Tribal History


UNCAS MEMORIAL

"The ancient Indian Cemetery, heavily shadowed with a native growth of trees, is now little more than an inclosure for the Uncas Monument.

During the summer of 1833, General Jackson, President of the United States, with a part of his Cabinet, made a tour through a portion of the Eastern States. The citizens of Norwich had long been desirous of erecting some memorial of respect for their 'Old Friend', the Mohegan Sachem, and they suddenly decided to celebrate the visit of the President by connecting it with the interesting ceremony of laying the corner-stone of an Uncas monument.

The Presidential party came from Hartford by land, arriving by the Essex Turnpike in open coaches, with a brilliant escort of cavalry that had gone forth to meet them. Vice-President Van Buren, Gov. Edwards of Connecticut, Major Donelson, and Messrs. Cass, Woodbury and Poinsett, Secretaries of War, Navy and State, formed the party. They arrived at 3 o'clock P.M., paused a few moments at the Falls, and then advanced to the Cemetery, where a great assemblage of the inhabitants, military companies, bands of children with banners and mottoes, and a few scattered Indians from Mohegan, received the visitors with martial salutes and joyful acclamations.

At the cemetery, where all stood with uncovered heads, N.L.Shipman, Esq., in behalf of the Association, gave a brief sketch of the family of Uncas and the existing condition of the tribe. The President then moved the foundation-stone to its place. It was an interesting, suggestive ceremony; a token of respect from the modern warrior to the ancient,-from the emigrant race to the aborigines. General Case, in a short but eloquent address to the multitude, observed that the earth afforded but a few more striking spectacles than that of one hero doing homage at the tomb of another.

The ceremony being concluded, the childred sang a hymn, and the Presidential party passed away, pausing again at the Landing for refreshments, and embarking from thence in a steamer for New London.

Though the corner-stone was thus auspiciously prepared, no funds had been obtained or plans matured for the erection of the monument. The ladies at length took hold of the work, and brought it to a successful issue. Embracing the opportunity of a political mass-meeting, which assembled at Norwich, Oct. 15, 1840, in honor of Harrison and Tyler, they prepared a refreshment fair, - with generous enthusiasm arranged and filled their tables, - took their station as saleswomen, and with the profits paid for the monument.

It consists of a simple granite obelisk, with no inscription but the name, UNCAS.

The raising of the shaft, and fixing it upon the foundation-stone, was the occasion of another festival. This was on the 4th of July, 1842, at which time William Stone of New York delivered an Historic Discourse on the Life and Times of the Sachem:" *

"I have said that we are treading upon the ashes of kings.True indeed it is, that the royal title was unknown in their own imperfect nomenclature, but in their rank, their order of descent, the character of the office, and the manner of exercising their power, they were Sovereigns and their royal Sachems, to all intents and purposes are Kings. And thus they were styled by writers nearest their own times. Rude kings they were it's true, kings who revelled not in voluptuousness, nor wasted their time amidst the delights of the harem, like a Moslem Prince, nor degraded their manhood by plying the bobbin, or wielding the distaff, like Sardanapalus, nor yet were they of those who sought immortality by rearing cities, and palaces, and massive walls, and solemn temples, like those ot Thebes, and Babylon and Alexandria.

But of a far different race were the sons of the forests, where now stand the bright cities and villages of New England. They were not of common order of men, but a race, proud. and haughty, whose persons and characteristics were of mingled grandeur and gloom, and who, like the Fairies and Fates of the Greek mythology, seem born amid the convulsion of the elements, of cloud and storms. And yet, their lives of turbulence ended, they were content that their bones should lie soft beneath the sod, in calm seclusion upon the sweet bank of their own Yantic, as though lulled to repose by the ceaseless music of the neighboring waterfall."

* History of Norwich, Connecticut: From its possesion by the Indians to the year 1866, by Frances Manwaring Caulkins, 1866, pages 585 and 586