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Indian Tribes Map

Four hundred years ago, the Algonquin-Nehantic Indians occupied a village named Pashebeshauke," The Place at the River's Mouth."Early in the 1600s, these Indians were conquered by the Pequot Indians from the North.

In 1614, the Dutch explorer Adriaen Block became the first European to enter the river Quonitocutt, or "Long Tidal River." The Dutch were active fur traders and claimed the river for the New Netherlands. By 1632, they had established a trading post and renamed it Kievet's Hook (at Saybrook Point).

In 1631, the Earl of Warwick, as president of the Council for New England, signed the "Warwick Patent," conveying a vast segment of New England to a group of English Lords and Gentlemen, among them Viscount Saye and Baron Brook for whom the town was named. This group sought a place of refuge in case the Puritan Revolution should fail, and Charles I was restored to the throne.

John Winthrop, Jr., was commissioned as "first governor of the river Connecticut" in 1635. Winthrop hired Lt. Lion Gardiner for a period of 4 years to build a fort and lay out a town. Winthrop learned that the Dutch were planning to occupy the English post. On November 25, 1635, he dispatched a vessel from the Massachusetts Bay Colony under the command of Lt. Gibbons and Sgt. Willard to seize control of the Point.

Thus was established Fort Saybrook, one of Connecticut's oldest settlements and its first military fortification. In later years, it was also referred to as "Fort Fenwick." Lion Gardiner arrived in March, 1636, to build a strong palisade fort. In April of the same year, Gardiner's son David was born -- the first English child born in Connecticut. When Gardiner left Saybrook, he settled at what we know today as Gardiner's Island, New York, having purchased it from the local Indians.

The Pequots had been provoked to a war (the first official war in North America), and by February of 1637, the Pequots were destroyed.

When Saybrook Plantation was founded in 1635, the geographical area encompassed the seven modern towns we know today as Chester, Deep River, Essex, Lyme, Old Lyme, Westbrook and Old Saybrook. In 1647 the fort burned and a second constructed.


In the year 1635, I, Lion Gardiner, Engineer and Master of works of Fortification…

" So begins the account written by an Englishman named Lion Gardiner of his extraordinary life. His story opens in the Netherlands, where he served in the English army, moves to the Connecticut frontier, where he witnessed a bloody war of extermination against the Pequot Indians, and ends in East Hampton, where his family and his legend still live.

Lion Gardiner
Lion Gardiner

Born in England in 1599, Gardiner was an adventurer at an early age. His exact birthplace is not known, nor who his parents were. A laudatory description of Gardiner, published in 1885, gushed, "He was . . . of fine military presence, well proportioned although slightly under the average height, with quiet face, eyes keen, intelligent and deep-set, and the manners and bearing of a gentleman."

His recorded history begins in his early 30s, when he served in the English army in the Netherlands. There, in a protracted war between Protestants and Catholics, Gardiner earned a reputation as a "master of works of fortifications" -- a fort builder.

His fame spread across the ocean, and in 1635 he was summoned by the backers of a fledgling English colony in what would become Connecticut. The tiny colony was in a precarious position -- Dutch traders from New Amsterdam had begun to make inroads into the area, trading from their boats with the local Indians and constructing permanent outposts. By doing so, the Dutch hoped to keep the English from expanding south from the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

But the Dutch were the least of the colony's problems. Of even more immediate concern were the Pequots, a group with a fearsome reputation who lived along the same stretch of coastline where the English hoped to build settlements. Records of the day show the English feared and despised the Pequots, as did other Indian groups such as the Mohegans, who lived in the same territory.

Gardiner was 36 years old the year he and his Dutch-born wife, Mary, sailed to Massachusetts aboard the Bachelor, arriving in November after a stormy 31/2-month voyage. The couple spent the winter in Massachusetts, and by April, 1636, they were living with a small group of colonists near the mouth of the Connecticut River. They were well south of the English settlements in an area largely untracked by white men.

