Fairfield’s coastal geography and plentiful natural resources attracted humans for thousands of years before European settlers stumbled upon the “fair fields” that Native Americans called Uncoway. This area provided indigenous peoples with game, fish, abundant sweet water, and fertile land to cultivate. During the Late Woodland Period (1500-1650), Uncowas, Sasquas, Maxumux, and Pequonnocks—subdivisions of the Paugussett Indians—inhabited the coastal areas, locating their villages of wigwams along the inland waterways. Another clan of Paugussetts called the Aspetucks occupied land several miles further inland, in the area that is now Weston and Easton.
The Native American population of southern New England was probably quite large before contact with European explorers. However, in the early 1600s epidemics of smallpox, measles, and other diseases to which the natives had no immunity decimated their populations, possibly by ninety-five percent in this area. By the time English colonists arrived as settlers in the 1630s, the Paugussett villages in the lower Housatonic River Valley were small and scattered. The Paugussetts were not an aggressive people, and they did not resist the English moving onto their land as the Pequots of southeastern Connecticut had done.
Ironically, a swamp along Fairfield’s coast became the setting for the final, violent episode in the saga of the Pequot Indians, who fled their home territory in Mystic (Missituck), Connecticut, after the English massacred hundreds of women, children and older men by setting a village ablaze. The warriors were preparing to defend a fortification at another location on that fateful night of May 26, 1637. When they discovered the atrocity that had taken place in their village, shock and disbelief overwhelmed them and they fled westward, away from the territory of enemy Narragansetts and Mohegans, allies of the English. Continue readings from Fairfield Museum & History Center