Meazon, Betsy, 1785 - 1863

Betsy Meazon was a longtime resident of the Mashantucket lands and matriarch of the Wheeler family[1].  For nearly half a century she was involved in the social life and political affairs of the tribe.  Presumably, she married a man with the surname of Wheeler, sometime prior to or around 1811, as this was when her daughter, Caroline Wheeler, was born.  Betsy, herself, would appear in the record, especially during the first quarter of the 19th century, with either the last name Wheeler or Meazon. It wasn’t until the mid 1820s that Wheeler became the more consistently used surname.[2]  
 
1819 is the year that 34 year old Betsy Meazon’s name first surfaces in a number of different historical records. It was in early March of this year that she received attention from Dr. Daniel King, for medicine and the instructions for its use, with the billing forwarded to the Tribe’s overseer.   In April of 1819, Betsy was a signatory to a petition for the appointment of a new overseer.  She, along with 24 others from the community, petitioned the New London County Court for the appointment of Captain Eneas Morgan as overseer.  That same summer, in July, Betsy Wheeler was provided 105 linear feet of good quality boards, suggestive of repairs to her home on the reservation.  From this point on, for the next forty-four years, she appears with frequency in the records of the state appointed overseer of the Western or Mashantucket Pequot Tribe as a recipient of goods and services.
 
By June of 1824, Betsy Wheeler had at least two children as evidenced by John Wilcox’s bill to the overseer of the Mashantucket Pequot tribe for potatoes he provided to “Bets Wheelers Children”.  On the 25th of that same month, Elijah Crary the overseer of the tribe, spent “part of a Day to Settle a Quarrel betwixt” Theodosia Deshon and Betsy Wheeler.  While the nature of the dispute is unknown, it was significant enough to warrant his attention.
 
According to the records of the overseer to the Eastern Pequot Tribe in neighboring North Stonington, Betsy Wheeler was compensated for providing care and support for an Eastern Pequot woman, Philena, who had fallen ill at Wheeler’ s house during the winter of 1828-1829. While the record documents a financial transaction, it is also reflective of the social interactions that existed between these two culturally and genealogically connected communities.
 
While the 1830 Federal Census for North Groton, provides, at best, only a partial snapshot of the Mashantucket community, Betsy Wheeler’s was one of seven household enumerated on the reservation, her’s consisting of four individuals.  In addition to herself, there was an adult male of the same age range of 36-54 years old, possibly a husband or partner, and two females, ostensibly Betsy’s children, both between the ages 10-23.
 
A November 1832 purchase of a coffin from James Geer of North Groton is suggestive of what was likely a significant loss to both Betsy Wheeler and her family.[3]  The fact that, a year later in December of 1833, she was enumerated, by Erastus Williams, in an informal census of tribal members, as a family with just one child, Caroline, seems to indicate that it was one of her children that had died the previous year.  Williams, having just concluded his tenure as overseer, described Wheeler as 48 years old and of mixed black-Indian ancestry. 
 
In 1835 Betsy Wheeler was the plaintiff in a legal case against James Pierce (who may have been the spouse or partner of Margaret George and likely the father of Sally Nighe Pierce) resulting in a writ of attachment for an unspecified asset.  Later that June, either as a continuation of the existing case or in a new case against James Pierce, Betsy Wheeler added malicious mischief to the wrongs perpetrated against her by Pierce.  It is unclear how these cases were legally resolved and whether any community tensions persisted.
 
In the summer of 1837, tragedy would once more strike the Wheeler family.  Betsy, again through James Geer, ordered a small pine coffin for a young unnamed grandchild, a child of her daughter Caroline Wheeler.  
 
After more than a decade of relative political quiet on the reservation, at least with respect to documented complaints to the Connecticut General Assembly or New London Superior and County Courts, Betsy Wheeler, and a number of other Pequots including Betsy Squib, Hannah Miller, Ester Dick, Hiram Lawrence, James Sunsamon, Fred Toby, Theodosia Deshon, John Wait, Mary Ann Deshon Sears, and Catherine Meazon, signed a January 1839 petition selecting Erastus Williams as overseer to replace Elisha Crary.   This petition is one of four that Betsy would put name or mark to over the next eleven years, each seeking to replace an overseer, representing both a flurry of discontent and political action on the reservation.
 
