The Mark of Gideon

Gideon's Mark

By 1752, the Schaghticoke community near Kent saw its considerable land base taken by its colonial neighbors.  Reduced to a small piece of land between the Housatonic River and Pachgatgoch Hill, its planting grounds were not capable of supplying corn for the tribe’s eighteen families.  In a petition to the Connecticut General Assembly written on May 12th that summer, fifteen Schaghticokes requested a more suitable tract of land on which they could plant corn for their wives and children and be able to collect wood.

Ten days later, one of the tribe’s Moravian missionaries, Carl Gottfried Rundt, described the circumstances surrounding the signing of the document in this way:

[T]he drafted petition of the Indian brethren and sisters of this place, sent here by Br. Joseph, with which they intend to go before the Assembly of Connecticut this month, was separately read and made quite plain to the Brethren Gideon, Joshua, and Samuel, and a clean copy was made of it by Br. Gottfried . . . At noon our brethren and [the] inhabitants of Pachgatgoch assembled in our new house for the signing of the petition, bringing with them 2 white people from the neighborhood to be present as witnesses.  The petition was again read aloud to everyone, and afterward, 15 Indians signed it with their usual marks, around which Br. Gottfried wrote their names, roughly this way: Gide + ons his Mark.  In the end the 2 witnesses also set their names on it and confirms with a few words that they themselves had seen the Indians make their marks in person.  A cop[y] was made of it, which is to be sent to Bethlehem.  The brethren want to go with the petit[ion] before the court tomorrow.

The Schaghticoke were successful with their petition.  Before the month was over, the Assembly granted them use of one and a half of the parcels allotted for the town for cutting wood and planting.  Yet, two years later, the tribe’s access to the woods around the mountain had been usurped, requiring them to appear before the legislature once again.

To view the Schaghticoke petition, click here.  The General Assembly’s response is provided here.  Both are from the Connecticut State Library’s Connecticut Archives, Indians Series. The section from Rundt’s diary quoted above is from Corinda Dally-Starna and William A. Starna, Gideon’s People: Being a Chronicle of an American Indian Community in Colonial Connecticut and the Moravian Missionaries Who Served There, Vol. 1 (Lincoln, NE, University of Nebraska, 2009), 342-343.

In memory of Jason Scott Lamb (1960-2013).


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