1776 — Governor Oliver Wolcott, Sr.

1726–97, political leader in the American Revolution, signer of the Declaration of Independence, born in South Windsor (then in Windsor), Conn.; son of Roger Wolcott. He fought in King George's War, and upon his return to Connecticut he entered a legal and public career. Wolcott held several judicial posts and in 1775 was named a Native American commissioner to obtain the neutrality of the Iroquois in the conflict with Great Britain. He was a general in the Saratoga campaign and a prominent figure in Connecticut politics as a delegate to the Continental Congress (1775–78, 1780–84), lieutenant governor (1786–96), and governor (1796–97).

Oliver Wolcott, American patriot and soldier of the Revolutionary War, was born in 1726 in Windsor, CT. He was the youngest son of Roger Wolcott, who was colonial governor of Connecticut in 1751–54.

After graduating from Yale College (now Yale University) in 1747, York, raised a company of volunteers and served on the northwestern frontier in the French & Indian War. He was promoted to major general.

At the end of hostilities in 1748, he returned to Litchfield, CT where he practiced law. He was elected to the State Council while also serving as judge of the court of common pleas and judge of probate for Litchfield.

Wolcott was chosen as a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1775–78 and 1780–84 but was absent much of the time on military duty as major general in charge of Connecticut's militia. He signed the Declaration of Independence in September of 1776.

Wolcott led 14 Connecticut regiments to the defense of New York in 1776. After the battle of Long Island. he resumed his seat in Congress and was with that body when, in December 1776, Congress fled to Baltimore to avoid British troups which occupied Philadelphia.

Having raised several thousand troops during the summer of 1777, General Wolcott reinforced General Putnam's forces on the Hudson River and in the fall of that year he joined General Horatio Gates, commanding a brigade of militia that took part in the defeat of General Burgoyne at Saratoga in Oct. of 1777.

Returning to Congress, then assembled in York, Penn., he resumed his seat and remained until July, 1778. He served 10 years, 1786–96, as lieutenant governor of Connecticut and then was elected governor, serving in that office from 1796 until his death in 1797 at the age of 72.

In 1776, Gov. Wolcott's home in Litchfield was the scene of a famous episode. Exactly one week after the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, an equestrian statue of King George III, which stood on Bowling Green in lower New York was taken down and carried by night to the general's home. Here a celebration was held and the lead statue melted down and cast into bullets, making 42,088 cartridges which were used by Continental soldiers. Some fragments of the statue escaped the bullet mold and, having gone through various adventures, remain today — some in private hands and others in museums. It is possible that other pieces will turn up and that even the head, last seen in London in 1777, still exists. His son Oliver Wolcott. Jr. became Secretary of the United States Treasury in 1795–1800 and the first Governor of Connecticut (1817–1827) under the Constitution.

1776   Oliver Wolcott Bibliography

1776 — Roger Sherman

1721–93, American political leader, born in Newton, Mass. Sherman helped to draft and signed the Declaration of Independence. He was long a member (1774–81, 1783–84) of the Continental Congress, helped to draw up the Articles of Confederation, and after serving as a member of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 where he introduced the Connecticut Compromise' providing for a bicameral federal legislature, he was one of the strongest proponents of the new Constitution. He was prominent in Connecticut colonial and state politics and was mayor of New Haven and treasurer of Yale College. Sherman was a U.S. Representative (1789–91) and US Senator (1791–93).

In 1723, when Sherman was 2 years of age, his family relocated from his Newton, MA, birthplace to Dorchester (present Stoughton). As a boy, he was spurred by a desire to learn and read widely in his spare time to supplement his minimal education at a common school. But he spent most of his waking hours help' his father with fanning chores and learning the cobbler's trade from him. In 1743, 2 years after his father's death, Sherman joined an elder brother who had settled in New Milford, CT.

Purchasing a store, becoming a county surveyor, and winning a variety of town offices, Sherman prospered and assumed leadership in the community. In 1749 he married Elizabeth Hartwell, by whom he had seven children. Without benefit of a formal legal education, he was admitted to the bar in 1754 and embarked upon a distinguished judicial and political career. In the period 1755–61, except for a brief interval, he served as a representative in the colonial legislature and held the offices of justice of the peace and county judge. Somehow he also eked out time to publish an essay on monetary theory and a series of almanacs incorporating his own astronomical observations and verse.

