New Haven began as a self-governing commonwealth. New Haven was an independent colony. It was not a colony that was supported by a Royal charter or legal title from the English government.

The independence of New Haven rested upon the chance that the English government would be friendly or be too preoccupied to interfere with their affairs It was both a Puritan community, dedicated to God and at the same time a commercial enterprise. The Bible contained the word of the Lord. It contained the rules of conduct that individuals must follow and a pattern from which they could draw a plan of social organization. The Colonists perceived no conflict between their religious beliefs and pursuing economic advantages.

Two school-mates had become the organizers of this company of faithful. The Reverend John Davenport and Theophilus Eaton personified the themes of puritan community and mercantile enterprise. Eaton was a successful businessman and an administrator familiar with the operation of the joint-stock companies of the day. He was also a staunch Puritan. John Davenport had been the Vicar of Saint Stephen's in London. In that role he was expected to be a participant in the "prudential and secular affairs" of his parish. He had left England for Holland in 1633, but the fear of his parishioners straying from their beliefs and his communications with Reverend John Cotton, whose accounts of New England were exciting, provoked Davenport to return to England. He joined with Eaton to embark on a business venture to establish a plantation with a good harbor for shipping and at the same time to allow the unrestricted practice of their religious beliefs. These settlers were "the wealthiest group of merchants to come to any New England settlement before 1660" (. They would have attempted to fit into the Boston community if they had not encountered a Puritan church in crisis. Anne Hutchinson had scandalized the Boston congregation with her belief that divine inspiration came directly from God to the individual and that our earthly conduct had little to do with salvation . Such a dispute was so offensive to the newly arrived group that Davenport and Eaton immediately sought refuge in another part of this land outside the Massachusetts charter area. They heard of our area most likely from Captain Mason and the troops who had pursued the aggressive Pequots through the area a few years earlier. The first written account of this area may have been as early as 1614, when the Dutch navigator Adriaen Block anchored in a harbor flanked by two red hills, no doubt East and West Rocks. The Native name for the area was Ouinnipiack, the first European name was the Dutch "'Roodeburg"', red-town or place . Eaton and other members of the group went to the area the summer before the rest of the company followed. In the fall seven remained at the Ouinnipiac site, while others returned to encourage the rest of the company to follow in the spring. There was cleared land, a good harbor and the chance of developing a good fur trade. It has been proposed that Eaton may have been one of the about seven who stayed in the proposed site that winter. It is thought that it was at this time that the nine square pattern for the city was developed. Thus actually we may agree with the comment that New Haven was "America's first planned city" . The number of people in the company had increased while in Boston. Settlers from Hertfordshire and their Reverend Peter Prudden, who were equally horrified at the religious problems, were persuaded to join the Eaton-Davenport company. It took two weeks for the Hector and an unnamed sister ship to sail from the Massachusetts Bay Colony to Ouinnipiac harbor. Finally, on Saturday, April 24, 1638 about five hundred settlers disembarked.

East Rock, N.H.
East Rock, New Haven

Few of those that arrived intended to be part of a farming community. There was a substantial amount of hard money in the company, and this meant that the hardships that earlier settlements had were not experienced. These colonists could initially purchase what they needed. The location had been well chosen. There were to the east and west successive smaller harbors, estuaries of rivers that suggested good locations for settlement. The Ouinnipiac harbor was also about half way between the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam and the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In addition, there was virtually no threat from the area natives. Raids by the vanquished Pequots and Mohawks, who once sought tribute, as well as an epidemic had greatly reduced their number. Less than sixty natives in two small groups remained. In order to establish some title to the land treaties with the chiefs, Momauguin and Montowese, were signed in late 1638. Actually, more than the coats, spoons, hatchets, hoes and knives the natives appreciated the protection that the new arrivals provided. So it was that April 1638 the colonists arrived at a fairly secure spot in the wilderness.

It was at a meeting of the 'General court,' a legislative and judicial body of sixteen members under the leadership of Eaton, on September 1, 1640, that the new harbor was officially for the first time referred to as New Haven. It is interesting to note that Davenport and Eaton had previously won a close vote of the legislative body that established the separation of church and state in New Haven's government. These same town fathers felt that in order that New Haven become a new trading center they should create a series of communities in the area. These Communities would deliver their products to New Haven for export. The leaders of each of the communities would be members of the General court and meet on a regular basis in New Haven. Milford was established in 1639 by Reverend Peter Prudden, Guilford by the Reverend Herny Whitfield.. his house in Guilford is still standing and may be visited. Stamford and Southold, on Long Island, were incorporated in 1641. The last member of this network of local Communities was Branford; it came into the fold in 1644.

