Uncas, Ben III

honorificKing
Other namesSachem
Birth: 1698 in Mohegan, CT
Death: May 10, 1769 in Mohegan, CT
Affiliation:

Mohegan Tribe

Education:

As Ben II was a great proponent of Anglo-American education, Ben Uncas III studied with several teachers: he studied with John Mason in the late 1720s, Eliphalet Adams (the minister at New London) from 1729 until 1731, and Rev. Oliver Peabody (Natick) for a brief period afterwards. He was then apprenticed to a shoe maker, but became a school master at Mohegan in 1739.

Faith:

Congregationalist

Nationality:

Mohegan

Occupation:

Schoolmaster (1739-1749), sachem (1749-1769)

Marital status:

Married Anne Mazzeen. They had six children.

Biography:

Ben Uncas III was the Mohegan sachem from 1749 until his death in 1769. He was heir to Sachem Ben I (elected 1721) and Sachem Ben Uncas II (elected 1723). The Ben Uncas dynasty was characterized by an informal quid pro quo with the colony of Connecticut, in which the sachems won the colony’s backing in exchange for tacitly accepting the Colony’s control of tribal land. Because Ben II was a proponent of Anglo-American style education, Ben Uncas III received quite a bit of training as a boy in hopes that he might become a missionary. He did not, but he did keep school at Mohegan from 1739 until his election in 1749. His sachemship, like that of his father and grandfather before him, was characterized by his involvement (or lack thereof) in the Mason Case, a 70-year-long (1704-1773) legal battle between the Mohegan Tribe and the Colony of Connecticut over who controlled the Mohegan tribe’s lands. The Colony maintained that it controlled the land, and since the Ben Uncas line did not question that claim, the Colony supported their sachemships over others (John Uncas II and Mahomet II, specifically) who would have opposed the colony more vehemently. This support proved critical, as Ben Uncas II and III both faced significant opposition from within their tribe. The colony also benefited: because the supposed sachem did not oppose its claim, it could more easily portray the anti-sachem, pro-Mason party as illegitimate rabble rousers. The argument over who ought to be sachem expanded beyond politics to accommodation of the English. Thus, the sachem party was characterized by its approbation of Robert Clelland, the schoolmaster appointed by the New England Company (NEC), and David Jewett, the NEC-backed minister at nearby New London. (It is ironic, in this light, that Clelland wrote so frequently to complain about Ben Uncas III’s drunkenness and opposition to Jewett. Perhaps Clelland thought Mohegan politics so irrelevant that he failed to realize that he and Uncas were yoked together). Ben Uncas III died in 1769, and the Mohegan tribe blocked the colony of Connecticut from establishing his son, Isaiah Uncas, as sachem in his stead. At Ben Uncas III’s funeral, the pallbearers (Samson Occom among them) dropped his coffin unceremoniously in front of the delegation of Connecticut officials.

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Sources:

Brooks, Joanna. The Collected Writings of Samson Occom, Mohegan: Leadership and Literacy in Eighteenth-Century Native America. Oxford 2006. FindaGrave.com. "Benjamin Uncas, III." http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=32947853 Accessed 5/11/2014. Fisher, Linford. The Indian Great Awakening: Religion and the Shaping of Native Cultures in Early America. New York: Oxford University Press 2012. Murray, Laura J. To Do Good To My Indian Brethren: The Writings of Joseph Johnson, 1751-1776. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press 1998.