Friday, January 05, 2018

Chipman's Harwinton History

Cultural Landscape Reading Glasses

   Sometimes you have to put on your Cultural Landscape Reading Glasses when reading those old histories. My friend Bob DeFosses mentioned that he was reading a hard copy reprint of an old one about the town he lives in as well as letting me know it was available on-line. A convenient blizzard showed up and I started reading it a little bit at a time, clipping some pieces of it in a page view format, copying it in the rather rough plain text format that required me to do some serious “clawing it back into a civilized language,” as Mark Twain once said of the translation process (I’m sort of paraphrasing, I guess).
   Early on in the history, published in 1860, the idea is presented that Connecticut lands were neither inherited nor stolen but properly acquired by purchase, sometimes even repeated purchases, from Indigenous People, all fair and square. Many people suggest that these land deeds show these seeming real estate transactions while others contend that Indigenous People were actually continuing a tradition of what we call Treaties – an agreement to live in certain Indigenous Homelands and share the resources found there. Cronon in Changes in the Land writes about this and is a good source to help understand the two concepts of “ownership” in early New England.

   Speaking of early, I was surprised to find how early Harwinton was “settled” by people of English descent:
    “In 1657, some of the Farmington settlers procured of the same Tunxis tribe coparcenary rights and title to Mattatuc (Mattatuck was an Indian Town or Village, the “seat” of which was located in present day Waterbury CT). In 1714 (, or 1718), the heirs of those grantees received from the successors of those grantors a confirmatory deed, conveying the absolute rights and title to those grantees. Within that tract, as by the known locality of "ye hill" (most likely “Toby’s Hill” or Mount Tobe – sometimes Montoe which is a form of Manitou, may even translate to “Manitou’s Hill or Mountain”) appears, is included Litchfield, partly- Harwinton, wholly. If the Pootatuck Indians had ever any claim" or ownership in this territory, they had parted with such; since, as is stated,* "the names of their chiefs are appended to deeds of sale [of lands] extending from Pequonnuck in Bridgeport, on the south, to Goshen and Torrington, on the north." It appears from this recital, that whatever rights the Indians had to this part of Connecticut soil they conveyed away by many repeated sales. Their (Indigenous Peoples who lived along the Housatonic - the Pootatuck, Pequonnock and Paugusset) rights to it, it should also be said, seem to have been only such as attach to a mere hunting ground. The Pootatucks, a small tribe at Woodbury excepted, no Indians lived permanently in any part of what is now Litchfield county, until towards the middle part of the seventeenth century then, or at about that period, various clans had emigrated into its northwestern portion (Schaghticoke). Previously to that time, Indians were here as occasional sojourners, not as stated residents (page 99).”
Here’s that part again, important to me and my understanding of the Ceremonial Stone Landscape that is visible evidence of that Indigenous Cultural Landscape that I see around me rather than remnants of a mythical Golden Age of Stonewall Building or linear piles of stones that are refuse from field clearing as various works about New England Stone Walls assert:
   “Their (Indigenous Peoples who lived along the Housatonic – known by the names of contact era placename settlements such as the Pootatuck, Pequonnock and Paugusset) rights to it, it should also be said, seem to have been only such as attach to a mere hunting ground. The Pootatucks, a small tribe at Woodbury excepted, no Indians lived permanently in any part of what is now Litchfield county, until towards the middle part of the seventeenth century (still page 99).”

   Wearing my Cultural Landscape reading glasses, I see the area that became the town of Harwinton as a place between two homelands of Indigenous People – or the survivors of the two groups that were devastated by Virgin Soil Epidemics, an estimated 10% of a much larger population previous to the introduction of European diseases. Claiming that “nobody lived there” is reminiscent of the Puritan concept of Vacant Lands (Lands cleared by God’s Will) that Roger Williams argued against.
The natives are very exact and punctual in the bounds of their lands, belonging to this or that prince or people, even to a river, brook, &c.” -Roger Williams, in his Key (CHAP. XVI. Of the Earth and the Fruits thereof).
       Williams defended Indian Land Rights in a further exchange with Puritan leaders by saying, “they hunted all the Countrey over, and for the expedition of their hunting voyages they burnt up all the underwoods in the Countrey, once or twice a year, and therefore as Noble men in England possessed great Parks, and the King, great Forrests in England onely for their game, and no man might lawfully invade their Propriety: So might the Natives challenge the like Propriety of the Countrey here.”
The Puritans replied: “We did not conceive that it is a just Title to so vast a Continent, to make no other improvement of millions of Acres in it, but onely to burne it up for pastime,” as if survival was a kind of recreation.

    To state that it was a “mere hunting ground” is really just a repeat of Mather’s words.
    It’s also just as misleading as to state that Indigenous burning of the landscape was a pastime. Indigenous burning helped create and maintain the Cultural Landscape all over the western hemisphere, as is well presented in Charles C. Mann’s books 1941 and 1493. That “mere hunting ground” is perhaps better described as a vast sustainable garden, ecotones of resources which human hands and minds actually increased in productivity rather than depleting them.
     And since that link touches on fences, the “improvement” that established proper ownership of land, again a Puritan invention turned into law, I found the recording of a town meeting interesting since it mentions fence viewers who would enforce these laws and determine who was properly improving and thereby owning these fenced in lands.

