A catalogue of the names of the first Puritan settlers of the colony of Connecticut;
with the time of their arrival in the colony and their standing in society,
together with their place of residence, as far as can be discovered by the records.
&c collected from the state and town records by R.R. Hinman,
Hartford. Printed by E. Gleason, 1846,
[Transcribed by Dave Swerdfeger]
A GREAT portion of the population of Connecticut have the curiosity to learn how their ancestors firstly reached this country, where they landed, when they came to Connecticut, and what was their condition when they started in the wilderness, to begin to live, surrounded by the beasts of the forest and by savage men, vastly more dangerous to their property and lives than the beasts could be. The object of the writer is to issue several Numbers, giving the names of such of the settlers as can be found on record, who came into the Connecticut Colony previous to the Union of the Colonies of New Haven and Connecticut in 1665, together with their standing and condition, as far as can be ascertained. In the few remarks I shall make, I shall not go into an investigation of the titles under which Connecticut was settled. In 1631, Governor Winslow, of Plymouth, appears to have had his attention drawn to the settlement of Connecticut, and he made a journey to Connecticut soon after, and discovered Connecticut River— [Dr. Trumbull.] In 1632, some of the people of New Plymouth were in Connecticut, and soon after determined to erect a trading-house at Windsor, as an advantage to commencing the future colony. The Indian name of the River was Quonehtacut, (long river)—from this the Colony took its name. So anxious was Gov. Winslow, in 1633, for the settlement of the rich land upon the Connecticut, that he made a journey to Boston with Mr. Bradford to consult Gov. Winthrop and his council upon the subject, and to join with them in erecting a trading-house upon the River, and gave his reasons for his anxiety upon the subject. Gov. Winthrop then gave his reasons why it would be an unsafe step, and declined the offer. Gov. Winslow and his people were at once determined upon erecting a house, and settling a company of men at their own risk upon the Connecticut. Soon after Mr. Holmes, of Plymouth, and a company of men with him, prepared a frame for a house, and obtained all the necessaries to cover it, placed them on board of a vessel and sailed for Connecticut River. He soon reached his place of destination, and erected his house on the west Side of Connecticut Riyer—south of the mouth of Little, or Farmington river, in the present town of Windsor. This was the first house built in Connecticut, and was the first act towards settling the Connecticut Colony. The house was soon protected by palisadoes. Soon after the Dutch at Dutch point erected another trading-house, which was the second house built in the Colony. In 1634, and for many years after, all the settlers for New England landed in the colony of New Plymouth, or Massachusetts, and emigrated from thence to Connecticut. For several years after 1635, there were no settlements by the English in the Colony, except in the towns of Windsor, Hartford and Wethersfield, and a few at Saybrook. In 1634, some of the Watertown settlers came and erected a few houses in what is now Wethersfield. (Mr. Weeks in his manuscript claims Wethersfield to be the oldest town on the river.) In 1635 the congregation of Mr. Warham at Cambridge, settled upon moving to Connecticut, and some few came to Windsor, and made preparations to move their famihes. The people of Watertown also many of them moved to Wethersfield, and the people of Newtown were preparing to move to Hartford in the Spring of 1636—though some had come in 1635. John Winthrop, a son of Gov. Winthrop, of Massachusetts, arrived at Boston in 1635, as agent for Sir Richard Saltonstall and others, for the purpose of erecting a fort at the mouth of Connectcut River, and was appointed by the Company, (whose agent he was) Governor of the River Connecticut, for one year after his arrival. He soon built the fort and erected houses—which was the commencement of the building up and settling Saybrook. Many of the Dorchester people who had settled in Windsor occupied land near the Plymouth trading-house—this greatly disturbed Gov. Bradford, as the Plymouth people had purchased the land of the Indians, and taken possession of it by building their trading-house upon the land. About October, 1635, the Dorchester people commenced moving to Windsor; about 60 men, women and children started through the wilderness with their horses, cattle, swine, &c., without roads, bridges, or even huts to cover them, sleeping in the open air—but they arrived safely, though the journey was long and tedious. Much of their provisions and household furniture had been sent round by water, to Dorchester (Windsor) and were cast away and lost. The sufferings in the Colony in the winter of 1635 were most severe; their provisions failed, and bedding lost, so that many to save life returned to Boston for the winter. But those