Saturday, February 20, 2016

Roger Ludlow


   




From the beginning, in 1630, Ludlow had been identified with the interests of the people of Dorchester; and now this "principal lay citizen," well knowing that possession was nine points of the law (and he alone of the commission from Massachusetts knew what the law was), at once assumed the responsibility of organization, and the occupancy of the domain very dimly defined as "the Ryver of Conecticott" in the agreement. This was no easy task. It was one of finesse, of diplomacy, and finally one of arms. Who were the parties already represented there, and zealous to maintain their claims or rights?

First, the Indians, — original land-owners and proprietors,—the Sequins and Nawaas of the river valley, hemmed in by the Mohawks on the west, and on the east by the conquerors of the river tribes, the Pequots, who could set a thousand warriors in the field; the Dutch, who had discovered the country, bought lands of the natives, established trade with them, and built the "House of Hope" at Hartford, ten years before any Englishman came to the " Quonehtacut"; the men of Plymouth, who had been treated with scant courtesy at Boston, as to the Connecticut occupation, and then had set up a trading house at Windsor, on lands purchased of the Indians; and lastly, the company sent out by Saltonstall under the Say and Sele patent, which also sought to settle at Windsor, finding the pioneers from Plymouth in possession, and a party from Dorchester breaking ground and arranging for the arrival of the people from that plantation. It was long before "ye controversie ended." It is needless to follow in detail the many steps to the end of the fierce and bitter strife for domination and ownership of the coveted lands. It resulted in the supremacy of the Dorchester claimants, by the withdrawal of the Dutch, the abandonment of their territorial claim by young Winthrop and his party and their settlement at Saybrook, and the ultimate driving out of the Plymouth men, with whom an adjustment was last made.



"The trading house at the mouth of the Farmington, which William Holmes and his Plymouth company had built, despite the blustering of the Dutch, seemed to the practical, godly people of Dorchester set apart for their own uses; and it became the rallying point of the congregation guided and inspired by John Wareham, and in secular affairs byLudlow." Who won the victory in this contest for the Dorchester man? Who stood unmoved in the storm of promises, persuasions, and threats, and with signal ability and tact and force held fast to the possession of their new homes, for the little band of his people, and saved them from disaster? Sir Richard Saltonstall answered these queries for all time in a letter describing the efforts of his company to seize the lands, when he said of Ludlow, "He was the cheffe man who hindered it." The Dutch cared more for trade than colonization; and their claims of discovery, of purchase, of sovereignty, vanished when CapL John Underhill pasted this notice on the doors of their " House of Hope," at Hartford: "I, John Underhill, do seize this house and land for the State of England, by virtue of the commission granted by the Providence Plantation "; and the General Court of Connecticut sequestrated all the property, on its own authority, despite the duplicate sales and title deeds of the braggart captain. The demands of Saltonstall and his company, represented by Francis Stiles and his men, instructed to impale in ground where Saltonstall appointed them, were set aside by the Dorchester pioneers under Ludlow, on the ground of prior right to this "Lord's waste and for the present altogether void of inhabitants." The real controversy as to the Dorchester usurpation is set in a clear light in a letter of Jonathan Brewster, the leader of the Plymouth men, who had been two years on the ground, and who had purchased from the Indians the open meadows — the bone of contention — on the right bank of the Connecticut, from opposite Podunk River northward nearly seven miles. Brewster writes, July 6, 1635:


"Ye Massachusetts men are coming almost daily, some by water, some by land, who are not yet determined where to settle; though some have a great mind to ye place we are upon. . . . What they will do I cannot yet resolve you. ... I shall do what I can to withstand them. ... I hope they will hear to reason, as we were here first, and bought the land, and have since held a chargeable possession." Small parties from the three Bay towns, Dorchester, Newtown, and Watertown, came to Connecticut, to choose locations, and make ready for their families in 1635 ) tne chief immigration taking place in 1636. Ludlow was among the first comers, that he might hurry on the Dorchester occupancy before stronger forces gathered from any source, and before Saltonstall's agent could get further instructions from England. Matthew Grant, the surveyor, says he began to set out men's lots in 1635, and a large one was allotted to Ludlow in this first distribution. When Sir Henry Vane, John Winthrop, Jr., and Hugh Peters demanded a "pertinent and plain answer from Mr. Ludlowe, Mr. Maverick, Mr. Newberry, and Mr. Stoughton, and the rest engaged in the business of Conn, plantation in the town of Dorchester," the answer was written in Ludlow's presence there, who had returned from the new plantation, after opening his campaign for possession, and was then supervising the departure, and in the busy stir of the people to join their friends on the river,—more than all, in the unyielding spirit of the men who had wrung from the government a reluctant leave to remove, and who counted in their ranks the ministers, soldiers, statesmen, artisans, husbandmen, who were to plant the three towns, the nucleus of the State, and stand fast in the storm of war and the sunshine of peace. At the fall of winter in 1635, the advance parties from Massachusetts were scattered along the river from Windsor to Wethersfield; and the pioneers of the Saltonstall patentees were holding out against the Dutch at the river's mouth. Snow came early to a great depth, food and clothing were lost en route, and the settlers suffered the extremes of hardship and privation. Some went back to their homes by land or water; others withstood all perils and distress, and stayed through the winter. Among those who remained were some of Ludlow's Dorchester company with their families, who encamped in part near the Plymouth trading house, and in part in the open meadows on the east bank of the river.


Scarcely had the colonists in the three settlements on the river—Windsor, Hartford, and Wethersfield—made good their claims to ownership and occupancy under Ludlow's leadership, and set up their standards of independence under exigent laws and orders of their own making, when a crisis came that threatened their destruction. Only instant, resolute action saved them. It was taken May 1, 1637.


