ANCIENT, ANCIENT HISTORY
Y' Can't Tell Where You're Goin' Unless
Y'know Where You've Been . . .
It was the seventeenth
century in southeastern Connecticut, home to several Native
American groups, such as the Pequot, Nipmuc, Niantic, Podunk, Hammonasett,
Paugussett, Siwanoy, Poquonock, Quinnipiac, Tunxi,
and Massacoe. Archeologists approximate that in the early 1600s,
and after a
epidemic among the indigenous population,
the total population was about 7,000. Most powerful among the
peoples of southeastern Connecticut were the Pequot, a faction of
who, the Mohegans, split off from the main group early in the
1600s and, led by Chief Uncas, took up residence near the Thames
River. To this day, several of the area's major towns are named
for these famous indigenous groups (e.g., Niantic,
In 1614, the Dutch mariner Adriaen Block sailed up the
Connecticut River from Long Island Sound, and soon the fertile
valleys of southeastern Connecticut attracted English settlers
from the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies. As a response to
the incursion by the English, the Dutch built their one and only
Connecticut fort near Hartford.
By 1635, English trader John Oldham had brought a
large party from Watertown to settle Wethersfield, and John
Winthrop, Jr., established Old Saybrook at the mouth of the
Connecticut River, which was named after Lord Saye and Lord
Brooke, two of the colony's founders. Within a few years, the New
English residents of Saybrook, Wethersfield, and (soon) Windsor
and Hartford, outnumbered the Dutch.
For the most part, the trade-based relationship between the
Europeans and Native Americans was peaceful that is, until New
England's first major war the Pequot War of 1637. What started
the war? Well,
is exactly sure, but historians point to a
series of killings, raids, and reprisals on both sides. In May of
1637, the colonists declared war on the Pequots and, with the
help the Mohegans and Narragansetts, launched a surprise attack
at what is now known as Mystic. Hundreds of Pequots died, and the
few survivors were scattered throughout New England and/or sold
into slavery. (Four hundred years later the Pequots would rise,
phoenix-like, from the ashes to make their Foxwoods Casino the
largest casino in the world and establish themselves as a pivotal
point in Connecticut tourism and the state economy.)
The colony of Connecticut was formally formed on
January 14, 1639. John Haynes, former governor of the
Massachusetts Bay Colony, served as the first governor of the
Connecticut colony. Meanwhile, Theophilus Eaton and Puritan
minister John Davenport established a trading colony near the
site of present-day New Haven in 1638, called Quinnipiac, which
was subsequently renamed New Haven in 1640. Soon Milford,
Stamford, Guilford, Branford, and Southold (Long Island) joined
the New Haven colony, but their laws were much stricter than the
those of Haynes' colony only members of the Puritan church
could vote, and religion ruled every aspect of the colonists'
lives. The two colonies remained separate until 1643, when they
briefly joined in a mutual defense pact, the New England
Confederation. Saybrook was added to the Connecticut Colony
settlement in 1644.
The colonies of Connecticut and New Haven
were not recognized by England until 1662. John Winthrop, Jr.,
elected governor of the Connecticut Colony, sailed to England in
1661 and secured a royal charter from King Charles II, which set
the boundaries of the Connecticut colony as extending from
Massachusetts to Long Island Sound, and from Narragansett Bay
west to the Pacific Ocean (My word, how large Connecticut once
was!). Eaton and Davenport's New Haven was totally ignored;
and in 1664, they agreed to a merger with the Connecticut
The charter of 1662 basically gave Connecticut political autonomy
and held as such until Charles II's death, when his successor,
James II, tried to
all of New England under the
administration of Edmund Andros. Connecticut was ordered to
surrender the original
in 1687 (Hartford), but the
document had mysteriously (?) disappeared. Legend has it that it
was hidden in the hollow of a large oak tree that was would later
be known as the "Charter Oak." In 1688, Andros and James II were
overthrown, and self-government in Connecticut resumed.
The Connecticut Colony residents were active in
events leading up to the American Revolution of 1775-1783. In
1765, delegates went to the intercolonial assembly in New York
to demand repeal of the Stamp Act. (All legal documents,
newspapers, and pamphlets had to carry a British tax stamp.) Also
represented at the first Continental Congress (1774), Connecticut
legislator and judge Roger Sherman helped draft the Declaration
But outside of isolated skirmishes with the
British, including in New London, little fighting went on in
Connecticut. Support to the Revolution was primarily (and
substantially) in the way of provisioning of the troops by
supplying food, arms, and ammunition.
Manufacturing had always flourished,
albeit on a small scale, in Connecticut since early colonial
times. But just before the Revenue Act passed by Congress in 1792
took hold, the first textile mills were established at Hartford,
Manchester, Vernon, and Jewett City. Inventory Eli Whitney
manufactured his cotton gin in New Haven in 1793; and in 1798, he helped develop the modern system of mass production using
When the War of 1812 cut off trade, many New
England shippers instead invested their capital in manufacturing.
Charles Goodyear (Naugatuck, CT) discovered vulcanization in
1839, a revolutionary technique that made natural rubber
stronger, more elastic, and resistant to temperature
The Birth of Connecticut's Aviation
In 1785, the first anti-aircraft barrage
occurred in Connecticut on New Haven Green.
gripped the world, and in May of 1785, Josiah Meiggs, editor of
the New Haven Gazette, built and flew a small unmanned
cylindrical balloon across the Green, much to the amusement of
militia troops drilling on the Green. They couldn't resist the
target, and peppered the balloon with musket fire.
