Shelly, Samuel, 1759 - 1826
Samuel Shelly was born in what is now North Stonington, Connecticut in 1759. In 1770, the Selectmen of Stonington bound out Samuel Shelly, an Eastern Pequot Indian boy of about eleven years old, to John Williams, III. Six years later, according to the journal of Deacon Ephraim Fellows, Samuel Shelly along with Bartlett Shelly attended school in Stonington.1
The extent of Samuel’s education is unknown but at the age of sixteen or seventeen, he was likely preparing to end his academic career and move into a military career. Shelly’s transition from student to soldier began in 1777 and is evidenced by a number of Revolutionary War enlistment and payroll records, as well as a much later pension request. He served first as a Private in Colonel Samuel Prentice’s (and later Colonel Webb’s) 1st Connecticut Regiment in the Company led by Captain James Eldridge of Stonington, enlisting on May 31, 1777 for the duration of war. He joined the regiment at Peekskill, NY under the direction Lieutenant Daniel Collins who had enlisted him. Shelly was at Yorktown and was among those who stormed Redoubt No. 10 leading eventually to the “capitulation of Cornwallis”. He continued in the army until the end of the war being discharged, honorably, at West Point.
From the end of the war until 1788, Samuel Shelly was the recipient of financial support from the State of Connecticut, a function of his service in the Revolutionary War. Samuel married Esther sometime prior to 1788 and had the following children: Noyes (March 20, 1788- prior to 1820); Elizabeth (1788- ); Clarissa (1795- ); James (1797- ), Charlotte (1800 - ), and Thomas (1802 - 1863). In 1799 a suit for debt was brought against Samuel Shelly by Chesebrough. Despite these legal troubles, at least one local merchant was still willing to do business with Shelly as evidenced by entries in the account book of John Hyde of Stonington from 1808-1811.
The 1810 Federal Census for North Stonington enumerated Samuel Shelly as the head of a household of six living on or adjacent to the Eastern Pequot reservation and neighbors with the families of Cyrus Shelly, Sr., Bartlett Shelly, Rachel Poheage, Hannah Poheage, Isaac Fagins, Elizabeth Tikens, Moses Skeesucks, Amos Robinson, Mary Johnson, and Johannah Shantup. In May of 1815, a state-appointed commission visited the Eastern Pequot reservation and conducted a survey of Indian households. It was noted that the household of Samuel Shelly consisted of two adults and two school-aged children, most likely Charlotte age 15 and Thomas age 13. Within their household, there was one individual that was also listed among the town’s poor, probably Samuel himself.
This is certainly the case in 1818 and 1819, when the Board of Selectmen for the Town of North Stonington appoint Elias Hewitt as an overseer to Samuel Shelly and Bartlett Shelly for a two year period. In a June 1820 United States pension request a 61-year-old Samuel Shelly noted that he was a laborer and was much debilitated by rheumatism as well as a hernia. He and his wife Esther, 58 years old, lived on the Eastern Pequot reservation in North Stonington in a house with three of their five surviving children (all adults) and one grandchild. This was around the time that Jedediah Morse in his travels through the region noted Samuel Shelly along with Cyrus Shelly, Samuel Shantup and James Nedson as the principal men in the tribe.
From November of 1821 until the end of December 1825 Samuel Shelly appeared frequently in the records of the Selectmen of North Stonington along with fellow Eastern Pequot Cyrus Shelly. The two men had overseers appointed over then, ostensibly to manage their financial affairs. Samuel Shelly died August 22, 1826 and on April 1st 1828, the heirs of Samuel Shelly (Thomas, James, and Clara Shelly) applied for bounty land in the right of Samuel Shelly, deceased, based on his service military service in the Revolutionary War. A bounty land warrant for 100 acres was issued in their behalf.
Brown and Rose, Black Roots, 371; Johnston, CT Military Records, 153, 349, 354; Bates, List and Returns, 335, 637; NARA M804. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, Pension # S.36306; NLCC, Register for Army Notes, Box 222, Folder 387; NLCC, Register for Army Notes, Box 223, Folders 22, 91, 109; NLCC, Receipt Book Soldiers Notes, Boxes 120-131; Brown and Rose, Black Roots, 371; NLCC: Files, June 1799, Chesebrough v. Shelly, Box 3, Folder 2; Msbd H992, ICRC; 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, 1815.05.01.00, IP 2.1.19; Town of North Stonington, Records of the Board of Selectmen 1804-1861; NARA M804. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, Pension # S.36306; Deforest, History of the Indians of CT, 442-3; Town of North Stonington, Records of the Board of Selectmen 1804-1861:9; NARA M804. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, Pension # S.36306
- 1. It is possible that by this time that the school initiated in 1757 by Reverend Joseph Fish on the Eastern Pequot reservation had lost its financial support from the New England Company and the schoolbuilding transitioned into other use