who remained in the Colony through the winter came near perishing by famine, notwithstanding all they could procure of the Indians and get by hunting. Much of the winter they subsisted on acorns, roots and grains. Many of their cattle died. How changed the scene. In the spring of 1636 the emigration began again in companies from Massachusetts to Connecticut, and sent their provisions by water. In June, 1636, the Rev. Thomas Hooker, Mr. Samuel Stone and about 100 others, of all ages and sexes, started through the wilderness, guided only by a compass, to Hartford—with no covers but the heavens, and no lodging but the ground, and subsisted on the milk of the cows, which they drove with their other cattle, numbering 160 in all. They carried their packs upon their backs, and their arms for protection in their hands. Mrs. Hooker was so feeble in health that she was carried the whole journey upon a litter, and they reached Newtown (Hartford) in about two weeks. In September, 1636, as many of Mr. Warham's people had moved to Windsor, he started for Windsor to take charge of his church, but left his family at Dorchester until he could prepare to receive them; so that at this time the three towns upon the River were permanently settled by many inhabitants, with Mr. Warham in charge of the church at Windsor, Mr. Hooker and Mr. Stone at Hartford, and the Rev. Henry Smith at Wethersfield. All emigrants to Connecticut, until the settlement of New Haven, came first to Hartford, and afterwards settled other towns, as they did Stratford, Fairfield, Norwalk, &c. It will be recollected by the reader, that Mr. Warham and Mr. Hooker had been ordained, one at Dorchester and the other in Newtown in Mass., before they and their churches moved to Dorchester and Newtown, in Connecticut. They gave the towns where each resided in this Colony the same names of the towns from which they had removed; Hartford was called Newtown—and Windsor, Dorchester and Wethersfield, Watertown. But at the General Court of the Colony, in February, 1637, (as time is now reckoned) they gave the several towns their present names. Mr. Phillips, who had been ordained in Watertown, Massachusetts, over the church which settled at Wethersfield did not move with his church, and Henry Smith became their pastor in Wethersfield. It will be discovered then, that here were three towns located in the wilderness, with a large number of inhabitants, (as many must have come into the colony, before either of the churches moved as a colony) without any law to govern them, either civil, military, or criminal; and the principles and much less the practice and forms of an independent government, in a great measure unknown to men who had been educated under the Crown of England and had learned only to obey. The first year (1635) no courts were organized, not even a town organization formed, and much less any thing like a General Court formed to enact laws and punish offences. The officers of the several churches governed their own members according to the rules and discipline of the church; and as no other law existed in the Colony, all offenders, if any were tried before 1636, must have been tried by the Mosaic law, by the churches. But as the law of Moses made no provision to punish a white man for selling a gun to an Indian—it therefore became necessary that some civil body of men should be so organized as to enact such laws as would prevent or punish offences not provided for in the Bible. The placing of firearms in the possession of the Indians was considered one of the most culpable offences in the Colony, which endangered not only the property but the safety and lives of the English settlers. At this time it was discovered that Henry Stiles had traded a gun with the Indians for corn. Therefore on the 26th day of April, 1636, a court was or organized by five of the best men in the Colony—whether they constituted themselves a court or were elected by the people, the record gives no account. The Court consisted of Roger Ludlow, as chairman, and Mr. Westwood, John Steel, Andrew Ward, and William Phelps, as his asssociates. The first act of the Court was to try Stiles for the offence. He was found guilty, and ordered by the Court to regain the gun from the Indians in a fair and legal way, or the Court should take the case into further consideration. The Court then enacted a law, that from henceforth no one within the jurisdiction of the Court should trade with the Indians any piece or pistol, gun or shot, or powder, under such penalty as the Court should see meet to This was the first Court, the first Trial, and the first Law ever enacted or had in Connecticut. As the members of the court resided in the three towns before mentioned, they assumed the power (as no law had been enacted by them, and the Mosaic law had not provided for it,) to appoint and swear constables for Dorchester, Newtown and Watertown, for the then ensuing year, or until new ones should be chosen. This it appears was considered by the Court as an organization or incorporation of the three towns. For many years after, and long