By 1840 the Wheeler household had grown consisting of Betsy, ostensibly, her daughter Caroline, and possibly a young granddaughter[4], Elizabeth Jane Wheeler.  Based on the Federal Census from that year, the Mashantucket community consisted of 13 households, some of which were headed by tribal members other not. Neighbors of Betsey Wheeler included Charles Fagins, Mark Daniels, Joseph Lawrence, Hiram Lawrence, Amasa Lawrence, George Cottrell, Sullivan Fagins, Charles Fagins, Paul Baker, Frederick Toby, Basha Holt, Plowden Fagins, and Catherine Meazon Oxford.
 
As would be expected, over the course of her long life, Betsy Wheeler required care and attendance by local doctors for a variety of ailments.  There is, however, an entry in the accounts of the overseer that stands out, suggesting perhaps a more serious medical condition.  In 1851 Dr. A.W. Coates rendered surgical and medical attention to Betsy Wheeler.  Whatever, the issue was Betsy did recover and was able to resume a relatively active role in community affairs. The following year, in November of 1852, she served as a witness in a case that came before the court in that term.    Samuel Fagins, the son of Hannah Miller, contemporary of Betsy Wheeler, was charged with assault.
 
In one of the seminal events of nineteenth century Mashantucket Pequot affairs,  Betsy Wheeler petitioned, in April of 1856 and again a year later in 1857, along with more than twenty other Pequots, against what was the recent sale of  a significant portion of the reservation land. Despite the efforts of the tribe, this remonstrance was rejected by the General Assembly. 
 
Betsy Wheeler was enumerated in tribal censuses in 1858 and 1859. In the former she was included in a family grouping along with her daughter and granddaughter, Caroline C. Wheeler and Elizabeth Jane Wheeler, respectively. Betsy Wheeler was described as being "about 71" and living on the reservation. 
 
Betsy Wheeler died sometime in April of 1863.
 
MacCurdy, George Grant.  Field Notes n.d. [1913-1923] Yale Peabody Museum, Anthropology Collection, CT Archaeology, Box 1, Mohegan 2; ICRC 56, Ms. .P399; Petition of the Western Pequots to the Connecticut General Assembly, 1819.04.24.00; Bill from John Wilcox to Eneas Morgan, Overseer to the Western Pequot Indians, 1824.06.14.00; CHS, Ms 27960 Geer & Morgan Families Papers, 1717-1850, Folder 19; CSL, RG3, NLCC:PbS, Indians, Mashantucket Pequot; Account of Goods provided to Western Pequot Indians by Overseer Elisha Crary, 1825.04.15.00;;  Receipt from Betsy Wheeler to Silas Chesebrough, Overseer of the Eastern Pequot Indians, for Services Rendered, 1829.04.15.00; 1830 Federal Census, North Groton, CT, Ancestry.com;  Account Book of James Geer, Groton , CT   1809-1839, CSL; William Samuel Johnson Papers, III, 100: December 13, 1833 Letter from Erastus Williams to William T. Williams, CHS; NLCC, February 1835, Box 7, Folder 23, RG3, CSL; NLCC, June 1835, Box 3, Folder 20, RG3, CSL; Account Book of James Geer, Groton, CT, 1834-1855 CSL; NLCC:PbS, Indians, Mashantucket Pequot, RG3, CSL; 1840 Federal Census, Ledyard, CT, Ancestry.com; NLCC, Nov. 1852, Box 3, Folder 30-31, RG3, CSL; NLCC, Nov. 1852, Box 11, Folder 1, RG3, CSL
 

[1] It was her granddaughter, Jane Wheeler, who, in conversation with Yale anthropologist George Grant MacCurdy, provided the information regarding Betsy’s pre-married name of Meazon.  See MacCurdy, George Grant.  Field Notes n.d. [1913-1923] Yale Peabody Museum, Anthropology Collection, CT Archaeology, Box 1, Mohegan 2.
[2] One of the last references to Besty “Meazon” occurs in the Names of the Western Pequot Tribe Submitted to the New London County Court, 1825.03.00.01.
[3] While the identity of the person who died remains undetermined, after 1830 there no longer appears any reference to the male aged 36-54 in the Wheeler household.
[4] Caroline’s daughter, Elizabeth Jane Wheeler, wasn’t born until 1843, so the census may be referencing another child.
Alias(es)
Betsy Wheeler
Born: 
c. 1785
Died: 
April 1863