Shelly, Cyrus, 1763 - 1830
In 1774, at the age of ten, a young Cyrus Shelly was bound out to John Denison, III, of Stonington, Connecticut by the town selectmen. Whether he was on town expense or indentured for a trade or both is unclear. The terms of his servitude are also unknown, but, according to a pension request filed by Shelly decades later, he enlisted in 1781 at the age of eighteen in the 3rd regiment of the New York Line in Captain James Gregg’s company.
At the close of the Revolutionary War, Shelly returned home to the reservation and married Hannah Sowas, an Eastern Pequot woman, on December 19, 1784. Four years later, he signed a petition along with nearly thirty other Eastern Pequots, seeking the appointment of new overseers for the tribe. Among other things, the petition complained of inconsistent distribution of profits stemming from the rental of tribal lands.
The 1810 Federal Census for North Stonington numerated Cyrus Shelly as the head of a household of one living on or adjacent to the Eastern Pequot reservation and neighbors with the families of Samuel Shelly, Bartlett Shelly, Rachel Poheage, Hannah Poheage, Isaac Fagins, Elizabeth Tikens, Moses Skeesucks, Amos Robinson, Mary Johnson, and Johannah Shantup. By May of 1815 when a state-appointed committee surveyed the reservation population, he and Hannah had no school-aged children within their household. Their son, Cyrus, Jr., who by this time would have been about 18 years old, was either working in the maritime trades, bound out as a servant in a nearby household, or simply lived elsewhere.
Records indicate that in June of 1816 Cyrus Shelly, Sr. was still receiving his share from the rental of reservation lands. He was also contracted to build and install a “great gate” on the southern part of Indian town pasture. For this, he was paid four dollars. Commencing in 1818 until his death, Shelly received, as a military pension from the US Treasury Department, semi-annual payments, one in March and the other in September of each year. In June of 1820, the New London County Court heard and denied his petition regarding his military pension based on his service during the Revolutionary War. It was around this time that Jedediah Morse in his travels through the region noted Cyrus Shelly along with Samuel Shelly, Samuel Shantup, and James Nedson as the principal men in the tribe.
Cyrus’ marriage to Hannah may have ended, by divorce or through her death, possibly as early as 1810, as Cyrus married again, this time to Betsy Rogers in North Stonington on April 8, 1822. Overseer accounts indicate that Cyrus Shelly continued to receive goods and services as a tribal member until 1830. He died December 5, 1830, at the age of 65, after having, according to a jury of inquest, fallen into a stream near his home on the reservation because of weakness and poor health. The Friends of Temperance in North Stonington, however, described Shelly's demise this way, "[He] obtained his quart at the Squire's grocery in the morning, was seen drunk during the day -- left his miserable habitation in the same condition in the evening--next morning was found drowned in a small stream where the water was not more than six inches deep". Gilbert Sisson, a neighbor to the Eastern Pequot community, billed the Town of North Stonington for making a coffin for Cyrus Shelly.
Brown and Rose, Black Roots, 370; US Pension Records, S36312; Johnston, CT Military Records, 637; Petition by Eastern Pequots Requesting Appointment of Overseer, IP 1.2.252, 1788.05.05.00; Copy of the Appointment and Report of a Committee to Evaluate the State and Condition of Tribes in the State of Connecticut, IP 2.1.19 1815.05.01.00; Memorandum of Stock Allowed in Indian Town Pasture, 1816.06.01.00, ICRC; Deforest, History of the Indians of CT, 442-3; NLCC:PbS:Indians, Eastern Pequot; U.S. Pensioners, 1818-1872; NLCC:PbS, Pensions, Box 4 Folder 48 , NLSC: Inquests, Box 45, Folder 13; The Colonial Churchman, March 10, 1836, vol. 1, no. 8, page 58; Town of North Stonington, Records of the Board of Selectmen 1804-1861