The New Haven merchants also made a thrust out of the immediate Long Island Sound area. They struck out for what is now the mid-Atlantic states Coastline, determined to find the best available Long Island Sound area. They struck out for what is now the mid-Atlantic states Coast line determined to find the best available harbor and establish yet another trading outpost. They paid little attention to previous titles to the land claimed by the Swedes and the Dutch; instead they resorted to gaining title by purchasing the land form the natives. In 1641 the New Haven legislative authorities voted themselves in Control of what is now most of southern New Jersey and the present site of Philadelphia. While this was a bold move it was also an unrealistic extension of what the New Haven Colony could control. The Dutch and the Swedes did not mind the settlers, but refused to tolerate the independent competition. The fifty New Haven families that settled the Philadelphia site were Constantly harassed. For ten years the New Haven party's homes were burned, commerce interfered with and leaders captured. New Haven appealed to its fellow New England Colonies for help. The other Colonies were not about to commit to something that Could develop into an armed Conflict to defend the New Haven Colony's tenuous claim. Sickness too, ravaged the outpost. The Colony Continued its claim until 1664 when the Duke of York brought under English Control New Amsterdam. Some of the original settlers from New Haven are today considered among the founding fathers of that region.

This was an enormous set back at a very bad time for New Haven. The Colony now had little currency. The Delaware scheme had drained its resources. There was now little chance of new investment because of a political change in England. Oliver Cromwell had lead a Puritan revolution. Charles I was killed. There no longer existed a reason for the Puritans to flee to the New World. "Strange though it may seem, more people left Massachusetts for England than came thence to the Bay Colony between 1640 and 1660" . A continued trust in the Lord, an indomitable spirit and perhaps desperation motivated the New Haveners to attempt what was to their last and most ambitious venture.

In New Haven, in 1645, was built an ocean worthy ship of 80 tons. To this point the Colony had but five small ships for coastal trade. This new craft was to sail directly to England. The Colony was no longer to use the Massachusetts Bay Colony as middle-man. The last resources of the Community were aboard the ship when it set sail in 1646 never to return. A year and a half went by and in the summer of 1647, after a thunder shower moved out over the harbor an apparition of the ship appeared. There seems to have been time for everyone to gather on the shore. They watched in amazement. It is recorded they Could recognize their friends on the deck. Then as the ship drew nearer the masts seemed to snap in an invisible wind, the passengers to pitch into the sea and the ship to capsize. Reverend Davenport explained that God had sent the ship to answer their prayers for an explanation of what had happened to their loved ones. H. W. Longfellow eulogized this revelation in his poem The Phantom Ship. The risks had been taken, all the grand plans had failed and the Colony was near collapse. Thus ended what might called New Haven's first maritime period. Those that remained now faced "a future of farming and isolation" .

Now once again there was a change in the English government. Charles II came to the throne in 1660. Puritan power was over. Two judges, or regicides, who had signed Charles I's death warrant escaped to New England in 1661. They were Colonel William Goffe, and his father-in-law Colonel Edward Whalley. While at first warmly greeted in the Bay Colony, the word of troops hot on their heels cooled the Bostonian's welcome. They traveled overland to New Haven where they were greeted by Reverend Davenport. They took up refuge on West Rock in an outcrop of massive boulders that now is call Judge's Cave. When the royal authorities arrived it was the Sabbath. They were Coerced to attend service, at which the Reverend Davenport read from the Bible, "'Hide the outcasts, and betray not him that wandereth"' he then read the supposed secret royal warrant aloud to those present . The officers could not find a trace of the regicides and departed empty-handed. For more than a month the judges remained in their natural hideaway. Daily a local farmer left food for them on a stump about half way from the center of town. They were prompted to leave their shelter after hearing what they thought might be a mountain lion or another fierce wild animal. Colonel Dixwell, the third regicide, had initially traveled to Europe after his escape from England and did not join his fellow judges until 1664. In 1664 another detachment of royal officers arrived in search of the regicides. Now all three hid at the West Rock site. Once again the search was fruitless and the troops left. The judges fled north spending time in Hadley and Hartford. Colonel Dixwell is the only one on record to have returned to New Haven. He assumed the name James Davids and established himself as a respected member of the community. He started a family and is the only one of the three judges we are sure of lain to rest on the New Haven Green.

