Daniels, Mark, 1782 - 1871
Mark Daniels was born in Middletown, Connecticut about 1782. Whether he was born into slavery or indentured to servitude is unclear, but in November of 1804, he ran away from his master, David Birdesy of Middletown. In the runaway notice, the 22-year-old Daniels was described as five feet four inches tall, "very much scarred in the face and the little finger on his right hand crooked up." Three years later, Daniels' obligations to David Birdsey were terminated; he was freed.
When and how Daniels first comes to North Groton, now Ledyard, CT is also uncertain, but by 1817 records indicate he is there, on or adjacent to the Western Pequot reservation. This would be the start of over fifty years of residency and close interaction with the Pequot community. Evidence suggests that Mark Daniels married a Pequot woman named Amy George at some point in the early 1820s. The documentary record, at this point, begins to include references to Amy Daniels and, occasionally, Amy Mark. The 1830 census includes a female aged 36-54 as living in the Mark Daniels household1. It is then that Daniels begins to appear with regularity in the records of the state-appointed overseer for the Western Pequot. Daniels provided goods and services on behalf of the overseer to the Pequot community and also leased a portion of reservation land.
Over the course of his more than half century on the reservation, Daniels leased, or otherwise had use of, and improved the following pieces of land: Molly Cujep Place, the Cujep Pasture, School House Lot, and the Benjamin George Lot. It is likely that the combination of these parcels made up the Daniels 70-acre farmstead that was enumerated in the 1860 census for the Town of Ledyard. It was located in the north western portion of the reservation adjacent to the farm of Captain Henry Hallet. Daniels offset the cost of leasing land with improvements such as making fences and stonewalls to enclose his fields and pastures, as well as planting his fields.
Like some of his neighbors, Daniels was instrumental in providing housing and medical aid to tribal members in need. Beginning in December of 1817 and continuing for decades, the record shows that the Daniels household served as a place where tribal members could go and be cared for and he was often compensated for this service. Anne Wampey, Sally Pierce, Sarah Meazon, John Nedson (the grandson of Daniels' wife, Amy George), as well as, a multitude of unnamed people were cared for by Daniels, sometimes for years on end2.
It is likely that Amy George Daniels died in the first or second week of November 1834. Beginning in July and extending into November of that year the records of the state-appointed overseer include bills for medical visits, advice, and medicine for "Amy Mark" and "Mark Daniels wife". A November 19th, 1834 bill from J. Fanning to the overseer for a coffin coincides with Amy's sickness and her subsequent disappearance from the historical record3. Despite the death of his wife, Daniels remained on the reservation, having established close relationships with families in the community, and continues providing goods and services to the tribe and leasing land for his use.
Mark Daniels remarried in Ledyard on March 3, 1844, to Phyllis Babcock. Daniels was left widowed, once again, when Phyllis died in December of 1853. Less than a year later Daniels, at the age of 72, married for a third time. He and Lucinda Randall of nearby North Stonington, CT entered into matrimony December 10, 1854 in Ledyard.
While not recognized officially as a member of the tribe, Mark Daniels seems to have played an important role in the community, a role that extended beyond the financial give and take of the overseer's accounting. It was said of Daniels that " [h]e occupied the most pretentious of the dwellings and was very friendly with the English residents.
Records seem to indicate that he was involved in religious activities on the reservation, and it was at his house that "meetings" of local preachers and exhorters were held. He frequently led such meetings himself and was a man quite generally respected."
Consistent with the pattern of illegal land takings since colonial times, the State of Connecticut, in January of 1856, sold 800 acres of the Pequot reservation, against the will of the tribe. The State argued that the reservation was too large for the tribal population, that too much of the land was left unproductive and that by selling it, the fund set aside for the care and management of the tribe would be replenished4. The public auction was held at Mark Daniel's house and he obtained a mortgage to buy the land that he had been leasing for the past thirty-five years.
By 1860, after decades of toil, Daniels' 74 acre farm was valued at $1400. Forty acres of which were improved, no small feat for a man in his early 80s, even with help. He owned a horse, milk cow, four oxen and two swine. Over the course of that year alone, he produced 30 bushels of rye, 50 bushels of Indian corn, 20 bushels of oats, 75 bushels of Irish potatoes, 75 pounds of butter, 15 tons of hay, and $164 worth of slaughtered animals.
Fee simple ownership of his farm didn't seem to change his relationship with the Pequot community. He continued to provide goods and services to the tribe, boarding and caring for various tribal members, until his death due to old age on December 22, 1871. In his probate, Daniels' extensive inventory of personal property, as well as his real estate, was auctioned to the public. Generous trusts of two hundred dollars apiece were established for his nephew Henry Daniels, Narragansett and Eastern Pequot affiliate Augustus Harry and Western or Mashantucket Pequot George Cottrell. Mark Daniels' widow, Lucinda Daniels, was left a third of his estate and all of the furniture left to him by his former wife. Daniels was buried in the Latham-Hallet cemetery near to his farmstead.
Middlesex Gazette, 20 January 1804, p.3; Brown and Rose, Black Roots, 101; US Federal Census 1820-1870; NLCC: PbS, Indians, Western Pequot; Avery, History of the Town of Ledyard, 258-259; CSL, 1860 Agricultural Census for the Town of Ledyard, CT, page 9.
- 1. Additionally, at the time of his second marriage in 1844, the record indicates he had been previously married.
- 2. It is important to note, that while Mark Daniels is the individual named in many of these documents, it is reasonable to assume that his wife, Amy George Daniels, was intimately involved in much of the work of caring and supporting these individuals, while Mark Daniels saw to the other elements of running a farm.
- 3. Without an extent death record, it can only be speculated as to what the cause of death was.
- 4. While the land sale did fill the tribal coffers in the short term, the sale itself was illegal, and was based upon a paternalistic misunderstanding of tribal land use, and, in no small part, greed.