History of Guilford, CT


In May of 1639, a band of puritans, led by the Reverend Henry Whitfield, left England to seek religious freedom in the New World. They set sail for Quinnipiac (now called New Haven) and arrived there later that Summer.

After negotiating with the local Native Americans, who were represented by their squaw sachem (female chief) Shaumpishuh, the group purchased land halfway between New Haven and Saybrook. There they established the plantation of Menuncatuck, which would later be known as Guilford.

Like most 17th century New England towns, Guilford was organized around a common or green. The first houses were small huts with thatched roofs, wooden walls, and dirt floors. Guilford, unlike other villages, had no protective palisade fence surrounding the community; instead they build four large stone houses for the leaders of the plantation. These homes were strategically located and used for shelter during times of danger. Life in Guilford was extremely primitive and resembled a medieval village for several generations.

Later in the 17th century, Guilford became part of the New Haven Colony and then Connecticut Colony. Guilford's William Leete was one of the first governors of these colonies. By the 18th century, the town had become a thriving coastal community with agriculture and the sea supporting the economy.

The medieval style of houses had been replaced by the colonial style, with many of them surviving to this day. During the Revolutionary War, Guilford was attacked by British troops from New York. The local militia was able to defeat the invaders.

In the 19th century, with an expanding shipbuilding and maritime trade and with the coming of the railroad, industries such as foundries, canneries, shoe shops, and carriage makers evolved. Quarries opened and supplied local granite to the world including the blocks for the base of the Statue of Liberty. Guilford's own Fritz-Greene Halleck was hailed as America's first poet and was honored with a statue in New York's Central Park.
(Photo at left: The bank and post office shared space with the Music Hall Building - 1880-1884)

By the end of the 19th century and into the 20th century, Guilford became a summer destination for Victorian vacationers from near and far. Fine hotels, restaurants, and Summer cottages sprang up at Mulberry Point, Sachem's Head, Indian Cove, and Leete's Island. With the coming of the interstate highway system, Guilford's once small population has shifted to a year round community.
(Photo at right: Early banking room at the Guilford Savings Bank)

History continues to be Guilford's cornerstone. Its natural scenic beauty, its Town Green, its historic houses, and its past guide the citizens of Guilford towards a promising future.

Thanks to our Contributor(s):
Michael A. McBride, curator of the Henry Whitfield State Museum.
Reproduced with permission from the Guilford Tourism Homepage


The Guilford Covenant

We whose names are here underwritten, intending by God's gracious permission to plant ourselves in New England, and if it may be, in the southerly part about Quinnipiack, do faithfully promise each, for ourselves and our families and those that belong to us, that we will, the Lord assisting us, sit down and join ourselves together in one entire plantation, and be helpful each to the other in any common work, according to every man's ability, and as need shall require, and we promise not to desert or leave each other or the plantation, but with the consent of the rest, or the greater part of the company who have entered into this engagement. As to our gathering together in a church way and the choice of officers and members to be joined in that way, we do refer ourselves, until such time as it please God to settle us in our plantation. In witness whereof we subscribe our names, this first of June 1639.

(Signed)

Robhert Kitchell William Dudley
John Bishop John Permely
Francis Bushnell John Mepham
William Chittenden Thomas Norton
William Leete Abraham Cruttenden
Thomas Joanes Francis Chatfield
John Jordan William Halle
William Stone Thomas Naish
John Hoadley Henry Kingnoth
John Stone Henry Doude
William Plane Thomas Cooke
Richard Guttridge Henry Whitfield
John Housegoe  

"A church was here gathered at Guilford consisting of these 7 persons:

the Rev. Henry Whitfield, Samuel Desbrough, John Higginson, John Hoadley, William Leete, John Neoham, and Jacob Sheaffer. "

Some who did not sign the Covenant or who arrived in Guilford between 1639 and 1643 were:

William Barnes Alexander Chalker William Love
George Bartlett George Chatfield Thomas Relf
Edward Benton Thomas Chatfield John Scranton
Thomas Betts Thomas French John Sheather
William Boreman Henry Goldham John Stevens
John Chaffinch Thomas Jordan Benjamin Wright

From: First Church of Guilford Website

 


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