It is felt but not established in any written record that this snub of the Charles II government officials may have hastened the end of the proud and independent New Haven Colony. It was brought to Governor Leete's attention that the Connecticut colony was sending an emissary to England to establish friendly relations with the new government. Eaton had died in 1658. New Haven was without a statesman and without funds. Governor Leete sent a hurried message to the Connecticut Colony's Governor Winthrop to request that he plead New Haven's case. Whether or not the message ever reached Governor Winthrop is unknown. What is known is that the Connecticut Colony envoy sought and obtained a charter which included the independent Colony of New Haven. Governor Winthrop returned in 1663 and proposed a compromise and after a two year argument New Haven acquiesced. On January 5, 1665 an act of submission was passed by the General Court of the New Haven Colony. The New Haven Colony was now officially part of the Connecticut Colony.

What words can we use to describe these early settlers? They were most of all God fearing adventurers. In an almost Quixotic fashion they seemed to venture forth without regard for physical boundaries or human limitations. They were dreamers with a vision. They longed not only to create God's kingdom on earth, but also a colonial empire that had the New Haven Colony at its center. The story of the Colony seems to fit the pattern of the tragic hero. He starts in heroic fashion, well-off and confident. Then fate interferes making each thoughtfully developed and implemented ventures collapse. These enterprises were not those of an individual or dictated unilaterally. The decisions were communally agreed upon, the Colony acted as a single body. The colonists' faith in God enhanced their belief that their undertakings would be successful. When it was apparent that their ship had been lost and that they were to become party of the Connecticut colony it was, no doubt, that same faith that held them together and gave them the strength to carry on.

The New Haven Colony was fundamentally designed to have a government based on a social contract whose rules were those of Bible state. The freedom to seek commercial expansion and the resulting financial reward were the primary factors-obsessions-in the establishment of the independent Colony. Yet below this entrepreneurial layer that found the leaders of the free planters from the six plantations, or settlements, meeting in 'general court' monthly to determine the Colony's grand plans there were the everyday routines that were necessary to sustain a community. Davenport and Eaton had arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony with about two hundred fifty in their company. Discontent cause by the religious turmoil doubled the number to approximately five hundred and these souls reached Ouinnipiac on April 24,1638. In spite of the fostering of five neighboring plantations in the following years it was reported in 1643 the New Haven plantation had about eight hundred inhabitants. This group was comprised of "122 planters (including widows), the number of persons in their households (totaling 419)" .There was a definite structure in this society. Free planters who were church members held the most authority they were followed by the nonchurch member free planters. There were also indentured servants, apprentices and finally those of a more transient nature the laborers and seamen. It must be noted that there were slaves. "There were a few Negro and Indian slaves, and some white persons were also enslaved as a penalty for arson, sometimes for years, sometimes for life".

Within years after the arrival of the Hector at Ouinnipiac, not only were there social classifications but also a great diversity of employment. First of all there were the Puritan farmers; then those that might be considered in professional fields, the ministers, the merchants and teachers. While these groups may well have provided for the emotional and financial security of the Colony it was the great number of skilled artisans who provided the community with what was needed daily. The artisans of New Haven in the seventeenth century made almost everything by hand. Their ranks included: "sawyers, carpenters, ship-carpenters, joiners, thatchers, chimney-sweepers, brick-layers, plasterers, tanners, shoemakers, saddlers, weavers, tailors, hatters, blacksmiths, gunsmiths, cutlers, nailers, millers, coopers, and potters". There was in addition an unsuspected category of skilled laborer, the spinster. Nearly every home housed an unmarried woman and it was to them that the task of making linen and woolen thread that eventually would be woven into cloth fell. Essential services were provided both for individual households as well as for the community at large for more than a century in this hands on labor intensive manner.

The water powered gristmill was the only exception to the general rule of manual endeavor. Of course, New Haven's was on Mill River. Atwater states, "To the first planters of New Haven, their gristmill was a very important institution. It was at Whitneyville, and the lane through which grists were carried to the mill,. called Mill Lane. Their posterity have change the name to Orange Street" . It is interesting to speculate where this mill might have been. It may actually be on the Eli Whitney site.

