Tuesday, July 24, 2007

From The History of the Town of Derby

James Gage writes in:

The History of the Town of Derby, Connecticut, 1642-1880, with Biographies and Genealogies, by Samuel Orcutt, 1880, Springfield, MA: Press of Springfield Printing Company, pp.xliii-xliv

“Mr. Barber’s account of Chuse and the Indians at the Falls is interesting and worthy of preservation, and it is as follows:

“For a long period after the settlement of this place, it was called Chusetown, so named for Chuse, the last sachem of the Derby Indians, who is said to have derived his name from his manner of pronouncing the word “choose.” His proper name was Joe Mau-we-hu; he was the son of Gideon Mauwehu, a Pequot Indian, who was the king or sachem of the Scatacook tribe in Kent. It appears that Gideon, previous to his collecting the Indians at Kent, lived in the vicinity of Derby, and wishing to have his son brought up among the white people, sent Joe to Mr. Agar Tomlinson of Derby, with whom he lived during his minority. Chuse preferring to live at Derby, his father gave him a tract of land at the Falls, called the Indian Field. Here he erected his wigwam, about six or eight rods north of where the cotton factory now [1836] stands, on the south border of the flat. It was beautifully situated among the white-oak trees, and faced the south. He married an Indian woman of the East Haven tribe. At the time Chuse removed here there were but one or two white families in the place, who had settled on Indian Hill, the hight of land east of the river and south-east of the cotton factory, in the vicinity of the Methodist and Congregational churches. These settlers wishing Chuse for a neighbor, persuaded him to remove to the place where the house of the late Mrs. Phebe Stiles now stands, a few rods north of the Congregational church. When Mr. Whitmore built on the spot, chuse removed back to the Falls, where a considerable number of Indians collected and built their wigwams in a row, a few rods east of the factory on the top of the bank extending to Indian hill. Near the river in the Indian field, was a large Indian burying-ground; each grave was covered with heaps of stones. Mr. Stiles, of this place, purchased this field about forty-six years since of the Indian proprietors, and in ploughing it over destroyed these relics of antiquity.”

NOTE: Orcutt’s source is John Warner Barber’s Connecticut Historical Collections, 1838, pp. 199-200.


JimP said...

I wonder if Barber explains in more detail about why this was believed to be an Indian burial ground. I am naturally skeptical of 19th century secondary histories. It was all too common for 19th century sources to state assumptions as facts, particularly when it came to Indians. Simply seeing a large number of stone piles that they could not explain would lead them to declare the presence of a burial ground without actually having knowledge of what's under the stones. After all, it would've been a very logical assumption for a white historian in those days. As much as I would love to point to this citation and say, "Aha!" I need more than that. But, nevertheless, it is definitely an interesting tidbit from the past.

pwax said...

I agree with Jim's caution. However it is interesting, regardless of the true nature or the stone piles, that they were there, pre-existing the time of the writer, and with Indians living close by.

Anonymous said...

J.W. Barber's source for these details was an oral history provided by Eunice Mauwehu, age 72 in 1836, daughter of Joe Mauwehu, grand-daughter of sachem Gideon Mauwehu, all full blood members of the Scatacook (Pequot) Tribe.

James Gage