Gardiner supervised the construction of a fort near the mouth of the Connecticut River, and commanded it while farms and homesites were carved out of the surrounding wilderness. As the fort was being built, two momentous events happened in his life — his wife gave birth to their son, David, the first white child born in what is now the state of Connecticut, and a war broke out with the Pequots that would forever change the fort-builder's life.

Lion GardinerThe event that historians call the Pequot War began with small-scale confrontations between Indians and Englishmen in the area of the fort and up and down the coastline. Distrust built, there were deaths on both sides, and officials of the Massachusetts Bay Colony decided to wage war on the Pequots. While it is clear in his own account -- written as a letter to officials in Connecticut -- that Gardiner distrusted and loathed the Pequots, he opposed an all-out war against them because he feared for his family as well as for the handful of others who were with him in the fort.

"It is all very well for you to make war who are safe in Massachusetts bay, but for myself and these few with me who have scarce holes to put our heads in, you will leave at the stake to be roasted," he wrote in his account. "I have but twenty-four in all, men, women and children, and not food for them for two months, unless we save our corn field which is two miles from home, and cannot possibly be reached if we are in war."

Gardiner's protests fell on deaf ears. When a group of soldiers -- led by John Underhill and another Englishman, John Mason -- reached the fort, Gardiner said, "You come hither to raise these wasps about my ears, and then you will take wing and flee away."

As the soldiers prepared for an attack on a nearby Pequot fort, Gardiner tried to keep his family and the others inside his own ramparts alive. Forays outside the walls to get food were dangerous events; some of his men were caught by Pequots and tortured -- some were burned alive at a stake, their skin peeled off, according to Gardiner's account. One group of men, out on a hay-cutting mission, was set upon by Pequots who "rose out of the long grass … and took the brother of Mr. Mitchell, who is minister of Cambridge, and roasted him alive."

Gardiner himself narrowly escaped death when he went outside the fort's walls with 10 armed men and three dogs. A half mile away, they met up with a small band of Pequots -- some of whom were wearing the clothes of murdered English settlers -- and a fight ensued. Almost immediately, two men were killed. As the group fled toward the safety of the fort, another man was shot through the thighs with an arrow, another man was hit in the back, and as Gardiner pulled back toward the fort, he was struck in the thigh. The group, he wrote, had to fight "with our naked swords or else they (would have) taken us all alive…." In another incident a day or two later, "I was shot with many arrows … but my buff coat preserved me, only one hurt me."

After these incidents, Underhill and Mason assembled an army of more than 80 men to stay with Gardiner. To beef up the numbers, the English recruited nearby Mohegans -- enemies of the Pequots. This army then attacked the Pequot fort near Mystic, slaughtering men, women and children and setting the building on fire. To historians today, the attack was a massacre unlike anything that had occurred in New England up to that point. To Englishmen at the time, it was a blessing. Gardiner wrote:

"… and the Lord God blessed their design and way, so that they returned with victory to the glory of God and honour of our nation, having slain three hundred, burnt their fort, and taken many prisoners."

Underhill's account, published in London in 1639, boasted that more than 1,000 Pequots were killed, three times Gardiner's estimate. Historians say that English soldiers conducted mop-up operations for months after the attack on the fort, hunting down Pequots hiding in the woods, and killing hundreds more. In a few months in 1637, most members of the tribe were killed.

"It was a war of extinction," said Kevin McBride, an archeologist at the University of Connecticut.

The Pequots would agree. Today, the descendants of the survivors operate Foxwoods Resort Casino on a site not far from the massacre. They believe their history was distorted. "The Pequots never wrote down their histories at the time of contact with Europeans," said Shannan McNair, a spokeswoman for Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. "So it's hard to know what was true and was said about the Pequots to justify the massacre."

After the massacre, Gardiner's life changed forever when an Indian from Long Island paddled his canoe over to Connecticut from Montauk. Spelling the Indian's name "Waiandance," Gardiner wrote in his account

Three days after the fight came Waiandance, next brother to the old Sachem of Long Island &hellip He came to know if we were angry with all Indians. I answered No, but only with such as had killed Englishmen. He asked whether they that lived upon Long Island might come to trade with us.

