Published on September 5, 2010 by John
Various Algonquin tribes inhabited the area prior to European settlement. The Dutch were the first Europeans in Connecticut. In 1614 Adriaen Block explored the coast of Long Island Sound, and sailed up the Connecticut River at least as far as the confluence of the Park River, site of modern Hartford, Connecticut. By 1623, the new Dutch West India Company regularly traded for furs there and ten years later they fortified it for protection from the Pequot Indians as well as from the expanding English colonies. They fortified the site, which was named “House of Hope” (also identified as “Fort Hoop”, “Good Hope” and “Hope”), but encroaching English colonization made them agree to withdraw in the Treaty of Hartford, and by 1654 they were gone.
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The first English colonists came from the Bay Colony and Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts. They settled at Windsor in 1633, Wethersfield in 1634, and Hartford in 1636. Thomas Hooker led the Hartford group.
In 1631, Robert Rich, 2nd president of the Massachusetts Bay Colony granted a patent to the Say and Sele Company for a colony, which became Fort Saybrook at the mouth of the Connecticut River in 1636. Another Puritan group started the New Haven Colony in 1637. The Massachusetts colonies did not seek to govern their progeny in Connecticut and Rhode Island. Communication and travel were too difficult, and it was also convenient to have a place for nonconformists to go.
The English settlement and trading post at Windsor especially threatened the Dutch trade, since it was upriver and more accessible to Native people from the interior. That fall and winter the Dutch sent a party upriver as far as modern Springfield, Massachusetts spreading gifts to convince the indigenous inhabitants in the area to bring their trade to the Dutch post at Hartford. Unfortunately, they also spread smallpox and, by the end of the 1633-34 winter, the Native population of the entire valley was reduced from over 8,000 to less than 2,000. Europeans took advantage of this decimation by further settling the fertile valley.