The Will of Amy Pewompskin, A Native Woman of New Hartford

The Will of Amy Pewompskin, A Native Woman of New Hartford

Author: Sharon Clapp

Amy Pewompskin, also known as Saquama, of New Hartford, Connecticut, died on March 19, 1752, having declared her will on March 10, 1752 (appearing in the Litchfield County Probate Records of the time). Her “beloved mother” Mary was designated as the sole executor of her estate.  Amy identified two sisters and one brother, as well as an uncle “Cornelius Indian,” in her will. Her sisters were Christian, aka Mehannack, and Pationes [the “t” was not cross and appears to be an “l”], aka Mawwas. The latter sister’s name was actually Patience. Amy’s brother, Sunk Squaw is mentioned in the will, although not as a recipient. Instead, it seems that some of the land that she distributes comes from a will executed by him.

Amy’s estate includes twelve acres of land and a “dwelling house” in New Hartford, as well as her “moveable estate” that appears in an inventory taken shortly after her death. Amy’s mother, Mary, and her sister, Christian, received the majority of her land and her house, with the exception of four acres that she designated for her uncle Cornelius (a section that bordered his own land). Patience received the contents of the estate, but no land.

In the name of God Amen, the tenth Day of March 1752

I, Amy (Alias Saquama) Indian Squaw of New Hartford being very sick and weak in body but of perfect mind and Memory thanks be given unto God, therefore calling to mind the Mortality of my body & knowing That it is appointed for all men once to Die Do Make & ordain this my Last Will & Testament that is to Say principally & first of all I give and Recomend my Soul into the hands of God that gave it and my body I recommend to the Earth to be buried in Decent Christian burial at the Direction of my Executor nothing Doubting but as the General Resurrection I shall reissue the same again by the Mighty power of God and as Touching such worldly Effects wherewith it hath pledged God to bless me in this Life I give to my & dispose of the same in the following manner & form. _[Imprimis]

I Give and Bequeath to Mary my Dearly beloved Mother and my Sister Christian alis Mehanneck, [sqaw], all my lands excepting what I Shall hereafter give to my Uncle Cornelius Indian [Pd..] land Lying & being in the Township of New Hartford in the County of Litchfield & Colony of Connecticut in New  England Containing in Quantity twelve acres, and it is that I had a Deed of will Executed by my Brother Sunk Squaw Indian & my Dweling house — I give & bequeath to ye said Cornelius Indian four acres of land butted & bounded as followeth viz East on land Belonging him the Sd Cornelious South on land belonging to the heirs of Thomas Bidwell North on land belonging to Jonathan Merrell West on part of the Same lot which I have now given to my Sd Mother Mary & my sister Christian

I give & Bequeath to my Sister paliones alias Mawwas all my Moveable Estate I Do hereby make & ordain my Mother Mary to be the Sole Executor to this my last Will and Testament in Witness whereof I hereunto set my hand & Seal the Day & year above Named Signed Sealed published & pronounced & Declared by the Sd

Ame alis Saquama to be her Last Will & Testament in presence of

Matthew Gillet

William Merrell

Noah Kellogg

Ame alias Saquemah

her X Squaw mark & Seal [0]

Within the will, no surnames are found for Amy’s mother or sisters, which makes tracking the family members more difficult. When looking at church records in New Hartford around the 1700s, however, we do see a section on baptisms and marriages for those with “No Surname.” The list, containing only 38 entries for a period including dates from 1743 to 1808, nonetheless contains the first names of Amy, Christian, Mary, and Patience, all identified in the list as “Indian” and all appearing to have been baptized in 1744. It seems like a good hypothesis that these women were members of Amy Pewompskin’s family, as mentioned in her will, and that these were not infant baptisms. 

Patience has a second entry in the same church rolls that shows her marrying “Samuell Nicoll, Indian,” on February 8, 1759, just seven years after Amy passed. Interestingly, a Samuell Indian (with no surname specified in this entry) appears to also have been baptized in 1744. It is possible that Amy left only the “moveable estate” to a younger Patience, who was soon to be of marriageable age. Nine years after Patience’s marriage, a petition appeared in Hartford County from Elijah Wimpy, also spelled Wampy or Wampey, Patience Pewompskin, and Cornelius Indian, to buy and sell lands in Farmington. This Patience did not use the surname Nicoll. None of the women—Amy, Christian, Mary, or Patience—had a surname listed in their baptismal or marriage records, an unfortunate practice of colonial clerks when recording information about Native people, but the petitioner was clearly the same Patience. Since Cornelius appeared in both the will in New Hartford with Patience and Amy Pewompskin and in the petition in Farmington with Patience Pewompskin, it is clear that the Patience of the Tunxis area and of the town of New Hartford are the same, by both name and relationship. (Cornelius owned a farm with Elijah Wimpy in Farmington that is still in existence as a private home.) The Wangunk and Tunxis had considerable movement between their areas and tribal entities. The colonial areas that English called Middletown, Farmington, and New Hartford were in Native geography all part of a unified region

