Charles, Thankful, 1793 - 1873

Thankful Charles was born around 1793, possibly to Benjamin and Polly Charles, two Western Pequots. If this parentage is accurate, Thankful most likely spent her early years among the Pequot community living on the Groton reservation.  First appearing in the historical record as a young woman in 1819, she was a signatory on a tribal petition voicing disapproval of the tribe’s overseer.  In 1822 she married James Orris Guy (also known as James Warris), a man of color, in Norwich, Connecticut.  Subsequently, they successfully petitioned and received authorization to build a home on the reservation and were granted the use of a contiguous parcel of land approximately seven acres in size. 

During this time Thankful remained active in tribal affairs, signing her name to a petition associated with the selection of an overseer in 1825 and again in 1831.  The Guy household benefited from Thankful’s tribal membership not just in the form of housing and land use, but also in terms of goods, services and credit.  She and her husband were reimbursed for assisting other tribal members in need, providing board for extended period in the mid-1820s to two elders, Ann Wampey and Moses Sunsaman. 

It was around this time that Thankful and her husband became estranged.   The overseer records suggest that the two were together at least until 1826.  Up until that point, Thankful went by the last name of Guy or Warris, but in the late 1820s- early 1830s Thankful reverted back to her last name Charles.  This coincides with what James Guy stated in a petition to the New London County Superior Court in which he claims that around 1830 Thankful “became unsteady and dissipated and absconded, and eloped with another man. And has ever since continued so to absent herself unlawfully from the bed and board of the memorialist leaving him alone.”

It is unclear where Thankful went and with whom, but she was conspicuously absent from the records of the tribal overseer from 1834 until 1868, a period of more than three decades.  She re-emerged in the historical record as an elderly woman in failing health. Tribal funds were used to pay for her care (food and medical attention) from 1868 until her death in 1873.  The tribe paid for her coffin, funeral, and burial and to settle her estate.  Pequot Petition. Connecticut State Library, CT Archives, Indians, Series 2, Volume 1, page 21; Norwich Vital Records, Marriages Vol. 5 page 266; Connecticut State Library, RG 3, New London County Court records, Indians 1716-1855; Indian Documents Ms., Pequot, Connecticut Historical Society; Connecticut Historical Society, William Samuel Johnson Papers; Connecticut State Library, RG 3, New London County Court records, Indians 1716-1855.

ca. 1793
July 1873