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Mystic, Connecticut

Census-designated place
Mystic is located in Connecticut
Location within the state of Connecticut
Country United States
State Connecticut
County New London
 • Total 3.8 sq mi (9.8 km2)
 • Land 3.4 sq mi (8.7 km2)
 • Water 0.4 sq mi (1.1 km2)
Elevation 10 ft (3 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 4,205
 • Density 1,100/sq mi (430/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP codes 06355, 06372, 06388
Area code(s) 860 Exchanges: 245, 536, 572.
FIPS code 09-49810
GNIS feature ID 0209165

Mystic is a village and census-designated place (CDP) in New London County, Connecticut, in the United States. The population was 4,205 at the 2010 census.[1] Mystic has no independent government because it is not a legally recognized municipality in the state of Connecticut. Rather, Mystic is located within the towns of Groton (west of the Mystic River, and also known as West Mystic) and Stonington (east of the Mystic River).

Historically, Mystic was a leading Long Island Sound, providing access to the sea. The Mystic River Bascule Bridge crosses the river in the center of the village. According to the Mystic River Historical Society, the name "Mystic" is derived from the Pequot term "missi-tuk", describing a large river whose waters are driven into waves by tides or wind.


  • History 1
    • Pre-colonial era 1.1
    • Initial contact 1.2
    • Pequot War 1.3
    • English settlement 1.4
    • 18th century 1.5
  • Geography 2
  • Demographics 3
  • Tourism 4
  • In popular culture 5
  • National Register of Historic Places 6
  • Notable people 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • Bibliography 10
  • External links 11


Pre-colonial era

Main Street, downtown Mystic

Before the 17th century, the indigenous[2] Pequot people had established an empire across southeastern Connecticut.

The Pequot built their first village overlooking the western bank of the Mystic River, called the Siccanemos. The only written records describe this village as existing in the year 1637.[3] By that time, the Pequot were in control of a considerable amount of territory, extending toward the Pawcatuck River to the east and the Connecticut River to the west, providing them with full access to the waters. They also had supremacy over some of the most strategically located terrain. To the northwest, the Five Nations of the Iroquois dominated the land linked by the Great Lakes and the Hudson River, allowing for trading to occur between the Iroquois Nations and the Dutch. The Pequot were settled just distant enough to be secure from any danger that the Iroquois posed.[3]

Initial contact

As the Europeans came closer in contact with the natives, along the coast of Cape Cod to Nova Scotia, they brought along with them diseases, such as smallpox, plague, measles, and other illnesses that depopulated entire villages, killing between 55 to 95 percent of coastal people. The Narragansett tribe, who lived a considerable distance from the coast, were able to develop some resistance to European diseases, or the diseases developed lower virulence as they were transmitted inland.

The Pequot were located between the English and the Dutch. To the east of the Pequot, the English had begun to gain bits and pieces along Massachusetts Bay during the 1620s. Relations between the Native Americans and the English remained ambiguous and rather hostile at times as Separatists from the Church of England settled on the Plymouth Plantation. Their relations, however, allowed the establishment of trade with the Plymouth colonists as far west as Narragansett Bay, if not with the Narragansett nation itself. The English eventually began to trade with the Dutch as well.[4]

A coffee shop along Main Street in Mystic

Pequot War

See also Pequot War, Mystic massacre

In 1632, the Dutch established a trading post at Good Hope, near present-day Armsmear in Hartford, depriving the Pequot of a monopoly in the area. The Dutch post attracted additional traders to the Pequot territory whom the Pequots could not control, raising apprehension between the two villages. This destabilized the Pequots' control of fur and wampum sources. In 1634, just when the Massachusetts Bay post made its first public appearance, hostilities escalated between the Pequot and Narragansett tribes.