The world in which the Pewompskin family moved was mainly an indigenous one, but Amy was using the legal tools of the English to preserve her family’s wealth, land and identity. She used their native names, all of which harkened back to elders from previous generations, including people of different sexes. Sunk Squaw, Amy’s brother’s name, for example, was the title of a female leader and probably referred to a woman named Sarah Onepenny.

Inventory of Amy Pewompskin

An Inventory of the Estate of Amy Pewompskin of New Hartford 

who Departed this Life march ye 19th of 1752 as followeth viz proclamation

1 [hollon] apron [] 1 Chenee gown 8c5 hollon shift 3 of 11=15-0…..

1 hollon necloths 45/ 1 Cap & ribbon 53 / 1 Do…

1 Cap 3 of 10-20 / 1 …… Cook / 2 Chaines of beads….

pr. buckcle 12/ 1 do 2-/ 1 red Neckcloth 15………..

1 pr stockings 10/ 1 blew Cloak Cof. plain Cloth gown 15/…

1 quilt 20/ 1 c of 4 / 6 [trencher] 8/ earthen pot 4/…

2 Earthen Dishes 4/ 2 Earth Cups 4 / 6 pewter plates 6:10/

4 forks 2/ frying pan 3 of / pr. tongs 5 of / [….] of gridiron 25/[] 2……

fork 4/ pewter spoon ⅙. one morter 2/ ? box of letters 50…

1 Table 30/1 chess 40/1 do 45/1 foot wheel 20/

6 runs of linen yarn 36/2 acres of land & house on it 143

14 acres of land 100 one of 25/ 1 do 6/ 1 do 4…

New Hartford on June 14th Day 1752 then the above written inventory

was Taken by use the Subscribers

Samual Humphrey, Olver Humphry Aprizers upon Deth*

*Note: the monetary units have been omitted from the inventory

Pewompskin/Pewampskine was a fairly unique name, referring to a Wangunk sachem. Hermes’ and Maravel’s “Finding the Onepennys among the Wongunk” (ASC Bulletin, 2017: 98) demonstrates that Sarah Onepenny the Elder, of Hartford, was married to Pewampskin. Their family genealogy was recorded in 1726 by the town clerk in Middletown where their grandson, Mamooson, resided. The names Onepenny and Pewampskin appear in the earliest land deeds of the Hartford County area. 

In a dramatic 1692 petition found in the Hartford Probate Records (Hermes, “‘By their desire recorded’: Native American Wills and Estate Papers in Colonial Connecticut,” Connecticut History, 1999: 155), an “Indian woman caled Mary Mcumpas” petitioned the Connecticut probate court to ensure that her daughter was given to her cousin, Sarah. Her daughter, unnamed in the petition, was fathered by a man named “Mingoe,” enslaved by Thomas Olmsted. In Hermes and Maravel’s most recent work, they offer evidence that the “Sarah” named by Mary Mcumpas was Sarah Onepenny the Elder, Pewampskin’s wife. 

If that child was Amy and Amy’s mother was Mary Mcumpas, it explains her surname “Pewompskin,” which would have given her a clearly Indian identity in that time, rather than associating her with her father’s enslaved status. This means that Amy would have been approximately sixty years old upon passing, which seems reasonable, both for her own age and for the age of her mother, who then became Amy’s executor at an advanced, but still plausible, age. Mary and her daughter, Christian, shared the land and house left by Amy. Amy’s other sister, Patience, may have moved on to Tunxis, since she appeared in a later (1768) petition with Elijah Wimpy and her uncle Cornelius to buy and sell land in Farmington area.

Much of Amy’s life remains unknown, but her will and inventory give us a glimpse into her family life. She mingled with the English and embraced the Christian religion. She used English law to further her family’s interests. Yet her community was mostly an indigenous one and her will shows she valued Native tradition and history. She preserved what colonial clerks did not: her name and the names of her relatives, both in their Anglicized forms and in their Native forms. Hers is one of only a few Native wills in the Farmington Valley.

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