Att a Meeting of the inhabitants of the town of Harwiton, December the 20, 1737
Voted that Ebnezer Hopkins and Antony Hopkin Be Surveyors of High ways for this Town
Voted that Jonathan Brace and Thomas Bull be fence viewers for this town for the year Ensuing
Voted that Samuel Barber and John Wilson Be fence viewers for this town for the year Ensuing
Voted that Isral Marremoun be brander of horses and of hors Kind* for the town of Harwinton for the year Ensuing
 *There were, at that time, few enclosures. Horses ran at large. Hence branding was necessary that stray animals might be reclaimed and identified. The new settlements had each its own mark prescribed by the General Court. (page 116)

    Taking off the Cultural Landscape Reading Glasses, back here on the Nonnewaug floodplain, I think back to the early 1990’s when I first got started questioning and searching for answers to this “stonewall business.” Gradually, after years of observation as well as comparison to observations and documentation by both avocational independent researchers and credentialed professionals, in other places, I came to a sort of hypothesis, especially after reading Changes in the Land (in which the idea of Indigenous stonework is a post contact phenomenon) and later Manitou by James Mavor and Byron Dix (which questions that Post Contact/European hypothesis), that certain qualities of these rows of stones seemed to make more sense as fuel breaks that suggested a control method for Indigenous burning, separating while yet connecting wetland resource zones from the floodplain fields and extending into other upland zones of many kinds, riparian zones bounded by zigzag rows of stones with brooklets and larger streams flowing inside them.

    “Bounded,” I just wrote, recalling “bounds” is the way Roger Williams said it way back when, an older English expression that is modernized (really just a little) into “boundary.”
Or so is’s belief, calling bounds a noun, meaning a limit or boundary (as in “the bounds of space and time,” “within the bounds of his estate,” or even “within the bounds of reason.” It also means “something that limits, confines, or restrains” or “territories on or near a boundary” as well as “land within boundary lines.” {}

    But, if Williams did see stone rows as the “bounds” of hunting grounds, or the resource zones of all the “fruits” he lists in his “Key,” as the fuelbreaks used by Indians as they safely and selectively burned their cultural landscape, he never wrote it down in so many words.
     Shortly after this argument about ownership, early Fence Laws suddenly sprung up in the lands appropriated by the Puritans– as did those early wooden fences, so easily and quickly built, in fashion said to have possibly originated with Native American Snake Fences, their hunting fences and in one case around their cornfields, as Claude C. Coffin wrote in a 1947 CT Archeological Society Bulletin article about wooden and stone fish weirs along the Housatonic River.

     What could have been easier that to add the rails over Indian fire breaks and claim the “voyd places of the Countrey by the Law of Nature, (for Vacuum Domicilium cedit occupanti:),” and claim the land for your very own? Indigenous made stonework, already existing, that was turned into "proper" fences by adding the "cross and rails" pictured above in an illustration by Eric Sloane in Our Vanishing Landscape (page 30 - 1955). It’s the Native American (or Indigenous) Iconography in those rows of stone that I continue to be surprised about and am gratified to find is being recognized and talked about by the Most Likely Descendants of Indigenous Peoples as they struggle to protect these features of the Ceremonial Stone Landscape that is an element of the Anthropogenic Cultural Landscape
   There’s a section later in in Chipman’s History, entitled “Indians in Harwinton” that again suggests Indigenous People were merely hunting, camping once in a while (the Town of Woodbury, when they mention Nonnewaug Falls in their yearly guide, at one point did mention that the “Indians camped nearby” – but that problem has been resolved by leaving out any mention of Indians in town – other than calling the sports teams at the local High School after the “Chief” as the Sachem of the Nonnewaug Wigwams is most popularly known).

    “As mentioned previously (, in Note C, page 99), "the Western lands," what is now Litchfield county, appear, at the time when the English first made settlement in Connecticut, to have been owned and occupied by Indians as simply a territory for hunting and occasional residence. As also there appears, the Indians, to whom such ownership and occupancy of these lands pertained, were mainly or wholly of the tribe which was at Farmington, that is, the Tunxis.”
     I’m not entirely sure that that statement is 100% true. I’d have to put the Cultural Landscape Reading Glasses back on and look at the watersheds of Naugatuck, a tributary of the Housatonic River, and Farmington Rivers. I strongly suspect the area was a shared sort of zone, as in other places are known to be when viewed in a modern day understanding of Cultural Landscape. I strongly suspect a friendly agreement may have existed between the Housatonic/Naugatuck River People and those that lived along the Farmington River Homeland – perhaps even the Connecticut River since the Sachem (of?) Sequassen (also known as Sowheage, Sequin, Sowheag) is mentioned in the “history of deeds,” Chipman also implying that “The Windsor, Ct., Indians" seem to have gradually removed [first] to Farmington, [then to] Salisbury and Sharon [, in Ct.], where in 1730 they became united with the remnants of the Simsbury-, Farmington, Wethersfield and other Connecticut River tribes; and finally, in 1763, [these all] were removed to Stockbridge, Ms. About the year 1786, by invitation of the Oneidas they moved to Stockbridge, N. Y. Here, on a tract three miles long by two miles in breadth, granted to them by the hospitable Oneidas, they, together with a number from the Mohegan and other tribes of Connecticut, formed a tribe called the Brothertons,” a whole other story, perhaps best described as a sort of Connecticut version of (a/the) “Trail of Tears.”

Chipman’s History:

No comments:

Post a Comment