Wolcott Historical Society News - October 2007
By Florence Goodman
Our town was a common hunting ground used by the Mattabesec and Tunxis Indians. On August 26, 1674, the Tunxis Indians signed a deed that recorded the sale of certain lands to be called "Mattatuckoke" along the Naugatuck River to settlers from Farmington, CT. The first Indian to make his mark was Nesaheagin, their sachem, or chief. The ninth Indian to affix his mark to the deed was Patucko. Since these aboriginal inhabitants did not "own" the land in the sense that the European settlers understood, numerous deeds were often obtained for the same land. Thus, the original settlement of Waterbury or "Mattatuckoke," was sold four times by two different tribes, each time for approximately nine pounds sterling.
The second deed for this land was signed nearly ten years later, on April 29, 1684. Patucko was the first Indian to mark the deed and just six months later, a third deed was signed, but Patucko's name was absent; his son, Attumtacko and his squaw made their marks. The following legend is about that sachem, Patucko and why his name was absent from the third deed.
It was believed that Patucko, whose name means "round" or "circle" was renowned as a fire-hunter. He would build a fire in a circle and leave an opening large enough for any small animals or deer to escape through it. He would situate himself at that opening of that "ring of fire" and kill his prey as they tried to escape the fire, thus having plenty of food for his tribe.
Patucko stepped quietly into the dark interior of Nesaheagin's lodge. He walked slowly toward the old man who lay on a bed of skins. The old man was dying and wanted to speak to Patucko about deeding over their land to the settlers. Patucko listened intently to the wise, old chief, but did not want to sign the deed. With great effort Nesaheagin convinced Patucko that it was best for his tribe to do so. Patucko listened to his dying father's request and signed the deed, but by the following spring, he knew had made a mistake. His hunting grounds were slipping away as more settlers moved onto the land. Days and nights passed and Patucko began to fast and walk his land looking for a sign; finally from exhaustion, he fell to the ground. Looking up through the green leaves, the late morning sun filled the spaces with brilliant light and the leaves seemed to glow. Suddenly his trance was shattered by the sound of geese in the sky behind him. The enormous birds cast a shadow upon him and their huge wings created gale force winds around him. The leaves were ripped from the trees and the ground seemed to shake. Had this been the sign for which he was searching?
Patucko returned to his village empty handed; his people expecting him to be laden down with food were confused. He explained that he had been hunting, but found no food. Early the next morning he left his village again to find food, but this time he would use his fire-hunter skills to catch his prey. Sadly he climbed the hills to the north of his familiar hunting grounds and began placing the kindling to circle the peak. The day was bright and dry and the slight breeze from the east would cause the fire to spread around rapidly, cutting off escape in all directions, and assuring success. He would usually ignite the fire by friction, but this time he had brought his ceremonial flint. The fire was lit and soon the breeze caused the flames to race on either side of him; Patucko turned and walked deliberately to the top of the hill. By the time he reached the summit, the fire had already closed the ring. He could see the valley, but the river looked sluggish and black through the onrushing flames. Patucko sat quietly while above him the sun disappeared in the smoke.
Patucko was gone and though a few settlers knew the legend, Patucko's Ring was soon corrupted through casual speech to "Tucker's Ring." It was given as a name of a road in Wolcott near the hill where Patucko was believed to have died. At some time early in the 20th century, someone changed the name to Potucco's Ring Road, as it remains today.
This legend has been shortened from its original format to fit into my monthly article. If you are interested in the complete version, please contact Flo Goodman 203-879-9818.
Our main source of income to maintain the museum is through our membership donations and several fundraisers that we have throughout the year. On Saturday, December 8th, we will present our Holiday House Tour. We will have 3 houses in the town open for your viewing. Tickets will be sold at the Old Stone School on Nichols Road the morning of the tour. Please save the date, I know you will not be disappointed.
Visit our WebPages at (http://www.wolcotthistory.org/). You can download a membership application here. Our meetings are held on the first Thursday of each month at the Old Stone School on Nichols Road at 6:30 P.M.
To view past installments of the Wolcott Historical Society News, click here.