Sunsamon, Rhoda, 1790 - 1864

Although her parentage is uncertain, it is quite possible Rhoda Sunsamon was the daughter of James and Phoebe Sunsamon. And while she wasn't enumerated in Erastus Williams' 1833 census of the Tribe, she does appear in the 1833 records of the state appointed overseer for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe in January of that year.

Reservation neighbor and Justice of the Peace, Henry Hallet, officiated over the marriage of Rhoda Sunsamon to fellow Pequot George Cottrell in Ledyard December 16, 1844. 

Rhoda resided in Preston at the time of her marriage.  Records suggest that George and Rhoda had been common law husband and wife for years prior to their official marriage. For instance, by 1841, they had a daughter, Phoebe H., who was married and living in Preston with her husband Sullivan Fagins.  Likewise, overseer records for the tribe indicate that George and Rhoda may have had a son together, George Jr., but it is possible that he might have been a child from a previous marriage.

It is uncertain who other than George and Rhoda made up the George Cottrell household of four enumerated in the 1840 federal census for the Town of Ledyard. George Cottrell, Jr. would have been in his mid- twenties, certainly old enough to have had his own household and family. Likewise, daughter Phoebe had married Sullivan Fagins in 1835 and was living in Preston.

Based on this census enumeration the Ledyard reservation community was made up of thirteen households, some of which were headed by tribal members others not. Neighbors of of Rhoda and George Cottrell included Mark Daniels, Betsy Wheeler, Joseph Lawrence, Hiram Lawrence, Amasa Lawrence, Sullivan Fagins, Charles Fagins, Paul Baker, Frederick Toby, Basha Holt, Plowden Fagins, and Catherine Oxford.

Rhoda Cottrell along with her husband George, son George and daughter- in-law Eunice and numerous other of the tribe signed a 1845 petition requesting that William Morgan be appointed overseer of the tribe1

It is only after the death of her husband in March of 1850 that Rhoda began to appear in the overseer records with any frequency.  From 1852 until her death, the widow Rhoda appears with consistency, receiving goods and services through the overseer.  Rhoda is enumerated in two tribal censuses in 1858 and 1859.  In the former she is listed as being about 68, the sole member of her family group,2 and living near to the reservation3.

Rhoda Sunsamon Cottrell died in January of 1864, with the Tribe paying for the coffin and the digging and filling of her grave.  CHS, William Samuel Johnson Papers, III, 100: December 13, 1833 letter from Erastus Williams to William T. Williams; NLCC:PbS, Indians, Mashantucket Pequot; LVR 1:18; Brown and Rose, Black Roots, 94 / CSL, RG62, Preston, 1841-01-29, Vol.7, Folder 12

  • 1. This particular document was crucial in discerning the two George Cottrells and their respective spouses.
  • 2. Why George Cottrell, Jr. wasn't enumerated at this time is unclear. Perhaps he had already taken up residence on the Eastern Pequot reservation with his wife Eunice.
  • 3. A large portion of the reservation had been sold two years earlier. It is possible that Rhoda was living on that portion that was alienated.
Rhoda Cottrell
C. 1790
January 1864