The Beginnings

About 100 Puritans, led by the Rev. Thomas Hooker, created a settlement on the banks of the Connecticut River in June 1636. Though this became Hartford, Hooker and his followers were not the first Europeans on the scene. Dutch traders had already built a fort at the confluence of the Connecticut and Park rivers.*

* Adriaen's Landing is a development site along the Connecticut River in downtown Hartford. It includes the Connecticut Convention Center, The Connecticut Science Center, and the projected Front Street retail-residential complex.

Adriaen's Landing was named for Adriaen Block, a Dutch explorer who sailed up the Connecticut River in 1614 aboard the "Onrust", the first American-built ship. He got as far as Enfield, about 15 miles upriver of Hartford.

The following year, Block visited the island just off the coast of Rhode Island that would eventually be named Block Island.

The Dutch followed up on Block's journey by establishing a trading post at the confluence of the Connecticut and Park rivers. The year is reported as 1623 in some places, 1633 in others. Regardless, the Dutch set up business well before the Rev. Thomas Hooker and other English settlers arrived to establish the colony that became Hartford.

Naming their post Huys de Hoop, or House of Hope, the Dutch traded with local Indian tribes for beaver pelts. But an invasion of the region by the Pequot tribe led the more peaceful Podunk Indians to visit English settlers in Boston and Plymouth to seek their protection, promising farmland in return. Soon, the English arrived in Windsor, Wethersfield, and then Hartford.

"As for the Dutch," local historian Ellsworth S. Grant writes, "they were traders not farmers. Rarely on the frontier have agricultural and trading culture been able to live in harmony; the Dutch were too few and English multiplied too fast for the struggle to be equal, and the Hollanders finally sailed downriver for good in 1654."

Yet reminders of Block and his countrymen remain. The south-end neighborhood that runs along the river and takes in the landmark Colt firearms factory is known as Dutch Point. In creating streets around his factory in the late 1850s, Samuel Colt paid homage to the Dutch by calling one Huyshope Avenue - a corruption of Huys de Hoop - and naming several others after key figures: Van Block Avenue; Van Dyke Avenue; Hendrixsen Avenue; Vredendale Avenue.

Hooker created a lasting colony, but also a form of government that influenced the creation of the U.S. Constitution a century and a half later.

Read more about Rev. Hooker

Hartford was named for Hertford, England, the birthplace of one of Hooker's assistants, the Rev. Samuel Stone.

Hartford's Earliest Inhabitants

The Saukiogs (Black Earth) occupied the Hartford area before Europeans arrived. The Podunks lived across the Connecticut River in what is now East Hartford, Glastonbury, and South Windsor. The Tunxis tribe lived to the west, in what is now the Farmington area.

Dutch explorers, led by Adriaen Van Block, appeared in 1614; shortly thereafter, an outbreak of measles or smallpox killed at least one-third of the Podunk population.

A Podunk chief, Wahginnacut, journeyed to Massachusetts in 1631 and invited the English colonists there to found a new settlement in the Connecticut River Valley. He wanted protection from the feared and hated Pequot tribe, which occupied what is now the southeast corner of the state.

When the English arrived, they found the Hartford area ruled by Saukiog chief Sequassen, who in 1636 sold them the land that became Hartford and West Hartford. Saquassen fought fiercely with both the Pequots and the Mohegans, who also lived to the southeast. The Saukiogs "suffered severe defeats," according to Albert Van Dusen, author of " Connecticut," the preeminent history of the state. "As a result," he wrote, "the Saukiogs remained quite friendly with the colonists and lived near Hartford until about 1730."

Special Government

What was so special about the government created
by Hooker and the other founders?

When he lectured in his native England, Hooker drew large crowds - and unfriendly scrutiny from the state-supported Church of England. The Puritans had been hoping to reform, or "purify," the church, but at that point the church was purging itself of Puritans, so Hooker was ordered to appear before the High Commission, also known as "the star chamber." Instead, he jumped bond and fled to Holland.

From Holland, Hooker and a group of his parishioners made the trying and dangerous voyage across the Atlantic to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, settling in Cambridge, which was then known as Newtown. But they disliked the decidedly undemocratic ways of the colony's government and decided to investigate for themselves reports of fertile land in the Connecticut River Valley.

On May 31, 1638, exactly two years after he had set out from Newtown, Hooker delivered a sermon containing his vision of how the recently named Hartford should govern itself.

"The foundation of authority is laid, firstly, in the free consent of the people," he said. He went on to argue that the "choice of public magistrates belongs unto the people by God's own allowance" and that "they who have the power to appoint officers and magistrates, it is in their power also to set the bounds and limitations of the power and the place unto which they call them."

Historian Ellsworth Grant wrote, "These words were the first practical assertion ever made of the right of the governed not only to choose their rulers but to limit their powers."

The founders of Hartford, Wethersfield, and Windsor used this sermon and others from Hooker as a basis for their Fundamental Orders, considered by some to be the world's first written constitution. It's why Connecticut came to be known as the Constitution State. The Connecticut State Library site has the text of the orders.

Founders of Hartford
and the
Ancient Burying Ground

There is a permanent granite obelisk memorializing Hartford's Founders that stands in the Ancient Burying Ground.

Founders Monument.

