Author: Katherine A. Hermes,
(with Sarajane Cedrone, who helped transcribe the will and inventory).
In the mid-to-late eighteenth century, Farmington was home to a group of Christian Native people who lived in an indigenous community, but who often emulated the colonists both in religion and law. This new Christian community drew Native people from the Mohegan (New London County), Wangunk (Middlesex County), and Quinnipiac (New Haven County) tribes, in addition to the local Tunxis tribe that had long inhabited Farmington. Many of its members would eventually become part of the Brothertown Movement, led by Rev. Samson Occom and the teacher Joseph Johnson, both Mohegans, in the 1780s. Some of these men and women had been educated at Moor’s Indian Charity School (1754-1769) in Lebanon, Connecticut. Most could read and many could write.
Before Joseph Johnson created his school in Farmington and before Brothertown was a viable idea, however, Native people were seeking ways to preserve their lands and identities, to care for their children if orphaned so they would not fall into the hands of colonists as servants, and to ensure the salvation of their souls. One part of that enterprise involved writing wills and devising their interests. Not many Native wills exist for the Farmington Valley, but one finds the Mossuck family (Farmington), the Pewompskin family (New Hartford) and Timothy Indian (Farmington) using the probate system. The Pewompskins had ties to the Wangunk Onepenny family who also used probate to devise their estates.
Timothy Indian’s will is an important document in reconstructing the Native community in Farmington. His daughter, Rachel, named in the will, was very possibly the wife of James Wowous (aka Waucus). Solomon Indian was probably Solomon Mossack. While the will is not dispositive of the genealogy, it is highly suggestive. The Mossacks and the Waucuses were both involved in the Brothertown Movement, and James Waucus IV settled at Brothertown, New York, on Lot 9. The very existence of this large, well-connected and relatively prosperous family stands in stark contrast to the picture often created by antiquarians of “vanishing Indians.”
I Timothy Indian Man of Farmington in Hartford County being week of body
but of sound mind & memory do make this my Last Will & Testament; Imprimis my Will is that all those debts as I do justly owe to any person or persons: Shall be duly paid by my Executor hereafter named in Convenient time after my decease: Item unto my Two Daughters viz Rachel & Sarah I give all my Estate both real & personal in equal proportions to them & their heirs forever.
Item to Solomon Indian of Sd Town I give the use and improvement of all my Estate real & personal provided he should take good care of my aforementioned Daughters finding for them sufficient meat Drink & Cloathing & Learning them to read until they shall arive to the age of sixteen years and then resign the same to them; and I do ordain and constitute my well beloved friend Solomon Indian aforenamed to be the Executor to this my Last Will & Testament in Witness whereof I have here unto set my hand & Seal this 16thday of May 1751 Signed Sealed Published and Declared by the said Timothy Indian to be his Last Will & Testament in presence of this witness as Joseph Hooker Timothy Porter, Ebenezer Hawley. / Timothy Indian § his Mark & Seal.
Timothy’s will, unlike that of Amy Pewompskin, did not preserve the Native names of his family members. His wife had apparently predeceased him. His concerns–the sustenance of his daughters, their education, and the land he held–were the normal concerns of any father. But Timothy’s situation was not that of a colonist. Colonists routinely stripped Native and African American estates of their substance, charging administrative costs to the estate that generally depleted it. Children, even of free people, could find themselves indentured until their early twenties; land was then sold to colonists for the children’s support in the home of a colonist. Timothy was entrusting his fellow Native man, Solomon, to make sure that did not happen to his daughters.
If Solomon Indian was Solomon Mossack, he was born in 1723 or 1724. With his wife Eunice, he had four children in the 1760s. Mossack’s grandson, Henry, would later become a victim of the settler “guardianship” that Timothy sought to avoid for Rachel and Sarah. Solomon and Eunice were godly people. When Timothy died Solomon would have been 27 or 28 and not yet married.
Timothy’s inventory also reveals something about his life. He had a New Testament and was able to read, though he might not have known how to write. His will was taken down by colonists. It is also possible he could write, but was too weak to do so. He possessed a number of farm tools and he might have had an orchard, as there is evidence of cider production. He also had a tramel, a leather or rope device used to train horses to amble. Perhaps he trained horses for his neighbors. His clothing was that of a colonial era laborer: leather breeches, a leather apron, and a waistcoat. The brief inventory in the probate record book (no more extensive probate packet exists) has no suggestion of Native goods. Amy Pewompskin’s inventory, taken just a year after Timothy’s, had strings of beads, and her will gave the Native as well as the Anglicized names of her and her family. Timothy had a gun and powder and fish hooks that may have helped him to supplement his food supply.
An Inventory of the Estate of Timothy Indian of Farmington Deceased
made by us the subscribers May the 24th1751 being under oath as the Law directs
One westcote broad cloth 4 Two yds broad cloth & pr Leather breeches 5 one hat 6:10 / L23=10=0
pr Shoe buckles 12 / one Testament 4 pr knee buckles 4 one westcote 3 bead Tick 2£ – 6 – 0 – 0
1 bed blanket 2£ 10 / white blanket 4£ 10s / P: woosted stockins 2£ P: Cloth Stockens l£– 10-0-0
1 P: shoose 1£-15s / one Gun 14£ 2 powder horns 4s Leather apron 14s Lining handkerchif– 14=13=0
½ yd Checkd Woolen Cloth s10 one bed Stead 1£: 10s / brass kettles wt 14£ 9: 16 – 11=16=0
1 Do. 12£. 8: 8 / Iron pot w 14 1:15 / one Iron pot 15 & ½ . 1. 1-9 – 12-1-9
Iron pot w 22 2.15 / great chair 1 : 2 Small chairs 1 2 Small brass kettles w.4.1/2:3:15/8=10=0
1 brass skillet 30/ 2 Coarse brass gallon bottles 7 frying pan 8 Tramel and hooks 32/ — 10-10=0
1 Sickel 13/ old ax 12/ candlestick 5/ how 25/ spade 10/ 5 horse shoose 10/ pr horse chains 12s Steel trap 25/. 3 sider barrels 3£ meat barel 1£ barel of sider 2£ 5s: 1 pail 4——7=14 – 0
For much of the seventeenth century, Native people in Connecticut had resisted converting to Christianity. In the 1730s some young indigenous people began to turn to Christianity. Timothy may have been caught up in that enthusiasm. It is not clear whether he was a Tunxis originally from Farmington or whether he moved to Farmington to be near other Christians. His early embrace of the settlers’ religion did not mean he assimilated, however. His use of English legal tools, just like his use of English farm tools, showed he found ways to adapt the colonists’ tools for his own uses. So, too, with his faith in Jesus. His children would become part of a movement that would eventually lead to the settlement of Wisconsin by Connecticut Native people. They did not vanish, but they did move and begin anew.
Joseph Johnson, To Do Good to My Indian Brethren: The Writings of Joseph Johnson, 1751-1776. Ed. Laura J. Murray. Amherst: University of Massachusetts, 1998.
William DeLoss Love, Samson Occom and the Christian Indians of New England. Boston: The Pilgrim Press, 1899.
David J. Silverman, Red Brethren: The Brothertown and Stockbridge Indians and the Problem of Race in Early America. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010.