In 1761, Sherman abandoned his law practice, and moved to New Haven. There, he managed two stores, one that catered to Yale students, and another in nearby Wallingford. He also became a friend and benefactor of Yale College, and served for many years as its treasurer. In 1763, or three years after the death of his first wife, he wed Rebecca Prescott, who bore eight children.

Meanwhile, Sherman's political career had blossomed. He rose from justice of the peace and county judge to an associate judge of the Connecticut Superior Court and to representative in both houses of the colonial assembly. Although opposed to extremism, he promptly joined the fight against Britain. He supported nonimportation measures and headed the New Haven committee of correspondence.

Sherman was a longtime and 'influential member of the Continental Congress (1774–81 and 1783–84). He won membership on the committees that drafted the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation, as well as those concerned with Indian affairs, national finances, and military matters. To solve economic problems, at both national and state levels, he advocated high taxes rather than excessive borrowing or the issuance of paper currency.

While in Congress, Sherman remained active in state and local politics, continuing to hold the office of judge of the Connecticut Superior Court, as well as membership on the council of safety (1777–79). In 1783 he helped codify Connecticut's statutory laws. The next year, he was elected mayor of New Haven (1784–86).

Although on the edge of insolvency, mainly because of wartime losses, Sherman could not resist the lure of national service. In 1787 he represented his state at the Constitutional Convention, and attended practically every session. Not only did he sit on the Committee on Postponed Matters, but he also probably helped draft the New Jersey Plan and was a prime mover behind the Connecticut, or Great, Compromise, which broke the deadlock between the large and small states over representation. He was, in addition, instrumental in Connecticut's ratification of the Constitution.

Sherman concluded his career by serving in the US House of Representatives (1789–91) and Senate (1791–93), where he espoused the Federalist cause. He died at New Haven in 1793 at the age of 72 and is buried in the Grove Street Cemetery.

1776   Roger Sherman Bibliography

1776 — Samuel Huntington

1731–96, political leader in the American Revolution, signer of the Declaration of Independence, born in Windham, Conn. He was a delegate (1775–84) to and president (1779–81) of the Continental Congress before serving as governor of Connecticut (1786–96).

1776   Samuel Huntington Bibliography

1776 — William Williams

The family of William Williams is said to have been originally from Wales. A branch of it came to America in the year 1630, and settled in Roxbury, Massachusetts. His grandfather, who bore the same name, was the minister of Hatfield, Massachusetts; and his father, Solomon Williams, D. D. was the minister of a parish in Lebanon, where he was settled fifty-four years. Solomon Williams, the father, married a daughter of Colonel Porter, of Hadley, by whom he had five sons and three daughters. The sons were all liberally educated. Of these, Eliphalet was settled, as a minister of the gospel, in East-Hartford, where be continued to officiate for about half a century. Ezekiel was sheriff of the county of Hartford for more than thirty years; he died a few years since at Wethersfield, leaving behind him a character distinguished for energy and enterprise, liberality and benevolence. 

William Williams, the subject of this memoir, was born in Lebanon, Connecticut, on the eighth of April, 1731. At the age of sixteen, he entered Harvard college. During his collegiate course, he was distinguished for a diligent attention, and, at the proper period, was honorably graduated. From the university he returned home, and, for a considerable time, devoted himself to theological studies, under the direction of his father.  In September, 1755, was fought, at the head of Lake George, a celebrated battle between the provincial troops, under command of major general, afterwards Sir William Johnson, aided by a body of Indians led by the celebrated Hendrick, and a body of French Canadians and Indians, cornmanded by Monsieur le Baron de Dieskau. At this time, Colonel Ephraim Williams commanded a regiment of provincial troops, raised by Massachusetts, with which he was engaged in the above battle. William Williams, the subject of our memoir, belonged to his staff.

Colonel Williams was an officer of great merit. He was much beloved by his soldiers, and highly respected by the people of Massachusetts, in the place where be resided. Williams’ college owes its existence to him. As he was proceeding through Albany, to the head of Lake George, he made his will in that city. In this instrument, after giving certain legacies to his connections, he directed that the remainder of his land should be sold at the discretion of his executors, within five years after an established peace, and that the interest of the monies arising from the sale, together with some other property, should be applied to the support of a free school, in some township in the western part of Massachusetts. This was the origin of Williams’ college. Both the college, and the town in which it is situated, were named after their distinguished benefactor. 