The Narragansett passed through or near Pequot territory on their way to the Dutch post, and the Pequot resented the Narragansett's ability to encroach upon their territory to the point that a Pequot band attacked and killed a Narragansett band on its way to trade at Good Hope.[3]

In revenge for this attack, the Dutch captured and seized Tatobem, Pequot's uppermost chief, and held him at ransom to be paid in wampum. The ransom was paid immediately, but Tatobem was executed anyway. The murder of Tatobem further escalated aggression between the Pequot nation and Massachusetts Bay; they retaliated by killing an English man, John Stone, at the Connecticut River. There are many assumptions to why Stone was chosen in retribution. Historians say that while trading on shore, Stone kidnapped a handful of Pequot, with intentions to sell them into slavery, and was beaten and slaughtered by their rescuers.[5]

Exasperated by this news, the Massachusetts Bay management interpreted the killing of Stone as a declaration of war. In October 1634, Pequot delegates took a trip to Massachusetts Bay to guarantee the colonists that they had not intended nor planned to go to war with the English. They took full blame for Stone's death, and offered Governor Roger Ludlow payment for his death. The Massachusetts Bay colonists refused to accept the payment as justice for Stone's death.

As an alternative, the Massachusetts Bay government took the chance to expand their claims in New England. "They demanded that Stone's killer be handed over to meet European justice, that a ransom in wampum worth 250 pounds sterling be paid; that the Pequot cede all of their land to the Massachusetts Bay Colony; that the Pequot only trade with the English; and that all disputes between the Pequot and the Narragansett be mediated by the English. The Pequot delegation seemed to agree to the settlement and returned home, but Tatobem’s successor, Sassacus, rejected and thereby nullified the agreement."[3]

With the death of Tatobem, and the rise of Sassacus, two factions formed, both declaring Tatobem's position: Tatobem's son, Sassacus, and Tatobem's son-in-law, Uncas. When Sassacus emerged victorious, Uncas left the tribe and became sachem of villages around the Niantic River, calling themselves the Mohegan.

Tensions increased between the factions of Indians, especially towards the Pequot. The 1636, John Oldham, a respected trader and friend of the Narragansetts, was murdered in his boat off Block Island. The murderers were Block Islanders, a branch of Narragansetts; however, they escaped capture and were given safe haven by the Pequots. This outraged the Narragansetts.[5]

In May 1637, captains John Underhill and John Mason led a retaliatory mission through Narragansett land along with their allies, the Narragansett and Mohegan, and struck the Pequot settlement in Mystic, in the event which came be known as the Mystic massacre. Uncas and Wequash also joined the fight, bringing seventy of his own men. The settlement, mostly of women and children, was decimated. Mason set fire to eighty homes, killing 600–700 Pequot in an hour. Seven were taken captive and seven escaped. Two Englishmen were killed, while 20-40 were wounded.[6]

Captain John Underhill, one of the English commanders, documents the event in his journal, Newes from America:

Down fell men, women, and children. Those that 'scaped us, fell into the hands of the Indians that were in the rear of us. Not above five of them 'scaped out of our hands. Our Indians came us and greatly admired the manner of Englishmen's fight, but cried "Mach it, mach it!"—that is, "It is naught, it is naught, because it is too furious, and slays too many men." Great and doleful was the bloody sight to the view of young soldiers that never had been in war, to see so many souls lie gasping on the ground, so thick, in some places, that you could hardly pass along.[3]

The Treaty of Hartford was drawn up stating the terms of the English victory. On September 21, 1638, the colonists signed the Treaty of Hartford, officially ending the Pequot War. It outlawed the name Pequot, forbid the Pequot from regrouping, and required that other Native American Indians in the region submit all their inter-tribal grievances to the English and abide by their decisions. Gradually, with the help of sympathetic English leaders, the Pequot were able to reestablish their identity, but as separate tribes in separate communities: the Mashantucket (Western) Pequot and the Paucatuck (Eastern) Pequot, the first Indian reservations in America.[5]

English settlement

As a result of the Pequot War, Pequot dominance ended with the emergence of English settlements on the open land of Mystic. After John Mason's victorious encounter with the Indians, the King of England began to assess the conquered Pequot territory. By the 1640s, he began to grant land to the Pequot War veterans.

  • Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration
  • Mystic Seaport
  • Mystic River Historical Society
  • Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce

External links

  • Fought, Leigh (2007). A History of Mystic Connecticut: From Pequot Village to Tourist Town. Charleston, SC: The History Press.  
  • Mystic River Historical Society (2004). Mystic. Images of America Series. Portsmouth, NH: Arcadia Publishing SC.  
  • Wagner, David R.; Jack Dempsey (2004). Mystic Fiasco: How the Indians Won the Pequot War. Scituate, Mass.: Digital Scanning.  


