Sunsamon, Phebe, 1743 - 1838
Phebe Sunsamon was born circa 1743. Although she was a longtime Mashantucket community member married to James Sunsamon, she was a Native, possibly Montauk, from Long Island, NY.
Little is known of Phebe Sunsamon’s early years. She is in her seventies by the time she first appears in the historical record, receiving goods and services from the State appointed overseer, William Williams, in March of 1819. Over the course of the following two decades, she, sometimes with her husband, James, or other members of the family, is noted in the records of the overseers as receiving provisions or care paid out of the tribal funds.
Phebe Sunsamon was a signatory on at least one petition. In 1825, she requested, along with 18 others from the community, that the New London County Court discharge Overseer Elisha Crary and the appoint Erastus Williams.
Records indicate that Sunsamon and her family lived on the reservation, quite possibly on a portion that the non-Native Hallet family leased from the tribe. For decades the Hallets rented the Sunsamon Pasture “east of the brook”. While little is known regarding the specifics of the Sunsamon’s homestead, it was large enough to contain a garden which was plowed each season for planting.
In December of 1833, Phebe Sunsamon was enumerated in a private census of tribal members living on the reservation. Erastus Williams, having just concluded his tenure as overseer, described Phebe, in a letter to William Williams, as 90 years old Indian woman from Long Island and married to James Sunsamon, a 70 year Pequot man.
Given in the couple’s advanced ages, it’s not surprising that their health might soon begin to suffer. Over the ensuing months, records show multiple visits and medicine provided by Dr. Mason Manning to both James and Phebe. It appears that this is around the time that the elderly couple moved in with fellow tribal member, Hannah Miller who provided them with board, care, and various necessaries for a number of years. Accordingly, individual entries for the Sunsamons for provisions in the overseer’s account are less prolific during this period, as Hannah Miller assumed much of their care.
Phebe and James continued to live with Miller until early in the winter of 1838 when Phebe Sunsamon died. On December 18, 1838 fellow Pequot Charles Fagins was paid for digging the grave for Phebe and a month later the expenses of her coffin and grave clothes were settled.
CHS, William Samuel Johnson Papers, III, 100: December 13, 1833 Letter from Erastus Williams to William T. Williams; CHS, Ms 27960 Geer & Morgan Families Papers, 1717-1850, Folder 19;
Brown and Rose, Black Roots, 399; CSL, NLCC:PbS, Indians, Mashantucket Pequot.