Introduction of Connecticut
This southernmost of the New England states was one of the original 13 colonies. In January 1788 it became the fifth state to ratify the federal Constitution of the United States. Its name is an Indian word that was first applied to the Connecticut River. The state is divided into eastern and western highland s by that river.
A Dutchman, Adrian Block, was the first European to see Connecticut when he sailed through Long Island Sound in 1614 and found the Connecticut River. The Dutch built a fort in 1633 on the site of present Hartford but aband oned it in 1654. The first Englishman in the area seems to have been Edward Winslow of Plymouth Colony in 1633. The following year, people from that colony established a trading post at Windsor. This was soon absorbed by the Massachusetts Bay Company, and a group led by John Oldham in 1634 set up a post at Wethersfield. They were followed in 1636 by Thomas Hooker and his congregation, who came from Cambridge to settle near the Dutch post. Their migration stemmed from a desire for more and better land rather than from religious reasons. The Pequot Indians were badly defeated and scattered in 1637, and the next year the three towns of Hartford, Windsor and Wethersfield organized the colony of Connecticut, with religious restrictions on voting and holding office. At this time New Haven was founded separately from the colony, and in 1643 both joined Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth to form the New England Confederation for mutual support against attacks from the Indians and the Dutch.
In 1662 the Connecticut colonies requested and received a royal charter from King Charles II, which confirmed their civil rights. A bloody struggle with the Wampanoag Indians, known as King Philip’s War for their chief, was fought in 1675–76 and ended with the complete defeat of the Indians. The English government tried to assert control over the colony from 1687 to 1689 but did not succeed. Congregationalism was made the official religion in 1703, and harmony prevailed until the 1730s when a religious revival, the Great Awakening, split the church into radicals and conservatives. Divisions based on politics and economic life also developed between 1750 and 1776.
During the American Revolution there were only a few skirmishes in Connecticut, but the colony was a major source of supplies for the patriots. After the war Connecticut gave up claims to land s in the West granted in its charter, except for the Western Reserve in Ohio. Part of this land was given to Connecticut citizens in 1792 and the rest sold in 1795.
The War of 1812 was unpopular in Connecticut, and the state joined other New England states at the Hartford Convention of December 1814 to January 1815, which for a time considered secession. Slavery was abolished here in 1848, and the state strongly supported the Union in the Civil War.
Connecticut and “Yankee ingenuity” have long been synonymous. American mass production began in 1798 at New Haven in Eli Whitney’s gun factory, and Connecticut was in the forefront of the Industrial Revolution of the late 19th century, as many industries were attracted by the waterpower and fertile land of the Connecticut River valley. Industry here has turned out everything from clocks and silverware to nuclear submarines. In 1810 an insurance company opened in Hartford, and the city is now the national capital of the industry. In recent years large corporations have moved their headquarters to the southwestern part of the state, especially to Greenwich and Stamford.
Connecticut’s rural towns and villages typify New England life. Its many shore communities have long played host to fishermen, vacationers, and the wealthy. Its southwestern tier is the site of several bedroom communities for the New York metropolitan area. Hartford is the capital and largest city. Others not mentioned above include Bridgeport, New London, and Waterbury.