The Brotherton/Brothertown Movement - American Indian History

Today, I read a children's history of local Indian (Pequot/Mohegan) history and came across a fact I never knew. The book I read is The Pequots by Shirlee P. Newman. I think I need a job like hers, writing brief histories. The new history to me is about the Brothertons. Not mentioned at Accessgeneaology is the Christian faith that united these diverse tribes members, but a simple history is given.
The name of two distinct bands, each formed of remnants of various Algonquian tribes. The best-known band was composed of individuals of the Mahican, Wappinger, Mohegan, Pequot, Narraganset, etc., of Connecticut and Rhode Island, and of the Montauk and others from Long Island, who settled in 1788 on land given them by the Oneida at the present Marshall, Oneida county, N. Y., near the settlement then occupied by the Stockbridge. Those of New England were mainly from Farnington, Stonington, Groton, Mohegan, and Niantic (Lynne), in Connecticut, and from Charlestown in Rhode Island. They all went under the leadership of Samson Occum the Indian minister, and on arriving in Oneida county called their settlement Brotherton. As their dialects were different they adopted the English language. They numbered 250 in 1791. In 1833 they removed to Wisconsin with the Oneida and Stockbridge and settled on the east side of Winnebago lake, in Calumet county, where they soon after abandoned their tribal relations and became citizens, together with the other emigrant tribes settled near Green Bay. They are called Wapanachki, "eastern people," by the neighboring Algonquian tribes.
One of the tribes came from Stockbridge where David Brainerd tried to make converts. The Mashantucket Pequots have a timeline showing that between 1785 and 1810 up to half of the tribe departed to join these Brothertons. Up to a fourth of the Mohegans left and joined the Brothertons. The group still retains their identity and have a website. This site mentions the Christian identity of their ancestors. Here is their own summary.
The Brothertown (Brotherton) are descendants of the Pequot and Mohegan (Algonquin-speaking) tribes in southern New England. They became a tribe in 1769 when seven Christian and English-speaking communities organized and moved to land in upstate New York. They cleared the land, planted fields and built houses while under intense pressure to again move west. The Brothertown joined their neighbors, the Oneida and the Stockbridge, and planned a move to Wisconsin. The Brothertown purchased land near Kaukauna which the United States government exchanged for the land called Brothertown Township in Calumet County. Five groups of Brothertown arrived in Wisconsin on ships at the port of Green Bay between 1831 and 1836. Upon arrival, the Brothertown cleared land and began farming after building a church near Jericho. Today, the Brothertown remain a culturally distinct Indian community with the largest concentration residing in the Fond du Lac area.
More history can be found here and wiki. Perhaps I can track down this unpublished manuscript at the Pequot Research Library by Kevin McBride called "Desirous to Improve After the European Manner: The Mashantucket Pequots and the Brotherton Movement" 1996. These people were not dummies. Their founders were contributors to early Native American literature.
Occum, a founder of the Brotherton movement, a Christian Indian community in New York, produced a hymnal, Choice Collection, that was precedent setting in its inclusiveness. Little known by the twentieth century, it was both popular and influential in the eighteenth century. The appearance in one volume of English, American, Anglican, dissenting, Methodist, and Baptist hymns make it "one of the first interdenominational American hymnals" (54). After an examination of the whole hymnal "as a pioneering work of American Indian literature and American religion," (70) Brooks turns to a close examination of Occum's own writing, his hymn "Throughout the Savior's Life We Trace" and five other poems written by him during the 1770s, establishing him as "the first Native American to write and publish poetry in English" (74).
There is a collection of his writings, The Collected Writings of Samson Occom, Mohegan: Literature and Leadership in Eighteenth-Century Native America. Interestingly, he was a major fundraiser for and founder of Dartmouth College. Dartmouth was not founded for rich white kids but for Native Americans according to this summary from the Mohegan tribe.
Born in a wigwam on Mohegan land, Samson Occum (1723-1792) was one of the first ordained Christian Indian ministers. Occum's popularity as an eloquent teacher and spiritual leader grew with Indians over a large part of New England. To accommodate this interest, he decided to form a New England Christian Indian School. The church sent him to England to raise funds, where he collected eleven thousand pounds from wealthy patrons, such as the Earl of Dartmouth and King George. When he returned however, he found his family destitute and his school moved to Hanover, New Hampshire, where it became Dartmouth College.

