Settlement of New Haven 1638 - 1663
New Haven Colony was established in 1638 by Englishmen, Theophilus Eaton and the Reverend John Davenport. The two men and their companions, set sail driven by the economic and religious motives which had inspired their predecessors, who had established the Massachusetts Bay Colony some years earlier. Puritan ministers had failed in their efforts to reform the Church of England during the reign of King Charles I and now looked to the New World with the aim of creating Bible communities there. They sought freedom from religious persecution in England. They also sought freedom from the rigid social class structure of English society, which was deeply entrenched with government and religious policies as established by the Monarchy and its Church of England. With freedom to pursue Puritan religious beliefs in the New World, came ample land and its associated riches.
Other members of Eaton and Davenport's group who eventually made their way to New Haven include yeoman farmers who were lured by the thought of unlimited access to land as well as tenant farmers and impoverished laborers, who saw an opportunity for a new start in life. Businessmen associated with joint stock companies were also members of the group and attracted by the opportunities for trade.
Businessman Theophilus Eaton and the Reverend John Davenport, were unable to secure royal approval for the group's passage, but managed to organize a group of immigrants to New England. They concealed their identities and charted a ship named the Hector. Approximately 250 people, including fifty male heads of families, set sail for the Massachusetts Bay Colony. This group included the largest population of wealthy men ever to venture to New England from Britain, thereby indicating the growing desire for wealth and riches from the New World.
The Hector and its passengers reached Boston on June 6, 1637. At this time, the colony was being shaken by the Anne Hutchinson blasphemy controversy. There was also a rumor that Charles I was going to revoke the colony's charter. As they faced the tense and uncertain climate of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the new arrivals felt that the land offered to them was not suitable for farming, nor was it suitable for development as a trading post due to its location too far inland from adequate access to the water for trading. In the face of this adversity, the new settlers were told of the rich lands of the Quinnipiack. This they heard from Captain John Underhill, an officer of the Army operating against the Pequot Indians, who had served in the present day New Haven area and extolled the "rich and goodly meadows of Quinnipiack". Attracted by such descriptions, Eaton set out to visit this area between two mountains, or our present day East and West Rock, by the end of the same summer.
On August 30, 1637, Eaton left Boston with an exploring party. The group sailed down the coast to a place on the north shore of Long Island Sound. There they found a satisfactory harbor and decided to locate their settlement there. Seven men spent the first winter at the site, maintaining possession of the land until the rest of the colonists could come down from Massachusetts the following spring.
Eaton and Davenport made their company ready for the removal to the "new harbor", and set sail on March 30, 1638. The party reached its destination two weeks later. About 500 hundred colonists were present for the start of the new community on April 24, 1638. They immediately felt the presence of the natives, known as the Quinnipiacks, who resided in small villages around the harbor where they grew and harvested food, and hunted with bow and arrow. The Quinnipiack tribe was relatively free from attack by other natives because the Pequot had been nearly exterminated by the forces of John Mason in the Pequot War. And other local tribes had been weakened almost to extinction by a series of scourges which included Pequot raiders from the east, Mohawk marauders from the west, and finally a deadly plague.
Davenport and Eaton purchased the land area from the local natives in a series of transactions in November and December of 1638, and in May of 1645. The land was purchased in exchange for twelve coats of English trucking cloth, twelve alcumy spoons, twelve hatchets, twelve hoes, and two dozen knives. This arrangement was agreed upon and signed by the Sachem of the Quinnipiacks, Momauguin. With this agreement, Momauquin also sought protection from the settlers against raiding Pequot and Mohawks.
This agreement provided English settlers with land on which to develop their new Puritan community shaped largely by the Bible. By the summer of 1638, under the direction of John Brockett, the settlers staked out a town plan in the form of nine symmetrical squares. The central section of this plot was reserved for a market place. Today this area is referred to as the New Haven Green. The other eight sections of land were allotted to the principal planters of the settlement for home building. By June of 1639, the settlers had accomplished much in the way of physical foundations and now could focus on the establishment of their Bible commonwealth. A major dilemma which faced them was that of the roles of church and state. These leaders were not attempting to transplant an English form of government, nor did they envision a democracy. Their objective was to establish a Bible commonwealth, a theocracy in a sense. Church membership determined privileges of franchise and office holding.
