The Connecticut Colony or Colony of Connecticut was an English colony located in North America that became the U.S. state of Connecticut. Originally known as the River Colony, it was organized on March 3, 1636 as a haven for Puritan gentlemen. After early struggles with the Dutch, the English had gained control of the colony permanently by the late 1630s. The colony was later the scene of a bloody and raging war between the English and Indians, known as the Pequot War. It played a significant role in the establishment of self-government in the New World with its refusal to surrender local authority to the Dominion of New England, an event known as the Charter Oak incident which occurred at Jeremy Adams’ inn & tavern.
Two other English colonies in the present-day state of Connecticut were merged into the Colony of Connecticut: Saybrook Colony in 1644 and New Haven Colony in 1662.
Thomas Hooker, a prominent Puritan minister, and Governor John Haynes of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who led 100 people to present day Hartford in 1636, are often considered the founders of the Connecticut colony. The sermon Hooker delivered to his congregation on the principles of government on May 31, 1638 influenced those who would write the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut later that year. The Fundamental Orders may have been drafted by Roger Ludlow of Windsor, the only trained lawyer living in Connecticut in the 1630s, and were transcribed into the official record by the secretary, Thomas Welles.
The Rev. John Davenport and merchant Theophilus Eaton are considered the founders of the New Haven Colony, which would be absorbed into Connecticut Colony in the 1660s.
In the colony’s early years, the governor could not serve consecutive terms. Thus, for twenty years, the governorship often rotated between John Haynes and Edward Hopkins, both of whom were from Hartford. George Wyllys, Thomas Welles, and John Webster, also Hartford men, sat in the governor’s chair for brief periods in the 1640s and 1650s.
John Winthrop the Younger of New London, the son of the founder of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, played an important role in consolidating separate settlements on the Connecticut River into a single colony; and he served as Governor of Connecticut from 1659 to 1675. Winthrop was also instrumental in obtaining the colony’s 1662 charter, which incorporated New Haven into Connecticut. His son, Fitz-John Winthrop, would also govern the colony for ten years, starting in 1698.
Roger Ludlow was an Oxford-educated lawyer and former Deputy Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony who petitioned the General Court for rights to settle the area. Ludlow led the March Commission in settling disputes over land rights. He is credited as drafting the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut (1650) in collaboration with Hooker, Winthrop, and others. Ludlow was the first Deputy Governor of Connecticut.
William Leete of Guilford served as governor of New Haven Colony before that colony’s merger into Connecticut, and as governor of Connecticut following John Winthrop, Jr’s death in 1675. He is the only man to serve as governor of both New Haven and Connecticut.
Robert Treat of Milford served as governor of the colony both prior to and after its inclusion in Sir Edmund Andros’s Dominion of New England. His father, Richard Treat, was one of the original patentees of the colony.
The colony enjoyed a string of strong governors in the 18th century, many being re-elected yearly until they died. Upon the death of Fitz-John Winthrop, Gurdon Saltonstall, Winthrop’s minister in New London, was elected governor. Saltonstall was the only minister to serve as governor of Connecticut, and he belies the common misconception that Puritan clergy could not hold political office. Upon Saltonstall’s death, Deputy Governor Joseph Talcott of Hartford became governor. Deputy Governor Jonathan Law of Milford succeeded to the position of governor upon Talcott’s death. When Jonathan Law died, Deputy Governor Roger Wolcott of Windsor became governor. Wolcott, the father of Declaration of Independence signer Oliver Wolcott, was voted out of office in 1754 for his role in the Spanish Ship Case. Wolcott’s successor, Thomas Fitch of Norwalk, guided the colony through the Seven Years’ War, but was, himself, voted out of office in 1766 for not being strong enough in his repudiation of the Stamp Act. William Pitkin of Hartford (now East Hartford), the man who defeated Fitch, was a leader in the Sons of Liberty and also the cousin of former governor Roger Wolcott. Pitkin died in office in 1769, and was replaced by Deputy Governor Jonathan Trumbull, a merchant from Lebanon. Trumbull, also a supporter of the Sons of Liberty, continued to be elected governor throughout the American Revolutionary War and retired as governor in 1784, the year after the signing of the Treaty of Paris of 1783, which granted the United States its independence from Great Britain.