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- Once Upon A Time In Connecticut - 10/19 -

called to him that a great many more were coming from "the other side of the marsh." The Indians attacked his party, killed three or four men, and tried to get between the rest and the fort and cut off their return. "They kept us in a half-moon," says Gardiner, "we retreating and exchanging many a shot... defending ourselves with our naked swords, or else they had taken us all alive.... I was shot with many arrows, but my buff coat preserved me, only one hurt me." The English soldiers of those days wore back and breast pieces of steel over their buff coats. A few days later, the Indians, believing Gardiner dead, came again and surrounded the fort, and, as the old record says, "made many proud challenges and dared the English out to fight," but Gardiner ordered the "two great guns" set off once more, and the Indians disappeared.

Finding the fort at Saybrook so well defended, the Pequots fell upon the settlement at Wethersfield, killed a number of men working in the fields, and carried off two young girls. Flushed with this success, they paddled down the river in their canoes and when they passed the Saybrook fort they set up poles, like masts, in the canoes and, by way of bravado, hung upon them the clothes of the Englishmen whom they had murdered. The men in the fort fired on the canoes, but the distance was too great. One shot just grazed the bow of the boat in which were the two young English girls. The Indians passed safely and carried their captives with them to the Pequot country.

The Connecticut men now determined to put a stop to the depredations of the Pequots. It was a serious undertaking, for there were only about two hundred and fifty Englishmen in all Connecticut at this time, and there were several hundred Pequot warriors. Help was asked from the colonies in Massachusetts, and, meanwhile, about ninety men were collected from the three settlements of Hartford, Wethersfield, and Windsor and sent down to Saybrook under the command of Captain John Mason. A number of friendly Indians also went with them, and chief among these was Uncas, sachem of the Mohegans.

While this expedition was at Saybrook, taking counsel with Lieutenant Lion Gardiner and making ready, a Dutch boat put in at the fort on its way to trade in the Pequot country. The officers at the fort were unwilling to let the boat proceed, for there were articles on board for trade with the Indians that might be useful to the latter in war time, such as kettles, out of which the Indians could make arrowheads. The Dutch, however, promised that if they were allowed to go on they would do all in their power to obtain the release of the two captive English girls. So they were given permission and they sailed for the Pequot River. There the master of the boat went ashore and offered to trade with the Indians.

"What do you want in return for your goods?" asked the Pequot sachem.

"The two English maids," answered the Dutchman.

But the sachem would not consent. After a time, however, the Dutch captain succeeded in enticing several of the principal Indians on board his boat, and, having secured them there as hostages, he called to the others on shore that if they wanted their men returned they must bring the two young girls. "If not," said he, "we set sail and will turn all your Indians overboard in the main ocean so soon as ever we come out." The Pequots refused to believe him until the boat was actually under way and sailing down the river; then at last they yielded, gave up the two English girls, and received the seven Indians in return.

These two poor little girls reached Saybrook in a sad condition, worn out and frightened. The Dutch sailors had kindly given them their own linen jackets because the girls had lost most of their clothes, and Lieutenant Gardiner paid ten pounds out of his own purse for their redemption. The Indians seem, on the whole, to have treated them well. They were saved from death at first by the pity and intercession of Wincumbone, the same chieftain's wife who once before had saved Thomas Hurlburt. She took care of them, the girls said, and they told how "the Indians carried them from place to place and showed them their forts and curious wigwams and houses, and encouraged them to be merry." But they could not be very merry, and the elder, who was sixteen, said that she slipped "behind the rocks and under the trees" as often as she could to pray God to send them help. The Dutch governor was so much interested in their story that he sent for the girls to come to New Amsterdam (later New York), that he might see them and hear them tell of their adventures. At last, after all these journeyings, they were sent back safely to their homes in Wethersfield.