Previous to the battle of Lake George, Colonel Williams was dispatched with a party of twelve hundred men, to observe the motions of the French and Indian army, under Baron Dieskau. He met the enemy at Rocky Brook, four miles from Lake George. A tremendous battle now ensued. The English soldiers fought with great courage, but at length they were overpowered, and obliged to retreat. During the contest, Colonel Williams was shot through the head by an Indian, and killed. The command of the detachment now devolved upon Colonel Whiting, of New-Haven, Who succeeded in joining Sir William Johnson, with the force which had escaped the power of the enemy. The issue of this day is well known. The French army was finally repulsed, and the Baron Dieskau was both wounded and taken prisoner.

Soon after the death of Colonel Williams, the subject of this memoir, returned to Lebanon, where be resolved to fix his permanent residence. In 1756, at the age of twenty-five years, he was chosen clerk of the town of Lebanon, an office which he continued to hold for the space of forty-five years. About the same time, he was appointed to represent the town in the general assembly of Connecticut. In this latter capacity, he served a long succession of years, during which he ,was often chosen clerk of the house, and not infrequently filled, and always with dignity and reputation, the speaker’s chair. In 1780, he was transferred to the upper house, being elected an assistant; an office to which he was annually re-elected for twenty-four years. It was recorded of him, what can probably be recorded of few, and perhaps of no other man, that for more than ninety sessions, he was scarcely absent from his seat in the legislature, excepting when he was a member of the Continental Congress, in 1776 and 1777, During the years last mentioned, he was a member of the national council; and in the deliberations of that body took a part, during the memorable period, when the charter of our independence received the final approbation of congress.  At an early period of the revolution, he embarked with great zeal in the cause of his country. During the campaign of 1755, while at the north, he had learned a lesson, which he did not forget. He was at that time disgusted with the, British commanders, on account of the haughtiness of their conduct, and the little attachment which they manifested for his native country. The impression was powerful and lasting. At that time he adopted the opinion, that America would see no days of prosperity and peace, so long as British officers should manage her affairs. On the arrival of the day, therefore, when the revolutionary struggle commenced, and a chance was presented of release from the British yoke, Mr. Williams was ready to engage with ardor, in bringing about this happy state of things. He had for several years been interested in mercantile pursuits. These he now relinquished, that he might devote himself to the cause of his country. He powerfully contributed to awaken public feeling, by several essays on political subjects and when an occasion called him to speak in public, his patriotic zeal and independent spirit were manifested, in a powerful and impressive eloquence.

Nor was Mr. Williams one of those patriots with whom words are all. He was ready to make sacrifices, whenever occasion required. An instance of his public spirit is recorded, in the early part of the revolution. At this time the paper money of the country was of so little value, that military services could not be procured for it. Mr. Williams, with great liberality, exchanged more than two thousand dollars in specie, for this paper, for the benefit of his country. In the issue, he lost the whole sum.  A similar spirit of liberality marked his dealings, in the settlement of his affairs, on the eve and during the course of the revolution. He was peculiarly kind to debtors impoverished by the war; and from the widow and the fatherless, made so by the struggle for freedom, he seldom made any exactions, even though he himself suffered by his kindness.  At the commencement of the war, it is well known, there was little provision made for the support of an army. There were no public stores, no arsenals filled with warlike instruments, and no clothing prepared for the soldiers. For many articles of the first necessity, resort was had to private contributions. The selectmen in many of the towns of Connecticut volunteered their services, to obtain articles for the necessary outfit of new recruits, for the maintenance of the families of indigent soldiers, and to furnish supplies even for the army itself. Mr. Williams was, at this time, one of the selectmen of the town of Lebanon, an office which he continued to hold during the whole revolutionary war. No man was better, fitted for such a station, and none could have manifested more unwearied zeal than he did, in soliciting the benefactions of private families for the above objects. Such was his success, that he forwarded to the army more than one thousand blankets. In many instances, families parted with their last blanket, for the use of the soldiers in the camp; and bullets were made from the lead taken from the weights of clocks. Such was the patriotism of the fathers and mothers of the land, in those days of trial. There were no comforts, which they could not cheerfully forego, and no sacrifices which they did not joyfully make, that the blessings of freedom might be theirs, and might descend to their posterity.

