History of Connecticut

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Connecticut began as three distinct settlements, referred to at the time as 'Colonies' or 'Plantations'. These ventures gradually were finally combined under a single royal charter in 1662. Thomas Hooker and his congregation left Massachusetts because of religious differences and established Connecticut in 1639.

Colonies in ConnecticutEdit

Various Algonquian tribes inhabited the area prior to European settlement. The Dutch were the first Europeans in Connecticut. In 1614 Adriaen Block explored the coast of Long Island Sound, and sailed up the Connecticut River at least as far as the confluence of the Park River, site of modern Hartford. By 1623, the new Dutch West India Company regularly traded for furs there and ten years later they fortified it for protection from the Pequot Indians as well as from the expanding English colonies. They fortified the site, which was named "House of Hope" (also identified as "Fort Hoop", "Good Hope" and "Hope"), but encroaching English colonization made them agree to withdraw in the Treaty of Hartford, and by 1654 they were gone.

The first English colonists came from the Bay Colony and Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts, and they settled at Windsor in 1633, Wethersfield (1634), and, led by Thomas Hooker, Hartford (1636). The Bay colony also built Fort Saybrook at the mouth of the River in 1636. Another Puritan group started the New Haven Colony in 1637. The Massachusetts colonies did not seek to absorb their progeny in Connecticut and Rhode Island into the Massachusetts governments. Communication and travel was too difficult, and it was also convenient to have a place for nonconformists to go.

The English settlement and trading post at Windsor especially threatened the Dutch trade, since it was upriver and more accessible to the Indians from the interior. That fall and winter the Dutch sent a party upriver as far as modern Springfield spreading gifts to convince the Indians to bring their trade to the Dutch post at Hartford. Unfortunately, they also spread smallpox and, by the end of the 1633-34 winter, the Indian population of the entire valley was reduced from over 8,000 to less than 2,000. This left the fertile valley wide open to further settlement.

The Pequot WarEdit

The Pequot War was the first serious armed conflict between the indigenous peoples and the settlers in New England. The ravages of disease, coupled with trade pressures invited the Pequots to tighten their hold on the river tribes. Additional incidents began to involve the colonists in the area, in 1635, and next spring their raid on Wethersfield prompted the three towns to meet. Following the raid on Wethersfield, the war climaxed when 300 Pequot men, women, and children were burned out of their village, hunted down and massacred.

On May 1, 1637, they each sent delegates to the first General Court held at the meeting house in Hartford. This was the start of self government in Connecticut. They pooled their militia under the command of John Mason of Windsor, and declared war on the Pequots. When the war was over, there were officially no more Pequots. The Treaty of Hartford in 1638 reached agreements with the other tribes that gave the colonists the Pequot lands.

Under the Fundamental OrdersEdit

The River Towns had created a general government when faced with the demands of a war. In 1639, they took the unprecedented step of documenting the source and form of that government. They enumerated individual rights and concluded that a free people were the only source of government's authority. Rapid growth and expansion grew under this new regime.

On April 22, 1662, the Connecticut Colony succeeded in gaining a Royal Charter that embodied and confirmed the self-government that they had created with the Fundamental Orders. The only significant change was that it called for a single Connecticut government with a southern limit at Long Island Sound, and a western limit of the Pacific ocean, which meant that this charter was still in conflict with the New netherland colony.

Since 1638, the New Haven Colony had been independent of the river towns, but there was another factor added to the Charter. The new government in New York, under the Duke of York (a distrusted Catholic), had already taken their settlements on Long Island. By January 1665, they gave in and sent delegates from their towns to the general court.

Indian pressures were relieved for some time by the severity and ferocity of the Pequot War. King Philip's War (1675-1676) brought renewed fighting to Connecticut. Although primarily a war of Massachusetts, Connecticut provided men and supplies. This war effectively removed any remaining Native American influence in Connecticut.

The Dominion of New EnglandEdit

In 1686, Sir Edmund Andros was commissioned as the Royal Governor of the Dominion of New England. Andros maintained that his commission superseded their 1662 Charter. At first, Connecticut ignored this situation. But in late October of 1687, Andros arrived with troops and naval support. Governor Robert Treat had no choice but to convene the assembly. Andros met with the governor and General Court on the evening of October 31, 1687.

Governor Andros praised their industry and government, but after he read them his commission, he demanded their charter. As they placed it on the table, people blew out all the candles. When the light was restored, the charter was missing. According to legend, it was hidden in the Charter Oak. Sir Edmund named four members to his Council for the Government of New England and proceeded to his capital at Boston.

