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- Once Upon A Time In Connecticut - 3/19 -

room; they were members of the Assembly; they could not carry off the charter. However, Major Talcott had a son-in-law, Joseph Wadsworth, and he was waiting outside,--so says another story. Wadsworth was young and daring. The charter was passed out to him and he hid it under his cloak and made his way swiftly through the crowd that had gathered around the tavern and through the dim, deserted streets beyond, to where an old oak tree grew in front of the Wyllys house. This tree had a hollow in its trunk and Wadsworth slipped the charter into this safe hiding-place and left it there. Houses might be searched, but no one would think of looking for a missing paper in the hidden heart of a hollow oak. And because the old tree proved a good guardian and gave shelter in a time of trouble to Connecticut's charter it was known and honored later as the Charter Oak.

[Illustration: WADSWORTH HIDING THE CHARTER From a bas-relief on the State Capitol, Hartford, Conn.]

We are not told what was said or done in the court chamber after the charter disappeared. The stories of that night are full of mystery and contradiction. Perhaps, after all, no very serious search was made for it. Perhaps its loss brought about a compromise between the two parties. For Governor Andros had already gained his object; he had taken over the government of Connecticut, and the people had saved their pride because they had not surrendered their charter.

The charter lay hidden for two years; not all that time in the oak tree, of course, but in some other safe place. One tradition says it was kept for a while in Guilford in the house of Andrew Leete. At the end of two years there was a revolution in England, and William and Mary came to the English throne. Then the charter was taken out of its hiding-place--wherever that was--and government was at once resumed under the same old patent which had disappeared so mysteriously on that famous Allhallowe'en night.

In the Memorial Hall of the State Library at Hartford, under a glass shield, in a fireproof compartment built into the end wall of the room, there hangs to-day one of the two original copies of the Connecticut Charter. It is in a good state of preservation, its lettering is clear and distinct, and so is the portrait engraved upon it of King Charles the Second who gave it to Governor John Winthrop. A part of its present frame is made from the wood of the Charter Oak. The other copy, that is, what remains of it, can be seen in the box which is owned by the Historical Society.

When, after the Revolutionary War, the Colony of Connecticut became the State of Connecticut, the charter of the colony was adopted without alteration as the State Constitution. No change was made in it until 1818.

The old oak tree, known to Indian legend and better known in Connecticut's story, lived, honored and protected, until its fall in the great storm of August 21, 1856.


1. Trumbull, Benjamin. History of Connecticut. Maltby Goldsmith & Co. New Haven, 1818.

2. Trumbull, J. Hammond (editor). Memorial History of Hartford County. E. L. Osgood. Boston, 1886.

3. Andrews, Charles M. "The River Towns of Connecticut," in Johns Hopkins University Studies, vn, 1-3, September, 1889. Baltimore, 1889.

4. Love, Wm. De Loss. The Colonial History of Hartford. Hartford, 1914.

5. Love, Wm. De Loss. "Hartford, the Keeper of Connecticut's Charter," in Hartford in History, Willis J. Twitchell (editor). Hartford, 1899.

6. Bates, Albert C. Article on "Charter Oak" in Encyclopoedia Americana.

7. Hoadly, Charles J. The Hiding of the Charter. Case, Lockwood & Brainard. Hartford, 1900.


The two Indian chiefs of whom we hear most in the early history of Connecticut were Uncas, sachem of the Mohegans, and Miantonomo, sachem of the Narragansetts. A great Indian battle called the "Battle of the Plain" took place once, near Norwich, between these rival tribes led by these two rival chieftains.

The Mohegans were a part of the Pequot tribe, and the Pequots, or "Gray Foxes," were the fiercest, most cruel, and warlike of all the Indians who roamed through the forests of Connecticut before the English came. The white settlers soon had trouble with them, and when the Pequot War, which was a war between the settlers and the Indians, began, in 1637, Uncas came with some of his Mohegan warriors and offered to guide the English troops through the woods to the Pequot fort.

