Commuck, Thomas, 1804 - 1855
Born in 1804, Thomas Commuck, the son of Narragansett councilor Joseph Commuck, grew up in Charlestown, Rhode Island. There he attended a missionary school and developed an interest in reading. Around 1824, he moved to Brothertown, New York where he married Hannah Abner, an Eastern Pequot, in 1831. That same year, the couple removed to the new Brothertown community at Green Bay, Wisconsin where they started a family of what would be ten children. In Wisconsin, Commuck served as the community's first postmaster, justice of the peace, and historian. In 1844, the Milwaukee Courier reported that the Wisconsin Whig Party had nominated Commuck as a candidate for the Territory's House of Representatives.
A singer himself, in 1838 he began to work on putting together a collection of music, a "number of airs which have been long in use among the Brothertown Indians." Seven years later, in 1845, Commuck published Indian Melodies, a collection of 120 hymns presented in shape note or sacred harp notation. The work is possibly the earliest musical publication by a Native American composer.
He published "Sketch of Calumet County for the Wisconsin Historical Society in 1854, and in the summer of following year, in correspondence with the Society's secretary, Lyman C. Draper, Commuck produced a short history of his community, published four years later as Sketch of the Brothertown Indians. Unfortunately, during the winter at the end of 1855, Commuck fell through the ice near his residence at Calumet, Wisconsin and drowned.
Love, Samson Occom and the Christian Indians of New England, 325, 328, 335, 338-339. The North American and Daily Advertiser, August 5, 1844, 2. Lyman Draper, Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Vol. 1, 103-106. Lyman Draper, ed., Report and Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Vol. 4 (Madison, WI: James Ross, 1859), 291-298.