Since Andros viewed New York and Massachusetts as the important parts of his Dominion, he mostly ignored Connecticut. Aside from some taxes demanded and sent to Boston, Connecticut also mostly ignored the new government. When word arrived that the Glorious Revolution had placed William and Mary on the throne, the citizens of Boston drove Andros into exile. The Connecticut court met and voted on May 9, 1689 to restore the Charter. They also reelected Robert Treat as governor each year until 1698.

Territorial disputesEdit


According to a 1650 agreement with the Dutch, the western boundary of Connecticut ran north from the west side of Greenwich Bay "provided the said line come not within 10 miles of Hudson River." On the other hand, Connecticut's original Charter in 1662 granted it all the land to the "South Sea", i.e. the Pacific Ocean.

ALL that parte of our dominions in Newe England in America bounded on the East by Norrogancett River, commonly called Norrogancett Bay, where the said River falleth into the Sea, and on the North by the lyne of the Massachusetts Plantacon, and on the south by the Sea, and in longitude as the lyne of the Massachusetts Colony, runinge from East to West, (that is to say) from the Said Norrogancett Bay on the East to the South Sea on the West parte, with the Islands thervnto adioyneinge, Together with all firme lands ... TO HAVE AND TO HOLD ... for ever...

Needless to say, this brought it into territorial conflict with those states which currently lie between Connecticut and the Pacific. A patent issued on March 12, 1664, granted the Duke of York "all the land from the west side of Connecticut River to the east side of Delaware Bay." In October, 1664, Connecticut and New York agreed to grant Long Island to New York, and establish the boundary between Connecticut and New York as a line from the Mamaroneck River "north-northwest to the line of the Massachusetts", crossing the Hudson River near Peekskill and the boundary of Massachusetts near the northwest corner of the current Ulster County. This agreement was never really accepted, however, and boundary disputes continued. The Governor of New York issued arrest warrants for residents of Greenwich, Rye, and Stamford, and founded a settlement north of Tarrytown in what Connecticut considered part of its territory in May of 1682. Finally, on November 28, 1683, the states negotiated a new agreement establishing the border as 20 miles east of the Hudson River, north to Massachusetts. In recognition of the wishes of the residents, the 61,660 acres east of the Byram River making up the Connecticut Panhandle were granted to Connecticut. In exchange, for Rye was granted to New York, along with a 1.81 mile wide strip of land running north from Ridgefield to Massachusetts alongside Dutchess, Putnam, and Westchester Counties, New York, known as the "Oblong".


A map showing Connecticut's western land claims.

In the 1750s, the western frontier remained on the other side of New York. In 1754 the Susquehannah Company of Windham obtained from a group of Native Americans a deed to a tract of land along the Susquehanna River which covered about one-third of Pennsylvania. This venture met with the disapproval of not only Pennsylvania, but also of many in Connecticut including the Deputy Governor, who opposed Governor Jonathan Trumbull's support for the company, fearing that pressing these claims would endanger the charter of the colony. In 1769, Wilkes-Barre was founded by John Durkee and a group of 240 Connecticut settlers. The British government finally ruled "that no Connecticut settlements could be made until the royal pleasure was known". In 1773 the issue was settled in favor of Connecticut and Westmoreland, Connecticut was established as a town and later a county.

Pennsylvania did not accede to the ruling, however, and open warfare broke out between them and Connecticut, ending with an attack in July, 1778, which killed approximately 150 of the settlers and forced thousands to flee. While they periodically attempted to regain their land, they were continuously repulsed, until, in December 1783, a commission ruled in favor of Pennsylvania. After complex litigation, in 1786, Connecticut dropped its claims by a deed of cession to Congress, in exchange for freedom for war debt and confirmation of the rights to land further west in present-day Ohio, which became known as the Western Reserve. Pennsylvania granted the individual settlers from Connecticut the titles to their land claims. Although the region had been called Westmoreland County, Connecticut, it has no relationship with the current Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.

The Western Reserve, which Connecticut received in recompense for giving up all claims to any Pennsylvania land in 1786, constituted a strip of land in what is currently northeast Ohio, 120 miles wide from east to west bordering Lake Erie and Pennsylvania. Connecticut owned this territory until selling it to the Connecticut Land Company in 1795 for $1,200,000, which resold parcels of land to settlers. In 1796, the first settlers, led by Moses Cleaveland, began a community which was to become Cleveland; in a short time, the area became known as "New Connecticut".