"It is ordered that there shalbe an offensive warr ag' the Pequoitt, and that there shalbe 90 men levied out of the 3 Plantacons, Hartford, Weathersfield and Windsor (viz'), out of Hartford 42, Windsor 30, Weathersfield 18: under the Comande of Captain Jo: Mason." In this order of the General Court held at Hartford is written the story of a great tragedy, itself the outcome of lesser tragedies more poignant and terrible to their victims. The Pequots, enraged at the sale of lands on the river by the tribes they had conquered, resolved upon a war of extermination against the settlers. They had already opened their campaign of murder and assassination, arson, captivity, and torture. Ambush and surprise, torch, tomahawk, and scalping knife were the instruments of their hellish vengeance. This is but a partial record of Indian atrocities before the declaration of war:Murder of Captain Stone, and crew of twelve men, when going up the river to trade. Murder of two men above Saybrook, one, Brookfield, dying by torture.Murder of John Oldham, the founder of Wethersfield, at Block Island. Murder of Mitchell, brother of the Cambridge minister; burned at the stake. Murder of two soldiers in the Saybrook cornfield; bodies cut in halves and hung on trees. Attack on Gardiner's fort at Saybrook, in which he and two others were wounded, and two were killed.Massacre at Wethersfield, April 23, 1637,when one hundred Indians fell on the settlers at work in the fields, and killed one woman, one child, and seven men, and carried two young women into captivity. More than thirty English lives were sacrificed before the famous order was written. In the presence of such horrors, who values the sentimental charge that the war was cruel and unrighteous? It was civilization against barbarism. It was a mighty blow struck in self-defence, by a handful of settlers against a horde of demons; sachem and sagamore against soldier and legist, sannup and squaw against husbandman and housewife ; war-drum against church-bell; wickiup against meetinghouse; war-whoop against psalm; savagery, squalor, devilish rites and incantations, against prayers, and hymns, and exhortations; the native in his paint and feathers against the Englishman of sand with his pike and musket; Sassacus and Sowheag, Tatobam and Sunckquasson, against Ludlow and Hooker, Stone and Mason; warfare, rapine and desolation against peace and plenty, enlightenment and culture, and all the social forces that bear fruitage under the sunlight of civilization. Down the river in "a pink a pinnace and a shallop " went the little company (seventy-seven in all when they went into action), and sailing eastward to Narragansett Bay, they landed, and after a wearisome and perilous march through the Narragansetts' country, with some scared and useless Indian auxiliaries and guides, in the early morning of May 26, 1637, they fell upon the sleeping Pequots in their fort on Pequot Hill, smote them hip and thigh, and wiped out between six and seven hundred warriors — the flower of their race, according to the Indians' own admission. It was courage and endurance that wrought the great deliverance. Ludlow presided at the court which declared the "offensive warr." It was chiefly due to him that the desperate task was undertaken. He knew the Indians in Massachusetts and Connecticut; he had studied their character, had a personal acquaintance with some of the chiefs, and was alive to the vital necessity of prompt action, of destroying the conspiracy at one bold stroke; and it was done. Upon Ludlow chiefly fell the duty of defence of the settlers and their families, in the stockade at Windsor and along the river, while the soldiers were away on the Pequot expedition. More than one-half of the fighting men had gone. Watch and ward night and day, anxiety and alarm, waited on the little companies in their villages until news of the victory brought relief. Deep are the pathos and devotion in his letter of those days to his friend Pynchon, in a like stress at Agawam, May 17, 1637.


"I have received your letter, wherein you express that you are well fortified, but few hands. I would desire you to be careful and watchful that you be not betrayed by friendship. For my part, my spirit is ready to sink within me, when upon alarms which are daily I think of your condition; that if the case be never so dangerous, we can neither help you nor you us. But I must confess both you and ourselves do stand merely by the power of our God: therefore he must and ought to have all the praise of it. I can assure you it is our great grief we can not, for our plantations are so gleaned by that small fleet we sent out that those that remain are not able to supply our watches, which are day and night, that our people are scarce able to stand upon their legs; and for planting, we are in like condition with you; what we plant is before our doors, little anywhere else. Our fleet went away tomorrow will be seven night."


Westward, toward the Mohawk country, in the following July, fled the remnant of the Pequots, after the battle at their stronghold; and they finally stood at bay in a dense thicket in Fairfield. Ludlow was present at this socalled " Swamp Fight," having joined the forces of Mason and Stoughton and their Indian allies at Saybrook. After a gallant defence, several of the sachems and warriors were killed; about two hundred prisoners were taken and allotted to the Mohegans and Narragansetts, and an end forever put to the " Pequoitt Potencie"; and after the death of the noted Sassacus, a compact of peace was made at Hartford with Uncas and Miantonomo, by the magistrates of Connecticut in behalf of the colonies, under which full mastery was given to the English, until King Philip's war. It was not a "benevolent assimilation." It was on this march, and in scouting the adjacent country, that Englishmen first saw the beautiful region about Quinnipiac. Fair Unquowa, "beyond Pequannocke," with its hills and streams, rich intervales and forest lands, captured the imagination of Ludlow. At the earliest moment he made another visit there, sent out some planters from Windsor, and there he stood for his last service to his state, when in his conscientious and hazardous defence of this frontier post against the Dutch and Mohawks he was left alone, and made the target of criticism and reproof by his associates in office. Ludlow's services to Connecticut, from the inception of its colonization to the adoption of the Fundamental Orders at Hartford, Jan. 14, 1639,— as shown in a later summary,— were of the highest order, and always equal to the greatest demands upon his experience, tact, courage, foresight, and judicial qualities.