On June 6, 1639, seventy proprietors met in Robert Newman's barn (present site of Sillman College at the east end of Hillhouse Avenue), and signed the Fundamental Agreement. The agreement stipulated that only church members would ever be allowed to vote or hold public office. The proprietors chose 11 worthy men, who then chose seven of their own number to create a church in the new settlement. The church was established August 22, 1639. These seven men were referred to as the Seven Pillars, and once they had established the church, the Seven Pillars were expected to initiate a civil government.
The Seven Pillars were able to accomplish this on October 25, 1639, by converting themselves into the original members of the legislative and judicial assembly called the General Court, and added nine more worthy church members to that body. The members of the General Court agreed that the Scriptures "doe hold forth a perfect rule" for the governing of family, church, and commonwealth affairs. The laws which would guide political and judicial decisions were patterned almost entirely upon Biblical traditions. The meeting of the General Court "Held 1st of the 7th moneth 1640" (September 1, 1640), appears the simple declaration: "This toune now named Newhaven." "Newhaven" both honored the town of Sussex, England, and described the "new harbor" chosen for settlement.
The General Court also organized a militia company, which was generally referred to as the train band. All males between the ages of sixteen and sixty were enrolled. The band was divided into four squadrons; each squadron was headed by a sergeant or a corporal. Overall command of the militia consisted of a captain, a lieutenant, and an ensign. The militia kept itself prepared to repel invasions or Indian raids. Occasionally, the militia was called upon to deal with non-military emergencies such as breaks in the town dams..
Within two short years, the settlement of New Haven was able stake out the town plot, establish a civil government, construct a church for worship, and create a defense system for their newly formed society. The settlers of New Haven now turned their attention toward creating that successful trading settlement that had inspired the leaders to leave the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Like the settlement of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the original settlers of New Haven hoped to create a Christian utopia based on Puritan ideals. The Puritan settlers of the area hoped to benefit from New Haven's geographic features, and use the harbor to create a commercial empire where they could control trade within Long Island Sound.
Colonial New Haven 1660 - 1775
By 1640 the colony of New Haven included Milford, Guilford, Branford, Southold on Long Island, and Stamford. Mercantile men of the colony saw New Haven as a major port in the area. They hoped that the colony of New Haven would not only be able to trade directly with England, but they envisioned the colony of New Haven as the port that would control trade up and down Long Island Sound. Leading New Haven merchants of the time extended their markets further south. They organized the Delaware Bay Company in 1640 to exploit whatever opportunities the Delaware Bay had to offer. On October 31, 1641 a New Haven town meeting approved all acts of the Delaware Bay Company, and voted itself authority over the Delaware Bay region. New Haven shipping merchants went on to develop their own system of triangular trade. Ships from New Haven would sail south down the Atlantic to Virginia, where they would pick up tobacco. The New Haven merchants would then sell their agricultural products and Virginia tobacco to the Dutch in New Amsterdam (New York). The Delaware Bay venture also provided an increased beaver pelt supply that they would ship to Boston to pay for English manufactured goods. Although this proved to be successful for a period of time, soon almost all shipment out of New Haven primarily went through the port of Boston. This allowed merchants at the port of Boston to drain off profits that would otherwise have come to local business in New Haven.
In an effort to re-establish direct trade with England, the people of New Haven built a sailing vessel that has come to be known as the "Great Shippe". In 1647, with the ship loaded with furs, hides, lumber, and other products, sailed out of the wintry harbor and was never seen again. The ship's loss was a serious one for New Haven, both emotionally and economically. New Haven never again organized another shipment to England. The idea of New Haven harbor as a major commercial port was also discouraged, as now, by the shallowness of the bay.
Local myth, and a ballad by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, says that the following summer a "phantom ship" rode in on the sunset clouds above the harbor. Suddenly, as the colonists rushed shoreward, the vessel's masts and sails collapsed, the great cloud darkened, and the image disappeared leaving only implications of tragedy.