  1. ^ "Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (DP-1): Mystic CDP, Connecticut". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Retrieved October 29, 2012. 
  2. ^ For many years, historians believed that they migrated in the 16th century from eastern New York. Archaeological evidence showing the presence of a people who lived in an area called Gungywump, somewhat northwest of the Mystic River, now suggests that the Pequot were indigenous to southeastern Connecticut. (Leigh Fought, 2007. A History of Mystic, Connecticut: From Pequot Village to Tourist Town p. 13).
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Leigh Fought, A History of Mystic Connecticut: From Pequot Village to Tourist Town. Charleston, NC:, 2007.
  4. ^ a b c d Mystic River Historical Society. Images of America: Mystic. Portsmouth, NH: Arcadia Publishing, 2004.
  5. ^ a b c "1637 - The Pequot War" (2007). The Society of Colonial War in the State of Connecticut. Accessed November 11, 2008.
  6. ^ a b The Pequot War. (accessed October 12, 2008).
  7. ^ a b c d Mystic: An American Journey. Mystic: Mystic River Historical Society, 2004.
  8. ^ a b Mystic River Historical Society. (accessed November 13, 2008).
  9. ^ Jensen, Barbara Neff. Mystic Memories of a Native. Groton: The Groton Public Library and Information Center, 1989.
  10. ^ Kathleen Greenhalgh, A History of West Mystic. Groton: Groton Public Library and Information Center, 1986.
  11. ^ "American FactFinder".  
  12. ^ U.S. Census Bureau
  13. ^ "Mary Jobe Akeley". Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame. Retrieved May 22, 2014. 


See also

Notable people

  • Joseph Conrad (ship): Mystic Seaport (added 1947)
  • Charles W. Morgan (ship): Mystic Seaport (added December 13, 1966)
  • Emma C. Berry (fishing sloop): Greenmanville Avenue (added November 12, 1994)
  • L. A. Dunton (ship): Mystic Seaport Museum (added December 4, 1993)
  • Pequotsepos Manor: Pequotsepos Rd. (added July 15, 1979)
  • Sabino (steamer): Mystic Seaport Museum (added November 5, 1992)

Other historic sites/objects in Mystic are:

Mystic has three historic districts: the Mystic Bridge Historic District (around U.S. Route 1 and Route 27), Rossie Velvet Mill Historic District (between Pleasant Street and Bruggerman Place) and the Mystic River Historic District (around U.S. Route 1 and Route 215).

National Register of Historic Places

Mystic Seaport is mentioned in popular song 'Walcott' from Vampire Weekend's self-titled album, released in January 2008.

The character Dwight Towers, from Nevil Shute's nuclear apocalyptic novel On the Beach, is from Mystic.

Mystic, Connecticut is mentioned at 9 minutes and 40 seconds into The Firesign Theatre comedy album Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers.

Andy Bernard on the T.V. show The Office mentioned that Mystic was home to a non-profit organization known as The Barnacle Project.

One commercial was filmed in 2005 at Mystic Seaport for FedEx. It was based on the lobstering business in New England. The commercial was aired in the Orange Bowl.

Hans Hartman's 2005 low-budget horror film Crippled Creek was shot entirely in Mystic. The story is loosely based on actual events about a group of friends who went missing after going camping locally.

In 1997, Steven Spielberg shot various scenes for the film Amistad at Mystic Seaport.

The Mystic Pizza restaurant inspired the name of the 1988 film, though it was not the location of the restaurant in the film. Scenes in Mystic Pizza were shot in Mystic; the planetarium at Mystic Seaport; Stonington; Noank; and Watch Hill, Rhode Island.

In popular culture

The 2013 Moondance International Film Festival was held in Mystic.

diorama displaying the town of Mystic as it was in the 19th century, a ship restoration shipyard, the Treworgy Planetarium, and a recreation of a 19th-century seafaring village.

A major New England tourist destination, the village is home to the Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration, known for its research department, concern with marine life rehabilitation, and its popular beluga whales. The business district on either side of the bascule bridge where U.S. Route 1 crosses the Mystic River contains many restaurants. Local sailing cruises are available on the traditional sailing ship Argia. Short day tours and longer evening cruises are available on the 1908 steamer Sabino departing Mystic Seaport.


