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By the charter of King Charles the 2d, to the Governor and Company of the Colony of Connecticut, granted A. D. 1662, the boundaries of the Colony were, the Narraganset River on the East, the Sea on the South, the line of the Massachusetts plantation on the North, and the South Sea on the West. Within these boundaries, were included the town and county of Litchfield, which town, until the organization of the county in 1751, was a part of the county of Hartford.
In 1685, on the decease of Charles, his brother James the 2d, ascended the throne. He is represented as having been an “obstinate, cruel tyrant, and a bigoted Roman Catholic, destitute of all the principles of true honor, faith, justice or humanity. The most humble petitions, arguments from reason, charters, the most solemn compact, and royal promises ; from justice, humanity, or any other consideration which a subject could plead, had no weight or influence with him. Nearly fifty corporations in England had been deprived of their charters."
With a monarch of such a character, the institutions of New England found no favor. The charter of Massachusetts was vacated. Rhode Island submitted. Its inhabitants, and those of the Narraganset country, were discharged from all obedience either to Connecticut or Rhode Island.
Writs of quo warranto were issued against the Governor and Company of Connecticut, requiring them to show by what warrant they exercised certain powers and privileges, and this under circumstances
which showed that it was no part of the King's intention to do them justice.
The government of Connecticut omitted no probable means for the preservation of their chartered rights. But in the year 1687, Sir Edmund Andross, (a fit instrument for such a king,) failing to obtain the surrender or possession of our charter, forcibly assumed the government of the Colony. The charter, the possession of which he coveted, (at the present time in the State House at Hartford,) was secreted, as is well known, in the hollow of an oak now standing in Hartford, called the Charter Oak.
During this period, and, as it was said, for the purpose of ' saving the lands from the grasp of Sir Edmund, and to prevent his enriching himself and his minions by a sale of them,” the legislature, on the 26th of January 1686, conveyed to the towns of Hartford and Windsor, as follows: “This Court grants to the plantations of Hartford and Windsor, those lands on the north of Woodbury and Mattatuck,* and on the west of Farmington and Simsbury, to the Massachusetts line north, to run west to the Housatonic or Stratford river; provided, it be not or part of it granted to any particular person to make a plantation or village.”
This conveyance subsequently created serious difficulty in the Colony, and gave rise to forcible resistance to the public authority.
It was claimed on the part of the colony, that the grant was without consideration, and that those towns were to hold the lands in trust for the Colony till the time of danger should be past.
But those towns denied the justice of the demands of the Colony, and claimed the lands as absolutely their own, and in contravention of the laws of the Colony proceeded to survey and sell them. Some of the offenders were arrested and
punished, some were committed to the prison in Hartford. The inhabitants of Windsor and Hartford armed themselves, and in spite of the power and authority of the sheriff, and the assembly, broke open the goal and rescued the prisoners. These events occurred in 1722. The towns still continued to lay out the disputed lands, and
the legislature to pursue spirited measures to prevent it. The controversy assumed a still more serious aspect, but was finally amicably adjusted in May 1726, by dividing the lands in controversy, between the towns of Hartford and Windsor on the one part, and the Colony on the other.
From this division, however, the town of Litchfield, though a part of the disputed territory, was exempted, as were also other lands previously conveyed by those towns.
Those interested in the town of Litchfield had, indeed, some time before the controversy attained its height, with commendable prudence, taken measures to perfect their title by obtaining grants from all claimants.
Our ancestors were not of those who pretended that the aboriginees had no right to the soil which had for centuries been occupied by them and their fathers. The settlers of Connecticut deemed it a matter of conscience, to abstain from trespassing upon the lands of the natives, much more from depriving them of those lands until they were fairly purchased.
It is said that before the settlement of this town by the whites, a tribe resided here, probably on the borders of the lake, in alliance with the powerful tribe of Indians at New Milford, but still independent of them.
The Tunxis or Farmington tribe of Indians adjoined them on the east, and how far their territories extended into this township, if at all, is uncertain.
But I find that as early as the year 1657, certain Indians of that tribe conveyed to William Lewis and Samuel Steele of Farmington, certain privileges as appears by the following copy of their deed, viz:
- This witnesseth that we Kepaquamp and Querrimus and Mataneage have sould to William Leawis and Samuel Steele of
ffarmington A p sell or a tract of land called Matetucke, that
Precisely where the hill referred to in this deed was situated, I have been unable to discover, but from the subsequent claims of the grantees, from tradition, and from the deed itself, it would seem that it was in the southern part of Harwinton, and embraced that town, and also some portion of Plymouth (then Matatuck or Waterbury) and Litchfield. This purchase was made by the grantees in behalf of themselves and a company composed of certain other inhabitants of Farmington. And on the 11th of August 1714 the whole Indian title to the land described in said instrument, in the successors of the grantors, was conveyed as appears by the following deed :
“To all christian people to whom these presents shall come, Pethuzso and Taxcronuck with Awowas and ye rest off us ye subscribers, Indians belonging to Tunxses or otherwise ffarmington jn theyer majesties Colony of Conecticut in New England send greeting--Know ye that whereas, Kepagam, Queromus, and Mattaneg our Predisessors, did febr ye eighth 1657 : sell and convey unto Capt. William Lewis and Left. Samuel Steele a certain Tract or prcell of land called Mattatuck ; that is to say the hill from whence John Stanly and John Andrews brought ye black Lead, and all ye Land within eight miles of that hill, on every side ; to jmprove as appeareth on Record jn ye second book of Records Page : 17th: which Purchas was made, for ye most considerable part, of ye jnhabitants of ffarmington as may appear by a List of theyer Names, who with s'd Lewis and Steele, Payd a considerable sume for ye Purchas. A considerable Part of which Tract or prcell of Land is comprised within ye bounds, of Watterbury and ffarmington, we haueing allso about ye year, one thousand, six hundred and 87; with sume of our Predecessors Received of Left. John Stanly, about the sume of eight Pounds for Part of said Land which are confirmed to him, and we do now Quitt our claime to ye same and do confirm ye same to him and his successors according as we or any of our predicessors did before is : and hauing considered what sumes of mony, and that which hath been to or predecessors, and our full sattistaction for ye said prcell of Land, mentioned in ye přmisess, with what further, gratuities we have lately received, from Left Stanly and Sarjt Eben Steele, and Now therefore know all men, by these Presents that we Pethuzso and Toxcronock, with Awowas, and ye rest of us that have subscribed do well approve of what Kepaquam, Queromus and Mattanege, have done jn selling ye aboue sd Tract or percell of Land aboue gd to Capt. William Lewis and Left. Steele, and do hereby give, grant, bargain, sell, alienate, confirm and convey all or Right jn or to sd tract of land whatsoever, we ye sd Pethuzsoe and Toxcronuck, with ye rest