Another event that had direct impact on New Haven during this period was the uprising in England by Oliver Cromwell. The uprising ended in the execution of King Charles I. When Charles II was restored to the British throne, two of the judges that ordered the death of Charles I fled England for New England. The judges landed secretly in New Haven in 1661. Both Colonel Edward Whalley and Colonel William Goffe were being pursued by the King's agents. Reverend Davenport preached a defiant sermon that urged the people of New Haven to "hide the outcasts." Whalley and Goffe were sheltered in the "Judges Cave" on West Rock. A third judge, named Colonel Dixwell joined Whalley and Goffe, and the three fled to Hadley, Massachusetts. The agents eventually became frustrated in the chase and gave up. Whalley and Goffe died in Hadley. Dixwell, however, changed his name and returned to New Haven. He would later be buried on the green in 1679. Three of New Haven's major streets are named after the judges (they come together at Broadway in the city's central district).
New Haven's suspected role in helping the fugitive judges was not soon forgotten by the British throne. And in 1662, a year after the judges' arrival, Charles II renewed the Charter of Connecticut, but permitted the leaders of Hartford to absorb the colony of New Haven into their domain. This was Charles II's way of paying back the leaders of New Haven for harboring the fugitives that he was after. As a result of New Haven's absorption by Hartford, New Haven Colony lost the old agreements and understandings they had with England. Independent initiatives of New Haven were largely overridden by the goals of the Connecticut Colony. And all outlying land answered now to Hartford.
Although New Haven had lost her independence, the union with the Connecticut Colony helped to bring about better economic times. In 1701 New Haven became the co-capital of the Connecticut Colony along with Hartford. This gave the discouraged and resentful citizens of New Haven a renewed feeling of hope. It was during this time that New Haven experienced a new spirit of openness, cooperation and compromise that encouraged commerce and other businesses. Membership of the church was now available to all citizens, public officials were now elected instead of appointed, and New Haven citizens now played an active part in governing their own town.
In 1701 the region's ministers organized and the General Court of Connecticut, who approved the establishment of a "collegiate school" at Saybrook. Eighteen years later it moved to New Haven and was renamed Yale College, after merchant benefactor Elihu Yale. The college found a site facing the Green on what is now College Street. Yale College would soon become a global leader in academic excellence as well as an economic contributor to New Haven.
As New Haven celebrated its 100th birthday in 1738, the settlement continued to grow. By 1738 the town had grown to about 1,000 residents and had 163 dwellings. And by 1752, the first signs of religious tolerance are seen in New Haven when the General Court acceded the formation of the Episcopal congregation. New Haven also established Connecticut's first newspaper, the Connecticut Gazette in 1775, with the help of Benjamin Franklin and his publisher James Parker. During the same time, New Haven experienced the first public planting of elm trees on the town square.
When England defeated France and gained control of French possessions in the New World during the French and Indian War (1756 - 1763), New Haven's commerce and prosperity grew even more. Better conditions attracted ambitious and talented people to the town. The increase in trade with the West Indies was very profitable and encouraged shipbuilding. By 1770 thirty ships were sailing out of New Haven for voyages to foreign countries. Prior to 1770, New Haven had only two ships for coastal trading, and only one was able to sail to the West Indies. Although New Haven experienced renewed economic growth through coastal trading at this time, New Haven's shallow harbor was still not experiencing the level of economic success compared to Boston and New York.
Revolutionary New Haven 1776 - 1783
By the time of the Revolutionary War began, New Haven had evolved from a colonial village into a growing town of about 3,500 citizens that would contribute men, money and arms to the revolutionary cause.
In 1765 the king and the English parliament, looking for revenue, imposed the Stamp Act as a form of colony taxation. New Haven was quick to join other colonies in protest. The king's local stamp master, Jared Ingersoll, was threatened with his life. Although there were Loyalists living in New Haven, there was new talk of independence and general patriot objections among the citizens of New Haven, to include a "Liberty Pole" on the Green..
A strong spirit of patriotism marked the people of New Haven from the very outset of the Revolutionary War. When news of the Battle of Lexington reached the town, Benedict Arnold, who was elected Captain of the Governor's Foot Guard, mustered his men to march to Cambridge to provide reinforcement for the Minutemen at Lexington and Concord. On April 22, 1775, Arnold and forty of his men marched to the town officials demanding the keys to the powder house that stored the town's gunpowder. Arnold and his men were met with refusal by some town officials who were Tories and loyal to the Crown. After Arnold threatened to break down the doors to the powder house, frightened officials handed over the keys.