after the Confederation of Hartford, Windsor and Wethersfield, all that was done by the General Court to incorporate a plantation or town, was to appoint and swear a constable, and the remainder was left to the inhabitants of the plantation to finish its organization or incorporation. Even as late as 1662-3-4, in many of the towns upon Long Island, also at Westchester, where they were claimed by the Colony, or placed themselves under the government of Connecticut, a constable was appointed or approved by the General Court, and the towns at once became liable to be taxed by the Colony, and had the privilege of being represented at the General Court. The Court thus formed for the trial of Henry Stiles was continued from session to session and from year to year, and was called the General Court until the Union with the New Haven Colony in 1665—after which it was styled the General Assembly: so that the reader will see that the origin of the present General Assembly of the State of Connecticut was the formation of a Court of five men, in 1636, to try Henry Stiles criminally, (without law) for selling a gun to an Indian. The General Court soon discovered the propriety of adding a House of Representatives to the first Court formed in 1636, particularly upon great occasions. Therefore in May, 1637, the several towns were represented at the General Court by the name of Committee, by three from each town—and took their seats with the magistrates who had previously constituted the Court. The object at this time of enlarging the number of the General Court, was an event which has never been surpassed in importance to the Colony or State since. It was whether they should declare war against the most warlike and powerful tribe of Indians in New England. The future safety of property and life in the Colony depended upon the result. The Pequotts had stolen not only the property of the English, and murdered some of the inhabitants, but had abducted from Wethersfield two young ladies, and carried them among the Indians by force. But not to add to this interesting narrative further. The General Court, feeble as the inhabitants were in numbers, and deficient in means, trusted in God for the result, and boldly declared war against the Pequotts. Ninety men were ordered to be raised—munitions of war were at once prepared—Samuel Stone was selected as chaplain for the little but valorous army. They went down Connecticut River in three small vessels, with Captain Mason as commander, (and to be brief,) they met the enemy at the Mystic Fort; and though the colonists lost two, with sixteen wounded, they fought like men who were fighting for the future welfare of the Colony—for the lives of their wives, children, and their own lives and property. When all was closed nearly 600 Indians lay dead upon the battle ground—about 60 or 70 wigwams burned to the ground, and the Fort in ashes. So valorous and complete was the victory that the Pequotts became extinct as a nation. Sassicus fled with a few of his warriors to the Mohawks; others united with other tribes, particularly with the Mohegans. It will therefore be seen that what is now styled the Senate, originated, as has been stated; and the formation of the House of Representatives originated in the necessity of having more councillors in the declaration of war against the Pequott Indians. After which meeting of the Committee, in 1637, the Committee met in the General Court as the House of Representatives, and the two houses were styled the Commissioners and Committee until after the Union of Windsor. Hartford and Wethersfield, in 1639, when the government was formed by adding a Governor and Deputy Governor. The Upper House was styled the House of Magistrates, and during 1639 the Lower House retained the name of Committee; but in April, 1640, the Lower House, or popular branch, was styled the House of Deputies. [Records of Conn., Winthrop's Jour., Dr. Trumbull.] From the organization of the Gen. Court in the Colony, in 1636, to the confederation of the three towns upon Connecticut River, in 1639, being three years—there was no other court in the Colony, except the Particular Court of 1637 which did little business. The General Court took cognizance of divisions in churches—of all criminal offences—of all civil matters—the appointment and confirmation of all officers in the jurisdiction—declared war—regulated commerce—formed and governed the militia;—indeed every thing in the Colony came under their supervision. They ordered that no young unmarried man, unless a public officer, or he kept a servant, should keep house alone, except by license of the town, under a penalty of twenty shillings per week; and that no head of a family should entertain such young man under a like penalty, without liberty of the town. The object of this law probably was, to compel early marriages, to aid in settling the colony, and to prevent their keeping bad company. As early as 1640 the General Court intended that the inhabitants should measure their apparel by the length of their purses—the Court being the judges. The constable