An area 25 miles wide at the western end of the Western Reserve, set aside by Connecticut in 1792 to compensate those from Danbury, New Haven, Fairfield, Norwalk, and New London who had suffered heavy losses when they were burnt out by fires set by British raids during the War of Independence, became known as the Firelands. By this time, however, most of those granted the relief by the state were either dead or too old to actually move there. The Firelands now constitutes Erie and Huron Counties, as well as part of Ashland County, Ohio.

The American Revolution (1775-1789)Edit

Connecticut was the only one of the 13 colonies involved in the American Revolution that did not have an internal revolution of its own. It had been largely self-governing since its beginnings. Governor Jonathan Trumbull was elected every year from 1769 to 1784. Connecticut's government continued unchanged even after the revolution, until the United States Constitution was adopted in 1789. A Connecticut Privateer was the Guilford {formerly HMS MArs}.

Early National Period (1789-1818)Edit

New England was the stronghold of the Federalist party. One historian explains how well organized it was in Connecticut:

It was only necessary to perfect the working methods of the organized body of office-holders who made up the nucleus of the party. There were the state officers, the assistants, and a large majority of the Assembly. In every county there was a sheriff with his deputies. All of the state, county, and town judges were potential and generally active workers. Every town had several justices of the peace, school directors and, in Federalist towns, all the town officers who were ready to carry on the party's work. Every parish had a "standing agent," whose anathemas were said to convince at least ten voting deacons. Militia officers, state's attorneys, lawyers, professors and schoolteachers were in the van of this "conscript army." In all, about a thousand or eleven hundred dependent officer-holders were described as the inner ring which could always be depended upon for their own and enough more votes within their control to decide an election. This was the Federalist machine. [1]

Given the power of the Federalists, the Democratic-Republicans had to work harder to win. In 1806, the state leadership sent town leaders instructions for the forthcoming elections. Every town manager was told by state leaders "to appoint a district manager in each district or section of his town, obtaining from each an assurance that he will faithfully do his duty." Then, the town manager was instructed to compile lists and total up the number of taxpayers, the number of eligible voters, how many were "decided republicans," "decided federalists," or "doubtful," and finally to count the number of supporters who were not currently eligible to vote but who might qualify (by age or taxes) at the next election. These highly detailed returns were to be sent to the county manager. They, in turn, were to compile county-wide statistics and send it on to the state manager. Using the newly compiled lists of potential voters, the managers were told to get all the eligibles to the town meetings, and help the young men qualify to vote. At the annual official town meeting, the managers were told to, "notice what republicans are present, and see that each stays and votes till the whole business is ended. And each District-Manager shall report to the Town-Manager the names of all republicans absent, and the cause of absence, if known to him." Of utmost importance, the managers had to nominate candidates for local elections, and to print and distribute the party ticket. The state manager was responsible for supplying party newspapers to each town for distribution by town and district managers. [2] This highly coordinated "get-out-the-vote" drive would be familiar to modern political campaigners, but was the first of its kind in world history.

Connecticut prospered during the era, as the seaports were busy and the first textile factories were built. The American Embargo and the British blockade during the War of 1812 severely hurt the export business, but did help promote the rapid growth of industry. Eli Whitney of New Haven was one of many engineers and inventors who made the state a world leader in machine tools and industrial technology generally. The state was known for its political conservatism, typified by its Federalist party and the Yale College of Timothy Dwight. The foremost intellectuals were Dwight and Noah Webster, who compiled his great dictionary in New Haven. Religious tensions polarized the state, as the established Congregational Church, in alliance with the Federalists, tried to maintain its grip on power. The failure of the Hartford Convention in 1814 wounded the Federalists, who were finally upended by the Republicans in 1817.

Modernization and IndustryEdit

Up until this time, Connecticut had adhered to the 1662 Charter, and with the independence of the American colonies over forty years prior, much of what the Charter stood for was no longer relevant. In 1818, a new constitution was adopted that was the first piece of written legislation to separate church and state in Connecticut, and give equality all religions. Gubernatorial powers were also expanded as well as increased independence for courts by allowing their judges to serve life terms. For this document see: 1818 Constitution.

