Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Working on Wednesday: Thomas Stanton (About 1615 - 1677), Indian Interpreter and Fur Trader

Nothing is known about Thomas Stanton, my paternal 8th great grandfather*, before he arrived in Massachusetts in 1635.** The next year he moved to Hartford, Connecticut, where he was one of the original  proprietors and engaged in fur trading with the Indians, learning their language and customs.

His skill as an interpreter was so valued by the United Colonies that they paid him a yearly sum for his services. As Frances Manwaring Caulkins*** comments about Thomas:
"He himself appears to have been always upon the wing, yet always within call. As interpreter to the colony, wherever a court, a conference or a treaty was to be held, or a sale made, in which the Indians were a party, he was required to be present. Never, perhaps, did the acquisition of a barbarous language give to a man such an immediate, wide-spread and lasting importance. From the year 1636, when he was Winthrop's interpreter with the Nahantick sachem, to 1670, when Uncas visited him with a train of warriors and captains to get him to write his will, his name is connected with almost every Indian transaction on record."
In 1638 the Connecticut General Court named seven men who were the only ones permitted to trade with the Indians for beaver and Thomas Stanton of Hartford was one of those named.

Having married and started a family by 1639, he continued living in Hartford, then took up residence in New London by 1650, while at the same time establishing a trading house in Pawcatuck (later Stonington) which he moved permanently by 1653.

He represented Stonington as Deputy to the Connecticut General Court for many years, served on a commission "to end small causes" and was a Selectman for the town. He even prepared a catechism in the Narragansett or Pequot language for the commissioners of the United Colonies which was published in 1658.

He died in 1677 at the age of 62 and is buried in Wequetequock Burying Ground. The "new house" Thomas left to his son Robert in his will is still standing. It's on the National Register of Historic Places and is now a house museum.****

[Historic American Buildings Survey Everett H. Keeler, Photographer March 9, 1937 SOUTH ELEVATION - Robert Stanton House, Stonington, New London County, CT. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.]

monument for him and three other founders was erected in 1899 and  his name appears on the historical marker for the town.

[Photo Doug Kerr]

*Through his daughter Hannah.
**Some believe that he first sailed to Virginia before removing to Massachusetts but this hasn't been proven.
***History of New London, Connecticut, from the first survey of the coast in 1612 to 1860.
****To watch a 2012 video tour of the house.

© 2014 Copyright, Christine Manczuk, All Rights Reserved.

No comments:

Post a Comment