Now Uncas was himself a Pequot by birth and belonged to the royal family, and it seems strange that he should not take part with his own people. But not long before this he had rebelled against the chief sachem, Sassacus, and had tried to make himself independent. "He grew proud and treacherous to the Pequot sachem," says the old chronicle, "and the Pequot sachem was very angry and sent up some soldiers and drove him out of his country." Afterward, when "he humbled himself to the Pequot sachem, he received permission to live in his own country again." But he was restless and dissatisfied. He was said to be of great size and very strong; he was brave too, and had a good deal of influence among the Indians. The settlers needed his help, yet they were half afraid to trust him, knowing that he would be "faithful to them as the jackal is faithful to the lion, not because it loves the lion, but because it gains something by remaining in his company." Before he would accept him as a guide, Lieutenant Lion Gardiner, commander of the fort at Saybrook, said to him, "You say you will help Captain Mason, but I will first see it; therefore send twenty men to Bass River, for there went six Indians there in a canoe, fetch them, dead or alive; and you shall go with Mason or else you shall not."

Uncas went off with his men and found these Indians. He killed four of them and brought back another as a prisoner, and the colonists, feeling more certain of his fidelity, took him with them on their expedition.

Miantonomo, the Narragansett sachem, did not go himself, but he sent one hundred of his warriors, for he, too, hated the Pequots, who had lately overrun the country and made themselves a terror to their neighbors. The Narragansetts lived near them, just over the Rhode Island border. They were a larger tribe than the Pequots and more peaceful and civilized, and their chief, Miantonomo, was friendly to the English settlers and had been generous in his dealings with them. He and his uncle Canonicus, who was at this time an old man over eighty, governed the Narragansetts together and were on the best of terms with each other. "The old sachem will not be offended at what the young sachem doth," says the English record, "and the young sachem will not do what he conceives will displease his uncle."

The Pequot War was soon over, for the bows and arrows of the Indians had no chance against the guns of the English. Most of the Pequot warriors were killed, their fort and wigwams were burned, and many of their women and children perished in the flames. It is a pitiful story, because the settlers felt it necessary for their own safety to put an end to the Pequot tribe. The few poor Pequots who escaped this terrible destruction were scattered among other tribes. The Narragansetts took some, but more went to the Mohegans because they were related to them. In this way the tribe of the Mohegans grew larger and stronger and Uncas became an important chief. He showed great skill in building up his tribe and he remained faithful to the English all through his life, while they, on their side, protected him as a reward for his services. As his power increased, however, his jealous and quarrelsome disposition showed itself more plainly, and the Indians complained that "the English had made him high" and that he robbed and oppressed them. When the colonists demanded that he should give up to them any fugitive Pequots who had murdered white settlers, Uncas put off complying on one pretext or another, because he did not wish to weaken his tribe, which was still much smaller than that of the Narragansetts.

The year after the war he went to Boston with thirty-seven of his warriors carrying a present of wampum for the governor. But the governor would not accept the present until Uncas had given satisfaction about the Pequots he was hiding. Uncas seemed "much dejected" by this reception, and at first he denied that he had any Pequots, but after two days he admitted the fact and promised to do whatever the council demanded. Half an hour later he came to the governor and made the following speech. Laying his hand on his breast, he said:--

"This heart is not mine, but yours; I have no men, they are all yours; command me any difficult thing, I will do it; I will not believe any Indian's word against the English. If any man shall kill an Englishman I will put him to death were he never so dear to me."

The governor in response "gave him a fair red coat, and defrayed his and his men's diet, and gave them corn to relieve them homeward, and a letter of protection to all men, and he departed very joyful."

Uncas had now become a dangerous rival of Miantonomo, and the jealousy between them soon grew so great that it threatened to break out in open war. In 1638 they were both called to Hartford by the Connecticut authorities to settle the differences between them.

Miantonomo obeyed this summons at once and set out with a great company, "a guard of upwards of one hundred and fifty men and many sachems and his wife and children," and traveled through the forests that lay between the villages of the Narragansetts in Rhode Island and the English settlements in the Connecticut valley. On the way he heard that the Mohegans had planned to

Once Upon A Time In Connecticut - 3/19

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