Gardiner said he would only trade with the Long Island Indians "if you will kill all the Pequots that come to you, and send me their heads . . . so he went away and did as I had said, and sent me five heads . . ."

And thus began the friendship of the English settler named Lion Gardiner and an Indian chief named Wyandanch. Two years later, his tour of duty in Connecticut over, Gardiner capitalized on his friendship with Wyandanch's people, whom the English called the Montaukett Indians, and bought some real estate on Long Island.

— Steve Wicz


John Winthrop1606-76, colonial governor in America, born in Groton, Suffolk, England; oldest son of John Winthrop (1588-1649). He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, became a lawyer, and emigrated to Massachusetts Bay in 1631. He returned to England in 1634 and in 1635 was commissioned governor of the new colony at Saybrook (now Deep River), Conn., just when other towns were being settled in the Connecticut valley; by agreement he was recognized for a year as titular governor of all. In 1646, Winthrop founded New London, and in 1657 and annually from 1659 to 1676 he was elected governor of Connecticut. After the Stuart restoration (1660), he obtained a charter (1662) that led to the union (1664) of Connecticut and New Haven colonies, and he governed the colony with an administration practically independent of England. He gathered a considerable library and by his interest in chemistry and other sciences helped to promote scientific study in the colonies. Elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1663, he became the first member resident in America.

1635 Bibliography

The Founders of Saybrook Colony: 1635–1660

Adgate, Thomas
Backus, William
Bagley, John Beaumont, William
Beckwith, Matthew
Bingham, Anna Stenton
Birchard, John
Bliss, Thomas
Bowers, Morgan
Branch, Arthur
Brockway, Wolston
Bull, Robert
Bull, Thomas
Burchard, Thomas
Bushnell, Francis, Jr.
Bushnell, Richard
Bushnell, William
Butterfield, Samuel
Chalker, Alexander
Champion, Henry
Chapman, Robert
Clarke, John, Sr.
Clarke, Johh, Jr
Clarke, Joseph
Codman, Robert
Collett, Elizabeth
Cornish, James
Dudley, William
Dunk, Thomas
Edgerton, Richard
Endecott, John
Fenner, John
Fenwick, George
Fitch, James
Frend, John
Gallop, John, Jr.

Gardiner, Lion
Gibbons, Edward
Green, John
Griswold, Francis
Griswold, Matthew
Hanchat, Thomas
Higginson, John
Huntington, Christopher
Huntington, Simon
Hurlbut, Thomas
Hyde, William
Ingham, Joseph
Jennings, Nicholas
Jones, Samuel
Jope, William
Lake, Margaret
Large, John
Laribee, Greenfield
Lay, Edward
Lay, John, Sr.
Lay, Robert
Lee, Phoebe
Lee, Thomas
Lees, Hugh
Leffingwell, Thomas
Lord, William
Lynde, Simon
Marvin, Reynold
Mason, John
Mitchell, Matthew
Nichols, Robert
Olmstead, John
Parker, William
Pell, Thomas
Perigo, Robert

Peters, Hugh
Peters, Thomas
Plum, John
Post, John
Post, Stephen
Pratt, William
Reynolds, John
Rogers, James
Rudd, Jonathan
Rumble, Thomas
Sanford, Zachariah
Seeley, Robert
Shipman, Edward
Spencer, John
Stanton, Thomas
Tilley, John
Tousland, Richard
Tracey, Thomas
Tully, John
Underhill, John
Wade, Richard
Wade, Robert
Waterhouse, Jacob
Waller, William
Welles, Thomas
Westall, John
Whittlesey, John
Willard, Simon
Winthrop, John, Jr
Winthrop, Stephen
Wood, George
Woods, John
Worthington, Nicholas

— Old Saybrook Founders Committee, 1985

1635 Bibliography