In confirmation of the above evidence of the firmness and patriotism of Mr. Williams, the following anecdote may be added. Towards the close of the year 1776, the military affairs of the colonies wore a gloomy aspect, and strong fears began to prevail that the contest would go against them. In this dubious state of things, the council of safety for Connecticut was called to sit at Lebanon. Two of the members of this council, William Hillhouse and Benjamin Huntington, quartered with Mr. Williams.  One evening, the conversation turned upon the gloomy state of the country, and the probability that, after all, success would crown the British arms. "Well," said Mr. Williams, with great calmness, "if they succeed, it is pretty evident what will be my fate. I have done much to prosecute the contest, and one thing I have done, which the British will never pardon—I have signed the Declaration of Independence. I shall be hung." Mr. Hillhouse expressed his hope, that America would yet be successful, and his confidence that this would be her happy fortune. Mr. Huntington observed, that in case of ill success, he should be exempt from the gallows, as his signature was not attached to the Declaration of Independence, nor had he written any thing against the British government. To this Mr. Williams replied, his eye kindling as he spoke, "Then, sir, you deserve to be hanged, for not having done your duty."

At the age of 41, he became settled in domestic life, having connected himself with the daughter of Jonathan Trumbull, at that time governor of the state. His lady, it is believed, is still living. Three children were the offspring of this marriage. Of these children, Solomon, the eldest, died in New-York, in 1810, a man greatly beloved by all who had the pleasure to know him. The only daughter is respectably connected in Woodstock, and the remaining son resides in Lebanon.  The demise of his eldest son was a great affliction to the aged and infirm father. The intelligence produced a shock from which he never recovered. From this time, he gradually declined. Four days before his death, he lost the power of utterance, nor was it expected that he would again speak on this side the grave. A short time, however, previously to his death, he called aloud for his deceased son, and requested him to attend his dying parent. In a few moments he closed his life. This event occurred on the 2d day of August, 1811, in the 81st year of his age.

To this biographical sketch of Mr. Williams, we have only to add a word, respecting his character as a Christian. He made a profession of religion at an early age, and through the long course of his life, he was distinguished for a humble and consistent conduct and conversation, While yet almost a youth, be was elected to the office of deacon, in the congregational church to which he belonged, an office which he retained during the remainder of his life. His latter days were chiefly devoted to reading, meditation, and prayer. At length the hour arrived, when God would take him to himself. He gave up the ghost, in a good old age, and was gathered to his fathers.

1776   William Williams Bibliography

1776 — Governor Jonathan Trumbull

Jonathan Trumbull, Jr, was a Representative and a Senator from Connecticut; born in Lebanon, Conn., March 26, 1740; graduated from Harvard College in 1759; member, State legislature 1774–1775, 1779–1780, 1788, and served as speaker of the house in 1788; served in the Continental Army as a paymaster; comptroller of the treasury 1778–1779; appointed secretary and aide-de-camp to General George Washington in 1781; elected to the First, Second, and Third Congresses (March 4, 1789–March 3, 1795); did not seek reelection, having become a candidate for Senator; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Second Congress; elected to the United States Senate and served from March 4, 1795, to June 10, 1796, when he resigned; lieutenant governor of Connecticut from 1796 until the death of the Governor in December 1797, when he became the Governor; was reelected for eleven consecutive terms, and served from 1797 until his death in Lebanon, Conn., August 7, 1809; interment in the East Cemetery.

Governor TrumbullThe wisdom and respect that Jonathan Trumbull had earned himself allowed him to hold positions in the Colonial general assembly beginning in 1733. During the French and Indian War, he served as a colonel of the Twelfth Connecticut Regiment. From 1766 until 1769, Jonathan Trumbull served as Deputy Governor of Connecticut. From 1769 until his retirement in 1784, Jonathan Trumbull was the Governor of Connecticut. During his term, he redefined the role of governor from mostly a powerless figurehead to a mastermind in the logistics of running the state.

Jonathan Trumbull was the only colonial governor to hold his job for the periods of time before and after the Revolutionary war. Jonathan was instrumental in providing Continental Army troops with provisions. He arranged for numerous cattle drives that originated in Hartford to supply General Washington's almost starving troops in Valley Forge and Morristown with provisions. Because of his efforts, Connecticut was refereed to as the "Provisions State" and its governor was referred to as "Brother Jonathan" by General Washington because of his passionate ability to raise supplies for the needy Continental Army. Jonathan mobilized Connecticut's resources and encouraged the manufacture of items within Connecticut to support the war effort.

1776   Jonathan Trumbull Bibliography