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The Connecticut Colony was an English colony that became the U.S. state of Connecticut. Originally known as the River Colony, the colony was established in the 1630s as a haven for Puritan noblemen. After early struggles with the Dutch, the English gained control of the colony permanently by the late 1630s. The colony was later the scene of a bloody war between the English and Native Americans known as the Pequot War. It played a significant role in the establishement of self-government in the New World with its legendary refusal to surrender local authority to the Dominion of New England, an incident known as the Charter Oak. The colony was one of two English colonies founded in the present area of the State of Connecticut, along with the New Haven Colony, which eventually merged with the Connecticut Colony in 1665.
The first Europeans to enter the area were the members of the 1614 exepedition of Dutch explorer Adriaen Block, who sailed through Long Island Sound and up the Connecticut River to present-day Hartford, encounting the Pequot people who lived in the area. By the 1620s, Dutch traders from New Amsterdam established fur trading posts along the Connecticut River.
The rival English had simultaneously established the Massachusetts Bay Colony. King James I of England granted the Earl of Warwick, president of the Council for New England, the right to settle the area west of Narragansett Bay to the Pacific Ocean. In 1631, the Earl of Warwick conveyed the grant to 15 Puritan lords in England as refuge in North America in case the Puritan Revolution failed. The patentees included William Fiennes , Viscount Saye and Sele, as well as Lord Brooke , and Colonel George Fenwick . In 1635, the patentees commissioned John Withrop, Jr. , son of the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, as "Governor of River Colony".
Winthrop arrived in Boston in October 1635 and learned that the Dutch were planning to occupy the mouth of the Connecticut River at a place called Pasbeshauke, meaning "place at the mouth of the river" in the Algonquian language. To counter the Dutch, Winthrop sent a small bark to the mouth of the Connecticut with 20 carpenters and other workmen under the leadership of Lieutenant Edward Gibbons and Sergeant Simon Willard. The expedition landed near the mouth of the river, on the west bank in present-day Old Saybrook, on November 24, 1635 and located the Dutch coat of arms nailed on a tree. They tore down the coat of arms and replaced it with a shield painted with a grinning face. They established a battery of cannon and built a small fort. When the Dutch ship returned several days later, they sighted the cannon and the English ships and withdrew. Winthrop renamed the point "Point Sayebrooke" in honor of Fiennes (Viscount Saye) and Lord Brooke.
The first English settlers arrived in 1636. Clergyman Thomas Hooker led 100 settlers with 130 head of cattle in a trek from Newtown (now Cambridge) in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and started their settlement just north of the old Dutch fort at Hartford. In 1637 the three Connecticut River towns (Hartford, Weathersfield, and Windsor) set up a collective government in order to fight the Pequot War.
In 1638 the towns drew up their Fundamental Orders, setting out the principles, powers, and structure of the government (these were adopted by the Connecticut council on January 14, 1639). The Connecticut Colony received a royal charter in 1662 and became an official crown colony.
- Colonial Connecticut Records: The Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut, 1636-1776
- Colonial Connecticut Town Nomenclature
- Connecticut Constitutionalism, 1639-1789
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