in each town was ordered to take notice of all persons, and if he judged any persons exceeded their rank and condition in life, in their attire, to warn them to appear before the Particular Court to answer for the offence. All excess in the price of labor, in 1640-41, was expressly forbidden by law. All artificers and other laborers were priced, as well as the labor of horses and oxen. Most of the penalties attached to the criminal laws, were accompanied with flogging and pillory; so much so that a law was enacted in 1643, which made it imperative upon all the towns on Connecticut River to appoint a whipper to do execution upon offenders. As Massachusetts and Plymouth were settled a few years earher than Connecticut, and had become somewhat organized as a government, many of their laws were copied into the code of laws enacted by Connecticut. Labor and dress were regulated by law in those colonies before it was in this. Their laws upon these subjects were much more severe than in this jurisdiction. They had a law that ladies dresses should be made so long as to cover their shoe buckles. They prohibited short sleeves, and ordered the sleeves to be lengthened to cover the arms to the wrists. They forbid by law, immoderate great breeches, knots of ribbon, broad shoulder bands, silk roses, double ruffs and cuffs. Even as late as 1653, John Fairbanks was solemnly tried for wearing great boots. He probably shewed he was afflicted with corns on his toes, and therefore he could not comfortably wear small ones, as he was acquitted on trial. The colonies were poor, and it appears the object of the law was to prevent all kinds of extravagance, and to compel the inhabitants to govern their living, strictly by their means. As there were no printing presses in the colony or country in the early settlement of Connecticut, the laws enacted at each session of the General Court, were promulgated to the inhabitants of each town, by copies of the laws being made out by the Secretary of the Colony, and sent to the constables of each town, and read by them at public meetings to the people. This inconvenient practice was continued in the Colony nearly forty years, until 1672. This year all the laws in force were prepared and sent to Cambridge to be printed, and bound with blank paper interspersed in the book, to enter the laws which should be afterwards enacted. It was a small folio. The book is now a curiosity of ancient days. Its introduction to the public is vastly better fitted for Watts's Psalms, than a code of laws. After the book was printed, the General Assembly ordered that every family in the Colony should have a law book. The blank pages in the book were not filled until nearly thirty years after. The New Haven Colony at a much earher period, procured a code of laws to be printed for that Colony, of about 100 pages, entitled "New Haven's Settling in New England, and some Laws for Government; published for the use of that Colony." This early and first volume of laws was printed in London, for the New Haven Colony. I know of only two copies extant of the edition of 500 that were printed.
As the office of Chimney Viewer is attached to the names of some of the first settlers, I take the liberty of explaining the cause. Immediately after the organization of the town of Hartford as a town, or rather as a company of land holders—a law was enacted that all chimneys should be cleansed by the owner once in a month, upon a penalty provided by law. Therefore that the law should be strictly obeyed and carried out by the inhabitants, for several years a committee of respectable men, (for no others held offices at that day) were appointed to see that all house-holders fully obeyed the law. It was also a law that each house-holder should provide a ladder for his house, where there was not a tree standing by his house which reached within two feet of the top of the chimney. This law also came within the duties of the viewers of chimneys. At the time these laws were in force, men were selected to fill every office, high or low, with a single eye to the fact, that men who held the offices should be of such standing in society, as the men should honor their offices, and not the offices the holders of them. To effect this object you find men who had filled a seat at the General Court, the next year filling the office of hayward or chimney viewer. It was this practice of our worthy ancestors, which caused an officer, either civil or military, who held any place of power, to hold on to his titles with a tenacity, that living or dead, he never lost them. You find them now upon ancient tombstones of more than 200 years standing, and upon the Colony, State and Town Records as far back as 1637. Even a sergeant or corporal never lost his title—they were entombed and recorded. These days existed before spoils-men were known in the land of steady habits, when the love of country was the primary object of all, and when political partizans were unknown in the Colony or country—when leading men were honest—when principles were of more importance to our country than party.