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and our town was an appendage of a dependent Colony. For us, and our children, the bonds of servitude have been broken, and we are called upon this day, by every motive which gratitude can suggest, to cherish and express our veneration for the character and example of those departed men, and to tender the offering of devoted hearts to that Being who has been our fathers' God.
To commemorate the birth-day and perpetuate the annals of a retired New England town, may seem, to some, a trifling affair. But there is nothing dearer, to a man of sensibility, than his home—the scenes of his youthful adventures and hopes—the earth upon which his fathers have trodden—the mountains upon which they have looked—the streams they have followed. He listens to stories of objects so endeared to him, with untiring ear. The old man, in his recollection of these, will go back to the times of his boyhood, and for a moment live over again the days of his young, unclouded hopes. And the youth looks upon them all, though inanimate, as his cherished friends. The long absent emigrant, on his return, as he views these well remembered objects, fancies himself surrounded by the nearly forgotten companions of his former days, which such associations bring back to his memory; and, though reflections such as these may bring over his heart a cloud of momentary sorrow, as the image of some long lost friend is renewed before him; yet in such a grief it is luxury to indulge. Here is the only true source of patriotism ; and the man who loves not to indulge in recollections of the home of his youth, is constituted of such materials as traitors are made of.
But a New England town, when philosophically considered, is of more importance than at first may be supposed. It is not a mere corporation, but is a little commonwealth of itself. Our towns are pure democracies. Here, alone, the people deliberate, decide, and act, without the intervention of a second power; and their most important interests are here consulted
and regulated by themselves. The chief objects of taxation are entrusted to the towns. The great and absorbing interests of learning and religion are within their jurisdiction, in their capacities of school and ecclesiastical societies.
In town meetings, these primary assemblies of the people, our youth and young men are instructed in the first elements of political science ; not by study alone, but by actual observation and participation. Here have been the nurseries of our statesmen, and here, too, the quiet duties and submission of the citizen are first learned. I am persuaded, that without these rudimental institutions of civil liberty, New England could never have furnished her bright example in the struggle for independence; nor could we have so successfully carried out the dangerous experiment of a people governed by themselves. My fellow-townsmen, we have a right to be proud of our town, and to perpetuate its history.
In this meeting, we cannot restrain our fancies from running back to a time still earlier than the occasion we now commemorate. We see here these hills rising above us, these streams flowing along beside us, and these valleys and lakes spread out before us; and here they have been, from a time we know not of. But who were the men who lived and ranged among them all, before our fathers saw them? The rightful lords of these woods and waters, who were they? Here and there some little memorial of their existence may even now be found in our fields. Often, in former days, as I have wandered along the banks of the Housatonuc, the arrow head of the Indian's bow, or his rude stone axe, has attracted my attention. I have found them of various dimensions and fashions—some rough in workmanship, and some displaying taste and ingenuity of construction ; and never did I gather up these relics of a forgotten race, without the silent, instinctive inquiry,-From whence was this arrow thrown? By the chieftain in the battle, or the Indian in the chase? I have seen, as the falling banks of the river annually crumbled
away, whole skeletons of men exposed, in an upright or sitting posture, and have, in my young imagination, addressed them, almost as living men,—Who and what were ye once ?
Upon the first arrival of the white men here, many of the aborigines still remained, clustered in the valleys along the streams and lakes. They had too long been within the reach of the enervating influence of the whites. Our Puritan ancestors had, for some years before, occupied the lands along the Connecticut river on the one side; and the Dutch of New Amsterdam and its dependencies, had been their neighbors on the other. The fearless independence, the noble bearing of the Indian character, was gone. The Indians here, were peaceable, harmless, and servile.
There seems to be much plausibility in the conjecture, that the race of Indians found here by our fathers, was not the original tenantry of this region ; but had come in as wandering tribes or bands from other forests, driven perhaps by wars, to take the place of an earlier and more noble people.