The median income for a household in the CDP was $62,236, and the median income for a family was $70,625. Males had a median income of $50,036 versus $32,400 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $33,376. About 1.6% of families and 3.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 1.9% of those under age 18 and 5.9% of those age 65 or over.

In the CDP the population was spread out with 16.7% under the age of 18, 5.4% from 18 to 24, 31.1% from 25 to 44, 27.4% from 45 to 64, and 19.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females there were 92.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.1 males.

There were 1,797 households out of which 20.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.6% were married couples living together, 7.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 44.6% were non-families. 35.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.10 and the average family size was 2.76.

As of the census[11] of 2000, there were 4,001 people, 1,797 households, and 995 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 1,192.7 people per square mile (461.1/km2). There were 1,988 housing units at an average density of 592.6 per square mile (229.1/km2). The racial makeup of the CDP was 95.8% White, 0.8% African American, 0.4% American Indian, 1.3% Asian, 0.0% Pacific Islander (i.e. 1 person), 0.3% from other races, and 1.30% from two or more races.[12]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 3.8 square miles (9.8 km2), of which 3.3 square miles (8.5 km2) is land and 0.4 square miles (1.0 km2), or 11.61%, is water. The village is on the east and west bank of the estuary of the Mystic River. Mason's Island (Pequot language: Chippachaug) fills the south end of the estuary.


The extent of slavery in the New England colonies was limited, roughly three percent. Most of the black population was concentrated in New London County, although few lived in Groton and Stonington. With such little reliance on slavery in Connecticut, the Emancipation Act was easily passed.[10] The most well-known slave in southeastern Connecticut was Venture Smith, who was able to buy his freedom and become a successful land owner and shipping business operator.[3]

Through the 18th century, Mystic's economy was composed of manufacturing, road building and maritime trades. Agriculture was the main component of their economy, since most of the citizens were farmers. In turn, the colonists provided for their mother country with raw material resources that led to the emergence of a colonial manufacturing system. Land remained an essential source of wealth; though some land was very rocky and prevented early farmers from producing crops. This however did not necessarily lead to poverty. They grew corn, wheat, peas, potatoes and a variety of fruits. They raised cattle, chicken, pigs, and sheep. They were hunters and fishers and were generally able to sustain themselves. With an average household of about nine children, labor was easily provided in the fields, but when a farmer was in need of more work to be done, slaves were bought.

Tourists look into the famous pizza parlor in Mystic

By the first decade of the 18th century, three villages had begun to develop along the Mystic River. The largest village, called Mystic (now Old Mystic), was also known as the Head of the River, because it lay where several creeks united into the Mystic River estuary.[7] Two villages lay farther down the river. One was called Stonington and was considered to be Lower Mystic, consisting of only twelve houses by the early 19th century. These twelve houses lay along Willow Street, which ended at the ferry landing. On the opposite bank of the river, in the town of Groton, stood the village that became known as Portersville.[3]

18th century

Fish also gave lectures and insights about marriage and maintenance of a solid family. Divorce was very uncommon in those days; however, John Fish's wife ran off with Samuel Culver. In the case of a runaway spouse, the abandoned spouse was not allowed to file for divorce until six years had passed. This law ensured that their spouse was in actuality gone and not intending to come back.[3] Fish was eventually allowed to divorce in 1680, but this had no impact on his reputation as a school teacher, and parents continued to allow their children to attend his classes.

In 1679, schooling systems emerged, and John Fish became the first schoolmaster in Stonington, conducting classes and lessons in his home.[3] Education was the most important thing to the New England colonists, even allowing girls, African Americans and Native Americans, and slaves to learn basic literacy skills. Most families throughout New England had six or more children in each household, giving Fish plenty of students.

The Pequot Trail also connected the Quakers to their church. In the beginning, there were issues of Stonington residents attending their church. This led to the creation of their own church. The town of Stonington was then established as separate from Mystic, in regards to church attendance, and was granted leave to build one of their own. The building became known as the Road Church.[7] As the religious community around the Mystic River diversified and grew, new churches were allowed to be built along the Pequot Trail near the river.