The New Haven Colony traded with the Massachusetts Bay Colony, New Amsterdam and New Netherlands. New Amsterdam was their first, nearest and favorite market. There were duties on both imports and exports and a constant stream of protests from one colony to another dependent upon which group imposed what. There was a demand for the Colony's products which included: "peas, flour, biscuit, malt, livestock, dairy products, beef, pork, hides and leather, furs and skins, shingles, clapboard, and pipestaves, fish, the products of the whale, the crude work of artisans, and wampum" . Hard money was scarce and might have been, "English shillings, Dutch Guilders, (or) Spanish pieces of eight".

The above list of products includes wampum which was another currency substitute. Most of the trade of the colony was carried on using barter or wampum. These methods of exchange necessitated constant regulation. Laws were passed fixing the value of wampum. Some colonists tried to copy the Native wampum, others took samples to England and had a porcelain counterfeit manufactured that eventually destroyed its use as money.

The currency problem continued to trouble the colonies until the revolution. In the mean time there was a slow development of industry in the area. Thomas Nash, or Naish is credited with making the first American clock. It was an all wood works affair Constructed in 1638. A few years later in 1655 an interest in mining developed in East Haven. John Winthrop Jr. and Stephen Goodyear joined to establish a forge and bloomery-a bloom is a chunk of iron that has been separated from the rock and is ready to be worked, wrought-at the point where Lake Saltonstall empties into a stream. Ore for the forge was located in North Haven bogs It was brought down the Ouinnipiac to East Haven and then carted overland to the forge. John Winthrop Jr. was enticed to move to New Haven to oversee the operation of the forge. He was Considered an outstanding metallurgist as well as physician. He purchased a home, ". . . paying for it in goats" . Again, as fate would have it within the year he was elected by the Connecticut Colony to be their Governor and left the area. This is the same office he no doubt, would have been elected to within the following months in the New Haven Colony had he been available because of the death of New Haven's Governor, Theoplilus Eaton. "It was a shrewd move on the part of Connecticut, destined to change the history of the colonies" . So to, it changed the future of the forge. The colony eventually suffered more than it gained from the venture. Within a few years it was considered a liability. It also "attracted unruly transients much to the discomfort of the town fathers" . before its eventual closing in the late 1670's.

An appropriate designation for the period from the 1650's to the 1750's might be the village period. Very little happened to industrialize New England. The household industries did become well established and the artisans maintained systems of apprenticeship. Trade was based primarily on barter. New Haven became a provincial, self-contained community based on agriculture. At the turn of the century it did reclaim some of its former prestige when it was proclaimed the co-capital with Hartford. There were small attempts to industrialize the area in the 1730's. Abel Parmalee established a bell foundry in 1736, becoming New Haven's first true industry. In the 1730's there was also a sawmill functioning in Hamden that was water powered. New Haven was slowly regaining its health and once again was becoming a bustling and prosperous community. No longer were the names of Eaton and Davenport the topics of Conversation, now it was Roger Sherman, James Hillhouse and Benedict Arnold that captured peoples interest. Osterweis states: "New men, ambitious and energetic, began to arrive . . . Ships engaged in trade with the West Indies were slipping in and out of the busy harbor . . . New Haven...was emerging from its medieval period" .

- - - Francis J. Degnan


When peace and security were established in the CONNECTICUT region after the destruction of the Pequods in the summer of 1637, a desire for emigrating thither was revived. At about that time several gentlemen destined to occupy conspicuous places in history as founders of a state arrived at Boston. These were Rev John Davenport, a popular Puritan preacher of London, who had been persecuted by Arch-bishop Laud and taken refuge in Rotterdam. Another was Theophilus Eaton, an opulent London merchant and member of Mr. Davenport's congregation and a third was Edward Hopkins, another rich London merchant and member of the same society. They were much attached to Mr. Davenport, and gladly came to share his voluntary exile from his native land.


