Turkeys, Beavers, and Bears. Oh My!

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Turkeys, Beaver, and Bears. Oh My!

These c. 1630s images of local flora and fauna from an early Dutch map of New England show slightly demonic-looking—but highly-valued—beavers. Beaver pelts were what the Dutch traders came here for. It wasn’t long after British settlement, though, before important animal species were hunted to near-extinction.

Two stories in the Spring 2021 issue fill in the story: our timeline of fish, game, and forest conservation milestones, and a heart-wrenching and compelling petition by the Mohegan in 1789 to the Connecticut General Assembly.

Surprisingly, the Connecticut Colony introduced conservation measures early—within decades of British settlement. One of the first conservation laws—to protect deer populations—was passed in May 1667. 

Despite these efforts, by 1789, as the Mohegan wrote, “the times have turned everything upside down.” Important animal populations—black bear, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, among them—had all but disappeared due to loss of habitat, overhunting, and overfishing. The impact on Connecticut’s Native populations was acute.

Harvey Smith and Tim Clark, in Voices of the New Republic: Connecticut Towns, 1800 – 1832, Vol. II (The Connecticut Academy of Arts & Sciences, 2003), estimate that by the time of the Mohegan’s petition only about 35 percent of Connecticut was forested. Guess the percentage that Connecticut is forested today: 60 percent.

You can read the full story, “Fish, Game & Forest Conversation Through Time,” and to read the Mohegan Petition in our story, “One Dish and One Fire Will Not Do,”

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The Latest from Grating the Nutmeg

117. Before 42: Ball Players of Color in Connecticut

Connecticut Historical Society’s Natalie Belanger talks with labor historian Steve Thornton of The Shoeleather History Project about Black baseball in Connecticut. Thornton is the author of Connecticut Explored’s “African American Greats in Connecticut Baseball,” Summer 2018.

Programs and Exhibitions to Enjoy This Month

Board of Fisheries and Game Records

State Archives Record Group 079:003 at the Connecticut State Library contains a wealth of historic information. The collection of records from the State Board of Fisheries and Game contains correspondences regarding prohibition, warden files, minutes, and photographs dating back to 1911. Photographs in the collection are primarily black and white and include warden activities such as predator control, game breeding, conservation activities, warden training, and state lands. More recent photographs come from the department’s Law Enforcement Unit.

Connecticut State Library, 231 Capitol Avenue, Hartford. Ctstatelibrary.org; 860-757-6500

Help Restore 125-year-Old Roof

Work has begun to replace Pequot Library’s original 125-year-old Ludowici terracotta tile roof. With support from the State Historic Preservation Office, a comprehensive conditions assessment of the library identified repair of the historic roof as an urgent priority. The $1.5 million project is needed not only to preserve the entire structure, but also to protect the library’s Special Collections of rare books, manuscripts, and archives. Please visit pequotlibrary.org/roof to learn more and to sponsor a tile for as little as $50.

Pequot Library, 720 Pequot Avenue, Southport. pequotlibrary.org, 203-259-0346

30th Annual Juneteenth Celebration

Join the Amistad Center for Art & Culture for its 30th annual Juneteenth celebration, one of the longest running in Connecticut. Juneteenth marks an important moment in American history, June 19, 1865, when the enslaved in Galveston, Texas first learned of their freedom, two and a half years after the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation. The center’s Juneteenth Celebration will include a family-friendly Community Day on June 12, Lunch and Learn on June 18, and Evening Program/Gala on June 19. Visit their website or Facebook page for details. 

The Amistad Center for Art & Culture at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, 600 Main Street, Hartford. AmistadCenter.org; 860-838-4089

Take a Virtual Tour

When Mark Twain moved into his new house in Hartford, he said, “It is a home—& the word never had so much meaning before.” You can take a virtual tour of the house anytime and enjoy many of its virtual programs on the Mark Twain House & Museum’s website. 

The Mark Twain House & Museum, 351 Farmington Avenue, Hartford. 860-247-0998; marktwainhouse.org

Editors’ Picks

Stories we love from back issues to read now. 

“‘Gosh, what’s the world coming to?’ Connecticut’s First Female Game Warden,” Summer 2006

Why We Need Beavers,” Spring 2019

Written in Stone: How Connecticut’s Landscape Shapes our Lives,” Summer 2006

Find all of our stories about Native Americans on our TOPICS page. Ctexplored.org/topics/.

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