This disappointment was followed by the Connecticut Colony's ruling that the Mohegans would not be compensated for land they sold to the colony. The colony then backed an unpopular candidate for Mohegan Sachemship. This led the Mohegans to decide that no Sachem was better than a colonial puppet. With the Tribe increasingly penniless and powerless, Occum accepted an invitation for his group to resettle with the upstate New York Oneida. He hoped their new home in Brothertown, New York would free them from additional disappointment. His legacy for the Mohegan people who remained in Connecticut was a reputation for being Christianized, which helped them avoid later relocation.
A good summary is made at the Pequot Museum.
In a twenty-year span from 1780 to 1800, the Native population in southern New England fell by as much as half -- not as a result of war or disease, but as a result of a religious movement called the Brotherton Migration.

The movement grew from the missionary work of Samson Occum, a Mohegan Indian and Methodist minister whose teachings blended Christian faith with practical strategies to ensure his people's survival. In the 1770s, Occum had begun promoting a plan to establish self-sufficient Native farming communities removed from the vices of white society. Residents of these new towns would live by Christian principles, including temperance and a strong work ethic.

The Impact of Occum’s Message
“Occum absolutely recognized that staying in New England surrounded by Europeans would be the death of Native culture,” says Dr. Kevin McBride of the University of Connecticut and the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center. “He wanted his people to prosper, and he wanted them to leave the area and establish themselves further to the west along the frontier.”

The frontier in Occum's time was western New York State, where the Oneida Indians donated more than 6,000 acres for the new Brotherton settlement. The community became firmly established with a group of settlers who arrived in 1784. In the years following the Revolutionary War, reservations throughout New England began to empty out as the migration to Brotherton got underway.

“Half to three quarters of the Pequots at Mashantucket left,” says Dr. McBride. “All of Indiantown abandoned the reservation, and a good half of the other farmsteads were abandoned as well.”

Over the 45 years following the first settlement, emigrants to Brothertown included Mashantucket and Pawcatuck Pequots, Narragansetts, Eastern and Western Niantics, Mohegans, Montauks, and Tunxis.

While a small and weakened Pequot tribe struggled to hold on at Mashantucket in the decades ahead, even the Brothertons hundreds of miles to the west could not escape the demand of whites for Indian land. Forced to migrate yet again by a growing wave of American settlers, the Brotherton Indians moved west to Wisconsin in the 1830s, where their descendants still live today.
See also a short wiki entry.
Joseph Johnson was a Mohegan Christian preacher who helped found the Brotherton. There is a book of his letters and writings called To Do Good to My Indian Brethren: The Writings of Joseph Johnson, 1751-1776.
When the tribes had to leave Oneida land, some went south to New Jersey. A British author wrote a book on that group called Brotherton. I can't find much more on the web about this movement's beliefs. I'll have to read some books.
Read more on native americans and church.


Anonymous said…
Thanks! this was very helpful, I am researching native american history of Eastern LI and found this info on Brotherton very interesting!
Jeff Siemers said…
John, overall a good post, however, I have this/these objection(s):
We should really call these people the "Brothertown" Indians, because there were some Delawares who called themselves the "Brotherton" Indians (I've written about them in my own blog, they were the converts off David Brainerd) It is all to easy to get the two "nations" confused with each other....
John Umland said…
If the Brothertown's own website uses both names then I'll leave it for now.
Thanks for reading and great blog you have.
God is good
Anonymous said…
I would like to comment on Jeff's question about calling the Wisconsin tribe "Brothertown ",I am a tribal menber and a direct decendent of Sampson Occum.AS Sampson called his fellow brethern "Brother",hence he came up with "Brothertown Indian Nation".This is what we are known as,we are Pequot and Mohegan.
John Umland said…
Anon #2, are you located near one of the Mohegan homesteads, Norwich, CT; Brothertown, NY; or Green Bay, WI?

God is good

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