The tradition is, with much probability, authenticated, that King Philip, the last of New England's proud Sachems, and the relentless foe of the Puritans, extended his ravages on this side of Connecticut river, and that he burned, or otherwise broke up, some settlements of English and friendly Indians in the present town of Simsbury, and particularly an Indian village there, called Weatogue, the name of which still remains ; and these Indians, flying from Philip, settled down upon the banks of the Housatonuc, within the present limits of Salisbury and Canaan, giving the name of their former home to their new residence.
Hubbard, in his history of Indian wars, affirms it, that the Indians as far west as Hudson's or Dutch river, were concerned in Philip's wars; and Bancroft, speaking of the Indians of New England, says, “The clans that disappeared from the ancient hunting grounds, did not always become extinct; they often migrated to the north and west. The country between
the banks of the Connecticut and the Hudson, was possessed by independent villages of the Mohegans, kindred with the Manhattans, whose few smokes once rose amidst the forests of York Island.” The Indians of these villages spoke the same language, the Mohegan, or Pequod dialect, and which was, with perhaps some variation, the language common to the Indians of New England. The Indians here, were probably connected in some relation with the Stockbridge, or Moheaconnuc tribe, and perhaps made part of the tribes or clans lower down the river, at Kent and New Milford, and connected in amicable relations with the Indians who acknowledged the sachem Wyantenock as their common protector. This chief resided near the Great Falls in New Milford. I have myself, when a child, conversed with old men, who could recollect the remnant of tribes considerably populous, in Weatogue, near the former residence of the White family, and on the northern margin of Wonunscopomuc lake, (now called Furnace Pond,) and also on the eastern shore of Indian Pond, in Sharon.
There was, upon the first arrival of the Dutch settlers here, a well defined Indian trail, or path leading from the Stockbridge tribe, along the valley of the Housatonuc, through Weatogue, to the Scaticoke settlement of Indians in Kent. Apple trees had sprung up, and were growing along that path, through its whole extent, at unequal distances, accurately enough marking its course. Many of these were standing when I was a youth, and some I believe remain to this day. Tradition has pointed out the spot, on the easterly side of Wonunscopomuc lake, upon which the Indians held their councils and powows. It is in the grove, a little west of the road leading from Furnace Village to Town Hill, and near a tall pine tree, now standing, overlooking the lake. Frequently, when I have stood upon that interesting spot, I have attempted to call up before the
groups savage men who congregated on that ground. I have, in fancy there, looked
upon the grave, stern face of the counselor, the fierce visage of the impatient warrior, in his listening attitude, and the encircling group of women and children around. It was, and still is, a plat of romantic beauty, well fitted to call forth the innate religious feeling of those men of nature. This spot was frequently visited by wandering Indians in after days, and the stately pine which then marked the place, was long known to the white inhabitants, as the Indian tree.
Although the Indians of this neighborhood were friendly, yet such was the well known treachery of the Indian character, and so frequent were the causes of disturbance among the northern and western tribes, and so dreadful were the tales of savage cruelty, that the early white settlers were cautious in their intercourse with them, and were constantly on their guard against surprise and attack. A supply of ammunition was always on hand, furnished at the expense of the town; forts or block houses were erected for defense and refuge; and the house first erected for the minister, and which was improved as the house of religious worship, was constructed with a view to defense, and with port holes, through which a fire of musketry could be kept up against assailing Indians. Our fathers assembled to worship God, with arms in their hands; unlike us, their children, who have none to molest or make us afraid.
One of these Block Houses was erected at the junction of the roads opposite the late dwelling house of Nathaniel Church, at Weatogue, and its stone foundations have been visible in my day. Another, a little southerly from the present dwelling house of William P. Russell, Esq.—the first location of the Dutcher family, nearly then inclosed by deep coves and dense thickets; and still another, on the northerly side of Wonunscopomuc lake, not far from the present residence of Newman Holley, Esq.
Before the charter of the town was granted, Thomas Lamb, in behalf of the Governor and Company of the Connecticut