Thursday, June 02, 2011

The Rather Testudinate “Indian Rock” in Bristol CT

501 Wolcott Road, Bristol, CT 06010

Indian Rock Nature Preserve is open for scheduled groups and programs only and does not have public open hours.

I'm looking and wondering if perhaps there was some shaping of the stone to make the large "bowlder" appear more Turtle-like - just as I've been wondering about some other stones. - Tim

An ancient photo (circa 1907) and some text: 
“…(I)t seems to have been the custom for certain of the huntsmen of the tribe, in their communistic form of government peculiar to the race, to hunt in certain areas which were either assigned by the chief, in his patriarchal capacity, or were held by common consent during the pleasure of the individual hunters. At any rate trespassing upon each other's hunting preserves (bounded perhaps by stone rows? - Tim) was looked upon with disfavor; and encroachment by the white hunters, notwithstanding treaty privileges, was not entirely satisfactory to the dusky huntsmen who claimed certain tracts as their private territory. This state of affairs was the more aggravated, doubtless, by the gradual disappearance of the game caused by the inroads made by the white hunters, with their superior weapons, the skillful use of which, however, was soon acquired by the Red men.

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 usually burning ever the woods, so that one could see quite a distance through the standing timber, and pass rapidly and easily through  (bounded perhaps by stone row firebreaks? - Tim).

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; his 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 fire. 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 1859, has it that the shooting was done by his ancestor to save Capt. Gaylord; 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…”

From: Bristol, Connecticut, in the olden time "New Cambridge" which includes Forestville by Eddy N. Smith, George Benton Smith, Allena J. Dates, Garret W. F. Blanchfield, City Print. Co., 1907 (Google eBook)

 Also of interest in this history is the section by DR. F. H. WILLIAMS, “Prehistoric Remains of the Tunxis Valley." He writes: “To the majority of men the Aborigine of Connecticut is less real than a vanished dream. The antiquarian finds him in musty deeds or forgotten laws. The etymologist tracqs him in the names of the mountains, brooks or vales that he loved, while here and there the thoughtless turn up his discarded arrows or his mouldering bones. But his wigwam has vanished with his council fires, the echo of his war-whoop is lost in the valleys and time has levelled the earth over his forgotten graves. Yet along with the disused tomahawk and the shaftless spear, the humbler implements of his domestic life everywhere betray to the patient seeker his ancient habitations…” and later continues: “Our early settlers were more interested in converting the Indian, when not killing him, than in studying his physical surroundings, to which we must owe the poverty of their descriptions..."

"We also show in fig. 44 a singular flat head exhumed on Union Hill, Bristol, some ten years ago. This is the only representation of a human head, we have ever known from this valley, except some pipes, which are obviously intrusive and apparently of post-Columbian Cherokee manufacture.
I.—Pipe found in Southington. This is Haidah Indian work of the northwest coast. Probably a relic of aboriginal intertraffic. J.—Fine pit stones, from Bristol. K.—A so-called anvil. L.—A pit stone or anvil of soapstone. (All about one fifth natural size.)

    "It is only the span of three generations since the learned men of Europe considered their prehistoric relics to be either the weapons of fairies or the thunderbolts of the god of lightning…”

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