The Dutch who founded New Netherland and the city of New Amsterdam (now New York) extended their explorations and traffic east, west, north, and south. They even went as far as Narraganset and Cape Cod bays in search of the beaver and otter. As Captain Block had discovered the Connecticut River and named it the Fresh-Water, and had looked into Narraganset Bay, the Dutch felt that they had a legal claim upon those regions according to the English doctrine concerning the right of discovery. So early as 1623, the agent of the Dutch West India Company seems to have taken possession of the Connecticut River and the lands drained by its tributaries, in the name of the Company and of the States-General of Holland.
A peaceful and profitable trade might have been carried on with the natives of the Connecticut Valley, by the Dutch, had not the latter exasperated the Indians by the seizure of one of their chiefs and demanding a heavy ransom for his release. The savages threatened the intruders with violence, and the Dutch began to build a stockade fort for their own protection, at what is yet known as Dutch Point, near the City of Hartford. Wrath prevailed a long time. At length the Indians were pacified, and at their request the Dutch abandoned the fort.
With a keen eye to self-interest, the Dutch advised the Pilgrims to leave their more sterile soil and make their home in the beautiful and fertile country on the banks of the Freshwater River, under the jurisdiction of New Netherland. The fertility of that region was set forth in glowing terms and the stories of the Dutch were confirmed by native chiefs. One of these, of the Mohegan tribe, whose council fire was on the eastern bank of the Hudson, visited Governor Winthrop, of Massachusetts, in 1631, and with self-interest as strong as that of the Dutch, but rather more artfully concealed, he urged them to settle in the Connecticut Valley. He offered to give them lands, and an annual tribute of corn and beaver skins, if they would do so. The Mohegan chief's prime object was to so plant a barrier between his people and the powerful and warlike Pequods, whose seat was on the hills that stretch between New London and Stonington. The Puritans saw the selfish policy of both parties under the thin disguise of friendship, and declined to move in a body. They would not consent to become subjects of the Dutch nor to be made shields for the savages.
The stories of the "pleasant meadows" along the Connecticut River excited the attention of the English, and in 1632 Edward Winslow visited that region. He was delighted with the country, and confirmed all that Dutch ambassadors and traders and savage chieftains had said about it. The fame of it had already reached Old England, and two years before Winslow's visit, the Council for New England had granted the soil of that region to the Earl of Warwick. That nobleman conveyed his chartered rights to the domain to other parties (Lords Say and Seal, Lord Brook, Mr. Saltonstall and others) in 1632. In that conveyance the territory was defined as extending, "in a certain width throughout the main lands there, from the Western [Atlantic] Ocean to the South Sea" or the Pacific Ocean.
These parties did not take immediate steps for colonizing the Connecticut Valley, and the ever-vigilant Dutch got there before them. The Dutch purchased the territory of the Indians, the rightful owners, and Commissioner Van Curler completed the redoubt already begun on Dutch Point, named it Fort Good Hope, and armed it with cannon.
Windsor, Connecticut's first community, was launched in 1633 when settlers sailed from Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts to establish themselves at the confluence of the Farmington and Connecticut rivers. The Indians called this place Matianuck. The Reverend John Warham and 60 members of his congregation, a church organized in England in 1630, arrived two years later, and renamed the settlement Dorchester. A final name change to Windsor was decreed in 1637 by the colony's General Court. Windsor's original land has been used to spin off no less than 20 other Connecticut towns, in whole or part, from Litchfield and Torrington to the west, to Tolland in the east. Historically, Windsor's economy has been dominated by two pursuits: tobacco farming and brickmaking (since 1675). In its heyday, there were more than 40 brickyards in Windsor. The last one disappeared in the 1960's. The first tobacco crop was planted in 1640 with seeds brought to Connecticut from the Virginia tobacco plantations.
At Plymouth Colony there was a company of "banished Indians" - families driven from the Connecticut Valley, with their chief, by the Pequods. From these the Plymouth settlers purchased a tract of land above Fort Good Hope. They prepared a house of wood, which they stowed in pieces on board of a bark commanded by Captain William Holmes. In this bark sailed the fugitive savages and some Englishmen, and went up the Connecticut River.
When they approached Fort Good Hope, the commander of the fort hailed the little craft and demanded of Captain Holmes whither he was going, and for what purpose. "Up the river to trade!" answered the skipper. This little fib did not satisfy the suspicious Dutchmen, who rightly supposed that the intruders had orders to settle rather than to trade. "Heave to" shouted the commander of the garrison standing by the side of a heavy gun, "or I'll shoot." "I must obey my commands," said the intrepid Holmes, and sailed by. The Dutchmen blustered, but did not shoot.
