Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut

Held at Hartford, October 8, 1663

John Griffen having made appear to this Court that he was the first [in] the art of making pitch and tar in these parts, do order that the [said] Griffen shall have two hundred acres of lands (where he can find them) between Massacoh and Warranoake, whereof there may be forty acres of [land,] if it be there to be had and be not prejudicial to a plantation, and not [formerly] granted.

John Griffin Makes a Claim for Land

The colonial records are full of interesting details about how the English settlers lived and worked. There are clues about how the local Native Americans responded. The colonial records only record the English side of the story. This excerpt from 1663 gives clues about the local tribes and about an early industry that John Griffin engaged in—extracting materials used in shipbuilding from pine trees.

When the court (later the General Assembly) used the word "plantation," it means a settlement. The court allowed Griffin to take land as long as it didn't conflict with the English settlement of Massacoe already there. The settlement had been established in 1647 when the court decided "Massacoe be purchased by the Country," and a committee was set up to allocate the land to inhabitants of Windsor. The court records do not explain how it purchased the land or discuss the local Massacoe and their claims to the land. 

John Griffin was among the first settlers of Simsbury. He was looking for pine pitch, tar, and turpentine found in yellow pine trees. Pitch, tar, and turpentine were used in shipbuilding. Griffin would have been looking for forests of pine trees. 

Simsbury was abandoned for a short period during King Philip's War. In the early spring of 1676, about 40 families left Simsbury and returned to Windsor for safety. The Massacoe, who were allies of the English, moved west to the Housatonic River for safety. On March 26, the tribes who were trying to drive the English out of New England came down from the north and burned the town. For more about King Philip's War, see Venture Smith's Colonial Connecticut, page 78.

Additional Sources

Public Records of Connecticut, vol 1, page 161

"My Town Simsbury," by Bobby Shipman,

Note: Spelling has been modernized and where words were completed or filled in in the published version of the records, the completed words are used here for easier reading.

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