The Ancient Burying Ground is located at the rear of the First Congregational (or "Center") Church at the corner of Main and Gold Streets in Hartford. Walk through the Main Street gates and you step into history. Downtown traffic noises fade as you cross the green and climb the small rise.

The stones before you stretch out in random rows. History here is not neatly chronological. Revolutionary War soldiers lie next to 17th century settlers; the famous and the forgotten receive equal due. Here the past is not a commodity to be measured and catalogued; it is a kaleidescope of live, loves, dreams and promises, to be shared with the present generation and passed on to the future.

The Burying Ground is the final resting place of nearly 6,000 people. Gravediggers are known to have probed the ground with iron rods to find space for the new arrivals.

Why then are a mere 400 or so memorialized today? Some were too poor or of too low a social standing to afford an enduring stone monument. Some were displaced as the original boundaries of the cemetery, which once stretched to what are now Pearl and Lewis Streets, fell to 18th century commercial development.

Many of the City�s colonists are listed on the stone obelisk in the center of the Burying Ground. In an age when voting rights were limited to white property-holding males, it is not surprising to note that the list does not include the bond servants who struggled to survive in this new land. But make no mistake; they too are here. The Ancient burying ground served all the City�s residents. Masters and slaves were buried here along with wives and children.

The grave of the Reverend Thomas Hooker, leader of the original English settlement here, disappeared when the southeast corner of the grounds were given over to the congregation he once guided for the building of a new Meeting House. (Hooker himself had been no defender of the notion of �hallowed ground,� with typical Puritan practicality, he converted the first tiny Meeting House, outgrown during his lifetime, into a stable for livestock.) Tradition has it that the noted minister now rests under the foundations of the present church structure. A memorial plaque on the west wall of the church and a nearby tablestone commemorate his life and works.

There are many other interesting stories pertaining to the Ancient Burying Ground.

The Burying Ground was closed to new graves after the first quarter of the 19th century. The area had clearly reached its limit of occupancy, though every method of accommodating newcomers had been tried, including the common European custom of interring bodies one on top of another. The cemetery was simply out of space, and as Hartford expanded, new graveyards were opened farther away from the center of town.

The Burying Ground eventually fell into disrepair and the adjacent neighborhood deteriorated. Conditions became so bad, that in 1899 the Daughters of the American Revolution undertook a program to restore the site.

Our ancestors who are buried in the Ancient Burying Ground are:

Our Hartford Ancestors

Thomas Blatchley (Blackley, Blacksley
John Bronson (Gen. 3)
Deacon Richard Butler
Thomas Upson
William Whiting (a foremost man of the colony)
Thomas Woodford
George Wyllys (Governor of Connecticut)

Came to Hartford with Rev. Hooker:
John Hopkins
James Olmsted

Those descended from an ancestor who settled in Hartford before February 1640, as evidenced by the �Original Distribution of the Lands� may be eligible for membership in the Society of the Descendants of the Founders of Hartford.


Hartford History - Dedicated to the History of Hartford.
Most of the information presented on this page came from this website.

Tour of Hartford
The website pages provide a photographic survey of some of the places, architecture and people which make Hartford a special place. While not comprehensive in scope, historical and general information is provided in order to demonstrate the extent of Hartford's many facets. Learn more about Hartford by visiting the sites at their links page and through some of the titles they have provided at the book store. They provide a virtual tour. The tour will start with some of the landmarks in Hartford. If you'd prefer, you can jump right to the neighborhoods section.

Connecticut Historical Society
Museum and Library

Visit New England: Connecticut


Bates, Albert C., ed. Original Distribution of the Lands in Hartford Among the Settlers. Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society, Volume XIV. Hartford: The Society, 1912 [CT State Lib Call Number HistRef F91.C7v.14].

Talcott, Mary Kingsley. The Original Proprietors. Reprint. Society of The Descendants of the Founders of Hartford, Inc., 1986 [CT State Lib Call Number: HistRef F104.H353 A26 1986].
Includes information reprinted from Trumbull's Memorial History of Hartford County (below) on the individuals listed above as well as additional individuals having been proved to have resided in Hartford prior to 1640. Should you wish to purchase a copy of this booklet, contact the Connecticut Historical Society, 1 Elizabeth St., Hartford CT 06105.

Barbour, Lucius Barnes. Families of Early Hartford , Connecticut. Baltimore : Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1977 [CT State Lib Call Number: HistRef F104.H353 A22 1977].
Contains genealogical information on over 950 families of early Hartford.

Hosley, William. By Their Markers Ye Shall Know Them: A Chronicle of the History and Restorations of Hartford 's Ancient Burying Ground. Hartford: The Ancient Burying Ground Association, Inc., 1994 [CT State Library Call Number HistRef: F104.H362 H68 1994].
Includes a transcription of headstone inscriptions in the cemetery keyed to a map in the back of the volume.

Love, William DeLoss. The Colonial History of Hartford. Reprint. [Chester CT]: Centinel Hill Press, 1974 [CT State Lib Call Number F104.H357 1974].

Trumbull, J. Hammond. The Memorial History of Hartford County, Connecticut , 1633-1884. Boston: Edward L. Osgood, Publisher, 1886 [CSL call number F102.H3 T8]. See in particular Volume I, Part II, pp. 221-276.


Ancient Burying Ground
81 Wethersfield Avenue
Hartford, Connecticut 06114
Phone: 860-525-4821

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