Every Spring New Haven celebrates "Powder House Day" by reenacting the event. One hundred and fifty guardsmen, a fife and drum corps, and a military band march from the Goffe Street Armory to the Green behind their commander, who plays the part of Benedict Arnold.
After Arnolds' company left, in an effort to protect themselves from possible British attack, the New Haveners set up a signal fire on the east side of the harbor. When ever necessary it was lighted to warn the people in the surrounding countryside. All able-bodied men were expected to arm themselves to defend the town. During the next three years New Haven did its part in supplying men, food, and clothing to the Continental army. A powder mill was built in Westville, and New Haven was able to provide the army with ammunition. During this time there was a constant fear of attack.
Also at this time, the British, under command of General William Tryon, began to make raids along the Connecticut coast, robbing and burning towns. On July 5, 1779 a fleet of 48 British warships carrying 5,000 marines, sailors, and foot soldiers sailed up Long Island Sound and launched a two-pronged invasion of New Haven from the beaches at West Haven and East Haven. Reverend Ezra Stiles, president of Yale College, went up to the chapel and through a telescope was able to verify that British soldiers were landing at West Haven.
British soldiers were first met with resistance by the Governor's Foot Guard, the artillery company, and a sizeable number of Yale students that marched to West Bridge, the road leading to West Haven. Once the British were able to overcome the first wave of resistance they marched toward Westville where the powder mill stood. The British soldiers tried to capture and destroy the mill. Their attempt was met with strong resistance and failed. British soldiers then advanced from Westville toward the center of the town, what is now Broadway. The fighting was fierce at Ditch Corner, where Whalley and Dixwell Avenues come together. At Broadway, British soldiers began destroying and burning property. At the corner of Chapel and York streets, the British positioned cannon, and fired down the street several times. Finally, the British reached the center of town and settled themselves on the Green.
While this was taking place, another body of British soldiers was landing on the east side of the harbor near what is now Lighthouse Point. After overcoming some resistance, the British troops were eventually able to make their way along the shore by Morris Cove and a small fort at Black Rock. Along the way, British soldiers continued to raid nearby farm houses. Some British troops got as far as the village of East Haven. Eventually the troops from the east side of the harbor crossed the Quinnipiac River and marched to the Green.
The next morning General Tryon assembled his men and withdrew from New Haven to attack and burn Fairfield and Norwalk. For a variety of tactical reasons the British did not burn the town. However, they left behind a plundered town with twenty-seven New Haveners dead and nineteen wounded some of them non-combatants.
While it has become regular practice, for American historians to emphasize Connecticut's role in the Revolutionary struggle mainly in terms of the "Supply State", it can not be forgotten that a New Haven contingent entered the battle early, under the command of a controversial figure, and that New Haven experienced the brunt of a strategically designed, full-scale invasion.
The New Haven community was divided in three different camps regarding colonial independence from Great Britain. One third was classified as Tories, another third patriot, and nearly another which third could not make up their minds. Yet, as the years wore on, between 1775 and 1781, a majority consensus did emerge in New Haven, and in the American Colonies, generally-a militant consensus that the colonies were, and of right ought to be, free and independent.
Post Revolutionary New Haven 1784 - 1794
When the conflict ended, New Haven was still a small, quiet, semi-rural seaport town. In 1784 the dwellings continued to be made mostly of wood, many of them painted red or blue, with some brick ones and a few built of stone. This period of time would see the transition of New Haven from a small, primarily agricultural town to a community that would become a city that would experience enormous urbanization, from population growth, growing commerce, and the establishment of a city infrastructure.
On January 8, 1784, the Connecticut General Assembly passed an act incorporating a portion of the Town of New Haven as the City of New Haven. At the time the town covered an area about ten miles from west to east by thirteen miles from south to north. Included within old boundary were the sections that later became West Haven, part of Orange, part of Amity (later to be Woodbridge and Bethany), Hamden, North Haven, and East Haven. Approximately 8,000 people lived in what was then the town, including 3,350 in the new city itself. The newly incorporated city occupied about 10 percent of the old town's acreage. The city's boundaries ran from the West River on the west over to the Mill River on the east and from the Mill River Meadows on the north down to the waterfront.
