The first European settlers in the Connecticut area were the Dutch. Settlement did not occur until 1633, when a small fort was erected at the site of Hartford, then called New Hope.In that year, a small party from Plymouth also entered the Connecticut River. The Dutch asserted their claim to the lands, but the Massachusetts group, instead of retreating down river, sailed farther north and established a trading post at Windsor.The Dutch concentrated their main settlement efforts on Manhattan Island and never made a serious effort to colonize Connecticut.The Connecticut ColonyThe settlements that developed along the Connecticut River in the 1630s were the result of a search for fertile farmland more than a search for religious freedom.Thomas Hooker, a prominent minister in Newtown (Cambridge), Massachusetts, harbored clear democratic leanings, but was not an outspoken dissident. A settlement was established at Hartford, followed later by villages at Wethersfield and Windsor, where a small Pilgrim community already existed.At this time, another group of Puritans set up a trading post at the mouth of the Connecticut. Fort Saybrook was the fruit of the labors of John Winthrop Jr., son of the Massachusetts governor.In 1639, representatives from Hartford, Wethersfield and Windsor met to establish a government for the growing settlements. The settlers emulated many of the practices used in Massachusetts, but placed additional limitations on the governor’s powers and instituted more liberal voting standards.The Connecticut Colony grew over the years and by the middle of the 17th century incorporated Fairfield, Farmington, Middletown, New London, Norwalk, Saybrook and Stratford.The New Haven ColonyThe Rev. In 1638, they founded a settlement at New Haven on Long Island Sound, a community intended to be both a trading post and a Bible Commonwealth. Puritanism's grip was strong in New Haven and the vote was restricted to church members, which rendered it considerably less democratic than the Connecticut colony. Other settlements along the Sound soon fell into the New Haven orbit, including Branford, Guilford, Milford, Stamford and Southold.Security was a major concern of the four major New England colonies — Massachusetts, Plymouth, Connecticut and New Haven, all of whom refused to deal with independent-minded Rhode Island. In 1637, Connecticut was engulfed in the Pequot War, which resulted in that tribe's virtual extermination.The Connecticut Colony and New Haven existed as separate political entities until 1662, when a charter was granted to the Connecticut Colony. Initially, New Haven was not pleased about its absorption by a larger neighbor, but they were formally merged in 1665.
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