Wednesday, August 12, 2009




"THE Indians who frequented Bristol before its settlement by the English, were of the Tunxis tribe, of Farmington, and there is no evidence that there were ever any dwelling places other than temporary camps of individuals, or, at most, small parties of the aborigines, within what are now the boundaries of the township.

In the early history of the town of Farmington, mention is made of that section now divided into the towns of Bristol and Burlington, under the general name of the "West Woods." It was the resort of the white hunters of that early period, by virtue of a treaty with the Indians by which hunting and fishing rights were to be equally enjoyed by whites and Indians; and so plentiful was the game in the forests which then covered the hills and valleys of Bristol and Burlington, that venison and bear meat sold at a very low price in the Farmington market. Dr. Noah Porter said in an address at the celebration of the two hundredth anniversary of Farmington, in 1840, "There are men now living, who remember when venison was sold in our streets at 2d the pound."

Previous to the discovery of the beautiful meadows at the great bend of the Tunxis River...nothing was known of the territory west of the Talcott range, except as it may have been penetrated rarely by a few daring hunters and explorers. When a treaty was ratified with the Indians, in 1650, and the lands opened for settlement, two well-defined trails led westward through the woods, one practically where the first colonial road was built from Chippen's Hill to Farmington; the other southwestwards crossing the mountain, west of the sewer beds diagonally; crossing the present town of Wolcott also in a southwesterly direction ; thence through the southeast corner of Plymouth to Waterville, then in the territory known as Mattatuck. Over this trail to Mattatuck the early settlers of Waterbury travelled, taking the first millstones ever used in that town on horseback. At the reservoir on South Mountain, southwest of the Allen place, near the south end of the pond, and not far from the town line, the trail crossed what was then a swamp over a causeway of loose stones and earth, the nearest approach to a roadway ever made by the aborigines.The trail crossed Mad River near the beaver dam which then existed near the south end of the Cedar Swamp reservoir, continuing southwesterly, the present highway following it for some distance.
Jack's Cave.

A cave, near Allentown, known as Jack's Cave, is but a short distance from the old trail. The Indians made it a stopping-place on their journeys to and from Mattatuck. It was afterward inhabited for many years by a negro, named Jack, who had a squaw for a wife, and who subsisted by basket making. There is a fireplace which has a natural flue extending to the top of the cliff. The open side of the cave was protected by slabs and earth, forming a comfortable dwelling. At Allentown, upon the farm of Walter Tolles, were open fields, which were cultivated by the squaws in summer; and corn and beans, and perhaps tobacco for the pipe of peace, were grown there...

Thus previous to the first settlement of Bristol by the Whites, after this part of Farmington had become somewhat famous as a hunting- ground, hunters from Farmington, Hartford, Wethersfield, and even Wallingford, which then included Meriden and Cheshire, penetrated these dense woods and returned laden with trophies of the chase. It ought to be mentioned in passing, however, that there was then no undergrowth, the Indians annually burning over the woods, so that one could see quite a distance through the standing timber, and pass rapidly and easily through.

Among these early hunters were Gideon Ives, of Middletown, and Capt. Jesse Gaylord, of Wallingford. They were companions in hunting expeditions, both being famous hunters. It is a tradition in the Ives family, that their ancestor was, like Nimrod, a mighty hunter; Tiis proud boast being that from these "West Woods" he had taken between four and five hundred deer, eighty or ninety bears, and a large amount of other game. On one occasion the two were stalking a deer which they saw upon the summit of the hill since known as the Rock Lot, just south of the residence of James Peckham, near the Cedar Swamp. The deer was making toward the east, and the two hunters agreed to separate, one going around the hill on the north side, and the other on the south side, the one who sighted the deer first to shoot it. Just as Mr. Gaylord reached the eastern extremity of the hill, which slopes to the edge of a swamp in that direction, he saw an Indian taking deliberate aim at Mr. Ives, who, unaware of his danger, was taking aim at the deer. Mr. Gaylord instantly leveled his rifle, and, being a quick shot, dropped the Indian before he had time to lire. Mr. Ives, in astonishment, asked why he had shot the Indian, and was told that it was done to save his life. They decided to dispose of the Indian's body by stamping it into the soft mud of the swamp near by, and kept the matter a profound secret for many years, for fear that it would become known to the tribe, and that revenge would be taken for the death of their kinsman; the very simple code of the red men requiring blood for blood, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. The reason for the attempt upon the white man's life was supposed to be because he was trespassing upon the private hunting-ground of the red man, which his sense of justice caused him to resent. The same sense of justice, when an Indian found a carcass of deer or other game, hung up out of reach of prowling wolves, until the hunter could return with assistance to take it away, prevented him from molesting it, and also filled him with wrath when this confidence was broken by the unscrupulous white hunter, and no doubt kept alive a bitter animosity against the white invaders. The Indian was known to the Whites as Morgan, and the swamp where he was buried, as Morgan's Swamp, to this day. It would be interesting to know what became of the deer. '
There are other versions of this story. One given by Deacon Charles G. Ives, at the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of his deaconship, in 1851), has it that the shooting was done by his ancestor to save Capt. Gay lord; that they discovered the Indian trying to get a shot at them, that they separated with the understanding that if the Indian pursued either the other was to shoot him down. But this account does not agree with the one handed down in the Gaylord family, which is substantially as related It was told to the father of the writer by Capt. Jesse Gaylord, grandson of the hero of the story, who also stated that the Indian's rifle, powder horn and bullet pouch were preserved many years in the family; but other traditions, including that of Deacon Ives, assert that the rifle and other accoutrements of the red man were buried with him. It may have been this adventure which determined Capt. Gaylord's choice of location for a residence, for he afterward purchased land and built upon it, in the immediate vicinity, his first house being a few rods south of the big bowlder, known as Indian Rock, or Rock House, from the fact that it was the temporary home of Morgan, who occupied the grotto underneath it when hunting in the vicinity. He afterward built a quarter of a mile south, the large, red farmhouse being occupied by his descendants until 1870, when Jesse, his great grandson, moved to Bristol village. The old house was torn down a few years afterward, and only the picturesque cellar and chimney stack remain.


Bristol has the distinction of being the place where the rude pottery of the aborigines was manufactured from the cotton-stone, or foliated talc, which is found upon the eastern slope of Federal Hill, where Joel T. Case built a machine shop. As late as 1876 fragments of this pottery were common about the fields of the vicimty, laid up into stone fences, or doing duty as corner stones for the zig-zag rail fences of the locality. This stone, a variety of soap-stone, being easily worked, was hollowed out by chipping with hard, sharp-edged stones, into round and oval dishes, and kettles of various capacity, ranging from a pint to several gallons. Other Indians beside the Tunxis may have come here to replenish their supply of crockery and cooking utensils, camping, perhaps, for weeks while they were patiently chipping away at the soft stone. The same formation crops out in other places on the same range of hills; one near the Liberty Bell shop, where there was once a saw mill for sawing the cotton-stone into iambs for fireplaces; another at Edgewood, near the Bartholomew factory. But this Federal Hill quarry seems to have been the only one known to the Indians. When the machine-shop was built, and the debris was cleared away from the ledge where the cotton-stone was quarried, a large bowl or kettle was found, partially completed, but undetached from the rock. It may easily be imagined that as the Tunxis potters were burily at work, there was a sudden descent of the dreaded Mohawks, and a precipitate retreat.

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