The Dutch in Connecticut
The Dutch controlled the Hudson River Valley and specific points in Connecticut, For about 55 years, from 1609 until 1664, a short time by European colonial history. But in that time, Dutch entrepreneurs established in American New Netherland, a series of trading posts, towns, and forts up and down the Hudson, Connecticut and Housatonic Rivers. Those tiny settlements laid the groundwork for towns that still exist today, such as New Haven, Hartford and Saybrook.
Initially, roughly half of Connecticut was a part of New Netherland, which, on a map anyway if not in reality, included much of the land between the Connecticut and Delaware Rivers.
Adriaen Block sailed along the Long Island Sound in 1614, and noticed two hills, they were actually large rocks, jutting out into the water, which made for a perfect natural defense for a military installation. Testing the water, he found the harbor to be excellent. He named the place Rodenbergh, (Red Hills after the natural landmarks.) and dubbed the River that emptied into the harbor, the Rodenbergh.
Although a handful of Dutch traders frequented the area, English settlers soon outnumbered them and in 1638, Puritan minister John Davenport led 500 English pioneers into the harbor to establish a town. The English renamed the area New Haven and the Rodenbergh River, to the Housatonic, a Mohican phrase ("usi-a-di-en-uk") translated as "beyond the mountain place"
A year later, Dutch explorer David de Vries wrote in his journal “The 4th of June I started north in a yacht to the Fresh River, where the West India Company have a small fort called the House of Hope, and towards evening came to anchor in Oyster Bay…. The 6th had good weather at break of day, and got under sail, and towards evening arrived at the Roode-berghs, which is a fine haven. Found that the English had there begun to build a town on the mainland, where there were about three hundred houses and a fine church built.”
Shortly after constructing their first settlement on Manhattan, Dutch explorers established a short-lived trading post at present day Old Saybrook, which they named Kievits Hoek, ("Plover's Corner") However, they soon abandoned Kievits Hoek
And moved further upriver to present day Hartford.
At about that time, the new Director of the Trading Company, General Wouter van Twiller sent an expedition to explore the Connecticut River area which was quickly being claimed by English settlers. In 1623, the Dutch built Fort Huys de Goede Hoop (Fort Hoop) was in the area between the Park (Then called The Little River) and Connecticut Rivers (The Connecticut was then referred to as the Versche or Fresh River. The actual site is in or about where Sheldon Street is in present day Hartford. The fort itself is recalled by the naming of nearby Huyshope Avenue)
This tiny encampment on the south bank of Park eventually developed into Hartford. The Dutch intended it to be the northeastern fortification and trading center of the Dutch West India Company.
The land the fort sat on was part of a larger tract purchased on June 8, 1633, by Jacob van Curler on behalf of the company from the Sequins, one of the clans of Connecticut Indians. Van Curler built a block house and palisade and the Dutch West India Company sent a garrison and a pair of cannons.
The local Indian tribes dealt in Wampum which was white and purple shell beads, made only by the coastal tribes, which were woven into belts and used as emblems of status and were used in their trade with inland tribes. The Dutch and English changed this by trading in blankets, cloth, and metal goods with the coastal tribes in exchange for wampum. In turn, the whites used wampum to purchase furs from the inland tribes who were skilled trappers. They then traded the furs in Europe and made incredible profits.
One of the shoreline tribes were the Pequot’s who probably migrated to southeastern Connecticut from eastern New York in about the 16th century. Some argue that they may be indigenous to southeastern Connecticut.
By the 17th century the tribe was busy empire building across the southeastern arm of the nutmeg state. In 1665, they built their first village, called Siccanemos, overlooking the western bank of the Mystic River. From this vantage point the tribe controlled a huge amount of territory.
Ten years after the Dutch arrived, in 1633, William Holmes led a group of settlers from Plymouth Colony to the Connecticut Valley, where they established the town of Windsor, a few miles north of the Dutch trading post.
The powerful Five Nations of the Iroquois to the northwest, safely far enough not to be a threat to the Pequot who were ensconced between the British, to the east, and Dutch settlements. Relations between the American Indians and the English were sporadic and often violent, although small amounts of trade between the two people did occur.
Relations between the Pequot and Narragansett tribes were worse and in 1634, the two nations went to war with each other. In that year, “The Narragansett passed through or near Pequot territory on their way to the Dutch post, and the Pequot resented the Narragansett’s ability to encroach upon their territory to the point that a Pequot band attacked and killed a Narragansett band on its way to trade at Good Hope.”
To revenge the attack, the Dutch captured and seized Tatobem, the Pequot’s top chief and held him at ransom to be paid in wampum. The ransom was paid immediately, but Tatobem was executed anyway.
Tatobem's successor was his eldest son, Sassacus.
Sassacus, the name means fierce, was born near what is today Groton, in about 1560 and died in the Mohawk settlement in June, 1637. He became chief (grand sachem) of the Pequot Indians after his father, Tatobem, murder. He was noted for his bravery and thought by the other tribes to be endowed with Supernatural powers. The settlers, however grew to fear and loathe him.