New Haven Indians

At the time of the arrival of these gentlemen, society in Massachusetts was violently agitated by bitter theological discussions, which will be noticed hereafter. Mr. Davenport and his friends belonged to a school who sought to carry out in practice the idea of finding in the Scriptures a special rule for everything in church and state. For the purpose of trying an experiment in government on the basis of that idea, they desired an unoccupied field. From some of those who pursued the fugitive Pequods along the country bordering on Long Island Sound, they heard of the beauty and fertility of that region, and early in the autumn Mr. Eaton and a small party visited the country. He was charmed with a harbor on the north side of the Sound and on the banks of a stream, which the Indians called Quinnipiack, he erected a hut, where some of the party passed the winter to try the climate. That was on the site of New Haven, Connecticut. The place had been called by the Dutch navigator, Block, who had anchored in the harbor, "Roodenberg" or Red Hills, in allusion to the red cliffs a little inland.

In the spring of 1638, Mr. Davenport and his friends sailed for Quinnipiack, where they arrived at the middle of April. They were accompanied by a number of followers, mostly persons from London who had been engaged in trade; and in proportion to their number, they formed the richest colony in America. They spent their first Sabbath there - a warm April day - mostly under the shadow of a great oak, where Mr. Davenport preached a sermon on the subject of Jesus being led into the wilderness. They purchased the land of the Indians and proceeded to plant the seeds of a new state by framing articles of association, which they called a "Plantation Covenant," according to their peculiar ideas. In it they resolved that, as in matters that concern the gathering and ordering of a church, so likewise in all public offices which concern civil order, as choice of magistrates and officers, making and repealing of laws, dividing allotments of inheritance, and all things of like nature, "they would be ordered by the rules which the Scriptures held forth." So they began their settlement without any reference to any government or community on the face of the earth. The place where the first hut was built was on the present corner of Church and George Streets, New Haven, and the spot whereon stood the oak tree - their first temple for worship - was at the intersection of George and College Streets. For about a year this little community endeavored to learn by experience, from reflection, and light from Heaven through the medium of prayer, what would be the best kind of social and political organization for the government of the colony. They talked together much, and early in the summer of 1639 they were nearly or quite all of one mind. Then they assembled in a barn - all the free planters "to compare views and settle upon a plan of civil government according to the word of God." Mr. Davenport prayed earnestly, and preached from the text "Wisdom hath builded her house she hath hewn out her seven pillars." In his discourse, he showed the fitness of choosing seven competent men to construct the government and he then proposed for their adoption four fundamental articles; (1) That the Scriptures contain a perfect rule for the government of men in the family, in the church, and in the commonwealth; (2) That they would be ordered by the rules which the Scriptures held forth; (3) That their purpose was to be admitted into church-fellowship, according to Christ, as soon as God should fit them thereunto; and (4) That they held themselves bound to establish such civil order, according to God, as would be likely to secure the greatest good to themselves and their posterity.

These articles were unanimously adopted, when Mr. Davenport presented two other articles designed to put into practical operation the theories of the other four. These were (1) That church membership only should be freeburgesses or freemen endowed with political franchises, and that they only should choose magistrates, and transact civil public business of every kind (2) That twelve or more men should be chosen from the company and tried for their fitness, and these twelve should choose seven of their number as the seven pillars of the church. These articles were subscribed by sixty-three persons present, and soon afterward by fifty others.

The twelve men were chosen, and after due deliberation they selected the "seven pillars." After another pause, these pillars proceeded to organize a church. Their assistants, nine in number, were regarded as freemen or "free burgesses," and the sixteen elected Theophilus Eaton as magistrate for one year. Four other persons were chosen to be deputies, and these constituted the executive and legislative departments of the new-born state of Quinnipiack. To these Mr. Davenport gave a "charge," grounded upon Deuteronomy i. 16, 17. A secretary and sheriff were appointed. The "Freeman's Charge," which was a substitute for an oath, gave no pledge of allegiance to king or Parliament, nor any other authority on the face of the earth, excepting that of the civil government here established. It was a state independent of all others. It was resolved that there should be annual General Court or meeting of the whole body, in the month of October, and that "the word of God [the Bible] should be the only rule to be attended unto in ordering the affairs of government." Then orders were issued for building a meeting-house for the distribution of house-lots and pasturage for regulating the prices of labor and commodities, and for taking measures to resist the attacks of savages. They resolved, also, to choose their own company, and it was ordained that "none should come to dwell as planters without their consent and allowance, whether they came in by purchase or otherwise." In 1640 they named the settlement New Haven.

- - - - - - Benson J. Lossing, LL.D.

1638 Bibliography

New Haven Colony Links