In April, 1638 Rev. John Davenport and Theophilous Eaton came to the place known as Quinnipiack with 250 followers. These two leaders clearly reflected the reasons for creating a new settlement. Davenport, a spiritual leader and Eaton a reknown merchant, were to lay the foundations of the society in which we live today, 345 years later. These leaders envisioned a church state which could prosper from the rich resources and natural harbor connected to the interior by rivers.
The land for the new colony which included the area now known as New Haven, East Haven, Wallingford, Branford, Cheshire, was purchased from the Indians, who moved to a reservation in the Morris Cove area. About 100 years later all the Indians had died.
The Nine Squares was formed in 1638. The center was reserved for a market place and the other “squares” were named for places known to the settlers in England, such as London & Kent. The center square was the site of the first trial when an Indian was decapitated for a crime and his head placed on display as a lesson to others! By 1639 the military was established with about 200 men. Just three years after their arrival, having been joined by others from England, the settlers had created a new life. Quinnipiack became the New Haven Colony and by 1643 the population had swelled to 800. The first church-meeting house was erected in 1640.
The colonists retained the social structure they had known in England. Free men were church members—the ruling class of the new colony. The rest of society included free planters, indentured servants, seamen, laborers, ministers, merchants, farmers, and artisans. Town meetings were held to discuss timber cutting, bridge repair, where cattle should graze and other issues important to a community. Education was a primary concern, Ezekiel Cheever, a teacher, had come with the first settlers to Quinnipiack and began teaching soon after the 1638 arrival.
Education was necessary to prepare new ministers to perpetuate the religious colony. Thoughts of college came with the settlers too, a man named David Yale was among them, but an economic depression held off its beginning until 1701. In 1660 Hopkins Grammar School began on the Green. Theophilous Eaton had envisioned a major harbor capable of international trade. In the early years of the colony, there was trade with New Amsterdam (NY), Rhode Island, Boston and Barbados. One attempt to send a ship to England failed, the ship disappeared without a trace. There was no money as we know it, trade was through barter and wampum.
The New Haven Colony was still closely associated with its mother country England, whose politics were of great importance to the colonists. In 1660 two men, Colonel Whalley and Colonel Goffe left England for the new colony, when the new king ascended the throne. They had signed his father’s death warrant. Soon after, royal officers followed in our-quit. The two, joined by Colonel Dixwell, became fugitives, protected by the colonists. They lived for a time in a cave on West Rock. The incident is known to us today as the “Three Judges”, Judges Cave is still a popular spot on West Rock.
The power that the New Haven Colony had hoped for ended in 1665 when it was incorporated into the Connecticut Colony. This marks the end of Rev. Davenport’s vision of an independent religious community. He died sad and bitter three years later in Boston. Economic pressures, and the king’s displeasure with the New Haven Colony for hiding the three judges were among the reasons the power went to the Connecticut Colony.
Changes bring opportunity and the new political structure brought stability. The community now turned to strengthening itself with law and order. Attention was given to the poor and handicapped. Town meetings were held in Mr. Miles Tavern which was an important gathering place on the present site of the Taft Hotel. New Haven shared the status as co-capital of the Connecticut Colony with Hartford. In 1763 the State and Courthouse was built on the “Green” as the market place was now known. Its Georgian style reflected the prospering community. The harbor was a busy place, business was good and people were living better. Names such as James Hillhouse and Roger Sherman came to prominence.
Events abroad affected New Haven directly because the Connecticut Colony was still under England’s rule. While France and England were at war, 1690-1763, men from New Haven fought for the mother country. Other policies and decisions in England brought a realization to the Connecticut Colony—that it existed for the enrichment of England. Resentment began to build as a result of laws which failed to recognize the needs of the maturing colony. The Revolution and independence were the climax.
During the Pre-Revolution years development in the colony was rapid. By 1761, 6,000 people lived in New Haven, 1,500 near the Green. Most of the population was English with a few Dutch, Scotch or French. There were Blacks here in 1646, probably as slaves to wealthy families. One hundred thirty five years after the first settlers arrived the first Jewish family was known to be in the New Haven Colony.