Soon after this, Captain Mason and his company set out from Saybrook on their expedition against the Pequots. After burning the Indian fort at Mystic, in which many women and children lost their lives, and killing several hundred Pequot warriors, they returned victorious. They reached the bank of the Connecticut opposite Saybrook at sunset, too late to cross the river that night, but they were welcomed by a salute from the guns of the fort; "being nobly entertained by Lieutenant Gardiner with many great guns," as Captain Mason expressed it. The destruction of the Pequots relieved Saybrook Fort from danger and secured the safety of the colonists in Connecticut; there was never again any serious trouble with the Indians. But the story is a cruel one, and we can only forgive it when we remember that the settlers felt that their own lives, and the lives of their wives and little children, were in constant danger from the attacks of the savages.

When the four years of his contract were ended, in the summer of 1639, Lieutenant Lion Gardiner left Saybrook Fort, which he had defended so bravely, and went to live on an island he had bought from the Indians. This island, still known as "Gardiner's Island," is at the end of Long Island and must have been very remote in those days, and far from any white neighbors. But Gardiner was on the best of terms with the Long Island Indians, and between him and their sachem, Waiandance, there was a true and generous friendship, founded on mutual respect and trust, which lasted throughout their lives. When Waiandance died, in 1658, Gardiner wrote, "My friend and brother is gone, who will now do the like?" It is a noble record of friendship between a white man and an Indian.

About the time that Lieutenant Gardiner left the fort, George Fenwick, who had come to Saybrook once before, in 1636, came again and brought his wife, Lady Fenwick. She was Alice Apsley, the widow of Sir John Boteler, and was called "Lady" by courtesy. They lived in Saybrook for a number of years. An old letter of that time says that "Master Fenwick and the Lady Boteler [his wife] and Master Higginson, their chaplain, were living in a fair house, and well fortified." In 1644, Fenwick, as agent, sold Saybrook to the Connecticut Colony. The next year Lady Fenwick died and was buried within the fort. Her tomb can be seen to-day in the old cemetery on Saybrook Point, to which it was removed in l870.

Although when the Pequot War was over Saybrook was no longer exposed to constant attacks from the Indians, yet, for a woman brought up as Lady Fenwick had been, in ease and comfort, life there must have been full of hardship. But she made no complaint. All that we know of her is good and charming. She loved flowers and fruits and had her gardens and her pet rabbits. She brought with her some red Devon cattle which she gave to Mr. Whitfield in Guilford. She has left behind her a memory of gentleness and kindness that still cling to the story of the rough, little pioneer fort, set in the midst of the salt marshes and surrounded by savage neighbors:--

"And ever this wave-washed shore Shall be linked with her tomb and fame, And blend with the wind and the billowy roar The music of her name."

One more fact deserves to be remembered in connection with Saybrook. Yale College was organized there in 1701 as the "Collegiate School" of the Connecticut Colony, and was not removed to New Haven until sixteen years later. Its site in Saybrook is marked now by a granite boulder with a tablet and inscription. About half a mile west of this monument are two old millstones which are said to have been in use in the gristmill belonging to the first little fort at Saybrook, the "Fort on the River," which was built and defended by the "Brave Lieutenant Lion Gardiner."



1. Winthrop, John., History of New England. Edited by James Savage. Boston, 1825.

2. Gardiner, Curtiss C. "Papers and Biography of Lion Gardiner," in Lion Gardiner and his Descendants. A. Whipple. St. Louis, 1890.

3. Orr, Charles. History of the Pequot War. (Accounts of Mason, Underhill, Vincent and Gardiner.) The Helman-Taylor Co. Cleveland, 1897.

4. Newton, Arthur Percival. The Colonizing Activities of the English Puritans. Yale University Press. New Haven, 1914.

5. Saybrook Quadrimillenial, November 27, 1885. Hartford, 1886.


Once, in the days of Indian attacks on the small English settlements in Connecticut, a family of children had a narrow escape from capture by the savages. A party of Indians on the warpath passed near their home while their father and elder brothers were away working in the fields with the neighbors. It was the custom in those dangerous times for men to work together in companies, going from one man's fields and meadows to another's, and for greater safety they carried their firearms with them. They stacked the guns on the edge of the field with a sentinel to watch them and keep a lookout for possible Indians. Sometimes it was a boy who did this sentry duty, standing on a stump like a sentry in a box.

Once Upon A Time In Connecticut - 10/19

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