According to the school journal of Deacon Ephraim Fellows, Bartlett Shelly along with Samuel Shelly attended school in Stonington, Connecticut in the year 1776. The extent of Bartlett’s education is unknown. Either by simple mismanagement or misfortune Bartlett had accrued enough debt by April of 1798 to appear in the Debt Book of the Town of Stonington. This would be the first of a number of debt-related issues that would plague Bartlett for the next two decades.
In a slight turn of fortune 1807 saw Bartlett named in the will of Latham Hull of Stonington, as the recipient of 50 dollars to be paid in clothing and other necessities over the ensuing five years. It is unknown what Bartlett did to earn such favor, but his financial woes reemerged the next year in July of 1808 when he appeared again in the debt Book for the Town of Stonington. Whether related to this debt or not, Zebediel Rogers the same year initiated a lawsuit arguing Bartlett owed him money. Bartlett claimed in his defense that because he was “pure Pequot Indian” he couldn’t be sued for debt, unless the debt was associated with overdue rent. Unfortunately for Shelly, Rogers prevailed.
Whether he was truly “inclined to mismanagement and idlenss” as the records state, the Town of North Stonington appointed Elias Hewitt as an overseer for Bartlett Shelly for a period of two years from the spring of 1810-1812. During this time the 1810 Federal Census for North Stonington enumerated Bartlett Shelly as the head of a household of three and living on or adjacent to the Eastern Pequot Reservation and neighbors with the families of Samuel Shelly, Cyrus Shelly, Rachel Poheage, Hannah Poheage, Isaac Fagins, Elizabeth Tikens, Moses Skeesucks, Amos Robinson, Mary Johnson and Johannah Shantup.
In an 1815 survey of the Eastern Pequot community a special committee of the Connecticut House of Representatives examined the state and condition of the tribe. They found that among the 30 or so Indians at Lantern Hill there were 10 or 11 children. Bartlett Shelly’s household was noted as consisting of 2 adults and no children, with one person in the household, presumably Bartlett, listed among the town’s poor. In the five years that had transpired since the 1810 federal census it is possible that any children in the household had grown old enough to become independent.
It is presumed that this was the case with Bartlett Shelly Jr. The following year, 1816, Bartlet Shelly, was a witness in an assault case, State v. Hewitt. In April of 1817 Bartlett again fell on hard times this time becoming ill, with the Selectmen of the Town of North Stonington picking up the tab for “one peck of rye, one peck of potatoes” ordered for him. In December of the same year, the Town of North Stonington appointed Hosea Wheeler as his overseer for one year with special instructions to keep him free from debt to the Town for one year.
In December 1818 and June 1819 Bartlett Shelly of North Stonington was once again in trouble with the authorities this time as a defendant in an assault case in North Stonington. According to the New London County Court Records Bartlett was found guilty of assaulting Coddington Brown with a butcher knife. An overseer was appointed over Bartlett during these two years as well.
Neither Bartlett nor his family was enumerated in the 1820 federal census nor does Bartlett Shelly, Sr. appear in the documentary record after 1819, but a 1824 reference to a Bartlet Shelly, Jr. suggests that the Bartlett Shelly, Sr. is still alive, hence the qualifier of Jr. Interestingly, despite their clear association with the Eastern Pequot community, neither Bartlett Sr. nor Jr. appear by name in the records of state-appointed overseer for the Eastern Pequot Tribe.
Brown and Rose, Black Roots, 370; Town of Stonington, Debt Book, RG3, Box 3, Folder 14, Stonington Collection, CSL; Town of Stonington, Debt Book, RG3, Box 4, Folder 7, Stonington Collection, CSL; Town of North Stonington, Records of the Board of Selectmen 1804-1861; 1810 Federal Census, North Stonington, CT; Copy of the Appointment and Report of a Committee to Evaluate the State and Condition of Tribes in the State of Connecticut, IP 2.1.19 ; NLCC:Files, 1816, State v. Hewitt, RG3 Box 3 Folder 12, CSL; Town of North Stonington, Record of the Board of Selectmen 1804-1861; NLCC:Files, December 1818, RG 3 Box 3 Folder 14, CSL; NLCC:Files June 1819, RG3, Box 4 folder 22-23; NLCC:PbS, Indians, Eastern Pequot.