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The Making of the 50 States: Connecticut


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• Part 2: The Rest of the Story

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The Making of the 50 States

Part 1: In the Beginning

Connecticut was the fifth state to ratify the Constitution. As with other of the 13 Colonies, the land was originally inhabited by Native Americans.

The main tribes living in the area were the Pequot. A main offshoot of the Pequot were the Mohegan, led by Chief Uncas. Other tribles included the Hammonasset, Massacoe, Niantic, Nipmuc, Paugussett, Podunk, Poquonock, Quinnipiac, and Tunxi.

These Native Americans hunted deer and caught fish and shellfish. They grew beans, corn, and squash and often moved from place to place with the changing of the seasons.

The first Europeans to visit what we now know as Connecticut were from the Netherlands. In particular, a man named Adriaen Block landed near present-day Hartford in 1614, did significant trading with the tribes, and reported back to his home country that furs were plentiful in the New World. More Dutch traders came, and Dutch settlers followed. They like what they saw so much that they built a settlement there, in 1633.

British settlers were next on the scene, traveling north from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. One of the more famous of these people was Thomas Hooker, a minister who helped found Hartford, in 1636. The Hartford residents wrote one of the first blueprints for representative government in the New World, the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut. Residents of two other nearby towns, Wetherfield and Windsor, agreed to abide by the Fundamental Orders as well, and people from all three towns elected a governor, named John Haynes, in 1639.

Relations between European settlers and Native Americans were friendly, for the most part. The main exception was a series of violent episodes that grew into New England's first major war, the Pequot War, which flared up in 1637. Connecticut residents joined with members of the Mohegan and Narragansett tribes in attacking the Pequot. The result was a devastating defeat for the once powerful tribe, which faded into obscurity. With the Pequot out of the way, Europeans were free to claim even more of the land for themselves. And with this land ownership came a growing belief that they knew best how to govern themselves.

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