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The Munsons in New Haven, CT

March 17, 2017

I wrote earlier about Captain Thomas Munson, my 9th great-grandfather through my maternal Woodington line. He was an early founder in New Haven plantation of the Connecticut Colony. Thomas was born and baptized in 1613 in Rattlesden, Suffolk, England; he came to the new colony in 1637. By 1939, he had moved to the newly-formed New Haven plantation and signed their Fundamental Agreement.

Captain Munson became a key figure in the early public, military, and political life of the New Haven plantation. As the town began to grow, they decided there was a need to lay out the structure of the community. Following the old English tradition, New Haven was laid out in a grid of nine squares. The following picture shows the grids, the community square in the center of town, and Thomas Munson’s property.*

In 1640, the Rev. John Davenport, one of the founders of the community, envisioned a college in New Haven. The idea didn’t unfold until 1701 when the Rev. James Pierpont got a few colleagues together to pursue an Act for Liberty to erect a Collegiate School” wherein youth might be instructed in the arts and sciences “and fitted for Publick employment both in Church & Civil State, . . .” The next year, the first student arrived for his education. The local Munsons helped financially support the new college.

They made enough of an impact in the town that there is a street and “Triangle” named after them. Check this out:

Munson Street and Munson Street Triange in New Haven.

 

 

Munson Street is some blocks northwest of where Thomas Munson’s home was. His land is now part of the Yale University, just off the “Green.”

 

From the New Haven’s Mayor’s page:

By 1640 a complete government had been established and the settlement, originally called Quinnipiac, was renamed Newhaven. The town plan was based on a grid of nine squares. In accordance with old English custom, the central square, now the Green, was designated a public common. By 1641 New Haven had grown into a community of approximately 800.

Over the next few years, however, the flow of newcomers began to weaken and trade with the outside world shifted more and more to Boston. In an attempt to establish direct trade with England, the settlers managed to assemble enough produce to fill a vessel which would become known as the “Great Shippe.” However, after setting sail in January, 1646, the ship and its crew were never heard from again. This disaster ended the dream of creating an economic empire and over the years New Haven became overshadowed by New Amsterdam and Boston.

In 1649, King Charles I of England was accused of treason and beheaded. His son, Charles II, became king eleven years later and sought vengeance against the men who had signed his father’s death warrant. Two of them, Colonel Edward Whalley and his son-in-law Colonel William Goffe fled to America and, in 1661, they were hidden by John Davenport in a cave on the top of New Haven’s West Rock. They were later joined by a third regicide, John Dixwell. Three of New Haven’s streets are named after the regicides and their story has become an integral part of New Haven’s history.

In 1664, the forces of King Charles’ brother, the Duke of York, seized New Amsterdam. Rather than face the possibility of rule by the Catholic duke, New Haven surrendered its hope of remaining independent and united with the Connecticut Colony. By 1701, New Haven had grown to be the village center of a mainly agricultural township and became co-capital of Connecticut, along with Hartford. It was not until 1873 that New Haven lost its status as co-capital.

New Haven had  a district court so in 1839, it was the site of the imprisonment and trial of the Mende people made famous in the Steven Spielberg movie, Amistad. The 50 warriors were found to have been kidnapped and were order to be sent back to their home in Africa.

 

 

 

2 Comments
  1. Sheila Aderman Squires permalink

    CJ what a terrific story! Thank you!

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