Awful Ravages of Esq. -- --'s Grog Shop


From the Albany Temperance Recorder[1]


Sir -- The friends of temperance in the vicinity of North Stonington, Connecticut, would be glad to see in your paper the following catalogue of crimes and miseries originating in the grog shop of a "very respectable" 'squire, who lives near the boundary line of that town.  Th enumeration of a few of the events directly connected with this shop in the last seven years I shall call


Awful Ravages of Esq. __'s Grog Shop.

The Squire's grog shop stands near the tract of land which the state of Connecticut set off to the Indians of the Pequot tribe.  The rent and profits of this tract are for the support of the Indians and their families, but the greatest part of the product of these lands together with what the natives earn by their labor, the squire obtains, giving them in return, what he calls a fair price, and paying them in New-England rum, which has already nearly depopulated what is called Stonington Indian town.  In the last seven years no less than nine individuals of the miserable remnant of the Pequots have fallen victims to their cruel and relentless appetite, and strange as it may appear, the squire's worldly estate has risen upon the vestiges of their property.


The first victim that I shall mention, 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.  An awful warning to drunkards![2]


The second, a female, who had been constantly in the habit of calling at the good squire's grog shop.  The last account of her was, she was seen in a state of intoxication, and shortly after, she was found a lifeless corpse.[3]


The third, a man who obtained rum at the same place in the morning, he drank freely of it and before night, lay dead upon the floor of his dwelling, thus selling his life for a little of the squire's "good creature."[4]


The fourth, a female, regular in her cups, and true to the squire's interest--fell victim to an untimely death. She perished miserably in May last, an awful evidence of the truth of the assertion that "the wages of sin is death."[5]


The fifth is one of the most horrid tragedies ever transacted in this secluded neighborhood.  In the month of June last, three Indians with one white man, met at the common rendezvous on Saturday afternoon.  The squire furnished them a sufficient quantity of maddening poison for their supply on the Sabbath.  When they had drunk to the extent of extinguishing all compassionate and human feeling, they left the shop of the worthy magistrate, and proceeded wrangling and quarrelling on their way, about half a mile, when one of the Indians aimed at the white man a blow that laid him on the ground, thus leaving him weltering in his blood.  They went home, and the next morning the miserable victim of savage cruelty (that of the Indian or the rum seller?) was found insensible, lying with his mangled head on a rock by the way side.  Medical aid was called, but to no purpose; he lingered in the most awful distress, until the evening, when death closed the dreadful scene.  The perpetrator, or rather, the instrument of this horrid deed, is now suffering the penalty of the law in the state prison, thus experiencing that the way of the transgressor is hard.[6]


The sixth was a female, who with her partner obtained half a gallon of the squire's best New England, on the third of the present month, [Dec. 1835] and arriving at her wretched hovel in a state of intoxication, her partner laid himself in one corner of the room and fell asleep.  His aged mother, in the same state, sleeping in another corner, the wretched victim stupid from the effect of the liquor, sat by the fire, and the flames communicated to her clothing, and before either of them awoke, she was so completely burned as scarce to resemble anything human.[7]  Yet our worthy magistrate says, that in selling liquor to these people, he is but getting an honest living!  I would ask, Mr. Editor, which commits the greatest sin--the ignorant Indian, who acts under the influence of liquor which takes away his reason? the good squire who sells him the liquor or the selectmen who license the squire?


Other evils might be mentioned, which originate from the same source, but we hope our worthy magistrate, seeing this portion of his doings, registered in you paper, will be induced to reflect, and to abandon his present course before further exposures are rendered necessary.


[1] Editor's Note: Originally published in the Albany Temperance Recorder in December, 1835, the article was reprinted in The Colonial Churchman, (March 10, 1836), Vol. 1, #8 p. 58.  The second printing may contain remarks inserted by the Churchman's editors.   

[2] This was Cyrus Shelly, Sr., an Eastern Pequot.  A jury of inquest on December 5, 1830, found that he had fallen into a brook near his dwelling on account of weakness and feebleness of health.  New London County Superior Court Inquests, 1711-1875, Connecticut State Library.

[3] This may have been Betsy Hill, who died of freezing on or near March 4, 1833.  New London County Superior Court Inquests, 1711-1875, Connecticut State Library.

[4] The identity of this person is presently unknown.

[5]  The identity of this person is presently unknown.

[6] The three men were Jeremiah Shantup, an Eastern Pequot, Thomas Ward, and Giles Orchard, two men of Color with attachments to the Pequot community.  On Saturday night, June 13, 1835, drinking at a local grog-shop, the three men had an argument with Lodowick Wheeler, a 64-year old man from North Stonington, Connecticut that escalated to "high words" and a physical assault.  The next morning Wheeler was discovered near death with a broken skull and marks of violence.  A coroner's jury later examined Wheeler's body.  In a report to Ezra Hewitt, in his role as Justice of the Peace, the twelve men concluded that death was from a wound on the right and back side of the head that cut through Wheeler's scalp, ruptured a blood vessel which caused bleeding into the brain.  A warrant was issued for Shantup, Ward, and Orchard and they were arrested charged with murder.  At trial, only Shantup was convicted.  The judge sentenced him to eight years in State prison.  Hartford Courant, June 29, 1835, p. 2.  Fall River Monitor, July 11, 1835, p. 3.  NL Co. Sup. Ct, Sept. 1835, file 106.  Connecticut Gazette, July 1, 1835.

[7] Based on Ezra Hewitt's payments for coffins in the winter of 1835, there are two possibilities in identifying the unfortunate woman.  The first is Elsa Nedson, whose coffin was paid for on December 8th.  The second is Betsy Robbins.  Among her expenses were bleached sheeting (December 14th), which may have been used on her burned body, especially if she survived the fire for a short time.  Hewitt paid for her coffin on January 6th. The victim's partner and his mother have yet to be identified.