The English landed above; hastily erected the house they had brought with them, and took possession of the country. They sent the bark back, palisaded their house, and prepared to maintain their position. This house was built on the site of Windsor, in Connecticut. So was begun the first English settlement in that region in the autumn of 1633.
When Van Twiller (the Dutch governor) heard of this impertinent intrusion, he sent to Van Curler, at Good Hope, a protest to be delivered to Holmes, and a peremptory order for the latter "to depart forthwith with all his people and houses "- from that Dutch domain. "I am here," replied Holmes, "in the name of the King of England, whose servant I am, and here I will remain." Van Twiller stormed at this defiance, but prudently referred the matter to his superiors at Amsterdam. Before an answer could arrive, the subject became mixed with another of a serious nature.
A Captain Stone had been on a trading voyage from Massachusetts to Virginia, and on his return ran into and up the Connecticut River to traffic with the Dutch garrison at Good Hope. He and his companions were treacherously seized and murdered by Pequods on the banks of the stream. This crime was soon followed by the massacre of some Indians friendly to the Dutch. Then Van Curler seized a guilty old sachem and some of his followers, and hanged them. This exasperated the Pequods. They flew to arms and declared war against the Dutch. They sought the friendship of the English, and for this purpose they sent four or five ambassadors to Boston to negotiate a treaty. These ambassadors appeared before the governor in all the barbaric splendor of paint and rich skins, gorgeous feathers and rude ornaments. A treaty was made which provided that the Pequods, in consideration of the passive friendship of the English, were to surrender to the latter the Connecticut Valley and the remaining two murderers of Captain Stone's party, and pay a large tribute of wampum and beaver-skins.
So Winthrop gained a great advantage over Bradford in the accession of territory, and both parties won powerful allies, as they supposed, in the work of expelling the Dutch from the Connecticut Valley. At the same time, the position and security of the settlers at Windsor were strengthened.
Mathew (Matthew) Grant, the founder of the branch in America, of which I am a descendant, reached Dorchester, Massachusetts [now part of Boston], in May, 1630. In 1635 he moved to what is now Windsor, Connecticut, and was the surveyor for that colony for more than forty years. He was also, for many years of the time, town clerk. He was a married man when he arrived at Dorchester, but his children were all born in this country. His eldest son, Samuel, took lands on the east side of the Connecticut River, opposite Windsor, which have been held and occupied by descendants of his to this day. I am of the eighth generation from Mathew Grant, and seventh from Samuel. Mathew Grant's first wife died a few years after their settlement in Windsor, and he soon after married the widow Rockwell, who, with her first husband, had been fellow-passengers with him and his first wife, on the ship Mary and John, from Dorchester, England, in 1630. Mrs. Rockwell had several children by her first marriage, and others by her second. By intermarriage, two or three generations later, I am descended from both the wives of Mathew Grant.
In the fifth descending generation my great grandfather, Noah Grant, and his younger brother, Solomon, held commissions in the English army, in 1756, in the war against the French and Indians. Both were killed that year.
My grandfather, also named Noah, was then but nine years old. At the breaking out of the war of the Revolution, after the battles of Concord and Lexington, he went with a Connecticut company to join the Continental army, and was present at the battle of Bunker Hill. He served until the fall of Yorktown, or through the entire Revolutionary war. - - Ulysses S. Grant
Founders of Windsor
The following is a list of the Founders of the town of Windsor, amended and approved by the Descendants of the Founders of Ancient Windsor, Inc. as of June 1996.
Margaret (Barret) (Huntington) Stoughton
Capt. John Bissell
Elder John Branker
Dea. Henry Clarke
Capt. Aaron Cooke
Lt. Walter Fyler
Dea. William Gaylord
Gov. John Haynes
William Hill John Hillier
Lt. William Holmes
Elder William Hosford
Rev. Ephraim Huit
Major John Mason
Mary (Merwin) (Tinker) Collins
Thomas Newel l
Sgt. Nicholas Palmer
Dea. William Rockwell
Dr. Bray Rossiter
John St. Nicholas
Matthias Sension (St. John)
Sgt. Thomas Staires
Ens. Thomas Stoughton
Frances (Unknown) (Clark) (Dewey) (Phelps)
Rev. John Warham
Lt. David Wilton
Elder John Witchfield