Brushell, Moses, 1793 - 1843
Moses Brushell was an Eastern Pequot Indian born in Stonington or North Stonington, Connecticut around 1793. For more than two decades, he had an extensive seafaring career, beginning with his service in the New York Company of Sea Fencibles under the command of Captain Burrows, Jr. during the War of 1812. In his 1814 enlistment contract, the 21-year-old Moses stated that he was a farmer born in Connecticut.
Shortly after his return from military service, Moses embarked on what would be the first of many voyages, no fewer than eight in a twenty-two year period (1818-1840). He departed from New London, CT in December of 1818 aboard the brig Sarah. The destination and duration of the voyage is unknown. Brushell was, however, enumerated two years later in the 1820 Federal Census having relocated for a short time to the nearby town of Waterford, Connecticut. He would have been about 26 or 27 years old. Ostensibly the woman in the household (in the same age bracket) was Sylvia, his wife. With them lived an older man (45+), possibly a parent or grandparent. According to the census, Moses was once again trying his hand at farming.
Eventually, he and Silvia had two children: Tamar Brushell (1822-1915) and John Brushell. By 1824 Moses had returned to the Eastern Pequot reservation with his two young children. There is no mention of his wife Sylvia. Moses and his children found support among the Eastern Pequot community, and he was able to draw on the Eastern Pequot funds by collecting on his portion of land rental in March of 1824. The call of the sea was strong. Moses obtained his Seamen’s Protection Certificate and left on a trading voyage in October of that year aboard the Stonington-based schooner Buffalo destined for Demerara, the former Dutch colony of Guiana off the north coast of South America.
When Moses Brushell wasn’t at sea, he appeared fairly consistently in the records of the state-appointed overseer for the Eastern Pequot tribe. From October 1828 until April 1829, he obtained staple products such as potatoes, meal, and pork as well as cloth of various kinds. For at least part of that time, he had taken ill, a possible explanation as to why he did not return to maritime employment.
From November of 1829 until the end of January of 1830, Moses took care of Lucinda Brushell in her final days. Whether Lucinda was Moses' second wife, a sibling, or sister- in- law is unknown, but this caregiving was perhaps another reason why he remained on the reservation.
In August 1830 Moses departed for the South Seas on a seal-hunting trip as a crew member on the schooner Breakwater based in Stonington, Connecticut. While he was gone from home, the Eastern Pequot overseer processed a November 9, 1830 bill submitted by Miss Hannah Turner for educating the child or children of Moses Brushell. A similar bill for the care and upkeep Moses’ children during his absence was settled by the overseer on February 19, 1831.
At this time, Moses' daughter, Tamar, would have been nine or ten years old. It is unknown as to whether John was older or younger. Considering the nature of their father's work and prolonged absence over the next decade, it would not have been uncommon for Tamar or John to have been bound out to local nonnative families as servants or apprentices. There is no mention of their care or education in the overseer’s records after February of 1831.
Prior to leaving on the schooner Frances headed to the South Seas on October 20, 1832, Moses, or his proxy, leased his exclusive use rights to the “Moses Brushell field” to fellow Eastern Pequot Richard Nedson for $15. His shipmates on the Frances included, among others, Solomon Brushell, Thomas Ward, Prince Wheeler, all of Stonington. Ward would be involved in the murder of neighbor Lodowick Wheeler several years later, and Prince Wheeler would end up burying Moses on the Eastern Pequot reservation in 1843.
Moses Brushell was at sea almost continually for the next ten years. There is only one entry in the Eastern Pequot overseer’s accounts which references him during this time. Specifically, the record mentions his wife as ordering pork and potatoes from the overseer in Jan 1833. It is unclear who his wife was at that time. Moses left again in May of 1834 aboard the Acasta, a ship bound for the South Atlantic and elsewhere. In the ensuing six years, he sailed aboard the whaling vessels Henry, Atlas, and Thomas Williams, returning home long enough to get married to fellow Eastern Pequot Hannah Shelly on June 13, 1839, in North Stonington.
That might have been Moses' last voyage. The records of the State appointed overseer for the Eastern Pequot Tribe document the final year of his life. From August 1842 to October 1843, he resided on or very near to the reservation. Peter Warham, Thomas Ward, and Harry Gardner were all involved in keeping and caring for him until his death in October of that year. The Eastern Pequot Tribe paid for his coffin, grave clothes, and burial.
NARA, Military Records War of 1812, Records of Service Men, Enlistment Contract; Lynch Report, 3; 1820 Federal Census, Waterford, CT; Brown and Rose, Black Roots, 50; NLCC:PbS, Indians, Eastern Pequot; Protection Certificates, Mystic Seaport; Crew Lists, Mystic Seaport, Buffalo; CT Ship Database, Mystic Seaport, Buffalo; Crew Lists, Mystic Seaport, Breakwater; Crew Lists, Mystic Seaport, Francis; Crew Lists, Mystic Seaport, Acasta; Crew Lists, Mystic Seaport, Henry; Crew Lists, Mystic Seaport, Atlas; Crew Lists, Mystic Seaport, Thomas Williams; NSVR 1758-1864:181