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Chief Catoonah

? – 1720 (?)


Number 19: Chief Catooah's mark on the original deed of the First Purchase of land for the Town of Ridgefield

Chief Catoonah’s father, Ponus, was Sachem of the Wiechquiaskek (“Weech-kways-keck”), who lived along the coast between present day New Rochelle, NY and Norwalk, CT. Ponus sold these lands to the early Dutch and English settlers and moved his tribe inland. After some of the young warriors angered the Dutch, they made a surprise attack on Ponus’ village and destroyed it. Consequentially, the remaining Wiechquiaskek people scattered.

Around 1680, Catoonah became Chief or Sachem of one of these scattered groups. He arranged for his group to join with another remnant of the original tribe. Together they became known as the Ramapoo. During the summer they camped on the shore of Lake Mamanasco while hunting and fishing in the area.

On September 30, 1708, Chief Catoonah and his tribal associates sold 20,000 acres of land for 100 pounds sterling to a group of Englishmen from Norwalk called the Original Proprietors. This purchase was the start of the Town of Ridgefield. For a while the two groups lived together in harmony. But eventually, the pressure from the English settlers made it apparent that there was no longer room for the Ramapoo.

Chief Catoonah moved his village westward into present-day Westchester County where his name took on the spelling of Katonah. There he died around 1720, possibly from smallpox. According to legend, he is buried alongside his favorite wife somewhere near Bedford, NY.

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