Once the city charter was granted by the General Assembly, New Haven immediately began to form a new structure of government. The new town government consisted of a mayor (Roger Sherman), four aldermen, and a council of 20, all ultimately responsible to the traditional Town Meeting. A Mayor's Court was empowered to deal with civil cases within the city and a host of new offices were created to better order city life and to regulate commerce transactions.
As part of New Haven's design for economic growth, immigration was encouraged by the town, which had in colonial times carefully guarded its residents and freely "warned out" transients. In 1784, almost immediately after the city charter was granted, the city voted to readmit to citizenship "such Tories as are of fair character and will be good and useful members of Society." At the same time, a distinguished city "Committee of Hospitality" was set up "to assist all such strangers as shall come to the city for the purpose of settlement therein." A decade later the New Haven Chamber of Commerce, one of the first in the country, pioneered in private and civic assistance to commerce and industry.
However, it is important to remember that immediately following the Revolution, the average New Havener spent most of his lifetime in the quieter pursuits of daily life, providing food, clothing, and shelter for the family. The typical New Havener was still a farmer. Even though most of the population lived in a cluster around the Green, it is proper to call their abodes "farmhouses", since most of the adult males went out each morning to work in the fields surrounding the town.
Life began early in a New Haven farmhouse, seven o'clock in the winter and six o'clock or earlier in summer. The fire in the fireplace was banked when the family retired. The first person up, usually the father, rekindled the fire in the kitchen with some curls of wood. Once the fire was blazing, the rest of the family was awakened. Household tasks began immediately. Someone went to the well and pulled up a fresh bucket of water. Throughout the day this pail, frequently refilled, was the only source of water for drinking, washing, and cooking. Usually, it was one of the family boys that went to the wood pile for wood for the fire.
In the meantime the mother, with the help of her daughters, prepared breakfast, a substantial meal in most households, consisting of bread and butter, smoked dried beef, cheese, broiled fish, or meat. Cider was the common drink for the family. At noontime, "dinner" was the main meal of the day, and along with the food already mentioned, it many fruits and vegetables. The lighter meal of the day, called "supper", included a variety of desserts such as preserved fruits, cakes, and torts. Along with the cooking, the women of the household were responsible for most of the household chores such as washing and mending of clothes, taking care of the domestic gardens, and the rearing of the young children.
During this era, New Haven, with its new charter, stood poised on the threshold of unprecedented urban growth. In spite of this, New Haven maintained the appearance of a small colonial town. The city had traded size for the advantages of a municipal charter. In addition to increased civic dignity the city government gained more clearly defined power to stimulate commerce and promote trade by improving wharves and roads. New Haven's central area and the adjoining waterfront contained in 1724, between 157 and 163 buildings of all types, including residential structures. By 1787, in the same general area, there were 466 houses, 103 stores, and 324 barns and shops. Public buildings were in the center of town, on the Green, or very close to it, and much of the retail took place there.
Prior to 1784 when New Haven became a city, most inhabitants had used descriptive terms to identify particular areas of the town, Cutler's Corner for the intersection of what is now Church and Chapel streets and Ditch Corner for the area of Broadway. There were, however, no official street designations until 1784, when the municipal government bestowed names on twenty-one of them. The original nine squares were to be bounded by Grove Street on the north, George on the south, York on the west, and State Street on the east. Between Grove and George streets and running parallel to them were Elm and Chapel streets. Between York and State streets the parallel streets were to be called College and Church. The later street was named for the Episcopal Church on its east side south of Chapel Street. The name of Elm Street called attention to the elm trees planted in the 1680s.
During Constitutional debate over ratification, Roger Sherman of New Haven helped to create the United States Constitution, which replaced the Articles of Confederation. Sherman resolved the problem concerning the number of senators and representatives each state would have in the national government. Sherman's Connecticut Compromise decided that each state would have two senators, but its number of representatives would be decided based on population of the state. Roger Sherman helped the Constitution get approved in Connecticut. He was the only person to sign all four key documents in early United States history; the Articles of Association in 1774; the Declaration of Independence in 1776; the Articles of Confederation in 1777; and the U.S. Constitution in 1787. Roger Sherman was elected New Haven's first Mayor in 1784.