By 1675, settlement in the Mystic River Valley had grown tremendously, and infrastructure, as well as an economy, was beginning to appear. The Pequot Trail was used as a main highway to get around the Mystic River, and played a vital role in the English lives, allowing them to transport livestock, crops, furs, and other equipment to and from their farm lands. However those families living on the east side of the Mystic River were unable to make any use of the Pequot Trail, like Miner and Mason, and desired for the creation of a bridge to connect the two. As early as 1660, Robert Burrows was given authorization to institute a ferry somewhere along the middle of the river's length. This earned his home the name of "Half-way House".[7]

As settlers made the move to the conquered land of the Pequot, the Native American population deceased drastically. Nearly all tribes were hit with rampant epidemics, and fur-bearing animals that they relied on for as food had disappeared as the English began to increase their reliance on the fur trade and farming.[9]

There was one recorded case of a woman who did not come to the Mystic River Valley as a wife. Margaret Lake, a widow, received a grant from the Massachusetts Bay authority, and was the only woman to receive a land grant in her own name.[3] Margaret Lake, like many men in her day, also did not live on her land, and hired other people to maintain her property. She ended up taking up residence in the Pequot Plantation. Lake's daughter was married to John Gallup, while her sister was married to John Winthrop, Massachusetts Bay Governor.[3]

Like Captain John Mason, not all these men actually lived on their land. Many sold it to profit from or employed an overseer to cultivate their property. Many men, however, actually brought their wives and children, which indicated their plans on forming a community in the Mystic River Valley.

Within the same year, other settlers joined John Gallup and began to settle around the Mystic River. George Denison, a veteran of Oliver Cromwell's army, was given his own strip of 300 acres (1.2 km2), just south of Gallup's land in 1654. Thomas Miner, who had immigrated to Massachusetts with John Winthrop, was granted many land plots, the main one lying on Quiambaug Cove, just east of the Mystic River.[8] Other families granted land at their arrival were Reverend Robert Blinman, the Beebe brothers, Thomas Parke and Connecticut Governor John Hayne.

Throughout the next decade, settlers were beginning to emerge around the Mystic River. John Mason, one of the captains who led the colonists against the Pequot, had previously been granted 500 acres (2 km2) on the eastern banks of the Mystic River.[8] He also received the island that later bore his name, though he never lived on the property. In 1653, John Gallup, Jr., was given 300 acres (1.2 km2) approximately midway up the east part of the Mystic River.

With conflicting views, both colonies turned to the United Colonies of New England to resolve the dispute. The United Colonies of New England, formed in 1643, was established in order to settle the disputes such as this one. It was voted to create the boundary between the claims of the Massachusetts Bay and Connecticut at the Thames River. As a result, Connecticut would be positioned west of the river, and Massachusetts Bay could have the land to the east, including the Mystic River.[3]

The General Court ruled the Pequot land by right of conquest, in order to pay the Connecticut veterans of the war. The Massachusetts Bay Colony, however, saw matters differently. The Bay Colony had contributed to the war by sending a militia under captains John Underhill and Thomas Stoughton, which would enable them territorial rights.[4] On top of that, the Massachusetts Bay legally claimed Connecticut as their territory, and the right to freely distribute the conquered Pequot land. This made John Winthrop Jr.'s Pequot Plantation answerable to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, as opposed to the Connecticut Court.

Since Connecticut did not have a royal charter that separated it from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, it had created their own government to meet the calamities that followed the Pequot War, and was preserved to handle affairs including land distribution and grants.[4] The General Court was formed by leaders of the settlements, which addressed the problem against the Pequot.

The Connecticut government and Massachusetts Bay government began to quarrel about land, thus delaying the migration process of English families to the Mystic River. In the 1640s and 1650s, "Connecticut" referred to settlements located along the Connecticut River as well as its claims in other parts of the region.[4] Many groups of people may have claimed the same land as rightfully theirs. However, when settlers were being brought to the disputed territory, conflict arose.

Settlement grew slowly. With the removal of the Pequot, the Narragansett, led by Miantonomo, claimed the former Pequot territory, which the colonists had also claimed. While the colonists allegedly owned the territory by rights of conquest, they continued to consult with the native villages to purchase the land. The Narragansett and Mohegan nations had conflicting views on the issue that war broke out between the two, resulting in Miantonomo's death and the Mohegans' victory.[6]


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