The Norwich Galleries
From its earliest human habitation 10,000 years ago to the present, people have been drawn to Norwich by its geography. Its three rivers, the Yantic, Shetucket and Thames, have been essential to agricultural, commercial and industrial development of Norwich and the surrounding region for centuries.
Native Americans were attracted to the area by the rich hunting and fishing grounds. The Pequots were the primary presence in the area until the English began to acquire land and settle. A split within the Pequot tribe occurred over the tribal policy toward the English. Uncas advocated alliance while Sassacus favored resistance. Uncas named his new tribe the Mohegans then laid claim to a large tract of land in eastern Connecticut including the area now called Norwich. A fierce battle between the Mohegans and the Narragansetts took place here in 1643, giving the area of the battle the name Indian Leap or Uncas Leap. Uncas was able to maintain Mohegan autonomy and trade because of his alliance with powerful people in the Colony and the defeat of the Pequots. By 1703, the Mohegans lost almost all of their land to the settlers and despite protests to the Crown and the lands in question were never returned.
By 1649 there was a more permanent English presence when Jonathan and Lucretia Brewster were granted 600 acres and exclusive trading rights along the river. In 1659 Uncas, Sachem of the Mohegans, conveyed to the English settlers, led by Rev. James Fitch and Maj. John Mason, a “9 mile square” parcel of land which would become Greater Norwich. The settlers transformed the landscape by building homes and a meeting house, roads and turnpikes.
In 1775 several Norwich men joined the thousands who rushed to Massachusetts after the “Lexington Alarm.” Many Norwich men commanded ships of the Continental Navy and the port of Norwich played a critical role in moving military supplies from the inland towns of eastern Connecticut and central Massachusetts.
Samuel Huntington practiced law in Norwich before he served as a delegate to the Continental Congress. He signed the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation. In 1779 he was elected President of the Continental Congress. Norwich grew and prospered after the war and her port remained an important deep-water location for shipbuilding and shipping. By the early 19th century the center of the city had moved to the port area and a new courthouse and shops were built to serve this area.