Connecticut started off with the raw materials of abundant running water and navigable waterways, and using the Yankee work ethic quickly became an industrial leader. Between the birth of the U.S. patent system in 1790 and 1930, Connecticut had more patents issued per capita than any other state; in the 1800s, when the U.S. as a whole was issued one patent per three thousand population, Connecticut inventors were issued one patent for every 700–1000 residents. Connecticut's first recorded invention was a lapidary machine, by Abel Buell of Killingworth, in 1765.

Twentieth Century (Since 1900)Edit


Connecticut factories in New Haven, Waterbury and Hartford were magnets for European immigrants. The largest groups comprised Italian American, and Polish American, and other Eastern Europeans. They brought much needed unskilled labor and Catholicism to a historically Protestant state. A significant number of Jewish immigrants also arrived in this period. Connecticut's population was almost 30% immigrant by 1910.


1895 map from Rand McNally

In World War I (1917-1918), munitions were the most prosperous business in Connecticut, and would remain so until the Great Depression.

Ku Klux KlanEdit

The Ku Klux Klan had a following among some in Connecticut after it was reorganized in Georgia in 1915. It preached a doctrine of Protestant control of America and wanted to keep down blacks, Jews and Catholics. The Klan enjoyed only a brief period of popularity in the state, but it had a peak of 15,000 members in 1925. The group was most active in New Haven, New Britain and Stamford, which all had large Catholic populations.[3]

During the 1924 election, Stamford was the location of one of the largest Klan meetings in the state. Grand Dragon Harry Lutterman of Darien organized the meeting, which thousands of members of the organization attended.[3]

The state Republican Party had refused an anti-Klan plank in their platform that year (Democrats, who relied on the Catholic vote, condemned the Klan), and the Stamford Republican Party used its Lincoln Republican Club as a front for all Klan activities in the area. The Stamford Advocate (as The Advocate of Stamford was then known) published an advertisement signed by local Democrats. The Klan published an advertisement in response, pointing out the immigrant names in the first advertisement.[3]

By 1926, the Klan leadership was divided, and it lost strength, although it continued to maintain small, local branches for years afterward in Stamford, Bridgeport, Darien, Greenwich and Norwalk.[4] The Klan has since disappeared from the state.

Depression and War YearsEdit

With rising unemployment in both urban and rural areas, Connecticut Democrats saw their chance to return to power. The hero of the movement was Yale English professor Governor Wilbur Lucius Cross (1931-1939), who emulated much of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal policies by creating new public services and instituted a minimum wage. The Merritt Parkway was constructed in this period.

However, in 1938, the Democratic Party was wracked by controversy, which quickly allowed the Republicans to gain control once again, with Governor Raymond E. Baldwin. Connecticut became a highly competitive, two-party state.

The lingering Depression soon gave way to unparalleled opportunity with the United States involvement in World War II (1941-1945). Roosevelt's call for America to be the Arsenal of Democracy led to remarkable growth in munition-related inductries, such as airplane engines, radio, radar, proximity fuzes, rifles, and a thousand other products. Pratt and Whitney made airplane engines, Cheney sewed silk parachutes, and Electric Boat built submarines. This was coupled with traditional manufacturing including guns, ships, uniforms, munitions, and artillery. Ken Burns focused on Waterbury's munitions production in his 2007 miniseries The War. Although most munitions production ended in 1945, high tech electronics and airplane parts continued.

Cold War ProsperityEdit

In the Cold War Connecticut built the first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus and other essential weapons for the Pentagon. The increased job market gave the state the highest per capita income at the beginning of the 1960s. The increased standard of living could be seen in the various suburban neighborhoods that began to develop outside major cities. Construction of major highways such as the Connecticut Turnpike caused former small towns to become locations for large-scale development, a trend that continues to this day. The state had its peak population growth in this period, gaining over a million residents between 1950 and 1970.

In 1964, following a US Supreme Court mandate, the legislature adopted a new constitution which allowed "one person, one vote." The purpose of this was so that the cities could have equal representation in the Connecticut state legislature, rather than be dominated by small towns. This further aided the urban dominated Democratic party in the state, which had become dominant during the tenure of John M. Bailey. From 1954 through 1986, the Democrats only lost one election for Governor. A Bailey protege, Ella T. Grasso, became the first woman elected Governor of a state without succeeding her husband when she was elected in 1974.

