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The first human inhabitants of present-day Burlington were members of the Tunxis Tribe, who belonged to a confederation of Algonquian Indians. Legend holds they used the area as a hunting ground.
The first English settlers of Connecticut arrived in 1636, settling the plantations of Windsor, Hartford and Wethersfield. Shortly thereafter the settlers of Hartford desired to expand their land holdings. In 1640, John Haynes, governor of Connecticut, negotiated on behalf of the Hartford settlers a purchase from the Tunxis of a large tract of land west of Hartford. The newly acquired land, named by the Tunxis as Tunxis Sepus, or "Bend in the little river" was renamed Tunxis Plantation and in 1645 was incorporated as the town of Farmington. The original land area of Farmington included the present-day towns of Avon, Berlin, Bristol, Burlington, Farmington, New Britain, Plainville, Southington and parts of other towns.
Early relations between the Tunxis remaining in Farmington and the English settlers was often harmonious but occasionally the two cultures conflicted. By 1774 the remaining Tunxis petitioned the Connecticut General Assembly and were granted permission to migrate from Connecticut to join the Oneida Indians of New York. The last full-blooded Tunxis remaining in Farmington died in 1830.
For many years after its initial settlement Farmington's remote and heavily forested western lands, known simply as the West Woods (Present-day Burlington and Bristol), remained uncharted and undeveloped. It was not until 1721 that the Farmington proprietors divided the area into tiers and lots. Six tiers of lots were laid out, each three hundred and fifty rods wide, and about 11 miles long, with reservations between for twenty, thirty and forty rod highways.
Even with the land divided and apportioned to landowners development remained slow, due primarily to the rugged terrain. Tradition relates that the first paths established in the northern half of the West Woods were Indian trails and a path established by the proprietors of the towns of Litchfield and Harwinton who passed through. The first known settler in the northern half of the West Woods was a man named Strong, who arrived in 1740. As time passed, other settlers followed. Settlement was scattered, however, and residents by necessity returned to the central village of Farmington for Sunday worship, town meetings, schooling of children and for supplies. In April of 1774 a group of settlers in the northern half of the West Woods, citing the hardships of having to travel to the village of Farmington for worship services, petitioned the General Assembly to be incorporated an independent ecclesiastical society. In October, 1774 the General Assembly consented by incorporating the northern area of the West Woods as the Parish of West Britain. The settlers of the southern half of the West Woods had presented a similar petition in 1742 and were incorporated as the New Cambridge Ecclesiastical Society. The ecclesiastical society as constituted in those days served as more of a political subdivision of the town and a tax was laid upon all persons owning lands within the Society limits for the purpose of supporting the local church and schools. The creation of an ecclesiastical society was also often the first step taken in breaking up large towns like Farmington into smaller independent towns.