Fifteen years later, John Graham ran an
ad in the Courant advertising (what may have been) the
first commercial aeronautical enterprise in the United States,
called the Federal Patented Balloons. Balloon rides were six
pence per person. The hot-air vehicles rose and descended
vertically, and were tethered to the ground by a string. It would
take almost 100 years before fully controllable, manned
ballooning would be possible.
Connecticut Faces in History
Benedict Arnold (Norwich, CT)
Born on January 14, 1741, Arnold came from a
well-to-do family in Norwich, but financial problems eventually
overwhelmed them. While attending school at Canterbury, some of
his siblings died from yellow fever and young Benedict was
withdrawn from school. His cousins Daniel and Joshua Lathrop took
him in as apprentice to their apothecary business. Arnold
traveled to Europe, buying supplies for his own apothecary, which
he established in New Haven. Prior to the official outbreak of
the Revolutionary War, Arnold became a captain in the Governor's
Second Company of Guards, and when word came of the battles of
Lexington and Concord, Arnold entered into the fray. Arnold's
met up with Ethan Allen's Green Mountain Boys at Bennington; but he was irritated at Allen's
unwillingness to bend to Benedict's authority as granted by the
Committee of Safety. But Arnold conceded and accompanied Allen
and his rough-riders when they surprised the British on May 20.
Even so, history suggests a certain contempt that Allen's Boys
held for the Arnold garrison and Arnold himself.
with fellow officers continued over
the years. His dealings with his peers fared no better.
Frustrated, Benedict Arnold began bargaining with the British in
May of 1779. Perhaps he was angry and hurt over the many slights
he'd received over the years; perhaps his pride was probably the
most damaged an affront that Arnold could not stand; perhaps his
precarious financial situation was also a factor. Arnold
was offered more than 10,000 pounds to defect to the British
military, as well as land in Canada, pensions for himself, wife,
and children, and a military commission as a British Provincial
Brigadier General. One of Benedict Arnold's infamous acts was his
attack on Fort Griswold (Groton) on September 6, 1781. After the
Revolution, Arnold's subsequent relocation to London, and then
Canada, did not improve his social status, and Arnold died in
1801 an unknown, only to have his name resurface as one of the
disdained names in history.
Allen (Litchfield, CT)
Born on January 10, 1738, Allen first butt heads with the British
over ownership of lands in Vermont. In a nutshell, the
authorities in New York and the British were issuing grants to
the same parcels of land in New England, and the settlers who had
dealt with New York were being evicted from their lands.
Ethan Allen sided with his fellow settlers and
became colonel of "The Green Mountain Boys," which earned him the
title of "outlaw" and a 20-pound bounty for his capture. The
bounty was raised to 100 pounds by 1774. Undaunted, the Boys set
out to dismantle the British fortifications and captured Fort
Ticonderoga on May 10, 1775. Soon after, The Green Mountain Boys
controlled all of the Lake Champlain area. Henceforth, the New
York Congress granted them Continental Soldier pay, and the Boys
became members of the Assembly Army, who went on to make their
mark in American history.
1614 — Adriaen Block (Holland) left the island of Manhattan on the Onrust
(trans.: the Restless), a 45-foot, 16-ton vessel, and set of to explore Long
Island Sound. Aptly, the Sound's Block Island is named this explorer. Adriaen
Block became the first recorded European to explore the Connecticut River,
sailing the 60 miles up past Hartford.
1646 New London is founded by John Winthrop, Jr.
He went on to obtain Connecticut's state charter in 1662.
1764 The oldest, continuous American newspaper, the
Connecticut Courant, is born in Hartford by Thomas
Green. Now known as the Hartford Courant, (Website: www.hartfordcourant.com) the newspaper still
enjoys a vibrant readership.
1781 Benedict Arnold attacks New London and
Groton, resulting in the massacre at Fort Griswold.
1784 The first law school in the United States was
established in Litchfield, Connecticut, by Tapping Reeve. Reeve,
born in Brookhaven (Long Island) in October,1744, graduated from
the College of New Jersey in 1766 and taught school in New Jersey
before establishing his own law practice in Litchfield,
Connecticut in 1772. Reeve served as a judge of the Superior
Court of Connecticut (1798-1814), became Chief Justice of the Supreme
Court in 1814, and served as a Federalist representative in the State
Legislature for several years. Reeve died in Litchfield on
December 13, 1823.
1784 Ahead of its time, a Connecticut Act is
passed that emancipates all Negroes over the age of 25 and
hereafter born after March 1784. Slavery was subsequently,
formally abolished in Connecticut in 1848.
Southeastern Connecticut, with its
strategic location on Long Island Sound, has a history rooted in
both commerce and defense. Past events form the basis for the
present-day economy, as well as suggesting projections for the
Connecticut became the fifth state to ratify the
Constitution of the United States on January 9, 1788. Two years earlier,
Connecticut had ceded most of its western territory held under the charter of
1662 to the U.S. government (no more West Coast surfing!). State population in
1790 was 237,946, about 6% the total nonindigenous population of the U.S.
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