Sassacus kingdom included the present day towns of Waterville, Stonington, North Stonington, and Groton. He ruled over about 700 warriors and probably an additional 1400 women and children.
Tatobem murder escalated aggression between the Pequot and Massachusetts Bay; they retaliated by killing an English man, John Stone, at the Connecticut River. There are many assumptions to why Stone was chosen in retribution. Historians say that while trading on shore, Stone kidnapped a handful of Pequot, with intentions to sell them into slavery, and was beaten and slaughtered by their rescuers.
The management of the English Massachusetts Bay Colony, had enough of Pequot’s.
To them, Stones death was an act of war. Sensing the tension, in October 1634, Pequot delegates met with members of the Massachusetts Bay and guarantee the colonists that
They had no intentions of war with the English. They took blame for Stone’s death, and offered Governor Roger Ludlow payment for the murder.
The general feeling was that the Pequot delegation had agreed to the settlement made between them and the British, rather rough terms which essentially totally almost completely subjected the Pequot tribes. But Sassacus, rejected and the terms.
In the meantime, Sassacus had his own internal problems. His Brother-in-law, Uncas fought him for control of the tribe but Sassacus emerged victorious and Uncas left the tribe and became Sachem of villages around the Niantic River, calling themselves the Mohegan.
In 1634, John Oldham and a small group of Massachusetts families built temporary houses in the area that would eventually become Wethersfield, which was just south of the Dutch outpost. Over the next two years, some thirty families from Watertown, Massachusetts joined Oldham's at Wethersfield.
Then, in 1636, members of the Narragansett tribe, murdered John Oldham. Actually, the murder was committed by Block Islanders, a branch of Narragansett’s, however, they escaped capture and were given safe haven by the Pequot. Since Oldham was a power within the English colony and a friend to the Narragansett, the tribe was out raged by the Pequot’s protection of the murderers.
In the meantime, English strength was growing. In 1636, clergyman Thomas Hooker led 100 settlers, including, with 130 head of cattle, from Newtown (now Cambridge) in the Massachusetts Bay Colony to the banks of the Connecticut River, where they established the outpost called Hartford, which would sit directly across the Park River from the old Dutch fort. One of the settlers who arrived with Thomas Hooker was Richard Risley. The state capitol building stands on what was his farm land. Risley died at Hockanum (East Hartford) of typhoid fever in October of 1648.
In 1637, Sassacus attacked a small English fort at Saybrook, murdered several women at Wethersfield, and carried two girls into captivity. That single action forced the three Connecticut River English towns—Windsor, Hartford, and Wethersfield—joined in a collective project to fight the Pequot War. Within a year, the group wrote the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, which was, essentially, the first written constitution in the history of the western world
Now organized, the settlers responded in force to the kidnapping. (Their force included members of the Narragansett tribe, who were alarmed by Sassacus Ambitions) and under the command of John Mason, counterattacked the Pequot settlement at Porter's rocks on Mystic River, June, 5 1637. Uncas also joined the fight, bringing seventy of his own men. Mason's order to his soldiers and Narragansett allies was "Let us burn them."
The settlement, comprised mostly of women and children, was decimated. The settlers killed between 600-700 Pequot in an hour. Seven are taken captive and seven escape. Two Englishmen are killed, while 20-40 wounded. During the battle, the Narragansett’s, upon seeing Sassacus, broke and ran.
Captain John Underhill, one of the English commanders, wrote “Down fell men, women, and children. Those that 'scaped us, fell into the hands of the Indians that were in the rear of us. Not above five of them 'scaped out of our hands. Our Indians came us and greatly admired the manner of Englishmen's fight, but cried "Mach it, mach it!" - that is, "It is naught, it is naught, because it is too furious, and slays too many men." Great and doleful was the bloody sight to the view of young soldiers that never had been in war, to see so many souls lie gasping on the ground, so thick, in some places, that you could hardly pass along”
As the English left, they burned the Pequot settlement to the ground. Sassacus escaped to the Mohawks in New York State who eventually murdered him and sent his scalp to the English settlers as a symbolic offering of friendship with the Connecticut Colony.
In 1650, Petrus Stuyvesant attempted to contain further incursion by the English into the Connecticut River Valley and in the Treaty of Hartford, agreed to a border 50 miles west of the river. The Dutch fort was taken over by the English in 1654.
The Treaty of Hartford, which outlined the terms of the English victory, was
Signed on September 21, 1638. It outlawed the very name Pequot, legally forbid the tribe from gathering and required that other tribes in the region submit all their inter-tribal grievances to the English and abide by their decisions. With that, the Pequot war was officially over. Over time the Pequot were able to build again, but only as separate tribes living in separate communities, Mashantucket in the west and Pawcatuck to the west.