As the New Haven Colony had begun as a spiritual settlement so it remained 100 years later with one congregation. All was not harmonious however, and after 1735 many new congregations emerged. In 1748 a second church appeared and a third (Trinity) in 1753 where President George Washington worshipped in 1789. Some Catholic families were also present in the community.
In 1701 the Collegiate School was founded in Saybrook which was within the jurisdiction of the New Haven Colony. It was the realization of Rev. Davenport’s dream of a school for preparing leaders for his religious community. In 1718 the school was moved to New Haven, renamed Yale College. Ezra Stiles served as its first President. Yale College declared its independence by building its own chapel in 1745.
In 1716 the town looked like a small village with a market place at its center. The public buildings then were a jail, the night watch guardhouse, the first society (church) and the schoolhouse. The Burying Ground was located on the north side of the Green. It soon caused concern as it became a sprawling, unsightly place.
The Wharf which began with a few docks in 1682, was bustling in the mid 1700’s. There was shipping trade with England’s enemy France, eager for revenge. Among the things traded were cattle, lumber and flour. There were exchanged for sugar, salt and cotton. In 1748 the population was 1400 and by 1774 it had blossomed to 8,000. Ten percent of these were seafarers. The first post office and newspaper appeared in 1755 in the colony.
Men named David Wooster and Benedict Arnold now lived and served in New Haven along with Hillhouse and Sherman. Taxes were being imposed on land and personal property by England. While many colonists began to stir in their desire to be out from under the rule of England, many remained loyal. The ruling class in society still reflected English attitudes. What people wore signaled their social position. The upper class wore fine clothes made of expensive fabrics often brought from England while the poorer people wore coarser homespun fabrics, pants made of deerskin and heavy woolen stockings.
Oysters had long been enjoyed by the River Indians and the settlers soon engaged in creating an industry from oystering. By 1766 regulations were passed to protect the industry from those who would take them out of season.
By 1763 the New Haven Colony had five doctors and five lawyers practicing their respective professions. Until then, people had generally tended to their own medical needs with knowledge passed down to them through generations. Some ministers or teachers had special knowledge in medicine or law but it was secondary to their other professions.
From 1756-1763 the Seven Years War between France and England was fought here. The result of participation in that event and extended trade was contact with other colonies and the spread of ideas. By 1771 a new awareness and sense of unity had developed, up and down the Atlantic Seaboard. The colonists were ready for independence.
The Revolutionary Period 1775-1784 marks the time when the colonists finally rebelled against the mother country. New Haven had formed a military company in 1775 and gathered supplies and munitions. The British invaded New Haven from two points—from Savin Rock in West Haven and the Lighthouse Point area in East Haven. The Pardee-Morris House was burned to the ground, a battle raged at the site of what is now Whalley/Broadway/Dixwell. Citizens loyal to the British may have appealed to the officers who spared the Green and college from destruction. Men from New Haven fought on land and sea.
Names of important men of the period include Nathan Hale and Benedict Arnold. Artists Colonel John Trumbull, Amos Doolittle and Ralph Earle painted scenes from the Revolution.
On July 4, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was signed. One of the signatures is that of Roger Sherman from New Haven. During the Revolutionary Period, New Haven continued to grow. The effect of the Revolution was a new confidence among the people to create an American society. After the separation from the mother country came the opportunity to become more self-reliant. Banks and city government were established. In 1784, New Haven became a city separate from the surrounding towns. At that time there were 400 Colonial style wooden houses in the area of the Green. No factories or merchants were located there. The streets were dusty, muddy and unnamed. Stagecoaches carried passengers and mail to New York while the harbor provided the main means of travel and shipping. Long Wharf was the hub of activity for the city. The years 1784-1800 were public spirited. The first elections were held for clerks, sheriffs and a mayor. Industries included tobacco growing and making pennies. President George Washington visited New Haven in 1789.