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The Branford Area

in the decade before

English Settlement:

1635 - 1644

by John Kirby



     In 1635, the land that is now Branford and North Branford was called Totoket, place of the tidal river. Sachem Montowese had inherited Totoket from his mother who was a Quinnipiac Indian of chiefly lineage. Although his mother was a Quinnipiac, his father, Sowheage, was the mighty sachem (chief) of the Mattabesec Indians whose land stretched northward to Middletown and beyond. These two kindred tribes shared an interest in Totoket that enabled the inland Indians access to the Sound to obtain seafood, to collect shells for making wampum, and to trade with Europeans.



Artist's rendition of the Dutch House. Painted by Augusta Johnson




The Dutch established a trading post on what is now the Branford River about 1635. They built a structure known as the Dutch House and had a landing where the present Dutch Warf is located. Montowese promoted the trade of beaver and other skins to the Dutch from his domain and that of his father.





Text Box: Artist's rendition of the Dutch House. Painted by Augusta Johnson




     Prior to 1638, Thomas Mulliner and his family arrived from Ipswich, England. Montowese allowed Mulliner to occupy Branford Point, but the relationship between the two men is uncertain. Mulliner was a mariner and competent carpenter, but also a disreputable troublemaker. A carved chest attributed to Mulliner may well be the oldest extant example of American furniture.

     Thomas Whitway also lived in Totoket before 1644. He learned the Indian languages easily and often served as interpreter.

     In the Pequot War of 1636-37, between six and seven hundred Pequots were slain by members of the Connecticut and Massachusetts Colonies at the Indian fort near the Mystic River. This war had a dramatic effect on the Totoket area. Firstly, the Pequots were no longer a threat. Secondly, for the first time, the northern coast of the Sound had been observed by a number of Englishmen in their pursuits of the Pequots. One of the ship owners was John Plum from Wethersfield, who would later become the first town clerk of Totoket (Branford).

     Favorable reports about the northern shore of Long Island led to the settlement of New Haven by John Davenport and Theophilius Eaton. Quinnipiac (New Haven) was purchased from Sachem Momaugin on Nov.24th, 1638. The tribe consisted of only 47 braves and their families. A reservation of about 1200 acres was set aside for the Quinnipiacs on the east side of the present New Haven Harbor. On Dec.11, 1638, Davenport and Eaton purchased land from Montowese which included Totoket. The price was a coat of English cloth for himself and eleven coats of trucking cloth for his small band of warriors. In the agreement the area called Totoket called Indian Neck was allotted to the Mattabesec Indians.

     Samuel Eaton, brother of Theophilius, was granted Totoket in 1640 to be settled by a group from England. He sailed to England to arrange settlement but decided not to return.

     Between 1640 and 1644, Totoket was not an unknown wilderness as some historians have suggested. On Feb.24th, 1644 “Totoket, a place fit for a small plantation, betwixt Newhaven and Guilford & purchased from the Indians, was granted to Mr. Swayne & some others of Wethersfield.” At a later date Totoket became Branford, and the road from the center of town to Indian Neck was named Montowese Street.



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