have taken place at one time that resulted in the death of a Mr. Scott, who lived at the present-day Scott's Swamp.

In time, the Tunxis Indians adopted the culture of the settlers, joining them in the town's churches and schools. Some became teachers and ministers. In the mid-eighteenth century, the Tunxis tribe began to break up. In 1775, some made plans to move to another tribe in Stockbridge, Mass., and some to Oneida, N.Y. Others moved to Green Bay, Wisconsin. A few never left Farmington.

Susan North Strong wrote about one who was named Moosuck:

I must go home in the meadow across the bridge to see Old Moosuck and his wife. These are the last of the Tunxis tribe of Indians. They live in a wigwam and raise corn and a few other things. They have the best samp (yellow corn cooked whole) that I ever have seen, and I seem to be quite a favorite with them, for they always have a gourd of samp for me to eat. In the river near their wigwam there is an island, and Old Moosuck takes us to it in his canoe and we get 'ground nuts' there.

I feel very sorry for these poor Indians, for they see how the white men are spreading over their country -- that the hunting is useless, and it is hard to get meat to eat. They do not think our way of living is the best.

I am so glad the settlers bought the land of the Indians, and did not cheat them, and that they lived peaceably together. Most of the Indians have gone where there are better hunting grounds, and Old Moosuck feels so lonely that I think he and his wife (Squaw he calls her) will soon follow them. There are no settlements west of us. 

-- Quoted from The Heritage Trail Guidebook, A Noah Wallace Fund Bicentennial Project

The last full-blooded Tunxis Indian in town, Thomas Curcomb, died in 1820.

A collection of Tunxis Indian artifacts, found on the grounds of the Lewis Walpole Library, is on display at the Day-Lewis Museum, the little red house at 158 Main  Street.

A brown sandstone monument, erected in 1840, honors the Tunxis tribe. Inscribed on it are the lines of Hartford poet Lydia Huntley Sigourney:

Chieftains of a vanished race,
In your ancient burial place,
By your father's ashes blest,
Now in peace securely rest.

It is said that on moonlit nights a Tunxis Indian can still be seen walking through "Hooker's Grove" with a deer slung over his shoulder. Some say that Hooker's Grove is near Diamond Glen Road, while others place it near the Hooker gravestone in Riverside Cemetery.

 

History of Farmington, Part 2

History of Farmington, Part 3

 


The Meadows

 

History of Farmington, Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4,
and photos by Brooke E. Martin.
Copyright 2006, 2007, 2008

    Sources for the history are listed here.

The Farmington Historical Society, P.O. Box 1645, Farmington, CT 06034

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