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Our Connecticut Heritage

The Dutch settlers of Manhattan Island, New York, and the Puritans and Pilgrims from Massachusetts, soon obtained a knowledge of the fertility of the soil on the Connecticut River, and both laid claim to territory, yet hesitated for awhile in making any settlement. Finally, however, in October, 1633 (three years after Winthrop's Fleet had started the populating the Massachusetts Bay Colony), a small vessel sailed from Plymouth, with the design of erecting a trading-house on the bank of the Connecticut; but when they had sailed up the river to the location of the present city of Hartford, they found the Dutch had gotten there before them, and had erected a fort.

The Dutch forbade them to advance and threatened to fire upon them. The English ignored the threats and sailed right past them! They landed at a spot within the limits of the present town of Windsor, and built a trading-house there. Windsor is approximately 40 miles inland, to the north, from the Long Island Sound coast.

The next movement towards settling Connecticut ws in July, 1635, when at Wethersfield a settlement was made. This settlement is about 10 miles south, or closer to the coast, than Windsor had been. Since Windsor was just a trading post, Wethersfield, then was the first English settlement in Connecticut, five year after the Massachusetts Bay Colony had began and fifteen years after the beginning of the Plymouth Colony.

The next settlement was at or near the first intrusion into Connecticut, at the Plymouth trading-house, in the summer of 1635, by people from Dorchester. They gave the settlement the name of Windsor. The next year, Mr. Hooker, with his congregation, removed from Cambridge (then Newtown) to Connecticut and founded the town of Hartford, in between Windsor and Wetherfield. These three towns, Wethersfield, Windsor and Hartford, soon associated, and chose magistrates to regulate their common interests. At about this same time, in 1635, John Winthrop, the younger, had established a fort on the coast at Saybrook, near the mouth of the Connecticut River.

Then, all heck broke loose: The Pequot War ensued in 1637, culminating in the destruction of the Pequot Indian Camp and massacre of many Indians by the white settlers.

At the close of the Indian troubles, in 1639, George Fenwick arrived from England, and came over to take charge of the colony by authority of the "Company". New Haven, on the coast, west of Saybrook, was settled about this time, followed by Milford, yet further west on the coast, then Guilford, Fairfield, Stratford, and, in 1660, Norwich was settled.

These settlements were in four geopolitical "clusters": Plymouth, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Haven.

In 1664, the Connecticut and New Haven colonies decided to merge, and thus was formed what we consider today to be the area of the state of Connecticut.

The land for towns was typically purchased from the Indians in areas nine miles square, or a total of 81 square miles. Norwich was purchased from Uncas for 70 pounds.

Bibliography: Rewritten and condensed from: A Genealogical Memoir of the Backus Family, William W. Backus, 1889

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Related Links

The Connecticut GenWeb Page is your starting point for on-line Connecticut genealogy. Don't forget to check the archives. Many of the Connecticut cemeteries and town vital records back into the 1600's are on-line. Not to mention query boards for each locality. Search the GenWeb Archives. They're adding stuff all the time. Or, if you just want to cruise the archives, go to the CT GenWeb Archives Index Page.
Many of the families on Mom's Side passed through Connecticut. Visit my family history section for the Baldwins, Backuses, Knights, Knowltons, and others where I have more specific Connecticut links to the parts of Connecticut where they lived.

Cindy's Connecticut List gives a lot of Connecticut resources on the web.

Visit the New England Page for all kinds of info and links about New England genealogy.

Maps of Connecticut.

Town Histories

Talk about odd's and end's... sorry I can't resist this one. Norwich, Conn is named after Norwich, England. Guess what else is named after Norwich, England?? Yes, you guessed it, visit the Norwich Canary Page.

The Amistad.. Connecticut was the "home" of the Amistad affair that the Steven Spielburg movie was about.

Travel the landmarks of Connecticut. Directions to Connecticut landmarks, with a brief description about the landmark.

Get a feel for the area by visiting the Mystic Page.

The Hartford Black History Project does a great job documenting the Black history of Connecticut.

Connecticut History Time-Line

Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society are for sale and may very well contain some of your ancestors or cousins papers or correspondence.

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Copyright, 1998 by Norris M. Taylor, Jr.

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