Connecticut thrived until the end of the 1980s, with many well-known corporations moving to Fairfield County, including General Electric, American Brands, and Union Carbide. Fairfield County prospered due to proximity to New York City with many workers commuting to work via Metro-North trains, becoming an integral part of the New York metropolitan area. Modern Connecticut became a predominantly suburban, middle-class state, with small pockets of rural areas, whose existence was perpetuated by their relative isolation from highways and cities. The state particularly prospered during the defense buildup initiated by Ronald Reagan, due to such major employers as Electric Boat shipyards, Sikorsky helicopters, and Pratt & Whitney jet engines. Perhaps as a result, Republican presidential candidates carried the state in every election in the 1970's and 1980's.

The late 20th CenturyEdit

Connecticut's dependence on the defense industry posed an economic challenge at the end of the Cold War. The resulting budget crisis helped elect Lowell Weicker as Governor on a third party ticket in 1990. Weicker's remedy, a state income tax, proved effective in balancing the budget but politically unpopular, as Weicker retired after a single term.

It was during this time that Connecticut began to acquire a significant African-American and Latino population in many of its cities, and they did not achieve the same living conditions as their white counterparts. The poor conditions that many inhabited were cause for militant movements in many areas that pushed for the gentrification of ghettos and the desegregation of the school system. In 1987, Hartford became the first American city to elect an African-American woman as mayor, Carrie Saxon Perry.

With newly "reconquered" land, the Pequots initiated plans for the construction of a multi-million dollar casino complex to be built on reservation land. The Foxwoods Casino was completed in 1992 and the enormous revenue it received made the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation one of the wealthiest in the country. With the newfound money, great educational and cultural initiatives were carried out, including the construction of the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center. The Mohegan Reservation gained political recognition shortly thereafter and, in 1994, opened another successful casino (Mohegan Sun) near the town of Uncasville. The success of casino gambling helped shift the state's economy away from manufacturing to entertainment, such as ESPN, financial services, including hedge funds and pharmaceutical firms such as Pfizer.

21st centuryEdit

In the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, 65 state residents were killed. The vast majority were Fairfield County residents who were working in the World Trade Center. Greenwich lost 12 residents, Stamford and Norwalk each lost nine and Darien lost six.[5] A state memorial was later set up at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport. The New York City skyline can be seen from the park.

In April 2005, Connecticut passed a law which grants all rights of marriage to same-sex couples. However, the law required that such unions be called "civil unions", and that the title of marriage be limited to those unions whose parties are of the opposite sex. The state was the first to pass a law permitting civil unions without a prior court proceeding leading to the issue's saliency in state politics.

A number of political scandals rocked Connecticut in the early 21st century, highlighted by the resignation of Governor John G. Rowland during a corruption investigation in 2004. Rowland later plead guilty to federal charges, and his successor M. Jodi Rell, focused her administration on reforms in the wake of the Rowland scandal.

The state's criminal justice system also dealt with the first execution in the state since 1960, the 2005 execution of serial killer Michael Ross and was rocked by the horrific July 2007 home invasion murders in Cheshire. As the accused perpetrators of the Petit murders were out on parole, Governor M. Jodi Rell promised a full investigation into the state's criminal justice policies. [1]

Further readingEdit


  1. ^ Richard J. Purcell, Connecticut in Transition: 1775-1818 1963. p. 190.
  2. ^ Noble E. Cunningham, Jr. The Jeffersonian Republicans in Power: Party Operations 1801-1809 (1963) p 129
  3. ^ a b c DiGiovanni, the Rev. (now Monsignior) Stephen M., The Catholic Church in Fairfield County: 1666-1961, 1987, William Mulvey Inc., New Canaan, Chapter II: The New Catholic Immigrants, 1880-1930; subchapter: "The True American: White, Protestant, Non-Alcoholic," pp. 81-82; DiGiovanni, in turn, cites (Footnote 209, page 258) Jackson, Kenneth T., The Ku Klux Klan in the City, 1915-1930 (New York, 1981), p. 239
  4. ^ DiGiovanni, the Rev. (now Monsignior) Stephen M., The Catholic Church in Fairfield County: 1666-1961, 1987, William Mulvey Inc., New Canaan, Chapter II: The New Catholic Immigrants, 1880-1930; subchapter: "The True American: White, Protestant, Non-Alcoholic," p. 82; DiGiovanni, in turn, cites (Footnote 210, page 258) Chalmers, David A., Hooded Americanism, The History of the Ku Klux Klan (New York, 1981), p. 268
  5. ^ Associated Press listing as it appeared in The Advocate of Stamford, September 12, 2006, page A4

External linksEdit

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at History of Connecticut. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.

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